Discover America in the Upper East Side of Texas
Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum in Pittsburg, Texas.
Summertime means family and group vacations — time to pack up the car or board flights to travel to destinations across America. Save time and money by visiting some of America’s best-known cities — all while staying in the Lone Star State.
The Upper East Side of Texas boasts four local towns with the names of more famous big-city counterparts (plus see article on Jacksonville). What they might lack in size, they make up for in beautiful scenery, quiet country back roads with rolling hills and tree-lined highways, and great local shopping, food, and history.
Enjoy soaring views of the beautiful East Texas countryside at New York Zipline Adventures in Henderson County. Tours are available for ages five and up with visitors choosing between several challenges. Courtesy photo
Visitors love New York. Texas, that is. New York is an unincorporated community in Henderson County about 16 miles east of Athens and 30 miles southwest of Tyler.
New York was first settled around 1856, and the present site was settled in 1873. The community was reportedly named either by T.B Herndon as a joke or by Davis Reynolds because of his hopes for the town’s future. By 1884, New York had two steam gristmills and cotton gins, two churches, a district school, and a population of 60, which rose to 100 by 1892. The town declined after it was bypassed by the railroad in 1901.
Today, New York is best known for the New York Zipline Adventures (www.goziptexas.com), which showcase gorgeous 30-mile views high above the rocky hillside of one of the highest elevations in East Texas.
The Shultz family opened the zip line tours on their family ranch 11 years ago. Shultz Mountain Ranch features a 1910 historical home relocated from nearby Jacksonville in 2001 by Charles and Connie Shultz. The home site sits atop the highest elevation in East Texas, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views and abundant wildlife. Charles Shultz was in the structural moving business before designing and building the zipline course.
Tours are available for ages five and up, with visitors choosing between a six zipline tour or the nine zipline challenge, featuring the longest 1,500 foot line, with two cable sky bridges that lead to a 40-foot zip tower. Each guest is fitted with a harness, helmet, and appropriate gear. The tour begins with a “ground school,” where a guide demonstrates and teaches the proper procedures and stays with groups at all times. New York, Texas Zipline Adventures is open Thursday through Sunday and on some holidays. Tours are by appointment only and group rates and daily specials are offered throughout the summer. Call (903) 681-3791 to book an adventure.
The restored Texas and Pacific Railway depot in Atlanta features a historical museum designed with children’s education in mind. Photo by Tracy Torma
No need to travel to Georgia to experience Southern charm. One is immediately drawn to the Mayberry-esque appearance of Atlanta, Texas, the largest city in Cass County, population 5,675. The city’s downtown is lined with American flags, which are taken down only during the holidays for Christmas decorations.
Downtown Atlanta features a variety of antique stores and boutiques. Be sure to visit Price Hardware (302 N. William St.). Family-owned-and-operated since 1946, it has a specialty kitchen boutique called Kitchenette, featuring high-end cookware, kitchen accessories, gourmet mixes and salsas.
The Atlanta Historical Museum, located in the restored Texas and Pacific Railway depot at 101 North East Street, is designed with children’s education in mind. Exhibits weave a young person’s perspective into the stories of railroads, farming, military history, and aviation. The museum includes a diorama depicting the T&P Railway as it appeared between 1890 and 1910, railroad and depot equipment, cotton processing equipment, military artifacts, and a scale-model of the airplane flown by the first African American female aviator Bessie Coleman.
There are plenty of downtown restaurants from Luigi’s Italian Restaurant (210 N East St.) to Roux-Ga-Roux Seafood (301 N. East St.) to Uncle Juan’s Mexican Restaurant (117 E. Main St.). The Rabbit Patch (122 East Hiram St.) features hamburgers, sandwiches, wraps, and salads, and has an old-fashioned ice cream counter, with homespun milkshakes and malts, ice cream sundaes, cones, and floats. All are open for lunch and dinner. A food truck and walking café called the Come and Take it Café (110 E. Main St.) is open for breakfast and lunch, featuring street tacos, burgers, and salads.
Located on the shores of Wright Patman Lake, Atlanta State Park offers fishing, boating, and water skiing, as well as swimming in designated areas. Fishermen enjoy the 33,750-surface-acre reservoir and its 75-pound catfish. Other activities include birding, nature study, picnicking, geocaching, jogging, and hiking along the roads, trails and shorelines, as well as bicycling on hilly park roads.
On Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m., visitors can experience wine tasting at O’Farrell Country Vineyards (ofarrellvineyard.com). The winery grows 14 varieties of muscadine cultivars. Three generations of the family are involved in making the seven muscadine and four fruit wines available at the winery.
The First Christian Church of Detroit, built in 1902, is a Texas Historic Landmark. Other noteworthy stops in Detroit include the house where Vice President John Nance Garner was born. Photo by Michael Barera
Move over Motor City. Detroit, Texas, is a quintessential small town in Red River County, population 732. Detroit developed around the proposed route of the Texas and Pacific Railway in the early 1870s. When the railroad was completed in 1876, the post office at nearby Starkesville was moved to the new town, which was named Bennett. It seems the name was too close to that of the city of Burnett, so in 1887, J.M. Stephens, the local railway agent, renamed the town Detroit for his former home in Michigan.
Because of its location on the railroad, the town became an important trading center and shipping point for area farmers, and by 1884, the population reached 200 and by 1910, the city had grown to 1,500.
Today, Detroit is a classic small East Texas town, where visitors can catch a local sports game no matter what season they visit. With one bank and one gas station, a new barbecue restaurant —the Smokeshack BBQ — recently opened for lunch Tuesday through Friday, featuring signature prime brisket and house-made sausages from the local Holdeman Sausage Co. The town is anticipating the opening of a new café located next to the Whistle Stop Inn Bed and Breakfast (whistlestopinnbandb.com), the only lodging available in town.
While in Detroit, visitors can see the childhood home of Vice President John Nance Garner, the 32nd vice president of the U.S, serving from 1933 to 1941 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Garner attended Detroit schools. It is located at 206 S. Main St. The First Christian Church in town, built in 1902 at 155 1st St. NW, is a Texas Historic Landmark.
No visit to Pittsburg is complete without experiencing an order of hot links at Pittsburg Hot Links Restaurant or visiting the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum and the Witness Park and Prayer Tower, all located downtown. Photos by Tracy Torma
Ask anyone in Northeast Texas to spell the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they will more than likely leave the “h” off the end. That’s because residents here relate to only one Pittsburg, home of the renowned Pittsburg Hotlinks.
In 1897, Charlie Hasselback brought his recipe to Camp County, selling the unique hot links over the counter for preparation at home. He built an addition to his downtown building in 1918 and began serving cooked links over the counter, and their popularity took off. At one point, three businesses in town served hot links. Today, Pittsburg Hot Link Restaurant (136 W. Marshall Street.) packs people in for hot links served on butcher paper with saltine crackers. They also serve burgers, sandwiches, salads, plate lunches, and catfish plates. But be sure to add a side of what has been described as East Texas Caviar. It’s an experience guests don’t forget.
For other unique dining experiences, try Bistro Neuf 9, located in a historic building at 123 Quitman Street. Open Thursday through Saturday, the restaurant serves homemade country comfort food from locally sourced ingredients with a unique French twist. Anvil Brewing (115 South Compress Street) features craft beers and a killer Reuben sandwich, burgers, and other pub fare. Located in the original Pilgrim’s Feed and Seed building (the original start of Bo Pilgrim’s chicken business, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation), Anvil Brewing is open Wednesday through Saturday and features a dance hall with live music.
Pilgrim and his wife built another favorite local attraction, the Witness Park and Prayer Tower. Located on Main Street, the beautifully landscaped park features a tower with four Paccard bells from France and a chapel that never closes with beautiful stained glass windows on four sides.
Also downtown, the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Center has a replica of the Ezekiel Airship, a flying machine flown in a nearby pasture in 1902, predating the Wright Brothers’ first airplane. The center also features the Farmstead Museum, with a Caddo Indian archeology exhibit and other antiques and artifacts, including an 1894 telephone switchboard and antique telephones, a printing press, Model T Ford, and a 1909 surrey.
Shop the antique stores and boutiques downtown, including a handmade soap shop, Rustville Essentials’ Soap Shop (120 Quitman Street) and Rick’s Antique Safari (next door), with the state’s oldest hand-operated elevator still in operation.
Pittsburg hosts its annual Pioneer Days in September, with the third Saturday of the month featuring a parade, local food and craft vendors, and a street dance that evening. The last Saturday in April is the Hot Link Festival. The town was recently declared the Hot Link Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature. The city also hosts an Art and Wine Festival in April and Home for the Holidays event in December, with food, drink, crafts and music downtown.
For those looking to beat the summer heat head to Splash Pittsburg, a splash park located at Fair Park, the location of the second largest state fair in the early 1900s.
Four miles south of Pittsburg is the Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards (658 County Road 1334). Open Fridays through Sunday, Los Pinos features a tasting room, outdoor tasting deck, and dining room, where live music is featured on stage every Friday and Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
Lake Bob Sandlin State Park (https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lake-bob-sandlin) is another beautiful East Texas lake with great fishing, swimming, and hiking opportunities. The park has 75 campsites with water and electricity, as well as cabins and screened shelters.
While Camp County is the fourth smallest county in Texas, it is the second largest peach producer. And no visit to Pittsburg is complete without a visit to Efurd Orchards (4004 US-217), where visitors find a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, including Pittsburg peaches, homemade ice cream, and a variety of homemade products in this giant and eclectic fruit stand.