Summer Fun in the Upper East Side
The Upper East Side of Texas has an abundance of fun things to do in the summer. Here are some ideas to get started making plans. Check CountyLineMagazine.com for details and more choices.
1. Animal Preserves and Zoos
There are several zoos, animal sanctuaries, and drive-thru safaris in the region. Animal lovers have many choices of how to get up close and personal with different types of creatures.
Walks through a zoo setting are available at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, and the more intimate East Texas Zoo and Gators Park in Grand Saline.
Drive through habitats where animals might come right up to the car and nose around for food are available at Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari in Jacksonville and Grapeland Drive-Thru Safari in Grapeland. There are places with rescued animals — from tigers and large cats to apes, antelope, horses, and donkeys — where people can witness how the safe environments and nurturing saved and enriched these animals’ lives. See Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary, Tyler; Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, Murchison; and The Pegasus Project, Murchison.
2. Summer Music Concert Series
Music is found year ‘round in the Upper East Side of Texas at concert venues, music halls, restaurants and bars. Warm weather also brings the music outdoors for community gatherings. Many community summer music series are efforts of the Texas Main Street program and are in effect across the region. They are listed here along with other summer concert series. Check details before attending, but most are free, offer food and beverages, and allow people to bring chairs and blankets for comfortable seating.
Corsicana hosts Mimosas at the Market on the second Saturday of each month during summer in historic downtown Corsicana, and it includes live music.
Denison’s Main Street presents Music on Main every Friday from May 24 through July 26.
Kilgore’s Main Street program offers a summer lineup of musical acts with their Fridays After 5 on the first Friday of May, June, August, and September.
Longview presents Downtown Live at Heritage Park, downtown Longview, every Friday evening in May.
Marshall has a Second Saturday Twilight Tunes concert series in May and June in Telegraph Park.
McKinney offers concerts during its Second Saturdays in downtown McKinney during the summer months.
Mount Vernon offers live music along with their farmers’ market on the downtown plaza every second Saturday May through September.
Rockwall’s San Jacinto Plaza Music Series is held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in May. Rockwall also offers their outdoor Concerts by the Lake every Thursday from May 9 through August 1 (except July 4) at The Harbor.
Sherman’s 25th year of Hot Summer Nights hosts bands every Thursday night in June and July (except July 4) on the Sherman Municipal Lawn.
Sulphur Springs hosts Celebration Market, a farmers’ market and mini-festival including live music every Saturday from May 11 through September, at Celebration Plaza.
Winnsboro presents Monday Night Live the third Monday of May and June at The Bowery downtown.
The number of summer festivals in the Upper East Side of Texas continues to increase every year, bringing visitors from all over the world. Some that are sure to please in May include the 72nd Annual Jefferson Historical Pilgrimage; Rains County Founders Day Festival in Emory; Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie; Twice as Fine Wine Festival in Texarkana; 6th Annual Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival in Tyler; 4th Annual Reds, Whites, and Brews in Sulphur Springs; the 9th annual Railfest Celebration in Texarkana; Audie Murphy Day in Greenville; the Corsicana Air Show; Big Pines Blues Festival in Longview; Tailwind Regional Balloon Fest in Canton; Tyler Celtic Fest; the National Polka Festival in Ennis; and Athens’ Old Fiddlers Reunion and Carnival.
June brings the Texas Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches, Tomato Fest in Jacksonville, Salt Festival in Grand Saline, and the Junebug Summer Fair in Ben Wheeler.
Call city offices for information on fireworks and other activities for Independence Day. Other celebrations in July include the 180th Anniversary of the Battle of the Neches in Ben Wheeler, Paris Balloon and Music Festival with the Tour de Paris Bicycle Rally, the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview, and the Shadow Renaissance Festival in Sulphur Springs.
4. Water Parks and Splash Pads
There are three Splash Kingdom family waterparks in the Upper East Side of Texas — one in Canton, one in Greenville, and another in Nacogdoches. There is also the indoor Waterpark at the Villages Resort in Flint. Over the past few years, many towns of all sizes in the Upper East Side of Texas have added fun splash pads to their parks for easy access to cool summer play. Call city offices to find out times of operation.
5. Summer Theater
Community theater in the region is fun and entertaining. Most of the time, local talent does all the work on these productions, from acting to set design to directing, and everything in between. Some plays scheduled for local theaters between now and the beginning of the school year are The Premature Corpse and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland JR in Ennis, Death of a Salesman in Henderson, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in Greenville, Ella Enchanted in Longview, My Son Pinocchio in Palestine, Shrek the Musical in Mineola, and Mamma Mia in Waxahachie.
6. Zip Line Adventures
Flying through the air on a zipline is an exciting adventure and doing so in the Upper East Side of Texas makes it a beautiful one, too, because of the tall green trees all around. Four places in this region to experience this exhilarating activity are New York, Texas ZipLine Adventures outside of New York (with a LaRue address); Adrenaline Rush Zip Line Tours of Jacksonville; Thomas Falls Zipline Challenge Course near Diana; and ZipNac in Nacogdoches.
7. Small Town Getaways
With bed and breakfasts, outstanding hotels, and Airbnb rentals, so many little towns in this region make terrific getaway destinations, and planning such a trip is really fun. There are so many choices of great places to eat and drink, shop, look at art and history, go antiquing, relax, and scout out unique local attractions. Check out the Explore Guides in CountyLineMagazine.com.
While exploring this region, people drive across and around a lot of beautiful blue water. There are a couple dozen lakes in this area that offer great summer activities on and near the water such as swimming, boating, camping, hiking, water skiing, canoeing, dining, picnicking, or just relaxing and gazing at the beauty. Fishing is a favorite sport of many, and the lakes in this region draw fishermen from all over Texas and beyond, especially Lake Fork which is known as the best lake in Texas for bass fishing. Just about any fun summer event that can be dreamed up can take place near these bodies of water.
The Upper East Side of Texas is home to a great number of vineyards and wineries, and many have won international awards. After a decade of wine growing, this area rivals the Texas Hill Country with the number and quality of great wines produced here.
A great way to spend summer days is to tour local wineries to see their beautiful vineyards and sample some of their delicious creations. There are about 40 wineries in this region, and a few of the award winning ones include Kiepersol Estates Vineyards & Winery, Tyler; Landon Winery in Greenville and McKinney; Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery, Harleton; and Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, Pittsburg.
10. Drive-in Movie
Drive-in Theaters used to be a primary go-to spot for leisure time and there were hundreds of them across Texas. They are a bit more rare now, which makes them even more fun. Luckily the Upper East Side of Texas has one of the best in Ennis. The Galaxy Drive-In is open every night and has seven screens showing new releases and 3D double features. Guests tune in to hear the movies from FM radio frequencies. They have a full service snack bar with burgers, pizza, grilled chicken salads, hot dogs, corndogs, nachos, and of course popcorn. (972) 875-5505, www.galaxydriveintheatre.com.