Visit Celebration City for the Holidays
Sulphur Springs Offers a Delicious Playful Weekend Getaway
Apfelstrudel with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream is a favorite at Joe’s German Restaurant in Sulphur Springs.
Photos by Bill Ayers
Located just off Interstate 30 between Dallas and Texarkana, Sulphur Springs is a great weekend destination year-round and a magical setting during the holidays. Thanks to a major downtown renovation, the town has something going on every Saturday in its Celebration District, from shopping and dining to family-friendly events.
The showpiece of Celebration Plaza is the beautiful courthouse, built in 1895. Set near the back of the plaza, it anchors the space visually, inviting people to stay and enjoy themselves.
The 1895 Romanesque Revival architectural styled courthouse is the foundation of the downtown scene in Sulphur Springs.
Celebrations worth noting this time of year in Sulphur Springs include the Annual Car Show, November 4; Veterans Day Parade and Salute the Veterans BBQ Cook-off and Family Fun Fest, November 11; United Professional Rodeo Association Finals, November 17-19; Turkey Trot, November 23; Christmas in the Park, starts at sunset November 25 and December 2; Christmas on the Square/Lighted Christmas Parade, December 1; Northeast Texas Choral Society Christmas Concert, December 2; and the 2nd Annual Christmas Market on Main, December 9.
Throughout the holiday season, the downtown area is festively decorated and the plaza invites visitors to rest and take in the ambience in between shopping and dining. Music is often playing at the plaza and downtown venue Muddy Jake’s offers live music Saturdays with performers like Kid Icarus Project, Nevermind, and Droo D’Anna.
Most of the downtown shops and restaurants are closed on Sunday, so visitors need to gear Celebration District activities to Friday night and Saturday.
Those looking for overnight lodging have many choices from a variety of hotel/motels along Interstate 30 to the warm-and-fuzzy bed and breakfasts closer to town. One of those to consider is The Oaks Bed and Breakfast. This 1930s house has three guest rooms, each furnished by a local shop. Since the furniture is on consignment, guests can purchase anything they like. Another perk of staying at The Oaks is getting insider tips from owner and host Ben Thesing. He and his wife Allison grew up in Sulphur Springs, moved away, and decided to come back to raise their family. They are always available to provide guests with a list of “must-sees” in Sulphur Springs.
Visitors can get Saturdays off to a good start with a visit to one of the local coffee shops. Those that stay at The Oaks may have a taste of what awaits at Coffee Off the Square, as the Thesings are the owners of both establishments. In addition to coffee and breakfast fare, Coffee Off the Square also serves lunch.
Another local coffee shop, Rooster Roast Coffee Bar, includes a gallery of original artwork.
There’s plenty to do at Celebration Plaza while waiting for the shops to open. Start with one of Sulphur Springs’ most famous attractions, the glass-walled public toilets. Billed as the only public toilets of their kind in the United States, they are something to see. Or not. Built of one-way mirrors, the reflective surfaces blend in with their surroundings. Visitors can step inside with confidence though, because although people inside the bathroom can see out, those peering in can see nothing but their own reflections. Like the rest of Celebration Plaza, these restrooms are handicapped accessible.
Another popular destination on the plaza is the Hopkins County Veterans Memorial, which honors the Hopkins County men and women who served in the Armed Forces. A computerized kiosk offers more information on veterans as well as a way to search for a particular individual. An impressive statue of a Korean War soldier is also an inspiring tribute to United States’ veterans. Posed in front of a large American flag waving in the breeze, it is cause for reflection.
Gourmet Kitchen & Company features decor and more.
By mid-morning most of the stores surrounding the plaza are open and visitors can turn their attention to some serious shopping. Offerings range from clothing boutiques like Sister Babyz and Marlene’s Sass and Class, to shops like Gourmet Kitchen & Company, featuring kitchen-related decor and cooking gadgets. Discover the perfect blend of practical and whimsical here, from kitchen tools shoppers might not know they needed until they saw them, to gifts for foodie friends.
Other must-see shops downtown are Secret Gardens, Danna’s Southern Charm & Florist, and Town Square Antiques.
The Bookworm Box is well worth a visit.
Two of the most unusual shops in the Celebration District are The Bookworm Box and Hampton House Jewelry and Rock Shop. New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, who was born in Sulphur Springs, owns the Bookworm Box. The store sells only autographed books, and profits from all sales go to charities. Most titles are young adult/new adult romances, the genre Hoover writes. The shop is an offshoot from the subscription mail-order service by the same name that ships autographed copies of books to readers. The mail-order service, like the store, gives all profits to charity.
Wes Hampton and his wife, Angela, own Hampton House Jewelry and Rock Shop.
Hampton House Jewelry and Rock Shop is full of interesting items.
The shop is part museum, part rock, jewelry, coin, and clock shop, embracing all of the couple’s interests and areas of expertise. As a certified jeweler, Angela brings her skills to her custom jewelry designs and the repair and restoration of vintage jewelry. Wes, in addition to repairing antique clocks, makes custom knife and gun handles from stone. He is also an amateur paleontologist. On display in the back room is an almost complete, fossilized skeleton of a Mosasaur that Wes unearthed from a bank of the nearby North Sulphur River. Standing next to the skeleton and surrounded by ornate antique clocks and slabs of precious stones, Wes remarks, “Passion is what fuels everything we do.”
Arturo’s Wood Fired Pizza is a Celebration Dining District favorite with selections sure to please both vegetarians and meat lovers.
Indeed, the passion the shopkeepers have for their unique product or service is one of the things that make spending time in Sulphur Springs so delightful. This extends to the eateries, which are numerous and varied. Arturo’s Wood Fired Pizza is one of the local favorites, with selections sure to please both vegetarians and meat lovers. For sandwiches, check out the Plain & Fancy Sandwich Shoppe or grab a burger from Burgerland. Stuffed baked potatoes are available at The Potato House. Other dining choices include The Corner Grub House, Pioneer Café, and The Alcove2 which serves American cuisine with a wide selection of craft beer and wine.
Big windows in Phinesse Farms Winery provide a front-row seat of downtown while enjoying a nice glass of wine.
Follow lunch with homemade ice cream in a homemade waffle cone from Magic Scoop General Store. Or pick up a snack at Sweet-N-Salty, whose old-fashioned popcorn machine was featured on The History Channel’s American Restoration. Adults will want to visit the Phinesse Farms Winery, with their trademark wine, Noblianti Natural. They even offer a wine called The Backyard, that, according to the menu, pairs well with a peanut butter sandwich.
Redneck Bar & Grill is known for good steaks.
Recommended repeatedly for dinner is Redneck Bar and Grill. In contrast to its name, the ambience leans more toward classy, with cozy tables and dim lighting. Grilled steaks, shrimp and fish are on the menu, but the favorite by far seems to be the steak.
Those that enjoy authentic German food can visit Joe’s German Restaurant. Although the decor, a combination of American Indian, Texan, and European, may lead guests to believe this is not the real deal, never fear — the bratwurst, potatoes, and red cabbage are as German as it gets, and the beer on tap is served in glass boot-shaped mugs.
The bratwurst, potatoes, and red cabbage at Joe’s German Restaurant — with outdoor seating overlooking the downtown square — are as German as it gets.
Joe's German Restaurant serves beer on tap in glass boot-shaped mugs.
For those looking to play, have fun, and celebrate, take a drive over to Sulphur Springs for a day or a weekend. Go to visitsulphurspringstx.org for more information on events and everyday activities.