Visit Mineola — a Small Town with a Big Heart
Iron Horse Town Welcomes Autumn Travelers
Downtown Mineola greets visitors with red brick roads on the side streets, outstanding preserved architecture that won it a place in the National Register of Historic Places, and a colorful group of merchants that roll out the welcome wagon for an eventful shopping, dining, and entertainment experience.
Photo by Ricky Niell
Almost 200 years ago, long before Uber, people’s main mode of transportation from town to town was horses. Then came the “Iron Horse,” a steam locomotive that quickly made travel more convenient and helped build small communities like Mineola, Texas.
The Amtrak passenger train comes through Mineola daily and goes to Chicago, San Antnio, and Los Angles and all points in between. Courtesy Photo
To celebrate its heritage, Mineola hosts its very own Iron Horse celebration each fall. This year, the Iron Horse Festival kicks off Friday, September 28, with a night of family fun and Hobo Stew. It continues Saturday, September 29, with a full day of activities including a kids area, arts and crafts, a “shoot-out by the depot” reenactment, food vendors, pie baking and watermelon eating contests, weenie dog races, and more.
Mineola city administrator and economic development corporation executive director, Mercy Rushing, says the railroad remains very important to the community.
“Amtrak Texas Eagle passenger trains still stop twice a day to pick up and deliver passengers to our community after all these years,” she says.
The passenger trains go from Chicago to San Antonio and even Los Angeles and all points in between. Many enjoy catching the train in Mineola for a short trip to Dallas or Fort Worth.
The historic train depot doubles as one of two local history museums and features a small-scale version of a train that people can operate with the push of a button.
Visitors also enjoy the plethora of local shops and restaurants and other things to do in downtown Mineola. Next to the depot is the farmers market where local vendors provide fresh produce, jellies, jams, and homemade remedies.The produce offered by the vendors is traditionally organic, affordable, and available on Saturday mornings through the end of October.
The clock located next to the train depot helps travelers keep on time and is reminiscent of the early railroad days. Photo by Krista Leard
Scattered in the downtown area, numerous family-friendly restaurants are found, such as Kitchens Hardware & Deli, La Waffalata, The East Texas Burger Co., and CowBurners BBQ & Taproom, all of which are delectable places to take a shopping break and grab a bite to eat. There are also hidden sweets among some of the small shops with goodies like fudge and fried pies.
East Texas Burger Co is a mainstay of downtown Mineola, with a unique decorative twist; napkins filled with drawings. Photo by Abigail Huff
Ladybug Jungle might appear like a typical clothing and accessories boutique from the sidewalk, but upon entering the store, customers are welcomed with the scent of fried pies. The pies are a Roseman family tradition with fresh, handcrafted fillings and flakey crusts. Flavors include chocolate, apple, apricot, buttermilk, cherry, coconut, lemon, pineapple, and peach.
At LadyBug Jungle, guests not only get in on the latest shoe sales but can partake of delicious Farm House Fried Pies featuring a three-generation family recipe, with a variety off different flavors. Photo by Abigail Huff
Across the street is a lovely shopping destination, Between Friends, which offers customers a store full of clothing, furniture, and a wide assortment of antiques. For a special treat, the store also sells delicious fudge and a new coffee shop lets shoppers sit and view the downtown area from a front window. The homemade fudge flavors include Died and Gone to Heaven, Dark Chocolate and Caramel, Dark Chocolate, and even Watermelon.
Kitchens Deli, an award-winning place to dine among several other good restaurants in the district. Photo by Abigail Huff
As visitors explore Mineola, they come across a variety of vintage and antique shops with unique items awaiting discovery. Some shops are full of treasures from the past like Uniques & Antiques, Broad Street Mall, Karen’s Korner, Cottage Antiques, and others.
Other must-visit shops in downtown Mineola are Lost Creek with an eclectic assortment of products including bird feeders and seed, custom embroidery, garden art, and country decor; P.S. I Love You, a vintage boutique furniture and “shabby chic” decor store; and Haute Stuff Boutique with women’s clothing and accessories, thrift, and consignment items.
P.S. I Love You hosts a special outside decor- a blue painted bycycle, adding a little splash of color against the red brick downtown buildings. Photos by Ricky Niell
The town itself has its very own antique, the Select Theater, home of The Lake Country Playhouse. The building doubles as a movie theatre and a playhouse. On the weekends guests can see new movie releases or enjoy a series of stage performances. Four times a year the Lake Country Symphonic Band puts on a show. Established in 1920, it is one of the oldest movie theatres still running in Texas. Upcoming stage shows include the live production of Wait Until Dark, September 21-23 and 28-30; the Lake Country Symphonic Band’s Things that Go Bump, October 21 and 23; and The Warehouse of Terror, opening on October 6 and continuing every Friday and Saturday in October, and Halloween night.
A trip through Mineola isn’t complete without a stop at the fresh bath and body shop, Moon’s Harvest. This lovely boutique is filled with handcrafted beauty products, including bath bombs, shampoo bars, soaps, bath salts, and more. Products are made with wholesome ingredients that are free of harmful chemical preservatives and are cruelty free. The wonderful aroma of the store keeps visitors coming back for more.
Local art is also a part of downtown Mineola at Dragonfly Art Studio as well as the Mineola League of the Arts. The league center has ongoing art classes, workshops, and special events throughout the year like their quilt show as part of the Iron Horse Festival September 29.
With a population of just about 4,700, Mineola is a small town for sure, but the people make it seem much bigger because of all they accomplish.
“Mineola is a small town with a big heart and can-do attitude,” Rushing says. “We think big and are not afraid to roll up our sleeves to make things happen to enrich our quality of life. How many cities our size do you see that have a civic center, a historic theater downtown, a Mineola League of the Arts, Mineola Library, Lake Holbrook with a beach and picnic areas and one of the best water skiing lakes around, the Mineola Country Club with a nine-hole course, and a public-use airport?”
Enjoying all that Mineola has to offer is made sweeter in autumn with a backdrop of expansive blue skies and multicolored trees.
“The wide variety of trees here transforms our area with a ‘coat of many colors’ during this season which is best for enjoying hiking, biking, horseback riding, or going to the Bigfoot Sabine paddling trail,” Rushing says.
A favorite place for many, near or far, is the 3,000-acre Mineola Nature Preserve which is open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to sunset and now includes a recently completed 18-hole disc golf course.
The nature preserve is also home to “Star Gazing with an Astronomer” that takes place periodically in conjunction with the Astronomical Society of East Texas with astronomers helping identify objects in the night sky.
For overnight lodging, the town has a variety of convenient bed and breakfasts, RV parks, lodges, and hotels.
Mineola’s welcoming arms for travelers are as big as they ever were, inviting guests to enjoy the local art and history, food, shopping, nature, and more. The community’s thriving downtown district has earned a spot in the National Register of Historic Places and it is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary as a designated Texas Main Street City. They’ve come a long way since the iron horse first rolled into town.
Go to www.mineola.com to help plan a trip or call (800) MINEOLA.