With great views, a popular lake, downtown shops, attractions, and tasty restaurants, Jacksonville is a good travel destination.
Visitors can start out just four miles from downtown at Love’s Lookout State Park. At an elevation of 720 feet above sea level and rising 240 feet above the surrounding terrain, visitors get a panoramic view of the Eastern horizon, reaching as far as 30 miles on a clear day. The park features a visitors’ center and outside tables and benches for picnicking with a view. There’s a stone wall built as a WPA project of the 1930s made from locally harvested iron ore, which can also be found in Jacksonville’s renowned downtown Tomato Bowl football stadium. The park also has a 125-foot city fire tower, one of the last of the original 100 fire towers built by the Texas Forest Service in the 1930s.
Juicy hamburgers at Legends Old Time Burger Cafe. Photos by Tracy Torma
Each summer, Jacksonville hosts the Tomato Fest, celebrating the crop that farmers of Cherokee County have grown since the turn of the 20th century. In 1917, Cherokee County produced 90 percent of the tomatoes shipped from Texas. The annual festival transforms downtown into an outdoor market of foods, crafts, and music.
Downtown Jacksonville features a variety of shops and boutiques, including the Treasure Cove Antique Mall located inside a former two-story department store. Across the street, purchase handmade soaps at Tigerlillies Florist & Soap Emporium or find unique clothing and gift items at Country Charm Boutique and Raven Jute Boutique & Salon. Chantilly’s is a home décor store and women’s clothing boutique where guests are offered a cup of coffee served in a teacup and can purchase farm-fresh eggs from the owner — small touches that make shopping in East Texas so unique and charming.
Home decor, women’s clothing and farm fresh eggs at Chantilly’s.
Not far from downtown is the Texas Basket Factory Store, featuring a variety of gift items — from kitchenware to children’s gifts — as well as baskets in all shapes and sizes. The Texas Basket Factory celebrates its 100th year in business this year as the largest producer of baskets in the world, shipping 10,000 baskets each day.
The 100-year old Texas Basket Factory is the largest producer of baskets in the world. Photos by Tracy Torma
While in Jacksonville, be sure to visit the Vanishing Texana Museum (302 South Bolton). Open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and free to the public, the museum includes an impressive collection of antiquities, curiosities, and items of a bygone era. Among the exhibits donated by local residents is an antique coin collection with currency dating back to the Roman Empire as early as 238 A.D. and a rare Noel Madstone, which was applied to a bite to treat rabies before a vaccine became available. Displays include Native American relics, farm equipment, photographs, guns, dolls, and typewriters. Museum curator Larry Lydick is happy to point out some of the more curious items, including a 1922 Victrola hand-cranked record player that still works.
Jacksonville features fun shopping at downtown boutiques.
Jacksonville has many great places to eat, but topping the list on Yelp is Sylvia Mae’s Soul Food (564 N. Main St.). Don’t let the size or modest appearance of the place fool you. Inside, Sylvia serves up some of the best home cooking around. Specialties include chicken fried steak, smothered pork chops, and fried ribs, with sides of greens, purple hull peas, and mashed potatoes. Other downtown eateries include Commerce Street Draft House (401 E. Commerce St.), featuring craft brews and good pub food, and Sadler’s Kitchen (101 S. Bonner St.), where farm to table food is served in a fun, funky atmosphere in what was once the city jail. Ritual Luncheonette (214 S. Main St.) is the newest restaurant downtown for lunch, featuring salads, quiche, sandwiches, and desserts. Those hungry for a burger can go to Legends Old Time Burger Café (1630 S. Jackson St.), where they can dress their burger their own way from a well-stocked condiment bar.
Delightful home cooking at Sylvia Mae’s Soul Food.
Nearby Jacksonville, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the River Run ATV park, where one can go off-roading along the banks of the Neches River; the Adrenaline Rush Zip Line, one of the longest zip lines in Texas; and Cherokee Trace Safari, home to a plethora of exotic animal species.
Visit explorejacksonville.org for more.