Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Jefferson

By Kristy Alpert 2.6.17

The pace of life in Jefferson is about the same as the waves that lap lazily against the shores of the surrounding bayous. This historic East Texas town is nestled between Caddo Lake and Lake O’ the Pines on Big Cypress Bayou in the Cypress Valley of northeast Texas. The town dates back to the Republic of Texas days of the mid-1800s, when steamboats pumped along the river to bring goods to and from New Orleans.

Despite the modern inventions and contemporary additions that have moved this town along with the times, Jefferson has managed to preserve its characteristic charm and continues to offer a glimpse back to an era when Southern gentility and hospitality reigned supreme. Steam-powered locomotives still transport guests along the beautiful woods and wetlands of the area each Friday and Saturday with the Historic Jefferson Railway, and the clap of hooves can still be heard along the brick streets from the Lone Star Carriage Company as its carriages pass by Jefferson’s antique stores and boutique shops. For visitors looking for a more aquatic approach to exploring Jefferson, Turning Basin Riverboat Tours provide an unscripted account of the town for history buffs, while anglers and boaters can be on the water in less than 20 minutes at nearby Caddo Lake or Lake O’ the Pines.

Jefferson has become known as the “Bed and Breakfast Capital of Texas,” where most of the bed-and-breakfasts have proudly earned their own historical markers alongside the city’s other historical buildings, like The Grove, which is considered the most haunted place in Texas. Opt for a night at The Excelsior House Hotel — a local gem that dates back to the late 1850s — to stay in the same quarters that once hosted Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Lady Bird Johnson. Just don’t miss the chance to sample their famous orange blossom muffins from the Plantation Breakfast menu. One word: delish!

For more Texas hometown cooking, make sure to grab a seat at the KnightLight Tavern Olde World Restaurant to fill up on hearty Southern staples like thick-cut rib-eye steaks and blackened catfish in an entertaining Old World setting, or stop in to the Jefferson General Store to stock up on homemade treats for the journey home. The store is filled with retro candies, homemade preserves and salsas, and a slew of hard-to-find Texas treats.

Hitting the road for an East Texas vacation? Don’t forget to stop in Tyler — the Rose Capital of America!