Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Lufkin

By Chet Garner 3.1.20

When people talk about East Texas, they often talk about “going behind the pine curtain.” As most Texans will tell you, the ecosystem changes dramatically when you cross I-45 and, all of a sudden, you’re confronted with a wall of towering pine trees.

The town of Lufkin is at the proverbial heart of the East Texas forest, right outside the Davy Crockett National Forest — which is a great place to start your visit.

The Davy Crockett National Forest

The Davy Crockett National Forest is a beautifully preserved wild lands bordering Lufkin. It’s named so because Davy Crockett passed through it on his way to the Alamo back in 1836. If you’re heading to Lufkin, you’ve got to swing by here first. You’ll have a great time exploring. If you stop by the visitor center, they can give you info on the trails and show you the best routes.

The Neches River

The Neches River runs right through the forest, so if you want a trail of another kind, head out on the river to paddle or canoe and you’ll see all kinds of natural and protected wildlife — otters, beavers … you name it. And the fishing here is first class. 

Texas Forestry Museum

To learn more about these beautiful East Texas forests, check out the Texas Forestry Museum. You can learn all about the relationship between forest conservation and the lumber industry that props Texas up. They do a great job of explaining why we need to steward our forests and use renewable resources to effectively generate jobs and livelihoods.

Stringer’s Lufkin Bar-B-Que

The brisket, sausage, and ribs at Stringer’s are absolutely delicious, but their signature is fried dinner rolls. Rather than eating your brisket on traditional white bread, order a half-dozen of these deep-fried rolls, and they’ll put you in a food coma you won’t want to leave. Word of advice if you order these to-go: Get a plastic bag. They’ll soak through paper in two minutes flat.

Todd White

Ray’s Drive In

If you’re a fan of the old-school stops like I am, you’ll love Ray’s Drive In. It’s a classic burger drive-in and one of the few places left in Texas where they still have car hops. Pull in, flash your headlights, and waiters and waitresses come right out to your car. I always order the Ray’s Special (double patties, cheese, and onion) with a side of their hand-battered onion rings, which are to die for.

La Unica

Get ready for the best tamales in all of Texas. Every time I swing through Lufkin, there’s a line out the door of La Unica of people just picking up tamales. Don’t get me wrong: The rest of the menu is terrific too, but don’t leave without ordering at least a dozen pork tamales.

Downtown Lufkin

For some extra exploration, downtown Lufkin has a lot to offer — historic murals and other artwork to check out, as well as shopping spots. Grab a drink at the Standpipe Coffee House and catch a bit of their live music.

Atkinson Candy Co.

Another fun fact: Chick-O-Sticks are made right here in Lufkin. Atkinson Candy Co. has been making candy here for 88 years, and their “misfit candy” store is attached to their factory. They don’t do tours of the factory, but it’s fun to grab a big bucket of Chick-O-Sticks.

Join Chet on more of his adventures around Texas here.

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