Palestine Texas, Where the Dogwoods Bloom

Centrally located between Dallas and Houston, make sure Palestine is on your getaway shortlist!

Named by Texas Highways Magazine as a Top 40 Travel Destination, Palestine has historical sites, arts and cultural events, architectural gems, festivals, outdoor fun, and nightlife—all with loads of East Texas charm.

Perhaps the town is best known for its blooming dogwoods each Spring, or that it is home to the official railroad of Texas, the Texas State Railroad, however, there are plenty of additional attractions that will spark your attention.

History

The Texas State Legislature created Palestine in 1846 to serve as the seat for the newly established Anderson County, which would become the home of American politician John H. Reagan and Governor Thomas M. Campbell. A logistical hub from the very beginning, traders and businesspeople transported goods down the Trinity River until the railroad industry arrived in the 1870s, which created an explosion in population and economic growth.

The county’s fourth courthouse, erected in Palestine in 1914, is still standing and in use. Oil was discovered east of town 14 years later, and in the years since the area has become a significant player in the field of energy production, logistics, and distribution.

Today, Palestine is a designated Texas Main Street City and features architecture from the early 1800s through the 1950s.  Its historic sites and respect for both tradition and a legacy of progress make it the perfect destination for visitors, industrialists, and entrepreneurs motivated by the promise of an American Dream.   

Outdoor Adventure

Spending time outdoors in Palestine is easy with over 700 acres in the Community Forest filled with dense pine and hardwood trees, offering scenic drives leading to lakes with fishing and picnicking. 

As the forest awakens in Davey Dogwood Park, a magical path welcomes spring.  Wandering along a one-mile trail, if you look close enough, you might spot a fairy garden tucked at the bottom of a tree, beneath a fallen branch or along a riverbank. 

Each year, a new colony of fairy garden homes appears in the park attracting hundreds of guests to view the tiny homes nestled throughout the dogwoods in bloom. Made from natural materials such as pinecones, beans, twigs, rocks and sand, these gardens are open to the public for viewing from mid-March through April.

Fall in love with Palestine all over again each fall as the forested land featuring miles of hard surface roads, hiking & biking trails and scenic views showcases amazing color for picnics, photo shoots, hiking, and nature walks. 

Take the Piney Woods Autumn Trail, a 145-mile road trip that includes historical markers and magnificent fall colors sure to satisfy the whole family!  Autumn color is expected in mid to late November each year.

 

 

Events

Since 1938, Palestine has been celebrating the Texas Dogwood Trails. This long-time celebration takes place the last two weekends in March and the first weekend in April.

Enjoy the delicate beauty of the dogwood trees in Davey Dogwood Park and the surrounding area. Activities are scheduled each weekend to complement the Celebration.

Don’t miss the Piney Woods Excursion Train at the Texas State Railroad, the Dogwood Festival and Car Show, Main Street Farm & Flower Market, stained glass window tours & much more. www.visitpalestine.com/dogwood

Old Time Music & Dulcimer Festival has a laid-back attitude and great music! Some of the best dulcimer and old-time music artists from around the country serve as headliners for the concerts and lead the workshops. Friday and Saturday are filled with live performances, jamming sessions, concerts & workshops. Find out more at www.oldpalmusic.com   

The 1836 takes place during the celebration of Texas’s Independence every year at the Diamond B Ranch in Neches, Texas. There are multiple divisions of wagon races, a cowboy-style match race, pasture roping, barrel racing, and a mounted shooting competition. This is truly a unique Western event you don’t want to miss!

The gates are open to camping the Monday prior to the races. Folks are encouraged to come early, bring their horses, mules, and wagons, and to participate in the many activities on the schedule.

Activities include trail rides, dutch oven cook’n classes, herd dog demonstrations, hoof care clinics, horse auctions, barn dances, karaoke, live music, cowboy church, and much more! www.the1836.com

Dogwood Jamboree is a Branson-style country music show filled with family fun, laughter, and great country music from some of the best artists around.  The concerts take place five times a year in March, June, August, October & December.  www.dogwoodjamboree.com

Celebrate Christmas in Palestine and enjoy holiday shopping on Main Street, The Polar Express™ Train Ride aboard the Texas State Railroad, The Grinch’s Lair at the Texas Jailhouse, Photos with Santa, Pancakes with Mrs. Claus, Whiskey & Wine events, Christmas Parade of Lights and much more.  www.visitpalestine.com/christmas

Unique Attractions

Texas State Railroad, a Texas treasure since 1881, is the official railroad of Texas and hosts scenic rides through a 25-mile state park.

From the moment your party steps on board one of our beautifully refurbished train cars, they’ll feel like they’ve been transported to a simpler, more leisurely time where the distractions of the modern world suddenly disappear.

Offering lunch and dinner trains, Piney Woods Excursions, Wine in the Pines, The Polar Express Train Ride™, and much more! www.texasstaterailroad.net

Bralys Ace Hardware – Named ‘One of the Coolest Hardware Stores on the Planet, this mom-and-pop operation has been family owned and operated for over 80 years and is housed in a 1938 elementary school. 

Classrooms were taken down to the studs and the original slate chalkboards were cut down to make department signs, teachers’ cabinets house the paint department and there is even a hand crank pencil sharpener affixed to the door jamb of one of the classrooms.

Railroad Heritage Center allows you to enter a portal to railroading, featuring the Domis Model Railroad, a 37′ x 17′ HO scale model train display, and enjoy the various exhibits that illustrate the many facets of railroading.

Old Town Palestine – Otherwise known as “The Hollow”, is in the industrial zone of the city around the 1930s, just west of the courthouse.  This area has been revitalized and now features specialty shops, boutiques, murals, and a foodie scene that will captivate all your senses.

 

Arts & Culture

The Texas Theatre is the crown jewel of the downtown Palestine Main Street District and the finest venue for live entertainment in East Texas. This historic structure is a prime example of Spanish Colonial architecture and was designed as an atmospheric movie palace when it opened in 1930 but now serves as a community theatre hosting 5 shows each year.

This and 1,800 additional historic sites in Palestine showcase unique architectural elements in buildings and homes throughout the community. That’s a century and a half of architectural features – perfect for a scavenger hunt! 

And speaking of stage performance, take your pick!  From the Dogwood Jamboree, a Branson-style country music show, to the Old Time Music & Dulcimer Festival, to Wiggy Thump Festival, keeping your feet still will be the hardest part of attending any of these live performance musical events.

We all know that art can be fun, and in Palestine, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in a very interactive way. 

Participate in the many self-guided tours designed to allow you to engage with art on your own terms.  The Visit Palestine, Tx App features a series of trails all centered around public art available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Enjoy the oversize playful sculpture program featuring 13 large-scale pieces or find yourself stepping back to take in the murals.

Explore Palestine’s Foodie Scene

Let’s face it, we all know that food is one of our favorite reasons to travel. An up-and-coming foodie scene emerged in Palestine offering unique dining from casual fine to food trucks and everything in between. 

We recommend asking a local, and you’ll likely be directed to a local pub serving up malty brown ales, crisp lagers, and hoppy IPAs.

Or maybe you’re in the mood for Italian where the pasta and mozzarella are made in-house daily and the wine selection is extensive. Or dine in a beautiful historic hotel offering a variety of flavors from casual lunches to fine steaks and seafood. 

We also encourage dessert before dinner!  Stop in at any of our famous bakeries including a pie shop named one of the Top Places for Pie in Texas and another featured as the oldest continuously operated bakery in Texas world famous for their fruitcakes and Texas Pecan Cakes.

It doesn’t matter what you are in the mood for, Palestine will make your taste buds very happy. www.visitpalestine.com/localflavor

Lodging and Accommodations

Rest your head in Palestine in one of over 700 hotel rooms across both branded and boutique-style accommodations. www.visitpalestine.com/businesses/places-to-stay

Take a walk-through history and stay in Palestine’s oldest hotel, the Redlands Hotel, built in 1914 by a group of citizens to provide housing for visitors to the city from the railroad.

Built as a fine hotel with an up-to-date restaurant, ice machine, orchestra, and ballroom, it was in high demand until 1918 when WW I caused economic problems. Imagine debarking from a long train ride to walk into the Redlands Hotel’s dining room and having an elegant dinner. 

In 1919, the building was leased to the I.G.. N.R.R. as its home office after it’s then-current office burned. It occupied the building until 1956 as Missouri Pacific Lines when it moved to a new building on the other side of the tracks.

From 1956 – 1972 it was empty and decaying when it was purchased and restored to useful life. In 1982, it was registered in the National Register of Historic Places and now shines as a beautiful example of hotel construction.

The City of Palestine can trace much of its heritage to the development brought by the railroad and the many men and women whose livelihood was the railroad. Once again, a visitor can walk into the Redlands dining room for a fine meal, and historical surroundings and perhaps learn a new story about this town which had a link to the world via rail as early as 1872.

 


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