Photos by James Khattak.
Just before Christmas, we spent a day exploring Palestine and Athens, Texas. Both are within two hours of Dallas, a pleasantly circuitous Texas road trip route that can include plenty of time for art adventures, snack stops and other points of interest without making for too long of a day.
Palestine has three main points of interest that comprise its historic Main Street District: Old Town, Courthouse Square and downtown. Old Town is set in a quaint hollow, along a wooded creek. Downtown has more of a "main street" look and feel. They are very walkable, and downtown Palestine has historic facades, public art and many other sights that are more fun to experience on foot than by car. (The less athletic among us might wish to drive from point to point, but each destination is accessible on its own.)
The Gallery at The Redlands Hotel was closed when we stopped by, but what we saw through the window was very nice, including watercolors by the hotel's featured artist, Dr. David Tripp. The hotel, which was built in 1914 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, has striking decorative tile and other period touches.
In Athens, the small and friendly Art Gallery 211 was a delightful find. The gallery is a substantial space filled with many types of art - drawing, paintings, sculpture and stained glass. My favorite purchase of the trip, a small painting by local artist Stephen Surls, came from here, and I look forward to a return trip to add more to my art collection. Save some time to spend looking over the detailed, fantastical mural on its alley wall, too.
Palestine's famous Oxbow Bakery & Antiques is hard to resist. From its welcoming, quaint exterior to its warm interior and, oh yeah, some delicious pies, it gets everything right for a whole experience. We got to-go slices of its buttermilk and cherry cream cheese flavors. Both were amazing, and large enough to split for a few days worth of treats. Cream & Coffee serves a decent cup, and Pint and Barrel was the perfect outdoor space for a quick lunch.
In Athens, Come and Take It is primarily a liquor and beer store, but it has a wide and interesting selection and a few specialty grocery items as well. We didn't make it to Atticus and Co. this go-round, but it's at the top of our list for next time. Especially after learning that it is named for To Kill a Mockingbird character Atticus Finch.
Palestine is home to the Texas State Railroad, "steam and diesel locomotives" that run between Palestine and Rusk. When we visited the depot, it was all decked out for its Polar Express event - lots of people in Christmas pajamas! Even if you're not boarding there for a trip, the grounds and trains are nice to see.
In the Spring, this part of Texas is known for its dogwood trees and other seasonal blooms. For three weekends in March, Palestine will celebrate dogwood season with special indoor/outdoor events and tours. We are planning a return trip to check it out! Maybe we will see you there! (From a safe social distance, of course!)
Our interactive East Texas local map includes these points of interest and more! Bookmark it for your own future creative local travel adventure!