BEAUMONT IN BLOOM, by Jennifer Babisak
With its progressive culinary scene and unique recreational opportunities, Beaumont is open for business.
SETTLED NEARLY TWO CENTURIES AGO on the banks of the Neches River, just inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Beaumont has evolved from a sleepy farming community to a vibrant cultural melting pot. East Texas culture, influenced by the thick pine forests to the north, lends Deep South hospitality while the nearby Louisiana border infuses distinctly Cajun flair. Combined with the wildcatting spirit that put Beaumont on the map (Texas’ first big oil gusher spewed just south of town back in 1901), the city dances to a tune of its own. Visitors soak in Beaumont’s joie de vivre through the city’s progressive culinary scene. The famed Rao’s Bakery whips up more than 8,000 King Cakes each year along with specialty coffee, gelato and pie. On the banks of Taylor’s Bayou, Pine Tree Lodge caters to patrons arriving by boat and car, and greets them with live music and regionally influenced dishes like shrimp gumbo, crawfish tails and blackened tilapia. A hip spot called Willy Burger, with its cleverly retrofitted Airstream trailer, dishes out gourmet burgers, parmesan garlic fries and funnel cakes. Owner Colburn McClelland takes particular pride in the award-winning Hee Haw Burger, garnished with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and red pepper jelly. “Our kitchen is all open concept so you see the entire thing,” McClelland says. “We’re real proud of what we do and how we do it.”
For groups wanting a more active experience of local culture, Beaumont offers plenty of unique recreational opportunities. Take a canoe down the Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail, a 4.8-mile loop winding
through the moss-draped, tree-lined slough of the Big Thicket. Enjoy a birding tour of the 900-acre wetlands known as Cattail Marsh, which serves as home to more than 350 species of birds. And unleash your wild side at Gator Country Adventure Park, where you can get up close and personal with alligators. For a dose of area history, head to the McFaddin-Ward House, a lavish early 20thcentury Beaux-Arts Colonial home built just after Beaumont’s fortunes sprung high in the form of Spindletop. Guided tours wind through the home’s three intricately decorated stories with guides filling guests in on local history from the first half of the 20th century. Time your visit for early spring and find the grounds splashed with color in the form of vibrantly hued azaleas.
MCM Eleganté Hotel & Conference Center With 3,500 hotel rooms throughout the city, Beaumont offers lodging options for groups of all sizes. The MCM Eleganté, a full-service luxury hotel, boasts “the most comfortable beds on the planet” in its 276 guest rooms. Concierge level rooms have access to an executive lounge, business center, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and turndown service. Other hotel amenities include a Starbucks kiosk, gift shop and tropical pool. The in-house Getaway Spa offers body treatments like hot stone massage and corporate chair massage, nail treatments and mineral-based cosmetics.
Two on-site restaurants provide convenient dining options. Hemmingway’s Cafe, outfitted with large skylights and a cascading fountain, provides a picturesque atmosphere for regional favorites like BBQ shrimp and
jalapeño cornbread-crusted tilapia. A breakfast buffet with omelets, biscuits and gravy, sausage and French toast starts the morning on a hearty note. The elegant Tradewinds Tavern serves steaks and seafood along with 45 varieties of beer, as well as specialty liquors and an extensive wine cellar. A chess board, pool table and large-screen televisions encourage patrons to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. The hotel features 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including the chandelier bedecked 9,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom “One of my favorite spaces is the veranda,” General Manager Bill Bianchi says. “It’s got a
huge fountain in the wall with tropical plants. It’s great for smaller groups of 100 to 150.” Full on-site audio-visual services and shipping services add convenience. The hotel offers free parking and shuttle service to Jack Brooks Regional Airport (BPT).
Hilton Garden Inn
For smaller groups, the Hilton Garden Inn offers guest rooms and suites, all outfitted with microwaves, refrigerators and luxury mattresses. In-room desks with ergonomic chairs, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour business center add comfort and convenience to business meetings. The hotel’s Great American Grill restaurant offers in-house casual dining for breakfast and dinner while the Pavilion Pantry stocks beverages, snacks and microwave ready meals. A fitness center, outdoor pool and whirlpool help guests unwind and keep up with their fitness routines. The hotel features three flexible meeting spaces, offering 2,100 square feet of space, that can accommodate groups of up to 125. A small conference room hosts breakout groups and a boardroom has space for up to 14.
The Event Centre
No matter where your group stays, convention centers, meeting venues, restaurants and attractions are mostly within a 10-to 15-minute drive from almost anywhere in the city. Beaumont offers a diverse array of meeting and event venues, ranging from state-of-the-art spaces to quaint locales steeped in local culture. Located downtown, The Event Centre— Beaumont’s newest meeting space—boasts a 16,000-square-foot event hall with 14,000 additional square feet of space in the form of a roof canopy. The event hall, which contains a platform stage, seats 400 banquet-style and up to 800 in a theater-style arrangement. Design
elements include neutral tones, natural materials and floor-to-ceiling windows. The eastern rooftop space overlooks a lake complete with a spouting geyser fountain, and a smaller western rooftop space overlooks a 12-acre park with nature trails.
Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown
On the campus of Lamar University, the museum focuses on the history of the Lucas Gusher that erupted at Spindletop back in 1901, subsequently transforming the Texas economy. Oil spewed 100 feet high for nine days before crews could get it under control. The museum offers occasional water-fueled re-enactments (available by reservation) of this gusher using a 65-foot oil derrick situated outside. Gladys City Boomtown consists of 15 replica buildings, such as a saloon and a post office, that depict life at the time of the Spindletop oil boom. The replica town provides a great backdrop for events, with space for 500 at outdoor events. The log cabin saloon accommodates up to 28 seated guests and up to 50 standing. Inside the museum, a 335-square-foot meeting room has space for 50 guests.
As Southeast Texas’ premier sports, entertainment and event facility, multifaceted 221-acre Ford Park consists of baseball/softball fields, and the 14,000-seat Ford Pavilion, 8,500-seat Ford Arena, 48,000-square-foot Ford Exhibit Hall and Ford Midway. The midway features 9 acres of paved space, a practice arena and two sprawling, open-air barns. The exhibit hall provides space for groups of 200 or more and contains eight meeting rooms. The arena accommodates groups of up to 900 and contains a club room perfect for group gatherings at events. The arena floor provides seated dinner space for parties of 250 to 1,000.
Suga’s Deep South Cuisine and Jazz Bar
For a food- and music-centered event steeped in local flavor, look to Sugas Deep South Cuisine and Jazz Bar. Located in downtown Beaumont’s historic Coale Building (its fabled history includes incarnations as a arberb shop, an illegal gambling venue and an insurance agency), the restaurant evokes a glamorous vibe. Dishing out southern cuisine with a twist—like chicken, ham and greens-stuffed eggrolls, and sweet tea brined fried chicken—the sophisticated restaurant offers fine hospitality and a menu full of tempting options. Bowls of gumbo, crawfish dressing and jerk sweet potato fries give a nod to Cajun influence. Desserts
like pine nut and black currant studded bread pudding and Southern peach cobbler end the Suga’s experience on a sweet note. The first floor of the restaurant seats groups of up to 20, while the 4,500-square-foot second floor offers private dining for groups of up to 150. Event amenities include a karaoke machine and an LCD projector. The restaurant features live music on weekends.