Story Angles and Ideas
Birding and Nature…in Texas?
With access to 28 of Texas’s Coastal Birding Trails within a few miles of the city, Beaumont is set on two migratory flyways. Over 250 species can be seen year-round and even more during the spring and fall migration seasons. Grab your binoculars and head to Cattail Marsh and Big Thicket National Reserve to keep your eyes on the skies. The new Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands encompasses 900 acres of wildlife refuge for a variety of aquatic mammals and birds, including pelicans, egrets, roseate spoonbills, ducks, ibis, doves, and red-winged blackbirds.
The Origins of Oil
Black gold, Texas tea, petroleum, whatever you call it, Beaumont is ground zero for oil production in America. To learn how oil changed the US economy forever, start at the Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum. A replica boomtown with gusher reenactments, it’s a fascinating look into how Beaumont ushered in the industrial revolution. The story continues into present-day at the Texas Energy Museum, where interactive robotic characters teach about petroleum geology, the technology behind oil production, and the chemistry of the refinery processes.
The Official Mardi Gras Capital of Texas
Laissez les bon temps rouler, y’all. As the official Mardi Gras Capital of Texas, Beaumont takes their role as festival host very seriously with four-full days of festivities every February. Expect parades, concerts, carnivals, fare food, and surprises. Past events have included Balloon Glows, the Budweiser Clydesdales, and major headliners like Vanilla Ice. You’ll definitely want to chow down on a colorful King Cake from Rao’s Bakery, which produces more than 8,000 a season.
America Through Architecture
Since the oil boom of the early 1900s, many pioneers set roots in Beaumont before migrating west with centuries-old homes still dotting the city. For a contrasting look at early American lifestyles, you can tour both the McFaddin-Ward House and the Chambers House to experience life in contrasting socio-economic circles. The John Jay French House is one of the oldest surviving pioneer settlements, while Crockett Street, once Beaumont’s bustling entertainment district, is now a pedestrian-only thoroughfare on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Faith Trail
The early settlers brought a hodge-podge of religions with them, and many of the temples and churches still hold services today. From Christian to Jewish and even a Buddhist temple, these celebrated places of worship are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. Follow the Faith Trail with a visit to St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica and Temple Emanuel for two shining examples.
A Culinary Crossroads
Thanks to its strategic location on the Texas/Louisiana border, one of the best things about Beaumont is its unique blend of cuisine. A culinary crossroads that combines Cajun, Creole, and soul food with Texas-sized portions and Tex-Mex flavors, Beaumont has no shortage of restaurants to satisfy a craving or two. Add a large number of Vietnamese settlers into the mix (Jefferson County has more refugees than some entire states), and you have quite the melting pot of cuisine.
Survivors and Thrivers
Despite being in one of the worst hurricane ravished areas in the country, Beaumont continually rebuilds itself bigger and better and we have several shining examples of how calamity brings the community together. From a front-line college student who ran a Texas hotel all by himself during the Imelda flooding to restaurants around town banding together to feed the first responders during Rita, instead of dwelling on the disaster, we’re always looking toward the future. The first-ever Restaurant Week was intentionally launched on the first anniversary of Harvey to change the narrative and reignite the town.
A Budget Friendly Drive-Destination
Beaumont is a great budget travel destination for families, couples, or solo travelers looking for a quick and affordable getaway. Just 1.5 hours from Houston, 3.5 hours from Austin, and 4 from Dallas, New Orleans or San Antonio, Beaumont is an easy and affordable weekend getaway. Dozens of attractions are free from the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, and Shangri-La Botanic Gardens to mural crawls. Restaurants like Tacos La Bamba regularly host $1 taco night, and the city shows classic movies every other Friday for five bucks. There are programs like the Birdie Passport that are completely free, and we have both a $100 challenge and have shown it’s possible to spend 48 hours under $48.
Did you know many of your favorite athletes, artists, and musicians are from Beaumont? The Museum of the Gulf Coast has an entire section dedicated to the Legends of Southeast Texas. Some names you may recognize are Janis Joplin, ZZ Top, Robert Rauschenberg, J.P. Richardson a.k.a. “The Big Bopper,” George Jones, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd, Clay Walker, and Keith Carter. The most famous resident is undoubtedly Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, one of the greatest female athletes of all-time. A four-sport athlete, she won two Olympic gold medals in track and field before going on to dominate the golf world, with a namesake museum dedicated to her achievements.
Cattail Marsh Wetlands Education Center
A reclaimed wastewater treatment plant repurposed as a wildlife refuge and wetlands boardwalk; Cattail Marsh is the pride and joy of the city and a nature escape right in our backyard. The Wetlands Education Center offers free yoga classes, binoculars to borrow, kids activities, and other events.
Have you ever wanted to feed, hold, or swim with a baby gator? Now’s your chance. Part wildlife park, part rescue facility, Gator Country houses more than 450 American alligators, crocodiles, and other “nuisance” reptiles that have been rescued or donated. They are home to two of the largest alligators in captivity in Texas, Big Tex and Big Al, each weighing in at over 1,000 pounds.
The World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant
Donated by Disney in 1999 to celebrate the re-release of “101 Dalmatians,” the giant 24-foot Dalmatian-printed fire hydrant is one of our quirkiest roadside attractions. It guards the entrance to the Fire Museum of Texas. Fun fact: The hydrant’s spots are even copyrighted by Disney.
Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum
From a saloon and post office to a general store and livery stable, wander through 15 replica buildings of an original 1900s Boomtown to imagine what life would’ve been like working on the oilfield. Spindletop is the only operating replica gusher in the world with monthly reenactments.
The Jefferson Theater is a not-to-miss architectural gem that’s on both the National Register of Historic Places and a designated a Texas Historic Landmark. Designed in the 1920s, it’s a prime example of Old Spanish architecture with touches of Renaissance Revival and one of the few theatres in the country that has an original Morton organ.
Embark on a Swamp Safari to tour the backwater bayou in our backyard. Part adventure attraction, part eco-tour, a handful of providers offer airboat rides to give you an overview of the area’s unique biodiversity and explain how the region’s habitat helped shape its environment.
Bits and Bites
The epitome of your local gathering place, J.Wilson’s, has been a staple of the community since introducing Beaumont to man candy (candied bacon) and oyster nachos. Carmela’s boasts one of the top 10 quesos in all of Texas, and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a kolache from Rao’s. Dine-in a refurbished 1971 Airstream trailer at Willy Burger where the hamburger meat is ground on-site daily, the onion rings are hand-dipped, and the old-fashioned shakes are served with a side of vintage nostalgia.
Locally-Sourced, Homegrown Flavors
Beaumont is home to the original Jason’s Deli, and despite expanding to almost 300 restaurants around the nation, they still maintain a small town, family-owned feel right down to the free ice cream machine. Zummo’s Meat Co. is the local sausage king, and their boudin is a staple of the south. Distributed at all major grocery stores in the area. What began as a one-room storefront in downtown Beaumont for Texjoy Seasonings and Coffee has grown into a major manufacturing and distribution empire. Available in five roasts, once they mastered coffee, they expanded into spices and now produce over 200 regional blends of seasonings, sauces, dips, and rubs. Sweet Leaf Tea was also founded in Beaumont before going on to become a national brand.
The Oldest Family-Owned BBQ Restaurant in Texas and the Oldest African American Owned BBQ Spot in the State
Patillo’s has been around since 1912, although it’s had about nine lives in five-plus locations around Beaumont. Now a fourth-generation establishment, Robert Patillo has overseen the smoker for decades. The recipe for their hand-stuffed sausage links has been around as long as the restaurant with origins stemming from his great-great-great grandmother.
Table on the Farm > Farm to Table
At the family-run Amelia Farm & Market, it isn’t the regular farm to table cuisine -- it’s dining on-the-farm. Set among the pecan orchards that are harvested and sold to customers, while “leftovers” are eagerly consumed by the property’s resident hogs where local produce is served along with pecan-fed meat. Feast on the popular Nutpig Cuban while catching a sunset for a truly memorable meal with a view.
Another staple of the south is crawfish season, which unofficially kicks off around Mardi Gras. Crazy Cajun is Beaumont’s unofficial crawfish headquarters and has been known to go through forty 30-pound sacks a day. Other restaurants specializing in mudbugs include Reel Cajun, Juju’s Cajun Crawfish Shack, Sweet Basil Noodle House (Viet-Cajun fusion), Creole Frijole Crawfish Company, Crawfishin’, and Red Tailz Crawfish (where you can actually dine on a live crawfish farm).
At Larry’s French Market, the Cajun festivities don’t stop at the food. Beyond the seafood buffet the restaurant is known for, live Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Rock bands bring all ages to the dance floor every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. For Mardi-Gras style drinks and Cajun bites like boudin and gumbo, head to Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp year-round.
Cheers to Beer
Over the past few years, Beaumont has been blessed with not one, but four new micro and nano-breweries. Struggle Street has some of the most innovative flavor profiles with unique blends like Caramel Apple StruggleTart, Blueberry Muffin StruggleStout, PB&J StruggleTart, and Pecan Pie StruggleStout, while Pour Brother’s high-tech tap wall lets you pour your own pints with an electronic card that charges by the ounce.
A Vineyard on the Bayou
Free State Cellars pays homage to the area's rough and tumble past once called "No Man's Land." The Free State of Sabine was a lawless, independent nation where Texas got its industrious spirit. The 40-acre vineyard is one of the only in the country set on a swamp. They offer a variety of tasting options including sangria flights and charcuterie boards with handcrafted meat and cheese pairings designed to pull out different flavors in the wines.
Miscellaneous Fun Facts
Beaumont was the first area to commercially sell mineral water via Sour Springs Medicinal Water in the 1800s. It is also the home of the Opelousas Cattle Trail, the oldest cattle trail in Texas dating back to the 1770s. Rubber for all NASCAR tires is made at the Goodyear plant in Beaumont.