East Texas Outdoor Fun & Things to Do

East Texas attractions and things to do ... museums, outdoors, parks, lakes, festivals, entertainment and more!
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East Texas is home to a wide variety of fun outdoor activities and attractions for the entire family.

Choose between zoos, animal parks, ziplines, train rides, camping, swimming, scuba parks, water parks and much more!

Inlcuded on this page are highlights of some of the more poular outdoor activities in  this part of Texas.

Whether you are touring in South East Texas, around Beaumont, or in Upper East Texas in Texarkana, or elsewhere in the area, there are many outdoor things to do for adults and children alike.

Texas State Railroad

A popular East Texas attraction is the well known Texas State Railroad, which has a rail station in Rusk and one in Palestine. Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the celebrated rails of the Piney Woods Route between the quaint East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk on a 50-mile roundtrip adventure.

This quintessential daytrip, only a few hours from the metropolitan communities of Dallas and Houston, will create a memory that will last a lifetime.

Steam engine No. 316 of the Texas State Railroad

Giraffes and elepfants at the Caldwell Zoo

Caldwell Zoo

The Caldwell Zoo in Tyler is an accredited institution, and participates in many breeding projects.

Animals born at the zoo include giraffes, flamingoes, black rhinoceros, giant anteaters, and many others.

The 85-acre zoo containing more than 2,000 animals representing 250 species from East Africa, North America, and South America.

The zoo includes a children's petting pen, two aquariums, picnic areas, a café that overlooks an African savanna and gift shops with original African items.

The zoo also has seasonal presentations including a bird show, alligator feedings, giraffe feedings, and elephant demonstrations.

The Caldwell Zoo is located at 2203 Martin Luther King Blvd Tyler, TX 75702. Phone 903.593.0121

For hours of operation, ticket information, and other details, we recommend you visit the official website of the Caldwell Zoo.

Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange, South East Texas

Sea Rim State Park

Offering more than five miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beach shoreline, Sea Rim State Park is where the marsh meets the surf, making it prime binocular-hunting grounds for numerous species. Bring a kayak or canoe (or rent one at the park) and paddle along one of its paddle trails, or comb the sand for sea treasures that wash up on the shore.

Details at Texas Parks and Wildlife

Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin

The Ellen Trout Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Lufkin which is responsible for its daily operation. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and houses over 800 mammals, birds and reptiles from around the world.

Located at 402 Zoo Circle, Lufkin, Texas 75904. Phone 936.633.0399

Official website of the Ellen Trout Zoo

Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin


Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

Cherokee Trace Drive-thru Safari is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. See over two dozen exotic and endangered species that thrive in an open habitat similar to their native territory. At your own pace, enjoy a self-guided drive through the hills and open savannahs of this 300-acre preserve.

The safari is located  at 1200 CR 4405, about 12 miles east of Jacksonville, Texas. Phone 903.683.3322

Cherokee Trace Website for more details

Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park is located just north of Tyler, 2 miles north of Interstate 20 on FM 14, then into the park on Park Road 16. This beautiful 985 acre park in the rolling hills features a 64 acre lake, campgrounds, hiking trails, pavilions, cabins, mountain biking, nature studies, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, bike boats, jon boats, park store and much more.

Details at Texas Parks and Wildlife

View of the lake at Tyler State Park in East Texas

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary near Tyler offers visitors and volunteers many opportunities to learn about endangered animals.

Located north of Tyler, and just north of Tyler State Park, at 17552 FM 14. Home to over 40 rescued big cats. Phone 903.858.1008

Website of Tiger Creek

Zip Lines

Another popular outdoor attraction is the New York Texas ZipLine Adventure, located near the community of LaRue, Texas, about 15-20 minutes east of Athens. The ZipLine is located at 7290 CR 4328, LaRue, Texas 75770. Phone 903.681.3791

Near the Longview-Gilmer-Lake O' the Pines area, close to Diana, is the Thomas Falls Event Center, offering a Zip-Line Challenge Course and Outdoor Adventures. Visit the Zip Thomas Falls website or phone 903-968.6924. Located at 5543 U.S. Highway 259 North, Diana, Texas.

New York Texas ZipLine Adventures

 

Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake is a 25,400 acres lake and wetland on the border between Texas and Louisiana, in northern Harrison County and southern Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana.

Caddo Lake in East Texas


This lake was the only natural lake in Texas until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900s when oil was found and for flood control in 1914. A new dam replaced the old one in 1971.

Some of the cypress trees in the swamp are more than 400 years old.

The average depth of the lake is 8 to 10 feet with the deep water in the bayou averaging about 20 feet. The lake contains 71 species of fish, and it is especially good for crappie and largemouth and white bass.

The denseness of the swamp creates an inviting maze for paddlers in kayaks and canoes. On the Texas side, at Caddo Lake State Park, there are 10 kayak/canoe trails, with names like Hell's Half Acre, Cathedral Trail, Old Folks Playground and Turtle Shell Trail. The trails are marked, and maps are provided.

For more information on the park, located at 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, TX, phone 903.679.3351

 

Water parks in East Texas

Water Parks

Water Park at the Villages - southwest of Tyler, on Lake Palestine - (903) 534-8400.

Splash Kingdom Water Park  - near Canton on Interstate 20.

Athens Scuba Park

The Athens Scuba Park is a world-class dive site, attracting SCUBA divers from across the USA, and the world. A 35-foot deep, 8-acre spring-fed clay pit at the park is on the grounds of the old Harbson-Walker brick factory, one of the area's first industries.

The spring-fed warm waters boast an average visibility of 35’ that can peak at 70’. Natural white clay was excavated for use in making refractory bricks for fire places from the late 1800s until the 1960s.

Opened in 1987, the park features underwater wrecks of buses, airplanes, and boats, plus caves and other locales suitable for both recreational diving, and the training of new divers.

Aerial view of the Athens, Texas Scuba Park

 

 

Big Thicket National Preserve

The Big Thicket is an area of dense forest located north and northwest of Beaumont. This 97,000 acre National Preserve protects a unique environmental confluence of swamps, coastal prairier, piney woods, plant life and animals.

For more information visit the Big Thicket website at NPS

Big Thicket National Preserve in Southeast Texas

Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens

Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

Popular Athens area attractions include the widely known and visited Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC), combining outdoor education with a production fish hatchery of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. TFFC houses a hatchery, laboratory, aquarium, and education center focusing on underwater wildlife in the state’s freshwater streams, ponds and lakes. Dive shows and tram tours are offered at designed times.

The Center is located about four miles east of Athens and 75 miles southeast of Dallas. The main entrance is at 5550 F.M. 2495, Athens, Texas 75752. Phone 903.676.2277

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