East Texas is often overlooked as a weekend vacation destination. But there is something about the beautiful, peaceful piney woods of East Texas that recharges your mind and spirit.
Home of Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches is the oldest town in Texas, now celebrating 303 years as the anchor of the Lone Star State. Amid the beautiful campus and the crunchy pine needles, Nac has a knack for welcoming visitors.
The Perfect Blend of Motel and Hotel
Vintage and vibrant, Fredonia Hotel offers an oldies feel with a super cool vibe. From the outside, you see the 1950s facade and then you walk into a lobby full of striking lighting and posh fabrics, with an original ‘60s-era photo behind the front desk featuring families lounging around the hotel’s pool, which sits at the center of the action. You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time, wanting to sit by the pool in a big, floppy hat and vintage swimsuit!
A perfect choice for families and couples, The Fredonia embraces its chic, mid-century design while adding modern amenities like two outdoor pools, a modern fitness center, a sophisticated meeting space, and a recently finished boutique.
Between fresh farm-to-table dishes and hand-crafted cocktails, The Fredonia has you covered. Like all good East Texas establishments, their 1st City Cafe knows that good food brings people together. The restaurant offers savory dishes and delicious desserts, perfect for a family vacation or date weekend. Start your day with an omelet built to order or The Lumberjack Breakfast (an ode to SFA’s mascot): bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes and a biscuit. And, instead of flapjacks, you can order just jacks! (How cute is that?) A fresh fruit smoothie might be more your style if you’re looking for lighter fare.
The lobby bar, Nine Flags, has recently been refurbished and will beckon you to enjoy a classic cocktail while sitting on a brass bar stool. They also provide drink service to the main pool.
Book a poolside cabana guestroom if possible, and enjoy the spacious accommodation with comfy overstuffed bedding and recently renovated bathroom. These rooms are reminiscent of the old roadside motel style, where you park right outside your room and the interior door opens to the pool, so you’re right in the middle of the action. The Fredonia will most definitely remind you of the good ol’ days!
Eat Your Heart Out
At Mak’s, as the locals call it, they serve up some of the best bites and beers in Nacogdoches. Started as a class project, it has turned into a local favorite. Mak’s prides itself in offering a large craft beer selection and live music on weekends. Most locals come in for the gourmet stacked burgers like the Nac Town Burger and Mak balls, fried mac’n’cheese balls. (And, college students love their Taco Tuesday.)
Located just off a busy railway, Auntie Pastas (love the pun!) serves up some of the finest Italian food in East Texas. On the backside of Clear Springs (see below), these two restaurants are favorite stops for locals and tourists alike. Start with housemade fried cheese and they’ll bring you piping hot French bread in a bag (pull it off and pass it around). Order a great bottle of cabernet, like Becker Vineyards, to enjoy with this hearty meal. The ambiance is ideal for a big family or date night.
Located in original downtown Nacogdoches, with its classic brick-lined streets, Dolli’s Diner sits on the corner, ready to serve up generous portions. Dolli, as 3-D in person with her colorful apron and knee-high socks, as her animated sign, welcomes all with a smile. Local art, including a fantastic rendering of Dolli herself, hangs on the wall to establish the hometown branding. Like their menu says, it’s “Not fast, not fancy, just good food!” Sit on the old fashioned barstools and order funnel cake fries, a shake or good ole-fashioned float.
Nested in the middle of the Piney Woods, this Clear Springs location occupies what once was the first refrigerated warehouse west of the Mississippi River. (Other locations are New Braunfels, Tyler and Midland.) Stop in and see history on the walls and enjoy the fried catfish (American farm-raised from Mississippi—-they know their catfish!) and other great southern dishes.
Head to Barkeeps, owned by the same proprietor as Mak’s, for some Southern/ Asian fusion food. Perfect for dinner so you can enjoy one of their beers on tap or cocktails along with your dish, but just as delicious for brunch—-you can’t go wrong. Start with shareable apps of crunchy fried potstickers and egg rolls (which come in chicken, veggie or boudin). On their brunch menu, delve into the Naco Moco (their version of the Hawaiian Loco Moco dish), a bowl full of fried rice, topped with a burger patty, hash browns, jalapeno cream gravy and an egg. House favorites include their Bulgogi Burger, a teriyaki bowl or pork ramen.
Enjoy a glass of wine at award-winning Red House Winery. This small winery features a tasting room and a relaxing patio.
Independent gift stores are few and far between these days, and the Heart of Texas Gift Gallery is something special. This cute little store features the best selection of Nacogdoches and East Texas souvenirs. Make sure you say hello to Gracie, the official canine door greeter.
The trails around Nac are beautiful, shady and full of pine trees. Try out one of many parks around town, such as the Lanana Creek Trail, Banita Creek Trail or the SFA Interpretive Trail. Each will provide a shady path for walking or jogging.
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Cover: The Old Nacogdoches University building, the only university building chartered by the Republic of Texas still in existence. Photo courtesy Visit Nacogdoches