- Distance from Dallas: 113 miles
- Best time: March to April; October to November
- Best for: Girl's GetawayRomanticShopping
In the heart of Texas' scenic Piney Woods region, you'll find magnolia, cypress, pine, and oak trees lining the roads. Come spring, wisteria and azaleas add vivid bursts of color. Nestled here is the town of Palestine (pronounced "pal-uh-steen"), notable for its architecture, rich history, and scenic dogwood trails. And—thanks to the hard work of passionate locals—the town is also in the midst of a fun regeneration, so visitors might stumble across gourmet cupcakes, late-night food trucks, and quirky shopping, along with Palestine's traditional small-town charm. The lovely setting, relaxed pace, and friendly vibe here make Palestine a nice getaway for a group of friends or a couple looking for a quick getaway. – by Sandra Ramani
1 Once in Palestine, drive by the Anderson County Courthouse (500 N. Church Street) for a look at its notable structure—or, if you get there before 5 p.m., stop for a peek inside. Italian craftsmen helped create the stunning neoclassical building, which features a double spiral staircase and stained glass panels in the dome.
2 Enjoy dinner at Red Fire Grille, set in the historic Redlands hotel. Decorated with white leather chairs and vintage-style wallpaper, Red Fire Grille operates under chef Christian Mailloux, formerly of The Lenox Club in Massachusetts. Mailloux's regional American dishes include jumbo crab cakes, snapper with collard greens, and lavender crème brûlee.
1 After breakfast at your hotel, get an overview of Palestine's history at the Museum for East Texas Culture, set in a unique, 1916 Tudor-Gothic-style brick building that once housed a high school. Wander through rooms detailing the area's railroad history, early-twentieth-century education, antique medical equipment, and even an original historic cabin in the basement. A gallery on the top floor showcases the works of local artists.
2 Palestine's downtown is also called New Town—even though most of the brick buildings are from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Explore the streets between Spring, Queen, Sycamore and Crawford Streets, which now feature dozens of unique shops and antique stores. Standouts include Duncan Depot Antiques (106 W. Main Street; 903-723-2899), Old Magnolia Mercantile (120 W. Oak Street; 903-729-4410), and Star of Texas Antiques (107 W. Oak Street; 903-723-6363). At Texas Art Depot, you'll find two floors of art, topped by a wine tasting room. Try a glass of the house "Granny Muffin" blend (trust us).
3 Pause for a bite at Oxbow Bakery (215 E. Crawford Street; 903-723-5100), an antiques and vintage store and cafe in Old Town. The hype surrounds the drool-inducing roster of scratch-made pies. Choose from flavors like lemon icebox, pineapple cream, chocolate pecan, and traditional buttermilk. And if you're in the mood for a heartier plate, drive southeast toward Loop Road for a slab of ribs at Bishop's Brisket House.
4 You've seen the new, now explore the old. Once the town's agricultural center and dotted with mills and barns, Old Town and its restored buildings now house shops, restaurants, and even a live-music venue. Stroll around the compact area, which also contains a creek and Saw Mill Hollow Park, where some of the Dogwood Trails festivities take place. If the post-lunch pie wasn't enough, head to The Cuckoo's Nest (213 E. Crawford Street; 903-391-0285), a "cupcakerie" serving treats like root beer cupcakes, as well as ice cream.
5 Work off the sweets with a walk through Davey Dogwood Park. Set just north of town, the 200-acre park is home to meadows, streams, rolling hills, and forests showcasing the beauty of East Texas and the Piney Woods.
6 Finish the night with live music in Old Town. Set along the creek, Shelton Gin showcases live bands on Friday and Saturday nights (and acoustic musicians during the week). Also on Fridays and Saturdays in Old Town: keep your eyes peeled for Palestine's first mobile food truck, Fork in the Road, which serves gourmet tacos from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
1 Join locals for breakfast at Bird's Egg Cafe, a casual, homey diner cooking up hearty classics like waffles, bacon and eggs, and biscuits and gravy. The place gets packed with the post-church crowd on Sundays, so come in before noon to snag a table.
2 Post-breakfast, say goodbye to Palestine with a drive around its historic districts (Historical Driving Tour Guides are available at the Visitor Center: 825 Spring Street; 800-659-3484.) There are four National Historic Registry-designated areas in town, and most of the buildings in those neighborhoods are from the 1870s through the 1920s. You've already seen Downtown and Old Town, so this morning do a drive around some of the residential areas to spy stately Victorian, Queen Anne, and Greek Revival mansions, traditional prairie-style homes, and Craftsman bungalows.
3 One the way back to Dallas, stop at Texas Vineyards & Smokehaus, makers of homegrown Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Riesling wines. Tours of the grounds, which include a tasting room, lavender fields, and vineyards, are offered between 12-7 p.m. on Sundays. Call ahead to reserve a spot.
Where to Stay
Built in 1914 and listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, The Redlands Historic Inn (rates starting at $150) was created for travelers arriving on the railways. Later, it housed the headquarters of the International & Great Northern Railroad. The current owners have restored it to its turn-of-the-twentieth-century glory, so guests will find antiques and period touches along with their high-definition cable TVs. Almost all the rooms are apartment-style, with kitchenettes, living areas, and a homey decor.
Stroll the gardens, settle into a rocking chair on the porch, or just enjoy your well-appointed room at the Magnolia Street Inn (rates starting at $100), located near downtown in a late-1800s Victorian house. The decadent breakfast might include crème brûlee French toast or oatmeal buttermilk pancakes, plus fresh-baked muffins.
Named one of the top twenty chefs in his native New Zealand, Simon Webster is now, along with his wife, Becky, the innkeeper at Sabor a Pasion (call for rates). Set on 25-acres just five minutes outside of town, the quiet B&B features simple queen bed rooms, made-to-order breakfasts, and sweeping views of the countryside. Cooking classes with the chef are also offered.
When to Go
To really enjoy Palestine's scenic beauty, visit in the fall when the foliage turns bright colors, or in the spring, when the azaleas and the famous dogwoods are in bloom. The annual Dogwood Trails Festival takes place over a couple of days in late-March or early-April (depending on the weather) and features parades, arts and crafts, kids areas, and plenty of good eats.
How to Get There
By car: Palestine is a two-hour drive from Dallas. Take I-45 South to Corsicana, then veer left onto U.S. 287; this will head southeast right into town.