- 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 makes Palestine a nice getaway for a group of friends, or a couple looking for a quick getaway. –by Sandra Ramani
1 Get the weekend started with a sampling of homegrown wine at Sweet Dreams Winery, located north of Palestine (you'll have to make a slight detour off of the highways onto country roads when driving in from Dallas). Founded in 2006 by a husband and wife team, the winery specializes in sweet varietals made from different types of local fruit. Wine tastings and live music from regional bands are offered on Fridays from 3 pm to 8 pm; check the calendar section of the website to confirm.
2 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 pm, 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.
3 Enjoy dinner at Red Fire Grille, set in the historic Redlands hotel. Opened in late 2012, and 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.
The Mars factory in Waco is one of the largest chocolate factories in the worlds, and is the source of all the original flavor Snickers bars sold in the United States. The facility is not open to the public for tours, but rumor has it that during George W. Bush's presidency, members of his team were sent "fresh" Snickers right off the line when they were visiting the Bush ranch in nearby Crawford.
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-20th-century education, antique medical equipment, and even—in the basement—an original historic cabin. 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-19th and early-20th 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 St.), Old Magnolia Mercantile (120 W. Oak St.), and Star of Texas Antiques (107 W. Oak St.) At Texas Art Depot (301 W. Oak St.), 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 lunch at Oxbow Bakery, an antiques and vintage store-slash-cafe in Old Town. The menu is tasty but limited—homemade chicken salad or pimento cheese sandwiches, seasonal soups—with the real draw being the drool-inducing roster of scratch-made pies. Choose from flavors like lemon icebox, pineapple cream, chocolate pecan, and traditional buttermilk.
4 You've seen the new, now explore the old. Once the town's agricultural center, dotted with mills and barns, Old Town's 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 St.; (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. The park is one of the featured sites of the annual Dogwood Trails Festival taking place in late-March and early-April.
6 Once home to the Denby Furniture Store, in the mid-1900's, a downtown building on the National Historic Registry now houses the gourmet Denby's Restaurant, overseen by a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Depending on your mood, dine on classics like chicken-fried steak and corn fritters in the casual bar area, or step it up to prime rib and bacon-wrapped scallops in the elegant dining room.
7 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 until 2 am.
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 to 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 pm and 7 pm 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-20th-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-1800's Victorian house. The decadent breakfast might include crème brûlee-French toast or oatmeal-buttermilk pancakes, plus fresh-baked muffins.
Named one of the top 20 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 US 287; this will head southeast right into town.