A short 3-hour drive from Dallas, off of highway 59 in East Texas, is Jefferson. Once a bustling riverboat port hosting steamboats laden down with supplies and adventurous people traveling to the wilds of Texas – Jefferson is now a mecca for staycationers needing a weekend getaway.
At first glance, this little country town may appear quiet and sleepy, almost like time is standing still. Don’t let this friendly town with the historic downtown main street lined with boutique stores, country cafes, and antique stores bursting with treasures fool you. Jefferson is anything but sleepy – there is always something waiting for you to discover.
For the history connoisseur, Jefferson holds many golden nuggets of days gone by since its formation over 170-years ago. Historical tidbits from the Caddo Indian Nation, to the destruction of a 150-mile long logjam (which changed Jefferson’s future), Jay Gould’s curse, and stories of mysterious sightings and hauntings can be learned from taking one of the many tours offered on land or the bayou.
If ghost stories and hauntings intrigue you, then this is the place for a visit. For a small and quiet town, it has a rather active nightlife for things that go bump in the night… and sometimes the day. But don’t be concerned, the Spirits of Jefferson do not cause harm nor terrorize the current citizens. They appear to be content to watch the living from the sidelines or from their favorite chair at The Grove, which still sits in the same location of the house they once resided.
Jefferson the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Texas
Escaping the widespread destruction that some towns experienced during the Civil War, the majority of Jefferson’s historic buildings and homes are still standing a century later. Its historic homes highlight Greek Revival, Antebellum, and Creole architectural designs giving the impression that you are in the deep south rather than Texas. A number of these homes are now bed and breakfasts.
In fact, so many have been converted that in 1997 Texas Legislation bestowed the title of “Bed and Breakfast Capital of East Texas” to this quaint town because of the ratio of bed and breakfasts to the population. Jefferson has a population of fewer than 3,000 people with over 60 bed and breakfasts.
Because of its proximity to the DFW metroplex and North Texas in general, it is the ideal location for a weekend getaway. Regardless if you are planning a romantic escape, an antique hunting trip, or you simply want a break from the ordinary, Jefferson is a fabulous destination to destress and reconnect.
Jefferson hosts a slew of activities, festivals, and museums to experience and explore. A few of their prominent events include a reenactment of the infamous Diamond Bessie Murder Trial that caught the nation’s eye in 1877, Candlelight Tour of Homes, and Christmas Tree Wonderland with over 150 decorated trees, ghost tours, bayou boat tours, and family-friendly Mardi Gras.
One of Jefferson’s newest festivals to be celebrated for the first time is the Thomas Jefferson Birthday Jubilee. The Jubilee pays homage to Thomas Jefferson with wine tastings from local winery Enoch and a mac & cheese bake-off. Did you know that macaroni and cheese was one of President Jefferson’s favorite meals?
Apparently, he loved it so much that he had a macaroni machine fabricated in Italy, which he had shipped to the US. As one story goes, President Jefferson’s first recipe for mac & cheese called for the addition of brandy – which, understandably, had mixed reviews. It was one of his daughters that first omitted the brandy and instead added parmesan cheese to create a recipe we are more familiar with today.
Museums Abound in Jefferson
Most towns have at least one museum that displays local art and artifacts. Jefferson’s multiple museums go well beyond that with multi-levels of local history displaying 100-year old looms, barbed wire collections, and eclectic original artwork is also housed in a historically significant building. Jefferson is also home to a museum of Measurements and Time, a Gone With The Wind Museum, a model railroad museum, and a Carnegie Library – one of the few original libraries left in Texas.
The Measurements and Time museum has over 500 clocks dating from the 1700s to the 1900s, early American surveying equipment, wind-up musical instruments – including an Edison phonograph, and more. It is a rather eclectic museum that is worth a stop.
Kayaking Caddo Lake
Located in Marion County, Jefferson is a playground for nature enthusiasts that want to get out and explore. Caddo Lake, the only natural lake in Texas, spans the border between Texas and Louisiana. The 25,400-acre lake and bayou preserve has one of the largest cypress forests in the United States. Cypress forests have incredible picturesque towering trees draped with long clumps of Spanish moss that nearly brush the water’s surface.
The imagery can be both eerie and graceful at the same time. The trees grow in such a way, sometimes clumping together and other times spreading out, creating natural water trails for kayakers. The lake is home to hundreds of different species of wildlife making it a cherished destination for anyone that likes to observe the quiet side of nature.
Jefferson is a small historic, town big on Southern charm and a Texan-sized appetite for adventure, mystery, and romance. When you visit, it beckons at you to relax, to stroll the historic streets, to dine in the cafes, shop in the boutiques, to watch the sunset under the canopy of an expansive maple while enjoying a glass of wine from the local winery. Go and relax – you will be glad you did.