Downtown Athens is fun to walk along to people-watch and do a bit of shopping. It's also the setting for many of the more special events in Athens: Black Eyed Pea Festival, Fiddler Festival, etc. They have some shops you can go into and some eateries.
I just like how everyone is so friendly. The big lawyer of the town came walking out of the bank when my aunt and I were walking around and he just smiled and greeted us. It was very neat. I think you can really get to know Athens this way.
Tara Vineyard and Winery
After eating (our mistake) we headed to the Tara Vineyard. Unfortunately, we were really full and had already had a LARGE margarita. That Saturday night the Winery was putting on a concert and charging about $10 for it.
When we got there we waited in the Winery to do some wine tasting for about 10 minutes. But the one guy there was helping some other girls. After waiting so long we walked out on the patio where they were setting up their concert and some bbq.
Unfortunately, we were too timid to drink more and my aunts didn't want to pay for the concert. So, I'm sorry to say I don't know much more than that. All I know is...we didn't get friendly service and were a bit confused of what was going on...and how to find out any information about the place.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
I heard of the Fishery from the Visitors Center brochure. My aunt and I went on a hot, sunny day. When we walked up the tram was in the front of the building and asked if we wanted to go get on as it was the last go-around for the day. We told the friendly park rangers that we hadn't paid but they said we could just pay later. From that moment on, I was in love with this place.
The tram took us around the actual fishery ponds where they harvest bass and other species for the lakes of Texas. They talk about the process that they breed the fish and how they are isolated for the eggs to hatch. It was really interesting and I had no idea there was this sort of process. However, with the popularity of fishing in the area, state, and then all evironmental issues going on I was really intrigued that this was like a fish garden.
Other than the tram tour of the fishery they also offer a mini-aquarium where you can see the biggest collection of bass fish I've ever seen! They also have a few crocodiles, weird-looking fish species and plenty of choices to feed them for a quarter!
After you go through the aquarium you will come out the doors by the fish pond. Here you can rent fishing poles and bait and fish with the family. Many kids and adults, alike, are fishing here. You must return the fish unharmed but it's a great time to spend time with the family.
After passing the pond we went on the nature trail. We saw turtles, a beehouse, animal call centers, and a duck pond. The trail was a bit over a mile so it was good exercise but nothing too exhausting. The hotter months will definitely call for water bottles though.
Once we finished walking the trail we went through the museum where it showed fisherman and old fishing lures that had been collected throughout the area. They also had a feeding tank where you can watch daily feedings. Beside the tank was a cinema screen for a video.
After walking through the museum we walked into the gift shop. They had lots of great things for kids. Some local crafts and items.
The fishery also has a statue honoring the game wardens of Texas. This educational center really showcases how much their job means keeping the animals safe from poachers.
Overall, highly recommended for children! Also, for nature lovers.
*Get a coupon from the Visitors Center before going and save a few dollars!!!
Helpful Info from the Website:
This unique Texas Parks and Wildlife Department facility is a combination aquatic education center, native Texas fish aquarium and production fish hatchery. Visitors can view fish in simulated natural habitats, learn about the history of sport fishing, walk a wetlands trail or take a narrated tram tour of the production hatchery. Daily dive shows let visitors see fish hand-fed in a 26,000-gallon aquarium. Free fishing with all equipment provided and no license required is available in a stocked casting pond. Located East of Athens on FM 2495. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm, Sundays 1pm-4pm. Dive shows at 11am Monday-Friday, 11am and 2pm Saturday, and 2pm Sunday. For information or directions call 903.676.2277.
Regular admission is $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors 65 and older, and $3.50 for children ages 4 through 12. Pets are not allowed on TFFC grounds. Season passes valid for the calendar year in which they are purchased are available for $15 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and $8.00 for children. Season pass holders are eligible for a 10 percent discount in the gift shop. Discounted rates are available for groups of 10 or more, including school groups. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance to receive the discounted rate. Click here for our online reservation form or call (903) 676-2277.
While walking around the square in downtown we stopped in the Visitors Center. What a welcoming place! The woman manning the desk was so friendly and helpful. She let me take all of the flyers I would like while striking up a conversation with me and my aunt. Make sure to stop in and find day trips or ask about things going on around the town.
1913 Henderson County Courthouse
In Downtown Athens the local court house makes up the center stage. Inside are the fully functioning local courts and pictures of the town lawyers and judges.
Outside, on the grounds, are the fiddler statue, honoring the artform. It also has plenty of benches to enjoy those nice days or a picnic.
Henderson County was established in 1846, the year after Texas was annexed by the United States. In 1850, after previous reductions in the county's original size, the present boundaries were set by the Texas legislature. The restructuring resulted in the need for a new county seat, and the legislature appointed a commissioners court to select possible sites and to conduct an election that would determine the permanent seat of government. The voters chose the property of Matthew Cartwright, a prominent East Texas landowner, for the townsite of Athens. In Samuel Huffer's survey for the new county seat, this site was set aside as the public square.
Before a courthouse was constructed here, early county and district court sessions were conducted on the square under a large shady oak tree. The first district court term, held in October 1850, was presided over by Judge Oran M. Roberts, later a Texas Supreme Court Justice and governor of the state. Cases he heard included charges of murder, larcenter, gambling, defaulting jurors and assault and battery.
Begun before the development of Athens, the courts under the oaks reflected the democratic goals and ideals of the pioneer settlers of Henderson County.
East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
I requested the Athens Visitors guide online and it mentioned about three-five main things to do. One of them was the East Texas Arboretum. So my aunt and I had a "stay-cation" and explored Athens one weekend.
The Arboretum is very beautiful and a nature lovers dream. It is FREE but they like to ask for a $2 donation. However, it's simply a post at their welcoming poster so you don't have pay to get in. You park on the left and the land is all to the right, laid out in many different paths.
My aunt and I decided to take the nature path first. Well...definitely wear regular shoes! I had flip-flops on because I didn't think about walking in the woods. The signs warning us of the wildlife on the trail kind of made me nervous about insects or snakes. Good news was that I didn't run into anything except for mud.
After walking through the woods we visited the renovated old homes. It really is a great place to kids to play and see how life used to be. It's all self-guided so you can go at your own speed. The grounds are kept up beautifully so it's worth the (FREE) trip out.
Visit the Lake
My favorite things to do at the lake:
1) Watch the sunset
2) Rent a boat
3) Rent a jet-ski
4) Feed the ducks
5) Read a book on the pier
There is not a whole hell of a lot to do in East Texas except treasure the simple life and relax. Lake Athens is a great place to do this (as long as the weather is good).
This is also a great place to fish for those people who enjoy it :)
This cute bronze character was sculptured by Albert Stewart and was erected for the Sesquicentennial Project 1839-1986. The statue is in dedication to the Athens Fiddlers Association. This style of music once brought courage to the starving troops at Valley Forge and was also an admired instrument of great men such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
East Texas Arboretum
The East Texas Arboretum spread over 100 acres incorporating marsh and swampland to pastureland plus an 80 foot high elevation. They are still developing areas and broadening the garden into what will become one of the most lovely sites in East Texas.
First Tree Was A Magnolia
The garden first began in 1993 with the purchase of the land. The very first tree planted there was a 40ft Magnolia.
Each year, the Arboretum hosts it's Annual Fair on the first Saturday in May.
Entrance is by donation at the gate - $2.00 per car.
Henderson County Historical Museum
The museum is located in the old Faulk-Gauntt building which was constructed in 1896. The first floor imitates exhibits from the turn of the century dry goods store. On the second floor is a reconstruction of an early law office, parlour, bedroom, bath, kitchen, and schoolroom.
Open Fridays and Saturdays, 10am until 3pm
Athens City Cemetery
The unofficial burial ground was closed in 1857 after residents petitioned for its closure. Later in that year a prominent local resident died and was buried on a one acre piece of land donated by Pleasant Tannehill to the Masonic Lodge. Another piece of land was set aside for the burial of a girl named Ward who was not able to be buried in the Masons cemetery. Finally the two burial grounds were joined and more donations of land were made which later made up the Pioneer section of this cemetery. These pioneers and their families, along with veterans of the Indian Wars, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War 1, World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam war, helped to build the rich heritage of Athens.
First Factory in Athens,
These historical markers sit along Hwy19 (Palestine St) as you are coming into Athens. It marks the site of the first factory in Athens which was established 1882 by local planter H. M. Morrison, to make building brick. Their original machinery consisted of the press which was hand operated and a mule operated swivel than ran the plunger. The original owner died in 1899 and the company went to the other partner, C.H. Coleman.
The business was bought in 1940 by Harbison-Walker refractories who continued making the Coleman bricks until its closing in 1968. The machines shown with the markers are on permanent loan to the city of Athens from the company.
Bushrod W J Woffod Home
This was a good example of early Texas architecture. The house was built in 1851 for Bushrod W J Wofford who came to Texas in 1851 and bought land in Fincastle (19 miles southeast of Athens). Originally it was only a 2 room log house with had a ‘dogtrot’ (breezeway) built between the two rooms. Over time additions were added as the family grew. Rooms were added behind the original ones and two more rooms were added at the back of the dogtrot making a cross breezeway. A fireplace was put in between the two rooms. The house was later rented out and was wrecked by vandals and nature. After 150 years of being in the Wofford’s family, it was then donated to the East Texas Arboretum in 2001 and moved to their site to be restored as a museum.
The Cain Center
The Cain Center doubles as both a fitness center and a civic centre. Set on lovely grounds with trees, walking and jogging trails and a pond. There is also tennis courts and an 18 hole disc golf course. The building itself has rooms catering for seminars, banquets, parties and special events. The Cain Park takes up 85 acres and just a short step back from a busy highway through Athens.
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