BEAUMONT, Texas — For a family-friendly break or a road trip with friends, Beaumont is a surprising destination, full of activities everyone will enjoy.
A delightful mix of Texan and Cajun, you’ll find Beaumont on Interstate 10, 35 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, 90 miles east of Houston and 25 miles from the Louisiana border. It sits on the banks of the Neches River and is accessible by car, air, rail or water.
Best known for the Spindletop gusher in 1901, Beaumont’s place as an oil city is well earned. After Spindletop proved that plenty of oil was underground, numerous oil companies were formed there. It became a true boomtown, and the elegant houses in the Historic District were built with oil money.
Start your trip with an excursion boat ride on the Neches River. Board at Riverfront Park and let the guides with Neches River Adventures and the Big Thicket Association tell you about the river’s history. Visit the bayou and cypress-lined channels and maybe get a glimpse of birds, alligators or, way upriver, otters.
The more athletic visitors can bring their own boats, kayaks or canoes and take advantage of sandbar camping. Plan to visit during the Canoe and Kayak Rally on Sept. 6, benefiting the Big Thicket Association.
If no military ships are there, visit the Port of Beaumont, with warehouses on docks that are hundreds of years old. The port is the No. 1 importer of military hardware and the No. 4 exporter of oil stores and grains in the country. There is a active Army battalion based at the port, and if a military ship is in, no other water craft are allowed in the port.
Museums and more
Beaumont is also known for its numerous museums, ensuring there is something for everyone. They include the Fire Museum of Texas, with what is billed as the world’s largest fire hydrant; one honoring the great female athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias; the Texas Energy Museum; and the Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum. Combining several museums into a morning or afternoon excursion is easy.
The Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum is a wonderful place for children to run, play and investigate what a boomtown looked like when Spindletop blew. A Spindletop replica blows water like the original well spewed oil in 1901. Be sure and watch the wind direction to avoid getting wet.
The Texas Energy Museum is a hands-on educational place where oil production is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. The film about how Gladys City was formed and how the Spindletop well came to be is worth seeing.
Check out the gators
Spend some time outdoors at Cattail Marsh and Gator Country Adventure Park.
Cattail Marsh, run by the city of Beaumont, doesn’t allow motor vehicles. Bring binoculars, a bike, a horse or just hiking gear and some water and hike as long as you like in this water treatment area. It’s full of alligators of all sizes and a large variety of water birds. Plans call for a new entrance on the far side of the marsh, near the nest of a pair of bald eagles and their offspring.
A trip to Beaumont won’t be complete without a visit to Gator Country Adventure and Big Al, hailed as the biggest captive alligator in Texas. If the employees look familiar, it’s because they were featured on a television show about rescuing alligators that showed up in people’s yards or pools.
This may be the priciest attraction in Beaumont, but for the right amount, you can hold a small alligator, swim with somewhat bigger gators (their mouths are taped shut) or sit on a big gator and pose for photos.
Beaumont is full of things to do, places to see and stay and a big variety of restaurants in all budgets.
It’s a great town for a great time.
For more information, call the Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 392-4401 or go to www.beaumontcvb.com.