Known as the “Rose Capital of America”, Tyler is a staple of East Texas. You will come across plenty of sights surrounding roses in Tyler as you would expect from a city with that moniker but you will also get a glimpse into some fascinating Civil War history.
While Tyler is a smaller city, it is definitely not worth glossing over as it offers a lot such ranging from an aviation museum to a Rose Museum. It can be tricky to navigate through Tyler so here is our take on the 25 best things to do at this hidden gem of a city nestled between Dallas and Houston.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Tyler (TX)
1. Caldwell Zoo
Opened in 1953, the Caldwell Zoo encompasses 85 acres and 2,000 animals. Divided into North America, East Africa, and South America, you will come across all the animals that you would see at any other zoo but their education and animal encounters programs puts it over the top.
You can add variety to your child’s educational experience with either the Zooschool or the Homework club that will offer your little ones a fun way to learn. Moreover, the penguin and bear encounters will take you as close as you will ever come to those magnificent species.
2. Waterpark at the Village
Located on the banks of Lake Palestine just outside Tyler, this unique indoor waterpark offers families 25,000 square feet of pure fun. Even though it only opened in 2008, it has already become a staple of Tyler. You can find few better spots in the area for some much-needed family time.
Go wild on the lazy river, wave pool, body and the tube slides that will make you forget all your worries even if for a moment. Your children will also find plenty of fun activities at the Children’s Playscape and 3 kid slides. You can even spend the night at one of the villas and explore the idyllic surroundings the next day.
3. Tyler State Park
The Tyler State Park bills itself as a ‘Tranquil Haven in the Pines’ and lives up to its name. You will come across historic structures, 100-foot tall trees, and a massive spring-fed lake at this incredible park. Whether you want to hike along the 13-miles of trails, fish or swim in the lake, or simply want a relaxed picnic, you are sure to find something to do at Tyler State Park.
In fact, with the sheer amount of activities you can get to at the park, you might want to plan for an overnight trip. You will be hard-pressed to find a better way to escape the hustle and bustle of Tyler and reconnect with nature.
4. The Discovery Science Place
This museum has been pursuing its goal of ‘Igniting curiosity in young minds through fun, hands-on exploration’ since 1993. Its 3D Cinesphere, Meso-American Rock Climbing Wall, Courthouse, and countless other exhibits will surely intrigue your child’s imagination.
In order to take the experience to the next level, consider enrolling your child in one of the endless camps like Space Quest and Engineer this. It is also an amazing venue for parties, events, and school trips that will ensure that your child will have the time of their lives. They will even add special programming options for field trips and events.
5. Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary
This refuge dedicated to providing a safe haven for neglected and abused big cats boasts 37 animals from across the world. Visiting the majestic animals such as the Panthera Tigris will be an amazing experience and you will find yourself lost in their stories at Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary.
You will also learn how you can protect the incredible creatures and help ensure their survival. There is a variety of experiences on offer such as self-guided tours as well as guided treat and training tours that take you up and close with the animals. It is unlikely that you will leave the sanctuary without being moved.
6. Tyler Rose Museum & Gift Shop
The Tyler Rose Museum was established in order to preserve Tyler’s long history of rose production and the famous Texas Rose Festival that has been an annual event since 1933. It offers a glimpse into some of the most memorable costumes and moments of the Rose Festival.
It is recommended that you try to schedule your trip to Tyler during the Texas Rose Festival if at all possible. You will be immersed in one of the most captivating experiences you will come across during your lifetime. There is a reason that the festival is as engrained in Texas culture as rodeos.
7. Kiepersol – The Grand Room, Winery
Taking its name from a South African village, the Kiepersol Winery is a 63-acre vineyard and winery that has become a staple of Tyler. The incredible tour of the vineyard is a can’t-miss attraction, but you can also go for just a tasting if you are pressed for time.
Much more than simply a winery, Kiepersol also offers some of the most incredible views in Texas from the Salt Dome. You can also take your experience to the next level by enjoying a night at the Bed and Breakfast. Just make sure that you try their award-winning Fizzy Vit white wine as well.
8. Cotton Belt Depot Museum
The Cotton Belt Depot operated from 1905 until 1956 and was turned into a museum in 2003. Nowadays, it welcomes over 300 visitors a month with daily tours offered by volunteers from the Tyler Tap Chapter of the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society.
It boasts 200 engines and 1,600 cars in its Bragg Train Collection and the McDaniel Collection also offers a large collection of train memorabilia. A must-see for any train enthusiast, the museum is also an amazing attraction for families. The train shows that the museum puts on are also worth a visit if you happen to be in town for one of them.
9. Tyler Museum of Art
The Tyler Museum of Art opened in 1987 and its permanent collection now boasts over 800 pieces of art. In fact, it is so big that it can’t physically be displayed in the museum leading to the creation of an online database. It is also the home to one of the largest collections of Mexican and Latin American Folk Art in the US.
It also holds regular temporary exhibitions and offers vibrant public programs that include talks, family days, and high school art exhibitions. Finally, it offers school tours that combine a visit through the museum with engaging activities.
10. Goodman-LeGrand House & Museum
Build-in 1859, the Goodman LeGrand House and Museum is steeped in Civil War history. After the capture of New Orleans in 1962, the house was made available to refugees fleeing the Union Army. A second floor was added to the house in 1880 and the house was donated to the City of Tyler in 1939.
After going back in time and marveling at the imposing house, make sure you take a leisurely stroll around the perfectly manicured lawns of LeGrand Park that encompass almost an entire city block. You can even take a short rest on one of the benches before going on with your day.
11. American Freedom Museum
Located within the Brook High School, the American Freedom Museum pays homage to the soldiers that bravely fought and lost their lives in all conflicts from the Civil War to the Afghanistan War. Opened in 2010, the museum boasts an incredible collection of 650 artifacts.
Its Hall of Presidents contains a signed document from every President from George Washington to Donald Trump among other documents such as a Senate tally sheet from Andrew Jackson’s impeachment trial. On the other hand, the Hall of Freedom showcases 15-galleries worth of artifacts from major US conflicts such as a musket used in the Battle of Lexington.
12. The Children’s Park of Tyler
Located just south of downtown Tyler, the Children’s Park offers your children the time of their lives. Their imaginations will run wild as they play and interact with the many structures. Those very structures make the park one of the most photogenic spots in Tyler.
Established by the Carson’s after the loss of their child, the park has since become a haven for families devastated by the loss of a child. Fixtures like Molly’s bridge, Jackson, and Alison will help you continue the conversation about them. You will also come across Alison’s House named after the sister of Judge Joel Baker.
13. Historic Aviation Memorial Museum
Built-in 1985, this museum gives its visitors a first-hand look at the development of aviation. You will be taken on a journey encompassing a century of rich aviation history. The Origins of Aviation exhibit is an incredible sight, but the crown jewel of the museum is its impressive collection of fighter aircraft.
There are few places on earth where you can marvel at the majesty of the FJ-4 Fury and HOS4 Chickasaw at the same place. The museum also runs a number of incredible outreach programs for local high school students and you can rent it for your meetings and events.
14. Camp Ford
Camp Ford served as the largest Confederate POW camp west of the Mississippi during the Civil War and only closed its doors in 1865. At one point in 1864, the camp held 5,300 prisoners. Some of the most notable prisoners include future Medal of Honor recipients George Butts and Patrick H. White.
It is now a public park owned by Smith County and you can still witness the conditions the prisoners were kept in to this day. If you are able, make sure to catch one of the monthly meetings of the Smith County Historical Society that are filled with captivating presentations.
15. Faulkner Park
Located on the outskirts of Tyler, Faulkner Park is a great place for a getaway to unwind from city life. Whether you want to catch some air at the Skate Park or simply want a relaxing picnic, you will find plenty to do at the park.
You can also hike or bike along the 8 miles of trails or partake in America’s favorite pastime – baseball. Your kids are sure to have plenty of fun at the spraygrounds and you can even indulge in a game of tennis. There is also the option to just take in the beauty of the park and revel in its tranquility.
16. Valle Della Pace Vineyards and Winery
Opened in 2011, the Valle Della Pace has overcome a lot during its lifetime from floods to wild bears eating all the red grapes. It did overcome and is now one of the finest wineries you will come across in the Lone Star State.
There are no official tours but the staff are always more than happy to show you around the vineyard and you can also enjoy a tasting of their amazing wines. If you are still not convinced, head over to their Instagram page and see if you can resist making a trip there. We are pretty sure you won’t be able to.
17. Azalea Residential Historic District
Named after the prevalence of the Azalea plants that can be found along the district, this is one of the most historic districts of Tyler. It features some of the first structures in Tyler such as Queen Anne, Craftsman, and Classical Revival.
The district will take you back to the beginnings of Tyler and you will be amazed as you make your way through the 36 sections of the district. It was designated as a National Historic District in 2003 and it is easy to see why. Considering that it is now just outside downtown Tyler, the district will also an idea of just how fast Tyler developed in the latter half of the 20th century.
18. Tyler Rose Garden
Given that Tyler is known as the center of rose cultivation, it is only right that you find the largest public collection of roses in Tyler. You will come across 32,000 bushes and 600 cultivars at the Tyler Rose Garden attached to the Rose Museum.
Some of the main events held at the Rose Garden include the Rose Sunday Celebration and Kickoff, Texas Rose Festival, and the Bulbs to Bloom Sale. You can also rent out the garden for special events and conferences to provide your guests an unforgettable experience. Moreover, the highlight of the garden might just be the Lights in the Garden that are put up during the holidays.
19. Lake Palestine
Located less than 15 miles from Tyler, Lake Palestine is a 25,600-acre recreational area that offers an idyllic weekend getaway. There are five public boat launches from where you can enter the lake and you may even want to book a room in a motel or rent a campground and make a weekend out of it.
The clear water of the lake makes it an incredible place for boating, jet-skiing, fishing, and many more water activities. The lake is extremely popular for bass tournaments because of its prevalence in the lake. Some other fish you can expect in your haul include crappies and catfish.
20. Liberty Hall
Liberty Hall is the center of performing arts in Tyler. Refurbished in 2011, the theatre seats 300 people and hosts concerts, stand-up comedy, theater, and other shows. Its Concerts from the Couch Series promotes some of the best local talent such as Billie Jo.
Whether you want a theater performance full of culture or simply want to have a laugh, there are few places to enjoy a night out in Tyler than Liberty Hall. If you are a fan of the Halloween franchise, the theatre has a long-standing tradition of screening the original Halloween movie every October 31st.
21. Dory’s Garden & Boutique
This boutique garden is a unique experience whether you are looking to just witness some awe-inspiring plants or to take some of the most fascinating photographs. Handcrafted garden art and birdhouses will offer you a great escape from your worries.
Whether you want to talk plants with Dory, join one of the workshops, take part in the Stalk Exchange, or just want to have your coffee or lunch in peace, Dory’s Garden is a great spot in Tyler. There are also various events such as Creations in the Garden and Featured Flowers that you should definitely try to witness.
22. The Village at Cumberland Park
Located across the road from Faulkner Park is the Village at Cumberland Park, a large outdoor shopping center. Its 45 retail outlets and dining establishments make the center one of the biggest in the state, let alone Tyler.
The 700,000 square foot shopping center will welcome you with a fountain and a children’s playground for wholesome family fun. After shopping at some of your favorite outlets like Nike and Old Navy, you can catch a bite to each and catch the latest blockbuster at the Studio Movie Grill. It’s easy to see why the Village is a go-to destination in East Texas.
23. Rose Rudman Recreational Trail
The Rose Rudman Trail takes you along the West Mud Creek and is one of the best trails for running and cycling. If you are looking for a more relaxed activity, feel free to hide in the shade of the trees along the trail for a quick picnic or to do some light reading.
You will also come across the Tyler Cancer Bell on the northern side of the trail. Opened in 2002, it is a great place to congratulate the survivors of the disease and remember those who lost the fight by ringing the bell.
24. McClendon House
One of the most historic houses in East Texas, the McClendon House is steeped in post-Civil War history and takes its name from the noted journalist Sarah McClendon who once called the house home. There are few better ways to witness Tyler’s post-Civil War political and cultural history. While tours are available, a reservation 24 hours prior to visit is requested.
You can also rent out the McClendon House for your next event whether it be a birthday party or a murder mystery dinner. However, the house is not for the faint of heart as whispers of the house being haunted have been surrounding it for decades.
25. Razzoo’s Cajun Café
This close to Cajun Country, it is not surprising that Razzoo’s Cajun Café is one of the best dining options in Tyler. You will come across some Cajun staples such as grilled alligators, shrimp creole, and jambalaya pasta as well as more unique options such as rat toe at this cozy café.
You can indulge in some of the best of Cajun cooking at a price that doesn’t break your wallet at this Tyler chain of the popular franchise. The incredible service that you will receive at the restaurant just adds the icing on the cake. In fact, the Razzoo’s Cajun Café is so well known in the area that it has its own merch.