Nacogdoches is a beautiful East Texas city with enough activities and lodging options to make it an excellent vacation destination. We spent some time there and scouted out all the best things to do in Nacogdoches.
It’s under 2 and a half hours north of Houston, just under 4 hours northeast of Austin, and about two and a half hours southeast of Dallas.
Nacogdoches was founded in 1779 and is considered the oldest town in Texas. So if you’re a fan of Texas history like we are, you’re in for a real treat here.
What we found to be the most interesting is that Nacogdoches has had nine different flags flown over it during its lifetime. (Coincidentally, the bar at the adorable historic hotel we stayed at, The Fredonia, is called 9 Flags, in reference to this.) If you’re interested in the history of the 9 flags, click here or scroll to the bottom.
If you’re looking for lodging, check out our recommendation for where to stay in Nacogdoches.
Nacogdoches is home to many historic buildings and beautiful parks, as well as Stephen F Austin State University. We spent 2 days in Nacogdoches and loved every minute of it. Here are some of the best things to do in Nacogdoches:
Best Things to Do in Nacogdoches – Historic Sites
This reconstructed historic village features a sample of 19th century East Texas dwellings of various designs, from log cabins to Victorian homes! Every building is an actual historic building that was moved to this site and meticulously restored and decorated to reflect that period.
In the schoolhouse, we were able to write with real quill pens, and outside one house, we were able to use a hand plow to plow the garden! There are about 15 or so buildings to tour, including an early 20th-century caboose!
They are open Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 4 pm.
- Self-Guided Walking Tour $5
- Adult Guided Tour $10
- Child Guided Tour $5
Durst-Taylor Historic House & Gardens
The Durst-Taylor Historic House and Gardens includes a historic home, barn, smokehouse, blacksmith shop, chicken coop, and gardens.
The wood-frame house dates back to around 1835 and is the second oldest building in Nacogdoches. Visitors are welcome to tour the house, which is furnished with period pieces, as well as try their hand at many of the tools in the blacksmith shop.
The exhibits in the barn provide a robust history of the city.
Admission is free and the museum is open Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 am- 4:00 pm.
In addition, the Old-Fashioned Sweet Tooth Sugarcane event is held every year on the second Saturday in January and is free and open to the public. There you can watch sugarcane from the garden be pressed in the sugarcane mill and turned into syrup!
Sterne-Hoya House Museum & Library
The Sterne-Hoya House Museum and Library is named for its two consecutive owners and dates back to 1830. The furnishings in the house are all period pieces, as well as actual family heirlooms donated by the families.
We got a full tour of this house and our guide was chock full of fascinating information about the families and how the house was used.
Admission is free and the museum is open Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Nacogdoches Railroad Depot
This building was closed when we visited, but we still took the opportunity to ring the enormous bell right outside. The building dates back to 1911 when it was rebuilt after the original wooden building burned down due to a lightning strike. The building houses a transportation museum, which I’m sad we didn’t get to visit. We’ll just have to get there on our next trip.
Old Stone Fort Museum
Old Stone Fort figures heavily into Nacogdoches history, serving as the headquarters for multiple rebellions, including one at SFA in the 1940s. The Old Stone Fort Museum is located on the SFA campus, but it is not the original building.
The original Old Stone Fort was built sometime between 1779 and 1781, but it was demolished in 1902. In 1936, the current building was built and now serves as a museum detailing the history of Nacogdoches.
Nacogdoches Visitor’s Center
Not only can you get all the Nac swag here, but this building is also a museum! You can watch a short video about Nacogdoches in the basement, and see a replica oil drill and pump. You can also learn more about early settlers, including the Caddo tribe.
Best Things to Do in Nacogdoches – Nature
East Texas is so beautiful and Nacogdoches is no different. We enjoyed some beautiful nature trails while in Nacogdoches.
The Ruby M Mize Azalea garden is Texas’ largest azalea garden. We visited in the winter and it was so beautiful – I can imagine it is breathtaking in the spring! Azaleas bloom in late March to early April so that’s probably the best time to go, though we enjoyed walking the trails even in December. There are plenty of other flowers and plants that grow among the loblolly pines as well.
The garden also hosts events throughout the year. You can see the full list of events here.
Banita Creek Trail
This trail was my favorite. We couldn’t do the whole thing because it was getting dark but the parts we did were so beautiful. We found plenty of little waterfalls along the creek and I can imagine it being fun to splash there in the summer.
We also found a giant chair in a small clearing along the trail, an 8 foot, 300-pound sculpture by local artist Jeffie Brewer, which was a fun find.
SFA Interpretive Trail
Part of the Angelina National Forest, the SFA Experimental Forest is the only forest of its kind in Texas. Scientists use the forest to study nature and wildlife for various purposes, but we just enjoyed exploring the trails. There is a shorter < 1-mile loop, and a longer, 2-mile loop.
We saw plenty of lizards and caught glimpses of what looked like snakes slithering under the leaves along the trail. The trail itself is paved so if snakes scare you, don’t be alarmed. We didn’t actually see snakes though, so I can still confidently say I’ve never seen a live snake on the trail in Texas.
We opted for the shorter Jack Creek Loop, which winds around Jack Creek and was incredibly scenic, even in the winter.
Best Things to Do in Nacogdoches – Parks & Playgrounds
Pioneer Park is quite large, and its most prominent feature is an old Cold War-era US army tank. It has a nice playground and plenty of space to enjoy a picnic or play some ball. There are also some covered tables.
Maroney Park is home to a sprawling wooden play structure that makes the whole park resemble a fort. It’s a BIG structure and there is so much for kids to do there. In the summer, there’s a super cute splash pad right next door.
Pecan Acres Park
Pecan Acres Park has a cute playground that looks like a magical forest with toadstools, butterflies, a climbing spiderweb, and more. Our kids particularly liked the flying dragonfly swing.
The park is home to some trails and an old bridge built in 1932. According to the plaque, the Goodman Bridge originally spanned the Angelina River, but when it started to deteriorate to the point where it was unsafe, it was replaced and the old bridge was moved to this park and restored as a footbridge. It’s apparently one of the last warren truss bridges in the state.
Miscellaneous Things to Do in Nacogdoches
Even just walking the streets of downtown Nacogdoches is a delight. There are plenty of statues, historical markers, quaint old-fashioned stores, and beautiful homes to admire. There are many beautiful Victorian homes built by the architect Diedrich Rulf, who is known as the architect of Nacogdoches, having designed many of the buildings there.
We spent two days in Nacogdoches and could easily have spent more. We found it to be such a great place for a Texas getaway. Have you visited Nacogdoches? What is your favorite thing to do there?
If you’re interested in all the fun things we’ve found in some of the other towns we’ve explored, check out our Top Things to do in Johnson City or Things to do in Waco with Kids.
For additional resources on what to do in Nacogdoches, visit their tourism website.
The History of Nacogdoches’ 9 Flags
Nacogdoches began life under Spanish rule (flag #1), but due to constant conflict with the French, who settled in Louisiana, it flew the French flag temporarily (flag #2). In 1812, Augustus Magee and Bernardo Gutierrez headquartered themselves at Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches and attempted to establish Texas as an independent state (flag #3). Their efforts failed and Texas was claimed by Mexico
In 1819, Dr. James Long of Natchez, Mississippi, led an expedition to claim Texas for the United States (flag #4), since many people assumed wrongly Texas was included in the Louisiana purchase. He, too, set up headquarters at Old Stone Fort, but his forces were defeated while he was in Galveston seeking the support of the infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte.
In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the Mexican flag flew over Nacogdoches (flag #5). In 1826, Haden Edwards led what’s known as the Fredonia Rebellion to liberate Texas from Mexican rule (flag #6), which ultimately failed. Then in 1836, Texas’ rebellion finally succeeded and the Republic of Texas was formed (flag #7).
In 1845, Texas joined the US (flag #8), and in 1861, they seceded with the rest of the Confederate states (flag #9), finally rejoining the US in 1865, where it has remained ever since. (So far…)