I’ve become a big fan of East Texas and the various landscapes, but Caddo is definitely a favorite. Swampy water, cypress trees, lily pads, gators, owls, & egrets are all things I didn’t have as a young child in West Texas or years of living in the Big D (that’s Dallas for those who aren’t in Texas).
Y’all know I’m a city girl engaged to a country boy. We’re ‘Getting Hitched’ in October, and I thought it was high time my ‘Big City’ family made a trip to East Texas to see the area and have a little fun before the wedding.
If you’ve never been to East Texas, you’re about to learn some of the best places to eat, fun things to do, & a great place to stay on the water. If you’re a local, you’ll probably be nodding your head in agreement with me & also thinking of other places we should’ve tried to squeeze in during our weekend – that’s great, be sure to comment below & share ’em with me!
Cue the Vacation
There are lots of great places to stay in East Texas, but for this first stay for my family, I’d hoped to have a cabin that would be great for 6 adults & 2 kiddos. A place three generations could relax. I really wanted us to all be together if possible & close to Caddo.
I was so excited when I found Backwater Jack’s RV Camp & Cabins (click hyperlink to see their site) in Karnack, Texas. They have several different cabin options. I chose the Texas 2-Step Cabins, and booked a two night stay.
If you rent both sides, you can open a door that connects the units & all be together. Each side has one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, & a living room with two futon couch beds. I’m fairly agreeable & can make the most of anywhere I stay – but I LOVED these cabins.
Backwater Jack’s cabins & owners/operators are so lovely. Just a FYI, they had no idea I have a blog. We paid full price & it was worth every penny.
After we were settled in the cabin, we decided to head to Longview for dinner at Pizza King. I adore Pizza King – it’s been a local favorite since 1965, has a fun retro vibe, and they have gluten-free crust, too!
Babe & family eat gluten-free, and if you have to, you won’t feel like a second class citizen at Pizza King. While they only have one size gluten-free crust (medium), you can get any of their topping combos. We were a group of five adults that night & shared 3 GF pizzas – Meat Lovers, Everything (meat & veggies), & Canadian Bacon & Pineapple. Crazy good!
I’m a girl who has an old soul. I have a great appreciation for bygone eras – Glenn Miller big band music, 1940’s manners, family time, friendly small talk, Edison lightbulbs, & basically retro anything.
Being at Shivers Natural Snow is kinda like dropping into the middle of a Rom-Com. Oldies play on their speaker system, shaved ice is served from an Airstream, and you can plop down on one of their blankets & relax under the patio lights.
It makes my heart smile
Is it any wonder that we had to head over to the Shivers Airstream & introduce them to the BEST shaved ice ever? It is the softest, sweetest, & most delicious shaved ice you’ll ever have. And it’s all natural, so it’s good for me, right?
They have lots of unique & tasty seasonal flavor combinations. It’s hard for me to pick my fave. I’d say it’s a tie between two – the Honey Moon (Pineapple & Coconut) & their famous Brown Cow (Local Cold Brew Coffee & Homemade Sweet Cream).
The Honey Moon has a light tropical taste & their Brown Cow kinda tastes like an ice-cold tiramisu to this girl. Mmmmm.
Our 4 RIVER Adventures
Riding Big Cypress River
I’m a night-owl, but I set three alarms & woke up at 6:45am. Sparky came over & we made breakfast for all the family. After breakfast, Sparky took us on our own personal tour of Big Cypress River is his boat. Sparky grew up in East Texas & knows everything about Caddo & the outdoors, so he made an AWESOME tour guide.
My niece immediately smiled & said, “This is AMAZING!” Lil’ nephew is not quite two, and he smiled ear-to-ear and made lots of engine noises! All of us had fun taking in the scenery & waving to folks as we’d go by.
Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que
If you’re anywhere near Jefferson, you NEED to pop-in Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que to have some of the best BBQ you will ever have. Even Texas Monthly gives it a BBQ Snob rating of 4.5, and says their Swamp Fries are some of the best around. I’m crazy about their burnt ends, but you can ask for lean or fatty if that’s your thing.
My family had some of everything that day – my parents both had ribs, Sparky & my son both had brisket tacos, my brother had smoked sausage, my sister-in-law had sliced brisket, the kiddos had grilled cheese & fries, and I had chopped brisket. I think everyone had pinto or baked beans as their side – their beans have a great flavor as well. The place was hopping since it was a sunny afternoon, but service was wonderful & we all ate it up. SO good!
After lunch, we walked around downtown Jefferson. If they had a town square with a gazebo in the middle you could say it was Stars Hollow (anyone a Gilmore Girl fan?). But I like the straight lined streets just fine – full of character, unique restaurants, antique shops, & boutiques.
I just HAD to show my five-year old niece the Jefferson General Store – aka candy, toy, and souvenir paradise. Immediately upon entering you see a huge display of all kinds of candy – some that your grandparents probably enjoyed, obscure things like bacon flavored mints, and the famous Jefferson General Store Pralines. Make sure you taste a praline sample. Yum!
Fishing on Big Cypress River
Next we headed back to the cabins & fished for a couple of hours. This was the kiddos first time to fish, and we’d bought them Tinkerbell & Mickey Mouse fishing poles. My niece was so excited when she caught her first perch!
Lil’ nephew is too young to appreciate the fishing yet, he had more fun playing with the ice in the Yeti.
We lost a few bobbers to the trees, and Sparky was busy helping everyone with their stuck lines or lost worms. But … my sweet niece asked, “When can we fish again?” so you know it was a success.
RiverBend Restaurant on Caddo Lake is a picture-perfect place to enjoy dinner, and that’s exactly where we took the family that night. They have both inside seating & a screened-in porch with a view of Caddo. You can even arrive by your boat if you’d like.
It was getting dark after dinner, so we headed back to the cabin for a fire, s’mores & a very addictive card game that our family loves – Nerts. It’s like solitaire on steroids – two or more players quickly trying to use their “Nerts” pile and win that hand. You’ll need one deck of cards for each player, and it’s best if they’re unique so you can separate them easier.
To see pics & explanation of Nerts, CLICK HERE ON Babe’s Amazon Affiliate Nerts Card Game Link
Fun at Sparky’s & Back to City Life
After check-out the next morning, we headed to Sparky’s so the family could see what will be my new home. After the tour of the house, and oohs & ahs at the mounted turkey, gator, deer, and coyote, we had a little outside fun.
We had Pirogue (the BEST duck dog ever) show off his retrieval skills, shot some guns, and went for rides in the 4–wheeler.
Oh, by the way, I was NOT compensated in any way by the businesses mentioned in this blog. This was a fun family weekend for us & I wanted to share it with all my outdoor loving friends. If I LOVE something, I want y’all to try it, too! I hope that y’all are inspired to come to East Texas and visit some of our favorite places and go on some amazing adventures while you’re here.
Thanks for tagging along with us!
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