BEAUMONT, Texas — Beaumont may be best known for gators and gumbo, but the city’s vibrant and eclectic downtown surprises at every turn, satisfying a wide variety of visitor interests.

Check out a little bit the city is boasting, which is sure to give you some unexpected surprises.

1. For nature enthusiasts.  Board the Ivory Bill.  This covered excursion boat docks right downtown, ready to take visitors on a 2-hour cruise down the open Neches River and deep into its cypress-lined backwater channels, where they’ll discover a unique eco-system which is home to more than 200 tree species, 47 mammals, more than 300 bird species, and many reptiles and amphibians.  The tours depart at 10 a.m.on Saturdays from late March through early November. $15 adults, $10 children and seniors, free three and under.  Reservations must be made here.

Neches River Boat Tour

2. For museum hoppers.  For those who like their museums small, cool, quirky (or perhaps all three), Beaumont’s downtown offers an eclectic mix:  The Fire Museum of Texas (don’t miss a selfie in front of the Dalmatian-spotted “World’s Largest Fire Hydrant” outside), the Texas Energy Museum, the Beaumont Children’s Museum, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

SouthEast Texas Genealogical & Historical Society

3. For architecture buffs. Beaumont’s downtown Commercial District is home to some of the best preserved buildings in the U.S., many on the National Register of Historic Places.   Just a few highlights include the Jefferson County Courthouse, a 1931 Art Deco building, the Kyle Building, a fine example of Zig Zag Art Deco style, the Tyrrell Historical Library, and the Julie Rogers Theatre built in 1928.  Not to be missed is the St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica.

4. For dinner…  If hunger strikes during your architectural walking tour, just continue on to the 1914 Coale Building, which houses Suga’s Deep South Cuisine and Jazz Bar.   This is one of Beaumont’s best spots for cooking with a southern accent.  Try the Southern Egg Rolls, the Southern Fried Green Tomato Stack, or the Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken.  And for dessert?  Annie’s Southern Peach Cobbler.

5. …and a movie.  Take in a film at the historic Jefferson Theatre, another downtown architectural treasure.  On Friday nights, the old fashioned movie palace screens vintage and modern classics for just $5, and patrons can also purchase craft beers and listen to live music before the movie begins at 7:30.

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