• 66°

STAYcation — Fun for the whole family: Elise’s fills local need for entertainment

High gasoline prices and an economy still struggling to fully reboot means that Greater Port Arthur people may enjoy “staycations” this summer, reveling in the tourism sites within easy driving distance. The News will highlight some of these this summer, places we’d all do well to visit.

JEFFERSON COUNTY — When Six Flags AstroWorld closed in 2005, Southeast Texans were left without a year-round amusement facility.

Leave it to Jerry Nelson to bring such entertainment.

Since September 2010, Elise’s Family Fun Center, on State Highway 73 east of Winnie, has brought just that — fun for the whole family to the region.

It began with a concert hall known as Nutty Jerry’s. Well-known music acts such as Eddie Money, Chicago and Percy Sledge have performed there.

“After a few years, that didn’t pan out, so he decided to have a place where children could come in this area because there was nothing around here for kids to come and enjoy rides and stuff like that,” said Virginia Isenberg, Nelson’s sister-in-law, who serves as the floor detail and box office manager at Elise’s. “He built this when he closed down the concert hall.”

Nelson and his management team added different attractions to turn the facility into an amusement center. It was renamed Elise’s in 2012 after his oldest granddaughter.

Asked if Elise’s is what Nelson envisioned, general manager Candace Adkins said: “Beyond. It’s a much larger facility than envisioned once adding on four extra buildings to what was originally the one for Nutty Jerry’s.”

Elise’s bills itself as the largest indoor fun center in Southeast Texas, and it does offer different “worlds” of fun for kids of all ages, from inflatable slides to mini-bowling to video games to kart racing. A full-scale bowling alley and roller-skating rink named Walker’s Wheel House, after Nelson’s grandson, is also included.

“We had a big group here [July 20] from Lufkin,” Isenberg said. “We have many people come here from Louisiana. They say there’s nothing like this in Louisiana or Houston. They come here to enjoy themselves, and they’re all so surprised when they come here and see how many things there are to do. They totally have a blast.”

Patrons can access all attractions year-round for a single admission price of $20. (Elise’s offers half-price admission from 5-9 p.m. each Thursday through Aug. 9.)

A food bar offering pizza, hot dogs, ice cream and nachos, just to name a few items, is also available.

An outdoor stage at Elise’s has kept the Nutty Jerry’s name. It has played host to rodeos and monster trucks.

Country singer Kevin Fowler will perform there Saturday night.

For those who like to stroll down memory lane, a mini-train rides around the facility and passes by a setting of the old Wild West that’s easily visible to State Highway 73 traffic.

Elise’s fills the need for fun among locals that Houston’s AstroWorld provided from 1968-2005. On average, about 750 people attend Elise’s on a Saturday.

Elise’s doesn’t have any tentative plans to add on to its facility in the near future, but Isenberg said she wouldn’t put anything past Nelson.

“We are always looking for new amusement and attractions,” Adkins said.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


**CORRECTED to reflect that Elise’s is located on State Highway 73. The address is 18291 Englin Road, Winnie, although it is physically located in Jefferson County, east of town.**

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

email author More by I.C.