MONIQUE BATSON — Vacations can be affordable, local and plenty of fun

Published 12:02 am Sunday, April 16, 2023

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — anyone who thinks there’s nothing to do in Southeast Texas isn’t paying attention.

As a lifelong resident of the area, it’s easy to take for granted the things we have around us. But I will admit I hadn’t always been paying attention.

About 10 years ago, during Spring Break, I had to take my young children with me to work due to a lack of childcare. Each day they would sit at empty computers and quietly watch movies on Netflix. But on my lunch break, I’d take them outside to stretch their legs and enjoy the sun. We spent each day touring a nearby museum and enjoying our food outdoors.

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All three of us were blown away by the tiny building that is the Edison Museum. I worked across the street from it for years and never knew it existed. Once inside the museum at the Edison Plaza on Pine Street in Beaumont, we were fascinated by the number of educational activities.

It’s the way I still feel each time I walk into the Museum of the Gulf Coast in downtown Port Arthur. No matter how many times I’ve visited, I find something new in each trip.

As summer nears, we parents are going to be in need of activities. But there’s no need to go far or spend much to have a great time.

Sea Rim State Park (Monique Batson/The News)

Port Arthur: As I mentioned, the Museum of the Gulf Coast is worth visiting whether you’ve never been or been a dozen times. Enjoy a day at Sea Rim State Park, where you can search for seashells or rent canoes and kayaks. For adult-only trips, take an early afternoon tour of Clifford Distilling before a tasty dinner at Cinco De Mayo.

Nederland: Personally, I could spend an entire day lying beside the Nederland Swimming Pool. But it’s also a great place for local families to find entertainment in a safe, highly supervised environment. And who doesn’t love to feed the ducks at the neighboring pond? And don’t forget about the windmill. Did you know it’s actually a museum? Inside you’ll find a multitude of historical artifacts tied to Nederland’s history.

Port Neches: While riverfront development is definitely a highlight, it’s easy to spend an entire day just on Port Neches Avenue. Have breakfast at The Avenue Coffee and Café, browse the boutiques and antique stores, and have some fun at Avenue Axe. For adult only trips, don’t forget to try the new Meridian Wine Bar and take in some live music at Neches Brewing Company.

Groves: At Lions Park you’ll find the region’s first spray park. With entertainment for kids and picnic areas for families, it’s a great place to spend a day without spending any money. The park will open Memorial Day and remain open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day through Labor Day. And if you’re there on a weekday, consider an amazing lunch at The Courtyard Café.

Orange: Probably one of the best-kept secrets in Southeast Texas is Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. It’s free to enter, and one could easily get lost along the multitude of trails through the flowers, waterways and educational centers. They also host a multitude of events for families on almost any day of the week. On your way back to Jefferson County, stop by High Tides at the edge of Bridge City and enjoy dinner on the water.

Beaumont: As the largest city in the area, it’s not too hard to find entertainment in Beaumont. But it’s the lesser-known places that offer the most fun. Have you ever been to Tyrrell Park? Located at 6088 Babe Zaharias Drive, the park has playgrounds and a golf course. But it’s also home to the gorgeous Beaumont Botanical Gardens. And, at the back, you’ll find Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands. Although, keep your eyes open. Alligators like to spend the day there, too.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at