They say everything is bigger in Texas … and that includes some major cities and metropolitan areas. However, there may be even more small cities and towns here, including those that embrace their southern charm, historic pride and close-knit communities. In the heart of Henderson County, Athens is such a city. It’s filled with opportunities for outdoor adventures, agritourism, shopping, dining and more.
Athens is also home to United Country Real Estate | East Texas Real Estate and Auction, and we feel blessed to live in this part of East / Northeast Texas. There are so many areas here that are private and serene, with plenty of land for recreation, relaxation and enjoying rural country living.
Let’s take a closer look at why so many visitors and new residents alike are drawn to Athens and the surrounding areas in this part of East Texas.
Named after the historic Greek city in hopes for a culture capital, Athens, Texas, became the seat of Henderson County and later incorporated in 1856. Agriculture moved from a focus on cotton to livestock and vegetable farming by 1930.
The oil and gas industries eventually arose, sparking industrial growth … though farming never went away and is still a big part of the economy here. In fact, Athens is known today as the “Black-Eyed Pea Capital of the World.” In 1909, businessman J.B. Henry found these legumes were not just for animal feed but could be tasty for humans if cooked right. Still, an even more popular food item (and globally, at that) actually preceded Henry’s discovery five years earlier.
At the 1904 World’s Fair, Athens resident Fletcher “Uncle Dave” Davis unveiled the first hamburger sandwich. Though many may cite the food’s roots as forming earlier in Hamburg, Germany, apparently Uncle Dave was selling burgers (American style, between bread) even back in the late 1800s. There are other U.S. states that claim the invention of the modern burger as their own, but we maintain Athens is home to the first true American hamburger.
Henderson County and elsewhere in this northeastern region of Texas comprise part of the Post Oak Savannah, characterized by large prairies, scattered timber tracts and lakes — all popular features for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. Athens Lake, Cedar Creek Lake, Lake Palestine and Caddo Creek Lake are among the top destinations, not only for fun, but also for people seeking lake homes and waterfront land.
For outdoor recreation on dry land, there are at least as many options. You’ll find local zoos, drive thru safaris and wildlife sanctuaries, all no more than an hour outside of Athens. Tyler State Park is great for mountain biking and picnics, while Purtis Creek State Park offers dozens of hiking trails and campsites.
Around Athens, there are several hunting areas available to residents, offering opportunities to pursue whitetail deer, as well as quail, dove, duck and other birds and small game. With its mild winters and comfortable summers, northeastern Texas is an ideal place for the outdoorsmen.
Besides all that traditional outdoor recreation we covered above, there are a lot of other activities and attractions to enjoy in Athens and East Texas — and there are numerous options fit for every taste. If more of a mellow experience is what you seek, check out area vineyards and wineries here, starting with Tara Winery, which offers tours and tastings. Other local vineyards include Green Goat Winery, 3 P's in a Vine, Castle Oaks Winery, Valle della Pace Vineyards & Winery, Kiepersol, M6 Winery, and Pelle Legna Vineyards.
Agritourism is also popular, with pick-your-own blueberry, blackberry and other fruit farms across Northeast Texas. Echo Springs Blueberry Farm is among the stand outs. Other peaceful – and educational – outings include strolling through 100 acres of natural beauty at the East Texas Arboretum, or touring the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. When you want to ramp things up a bit, head to Athens Scuba Park or brave the heights with these zipline adventures.
The Henderson County Regional Fairpark is another local favorite with its rodeos, shows, livestock sales and other events throughout the year. There’s something for everyone in East Texas, from festivals to farmers markets, specialty shops, outdoor recreation and so much more. We suggest starting your discovery of the region right here in Athens!
Sources: Athenstx.gov; Henderson-county.com; Tshaonline.org; Tpwd.texas.gov; En.wikipedia.org; Houstonwilderness.org; Texascooppower.com; Echospringsblueberryfarm.com; Tarawinery.com; Caldwellzoo.org