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All Aboard the Texas State Railroad

A historical ride to Palestine, TX

It’s really easy to escape the big city for the weekend. With so many great small towns to visit, all less than a two-hour drive away, it’s a wonder why we don’t get out of town more often. In fact, one of the most perfect fall weekend getaways sits right in the heart of the Texas Piney Woods.

Palestine is one of our favorite escapes from the busy, city life. The smell of the pine trees, the cool breezes and the fun, family activities make this an ideal location for kids of all ages.
Getting there: Palestine is a little more than 100 miles southwest of Dallas. You can take the quick route: Go south on Interstate 45 and follow Highway 287 out of Corsicana. Or take the scenic route along Highway 175 to Athens and down Highway 19 to Palestine. Both ways will take you about two hours.

Why it’s family-friendly: Palestine is home to the Texas State Railroad, the official railroad of Texas, that offers full- and half-day rides on Fridays and Saturdays. Kids love the fun of riding this historic steam train, while parents love the beautiful fall views along the ride. Also, the city of Palestine is a Texas Main Street City with more than 44 blocks of historic buildings, shops and restaurants.

What to do: A visit to Palestine is not complete without a ride on the Texas State Railroad. Featuring the only working steam trains in the state, the Piney Woods Train Excursion is a half-day trip from the Palestine Depot to the Rusk Depot and back. Another steam train comes from the Rusk Depot at the same time, making the highlight of the trip when the two trains pass each other.

Once it reaches the halfway point, there is ample time to hop off for a picnic and to see the train up close. You can pack your own food or purchase a boxed lunch. Don’t miss watching the engine turn around on the tracks to take you home in the other direction.

Make sure to buy tickets online in advance, as they are known to sell out each weekend. They also offer Sunday brunches and other special events, such as a fall pumpkin patch.

After the train ride, make your way into historic downtown Palestine and visit historic sites such as the Anderson County Jail, which has fun seasonal events including the Grinch’s Lair during the holidays, and the Museum for East Texas Culture, housed in a 1915 schoolhouse.

Lodging: Picnicking and primitive camping are available at the Palestine Depot. The Rusk Depot offers full hook-up sites for RVs and tent camping. If you are looking at a more historic stay, check out the Redlands Historic Inn in downtown Palestine. Built in 1914 as a hotel, it was also the home for the International & Great Northern Railroad for many years. Recently refurbished, it would be a charming addition to your visit.

Don’t miss: During November and December, the Texas State Railroad takes families on a journey through the classic Christmas book The Polar Express. Take a ride to the North Pole while hearing the classic tale read aloud and drinking hot chocolate. Santa boards the train to visit with all the children on the ride back home. Make sure to get tickets early for this classic event.