We have been wanting to visit Texarkana for a while now, if only because I thought our daughter would get a kick out of standing in Texas and Arkansas at the same time on State Line Avenue. Little did I know, Texarkana has so much more to offer than 11 miles of divided state lines. I spoke to David Orr, the assistant city manager, about what I was missing. By the end of our conversation, I had a lengthy list of things I want to do; places I want to visit and food I want to eat. The fact that the Arts and Historic District is a driving force in revitalizing the city and bringing much appreciated art and entertainment is incredibly exciting for East Texas.
Getting back to what the average person knows about Texarkana, did you know that during their “Dine on the Line” event in October they shut down State Line Avenue to set up a 1,200-foot table where everyone can come together on both sides of the twin cities to eat BBQ, listen to live music, and celebrate both communities!? Sadly, this year was cancelled due to Covid-19 but we are all hopeful 2021 will allow us to come together again.
No need to get discouraged from visiting, there is still plenty to do. Featured in Reader’s Digest, Texarkana is known for being the friendliest city and has been dubbed, “Twice as Nice” which you must admit is catchy. Let us dive into what the Arts and Historic District has in store for you when you visit Texarkana. One of (if not the most) iconic buildings is the Federal Courthouse/Post Office. Luring hundreds of visitors and residents alike, the Post Office is noted to be the 2nd most photographed Federal courthouse in the United States! Built in 1931, sitting in the center of State Line Avenue, thus straddling the 2 states it is remarkable not only in the structure itself but its location. No other federal building sits on 2 states. Fortunately, the Arts and Historic District along with additional partners have joined forces in improving the overall experience of visiting this destination with additional pedestrian safety measures, public art installations, expanded green space to play and relax, and a designated area for food trucks to park during events.
The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra (TSO) was founded in 2006 as a non-profit and primarily performs in the historic Perot Theatre. Their September – May season brings you classical masterworks, like their chamber concert celebrating Ludwig and Beethoven. The TSO also performs original movie scores like, The Wizard of Oz and many other notable works including holiday themed concert series. One thing I am looking forward to is bringing our daughter to their educational and family concerts.
The TSO is the parent organization of the Texarkana Youth Symphony Orchestra available to middle and high school students. Their music director/conductor, Philip Mann has an impressive amount of experience and is the recipient of numerous awards. To say I had absolutely no idea we had this much talent in East Texas, hiding in plain sight is an understatement. Not to mention the TSO performs in such a stunning location.
The fully restored Perot Theatre houses everything you would expect from a historic concert hall in a big city. The beauty of having access to this city-owned theatre should not be underestimated. Ornate and grand are a few words I would use to describe the theatre with its Grecian architecture and gold-leaf trim. The restoration process included keeping as much of the original building as possible including the ticket windows in the lobby. The performances put on at The Perot are nothing short of diverse. From kid-centered productions like, Bob the Builder to the Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular and everything in between. Not to mention community-based events like dance recitals and other performances. Truly a crown jewel for the performing arts, I cannot wait to take advantage of all they have to offer.
Just when you thought Texarkana could not deliver more art, entertainment, and culture the Regional Arts and Humanities Council (Regional Arts Center) housed in the old courthouse offers 6-7 rotating art exhibits per year. The exhibits are free and highlights local and nationally recognized artists! That alone should get you in the door. During holiday breaks you can find Arts on Main Camps for Kids taught by state certified art teachers. Adults can also take advantage of workshops to receive instruction on mosaics, clay, metalsmithing, art journaling, and more! I love the fact they engage all ages and skill levels.
I have several museums on my list to visit including the Discovery Place Children’s Museum. They are known for their giant prehistoric and scenic wildlife murals, hands-on exhibits for kids of all ages including toddlers and the huge 12-foot Sound Wall activated by touch. Kids want to touch everything, and I love the fact there is a museum for kids that gets this concept. The museum of Regional History encourages you to explore the rich history of Texarkana and serves as home to the Texarkana Arts & Historic District Visitors center. Stop by there first and get information on events and locations you will not want to miss.
The Ace of Clubs House is a Texas Historical Landmark and open for tours by appointment. Built in 1885 in the shape of a club, the house is considered one of the most unique in the country and has been featured in several publications and broadcasts. Yet another historic house, the P.J. Ahern Home is open for regular tours and boasts a Classical Revival style and historically preserved rooms including a nursery, music room, parlor, etc. I love taking a step back in time and visiting historic homes like this. Even our 7-year-old daughter appreciates seeing how things have evolved over time.
David stressed that it has been a team effort in putting Texarkana back on the map. He was born and raised in Texarkana so he truly has a personal stake in providing opportunities for young talent to return. Having a family of his own he understands the importance of having a balance of art, entertainment, education, and family friendly businesses. Downtown continues to be revitalized including Lofts at the Grim which will house 93 residential units, office space, rotating art exhibits, an atrium and banquet hall. This project is slated for grand opening in April 2021.
I asked David where we should eat when we visit and he gave me a few of his favorite places to go. These include Pecan Point Brewery, Verona Italian Restaurant, Zapata’s Mexican Restaurant and Hopkins Ice House.
If you have never visited Texarkana, what are you waiting for? You can find upcoming events and updates on their website, https://www.visittexarkanadistrict.com/
If you haven’t visited in a while, it’s time to go back! So much is changing and renovations are constantly underway. Whether you go for the day or decide to stay longer there is no shortage of things to do.