To wrap up Spring Break, I decided to utilize Friday to go see the East Texas city of Tyler, located about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. Having been to the other major city in the area, Longview, I was interested to see what the “Rose Capitol of the World” had to offer.
Upon arriving, the first attraction I went to is also what Tyler is most well-known for: roses. The Tyler Rose Garden and Museum, opened in 1952, is the world’s largest rose garden. Tons of people come each year to see the 38,000+ bushes and enjoy nature. In October of every year, there is the Tyler Rose Festival, an event that draws thousands of people to the area.
The point of entry into the Rose Garden is thru the museum building, a facility that not only displays the history behind the garden but also contains ample space that can be rented for various functions. On a Friday morning, it was pretty quiet inside except for a few people setting up for an event in one of the conference rooms. The friendly receptionist showed me the way to the garden, and pointed out the location of the small gift shop. As I walked out the back door into the garden, my first impression was that this place was pretty well maintained. I could see workers irrigating the plants and taking care of the upkeep.
The garden is divided up into sections, each with different themes and designers. One of them was the heritage garden. Displaying “antique” flowers and plants that are traditionally grown in Texas homes, it was a joint effort by two garden clubs and the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department.
Another section I enjoyed was the meditation garden. Not quite sure which organization designed this, but it was nicely done and provided for a place where people can connect with their inner zen. It contained a small pond and a gazebo area nearby for picnics and such.
On the other side, the idea garden had various plants grown in different environments, with the intent of giving homeowners creativity into what, how, and where they can grow their own stuff. I saw a green roof display that talked about how growing plants on a rooftop can cut back on energy costs. Sounds interesting!
Walking around the garden, the one thing I didn’t see were any roses. Come to find out, I came pretty early in the growing season, as the sea of red doesn’t bloom until late April/early May. Nevertheless, this visit was still a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Before leaving, I looked around the gift shop and picked up a postcard to add to the collection. One thing that I have learned from visiting all these places is that the postcard is an inexpensive yet memorable souvenir, and quite frankly sometimes the best item to buy in a gift shop!
After leaving the Rose Garden, I then went to one of Tyler’s most notable stores: Racquet and Jog. Opened in 1978, it has become pretty well known in the area as an apparel and sporting goods place. They have since expanded to other cities, including Dallas under the name Tyler’s.
There were a constant stream of customers entering and exiting the store. They stock many of the well-known brands such as Southern Marsh, Patagonia, and Nike. In addition, they also sell their own t-shirts with the company logo, which from my observation seems to be pretty popular with the teenage crowd. The service was excellent, and I ended up snagging one of their signature t-shirts.
Following lunch, it was off to the University of Texas at Tyler. One of eight campuses in the UT system, it was founded in 1971 and has just over 10,000 students attending as undergraduates. Being that it was Spring Break, the campus was pretty much dead.
I drove around, exploring campus. The buildings had that 1970s style look, but the grounds seemed pretty well maintained. There was a small pond with a dock in the middle, which I thought was pretty nice. As we are in East Texas, plenty of tall trees and vegetation were present.
Their clock tower reminded me of a similar structure at UT Arlington. In fact, the whole campus had that UTA flavor to it..perhaps they were designed by the same architect?
My next stop was downtown Tyler. Having flown over this area in the past, I knew that it has some buildings dotting its skyline, unlike other towns nearby. I walked around the town square, and checked out the Smith County Courthouse. Smith County is home to over 200,000 people over a span of 950 square miles.
Their downtown area was pretty well preserved, and had the traditional Texas design of the courthouse being in the middle with shops surrounding it. On the other side of the courthouse were memorials to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. There also happened to be a miniature playhouse exhibit going on that day, with different buildings being put on display. Haven’t seen those in quite a while – back home the city of Richardson has them during the Christmas season, but that’s really about it.
One of the more interesting downtown buildings is the Plaza Tower. This 20 story office building was built using a similar design as that of the Willis(formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago, although in reality the height is only that of the Willis’ antennas. I believe it is a multi-tenant building and not a corporate campus for any one company.
The last site I checked out before heading home was the Tyler Junior College. Community colleges provide outstanding value, and in my opinion are one of the best places one can attend for the first two years of their undergrad journey. This college is one of the few that I’ve seen that have dorms. Did some research, and found out that it is actually one of the largest community colleges in Texas! The architecture of the buildings don’t look like they belong to a junior college- with Roman pillars on a few of the buildings and a design that reminds me of Ole’ Miss.
In sum, this was a pretty nice trip! This is actually attempt #2 to explore Tyler, as the first time I flew here a maintenance issue forced me to fuel up and turn right back around. A place I didn’t go see due to time constraints: the zoo, which I heard is pretty worth checking out. Good thing it is only about a 10-minute drive from the airport, so that is where I shall go the next time I’m here!