Flower lovers drawn to the Rose Capital of the Nation will find snazzy frocks and spicy guisado de puerco amid the petals and thorns.
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1. Tyler Municipal Rose Garden Center
After a peach blight decimated the county’s fruit industry in the early 1900’s, local farmers began cultivating a new cash crop: roses. The fragrant flower, a source of civic pride ever since, is celebrated each October at the Texas Rose Festival and blooms twice a year at this immaculately manicured fourteen-acre park. From dawn to dusk you can stroll among the more than 38,000 bushes and attempt to pick a favorite from the six hundred or so varieties, which are at their glorious peak this month. 420 Rose Park Dr., 903-531-1212, cityoftyler.org
2. Don Juan Mexican Restaurant and cantina
The colorful facade of this courthouse square cantina will catch your eye, but it’s your sniffer that’s going to lead you inside. You’ll scarcely have time to take in the festive ambience—the ceiling is strung with star-shaped piñatas and twinkle lights—before your attention is diverted to the plates of guisado de puerco (spicy pork in red sauce), enmoladas (chicken or steak enchiladas topped with mole and queso blanco), and shrimp fajitas (served with a tongue-awakening chorizo) emerging from the kitchen. 113 E. Erwin, 903-526-0702, donjuantyler.com
3. Ye Old City Antique Mall
Big-ticket items abound in this 12,000-square-foot antiques mall, which includes vendors offering estate sale items, a hair salon, and—coming soon—a tearoom. But even if your budget won’t allow you to haul off those ornately inlaid Victorian walnut cabinets or that English barley twist chair, chances are slim that you’ll leave empty-handed. There are so many moderately priced conversation starters—how about a vintage majolica oyster plate ($49) or a sailboat crafted from ox horn ($35)?—that it’s easy to justify spending at least a little something. 302 E. Locust, 903-705-1145, oldcitytyler.com
When Diane Bunker opened her clothing boutique in 1986, she specialized in the paint-your-own T-shirts that were then all the rage. Luckily, trends have evolved, as has this pink-and-lime shop, which is now known for its plethora of flattering frocks, including boldly patterned strapless Shoshanna minis and sweet color-block summer dresses designed by Tyler’s own Courtney Warren. Whether you gravitate to a silky Alice and Trixie romper or a hippie-chic Free People tank, the Leighelena python buckle cuffs or the stackable Juicy Couture rhinestone rings, you won’t be looking anything less than fashion-forward. 117 E. Eighth, 903-526-2226, shopspinout.com
5. Haute Totz
With so many zealous mommy bloggers broadcasting who wore what to the last playdate, today’s tots seem to have wardrobes as sophisticated as their parents’. Micro versions of designer duds are certainly flying off the tiny hangers at this upscale baby outfitter. The candy-colored Lacoste polos ($55), Splendid rugby-stripe tunics ($68), and diminutive pairs of Joe’s Jeans ($50) make basic onesies seem embarrassingly unhip. Even the accessories—like the Ellie Bellie Bows crochet hats (made by a local) and leopard-print Fox Paws loafers—are achingly stylish. It’s never too early, after all, to make a good first impression. 4815 Old Bullard Rd., 903-534-5888, hautetotz.com
6. Caffè Tazza
Like a boxer who retreats to his corner between rounds, a skilled shopper knows the importance of a well-timed coffee break. Refuel with a cold double-shot shakerato (served in a sugar-rimmed martini glass) or the orange clove cappuccino at this cafe nestled in the swanky La Piazza retail center. And don’t think twice about devouring a few La Suissa chocolates or a scoop of spumoni gelato: Considering all the calories you’ll be burning (trying on jeans can be just as aerobic as Jazzercise), you’re going to need the boost. 4815 Old Bullard Rd., 903-581-6601, caffetazza.net
On a recent Friday, a man in a muscle tee and dusty dungarees rushed into this gentleman’s store at closing time. Within minutes, he stepped out in a trim sport coat, a crisp button-down, and well-fitting jeans, ready for the date he was trying not to be late for. Proprietor Harley Hooper and his nattily dressed salesmen are pros at such swift transformations, but you’ll want to take your time browsing the colorful Kenneth Gordon and Ted Baker dress shirts, dapper Luigi Bianchi suits, and sleek Michael Toschi lace-ups. 4815 Old Bullard Rd., 903-534-9799, harleysformen.com
While the guys peruse cuff links next door at Harley’s, the ladies can do a little hunting of their own (the “his and her” stores are owned by a husband and wife). The prey? Contemporary pieces that will add oomph to any woman’s silhouette. This season, that means a Phoebe Couture dress with a scalloped leather skirt, a scarlet embossed-croc Eric Javits clutch, and fuchsia Butter platform peep-toe pumps. Tyler women, says the proprietress, “dress boldly no matter where they’re going.” 4815 Old Bullard Rd., 903-561-3136