From trailblazing the Big Thicket National Preserve to gorgeous gardens and wild attractions, some of Texas’s most enticing outdoor adventures are found in Beaumont. Hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals make their home in and along the ecologically diverse Neches River. A leisurely two-hour excursion aboard Neches River Adventure’s open-air pontoon boat is ideal for exploring this “last wild river” of East Texas. Or indulge your inner daredevil by feeding live alligators and petting baby ones at Gator Country Adventure Park. Here you can also take in one of the daily educational shows, and meet Big Al, the state’s largest American alligator in captivity.

In Tyrrell Park, southeast Texas flora is in full splendor at the Beaumont Botanical Gardens. Kids delight in feeding the ducks, turtles, and Japanese imperial koi in the park’s pond, and because Beaumont is on a major migratory flyway, Cattail Marsh affords excellent birding. Besides being a birding hot spot, Beaumont is fast becoming a mecca for canoe paddlers. To experience this “biological crossroads of North America,” canoe Village Creek, one of the state’s newest paddling trails. On the 21-mile float, you’ll see more plant and animal species than on any similar-sized area on this continent.