Friday, April 22, 2011

A Freeway Runs Through It: Beaumont, Texas

There are only two places that I can honestly say that I have no imminent desire to return to: Dresden, Germany and Beaumont, Texas.

But let me begin with a quick disclaimer: I really like small towns and cities. I like them enough that I actively seek them out in my travels. Nothing excites me more than a visit to the general store in Goodsoil, Saskatchewan or a roadside sign beckoning me to the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington, Alberta. The dingier, the better.

And I'm from a small town. I understand small towns and cities. I'm certain Beaumont has a ton of redeeming qualities for the folks who live there--affordable (and beautiful) housing, nearby nature areas and preserves, tons of amenities and a good university.

But for the tourist, Beaumont offers little--unless you're really into box-store complexes that are only accessible via a series of confusing one-way service roads off the freeway that runs through it all.

I wanted to love Beaumont. I really did. And I can't say we didn't try. Here are the ways I attempted to embrace Beaumont:

1. We went downtown.

While Jay wanted to spend the day poolside, I was insistent that we couldn't spend our entire weekend at the hotel. There was a Texan city to be explored! So we headed down to Crockett Street, which is advertised as Beaumont's "entertainment district." I figured it would be a sure bet for some shopping and lunch.

I was wrong. Crockett Street is exactly one block long. And since they were setting up for a Clay Walker concert later than night, the street was blocked off.

No worries! We could still explore the rest of Beaumont's "downtown" district.

Turns out that nothing really happens in downtown Beaumont on Saturdays.


2. We went to the Parkdale Mall.

Following the downtown fiasco, we decided to give in and do what Beaumontonians seem to do best: box store shop. We headed to the Parkdale Mall (6155 Eastex Freeway), which is allegedly the best mall in town. Conclusion? It was a mall. It had all the same stores all malls have. I guess if you really like malls, that's cool.

Unfortunately, I don't really like malls.

Parkdale Mall=Fail

3. We went antiquing.

Jay LOVES antiques. So when I saw Lumberton's Antique Mall (1181 S Main HWY 96), I immediately pulled over. It was huge, but apart a few black Americana items (including a teapot that I broke), it didn't wow us.


4. We played mini-golf.

The Beaumont area offers several mini-golf courses. We narrowed it down to two contenders: Colorado Canyon and Adventure Kingdom. Since we weren't in Colorado, I arbitrarily decided that the Renaissance-themed course was somehow more regionally accurate.

In addition to offering bumper cars and swan paddle boats, Adventure Kingdom (located, like everything else, right off highway 96) offers an amazing 18-hole Miniature Golf course ($7.50 per person). It was fun.


Bottom line: if you go to Beaumont, go because you're invited to a beautiful Texan wedding by lovely hosts. (Thanks to the new bride, groom and family for having us!)

And if you do happen to find yourself in Beaumont, for whatever reason, here are your best bets:


For less than $100 a night, the MCM Eleganté offers rooms with flatscreen TVs, Simmons Beautyrest mattresses and breathtaking views of the freeway.

Just don't be turned off by the giant epitaph by the front door. After all, it makes for a great photo opportunity. (Although I think we broke the fourth commandment when we took this picture on Sunday.)

The MCM also has an awesome, although slightly rundown, pool area.


Vegetarians beware: you're going to have a hard time here. Cases in point:

1. I tried to order a chicken quesadilla without the chicken. (I even prefaced it with the statement of, "I know this is going to sound peculiar, but. . .") The server responded by full-out laughing at me and kindly telling me that it wasn't possible.

2. At the wedding, I had a vegetarian plate of roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. It was delicious and one of the best meals I had the entire trip. (And also incredibly considerate. I don't mean to inconvenience anyone by my personal choices.) However, it also featured bacon amidst the green beans.

Luckily, there are chain restaurants available city-wide. But we were looking to try something we couldn't get back home.

Cafe Del Rio (2830 I-10 East)
$30 (dinner for two with tax and tip)

Since steakhouses were clearly out of the question, Tex-Mex seemed to be the best bet. Jay and I checked out the Cafe Del Rio, which is ranked by Tripadvisor as Beaumont's #1 Tex-Mex restaurant. Jay ordered the Del Rio Duo, while I tried Enchiladas Dos Dinner.

The service was great and the price was right. But both meals were relatively flavourless and judging from the congealed skin covering my refried beans, it was reheated rather than freshly prepared. (I realize this is standard for a lot of restaurants, but it shouldn't be so apparent.) Jay's verdict? "I would hate to eat at the #2 Tex-Mex restaurant."

Hemingway's Café (2355 I-10 South)
$30 (dinner for two with tax and tip)

Located inside the MCM Eleganté, there is amazing food. Jay had the sliders and (after I was denied my chicken-less cheese quesadilla) I ordered the red pepper dip. The red pepper dip was spicy with cajun flavour and Jay's fries were perfectly crisp.

I'm not planning on returning to Beaumont in the immediate future. But if I do, I know now that the key is to just relax by the pool, eat at chain restaurants and enjoy time with family and friends.


  1. A for effort, Jessica! I laughed at the "rest of downtown Beaumont" pictures... they conveyed your point very clearly! I also had to smile at the chicken quesadilla story. I did a similar thing once, but as a meatatarian... I asked for a BLT without the L or the T. :D

  2. I love small towns, too! I always make my husband take the scenic route on our travel trailer trips so we can see more of our great state of Texas. I live in Lumberton(home of the great Adventure Kingdom!) I'm with you on the action around here! That's why we drive 2 hours to get to Houston for excitement. But thanks for giving our area a try. It may be lacking in some things, but it is definitely home for us. :-)

  3. Cafe Del Rio is far from #1, and now you know why the locals call it Bore mont...the fishing is really good in this area though.


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