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Bloom Town: Tyler, Texas

The best kinds of trips allow groups to stop and smell the flowers, and there’s no better place to do that than the Rose Capital of America.

Founded in 1846, Tyler, Texas, was once known for its peach production before a blight in the early 1900s forced local farmers to switch to roses. Today, the east Texas city is responsible for processing about 80% of the roses in the U.S. These fragrant flowers have become an integral part of the city’s culture and its tourism industry and can be found throughout Tyler’s lush landscapes, its elaborate displays of local history and its glamorous festivals.

Here are a few highlights, floral and otherwise, groups should include when visiting Tyler.

Texas Rose Festival

The Texas Rose Festival is the crown jewel of tourism in Tyler, drawing thousands annually to celebrate Tyler’s history and its most prominent industry. Each year, the festival features a unique theme and costumed performers. This 89-year-old Tyler tradition is held on the third weekend in October, but preparations begin as early as January, giving performers plenty of time to craft elaborate costumes and rehearse.

“They spend a lot of time on it,” said Susan Travis, vice president of servicing and tourism at Visit Tyler.

The festival comprises several events for groups to attend. It kicks off with a coronation, where the festival’s royal court is crowned. The following day begins with the Rose Parade, where groups can watch floats and performers from stadium seats. After the parade, they can attend the Queen’s Tea in the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and take photos with the parade’s court. An arts-and-crafts fair held simultaneously in a nearby park is the perfect place to shop for local, handmade artwork and jewelry.

If a group can’t make it to Tyler on the weekend of the festival, there are still many opportunities to see Tyler’s roses in its Municipal Rose Garden, which features 14 acres of gardens filled with 200 varieties. Groups can learn about the history of the rose industry in Tyler by rounding out their trip with a visit to the Tyler Rose Museum and Gift Shop.

Azalea and Spring Flower Trail

Tyler’s other annual flower-themed event is the Azalea and Spring Flower Trail, which runs annually for three weekends in late March through early April. Azaleas were first introduced to Tyler in 1929 and became immensely popular with homeowners. In 1960, the city marked an official five-mile trail of 60 homes with beautifully landscaped, azalea-filled yards. Due to its popularity, the trail has grown to span eight miles and attracts over 100,000 visitors every year.

In addition to highlighting Tyler’s beautiful azalea blooms, this trail also shows off Tyler’s history and local culture. During each weekend of the trail, the city hosts events for visitors and locals alike. One of the most popular, Historic Tyler on Tour, opens up some of Tyler’s historic homes to the public and doubles as a fundraiser for Historic Tyler, which preserves Tyler’s historic buildings.

“These are actual residential homes that are in the beautiful historic districts,” said Travis.

These extravagant homes are open for tours one weekend during the event. Docents tell visitors about the history of the homes and the families that built them. Another fun, local tradition that takes place during the trail is the Spirits of Oakwood. Groups can walk through Tyler’s historic Oakwood Cemetery, where locals in period costumes pose as some of the town’s most important founding members buried there to give visitors a dose of local history. For additional local shopping, the same arts-and-crafts fair that takes place during the Texas Rose Festival also occurs during the Azalea and Spring Flower Trail.

Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum

Located in the heart of downtown Tyler, the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum is a historic home built in 1859. The majestic house was once a one-story, four-room house. It underwent several renovations before being bequeathed to the city of Tyler in 1940 by Sallie Goodman LeGrand. Today, it operates as a public museum showcasing life in Tyler throughout the years, with antiques, artwork and other artifacts belonging to the house’s former occupants. The home is furnished with the original furniture and artwork belonging to the Goodman-LeGrand family.

“It’s like you step back in time,” said Travis.

Groups can take guided tours through the house to learn about its long history. Artifacts dating back to the Civil War give visitors a glimpse into life in Tyler through important periods of America’s past, making it a treat for history buffs. Visitors can also take a serene walk through the property’s beautiful gardens.

For an entertaining meal, groups can arrange to participate in a murder mystery dinner hosted at the Goodman-LeGrand house. A trip to the museum gift shop is the perfect way to commemorate a visit to the historic home.

Kiepersol Vineyard, Winery and Distillery

Kiepersol Vineyard, Winery and Distillery provides groups the opportunity to enjoy a variety of unique local spirits and fine dining. Founded by Pierre De Wet in 1998, today Kiepersol is managed by his two daughters. It’s located on a picturesque farm just outside of Tyler and includes a vineyard, distillery, restaurant, and bed and breakfast. The vineyard features 16 varietals of grapes planted on 63 acres. Kiepersol also makes its own spirits on the estate, including a bourbon, vodka, rum and texuila, a Texas-made version of tequila.

“We have a lot of wineries in this area, but Kiepersol is definitely one of the favorites,” said Travis. “It’s the largest and oldest winery here close to Tyler.”

Groups can enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the farm’s vineyards and distillery to learn how the wine and spirits are made. Tastings provide the opportunity to sample the abundance of wines.

Kiepersol is as well-known for its fine dining as it is its wines; the barn-wood lined restaurant offers an elegant dining experience and a selection of hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood and the estate’s wines. Groups of up to 42 can be accommodated for lunch or dinner in one of the restaurant’s private rooms.