Country Music Hayride - Esquire Theater

The Country Music Hayride at the Esquire Theater Saturday, October 28, 2017, in Carthage. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Oh East Texas, how do we love you? You’re a hot, humid, beautiful mess. You’re a sweet song and an old story. You’re a walk in the park that we hope never ends. We just can’t get enough of you. Here's a look at just some of the reasons View Magazine believes East Texas is a place like no other.

Man, it sure is pretty here

The Sabine River is 555 miles of water that connects centuries of East Texans since before there was such a thing as East Texas. The water itself is perhaps not so pretty, muddy and dark, hiding snakes and yes, alligators, too. But people still live along its banks. They fish, swim, boat, tube and hunt there, and it is beautiful – even when it’s not.

Caddo Lake is a haunting relic from the past, with its quiet beauty, tranquil waters and ghostly cypress trees. The state park attached to the lake provides visitors a passport into the lake's other-worldly beauty, but a faithful group of residents call the lake home, as well.

As long as we’re talking about beautiful waters, let’s not forget Camp Tonkawa Springs, outside Nacogdoches. It's clear, cool waters are the exact opposite of the secretive Sabine River and Caddo Lake. Swimming is available year round - yep, even in the winter.

Nature shows us how much she loves us each spring when Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Gardens bloom near Gladewater, featuring more than 800 acres of daffodils planted decades ago.

We love our musical roots

In Linden, the American Legion Auditorium was renovated to house the Music City Texas Theater, where regular concerts continue to pay homage to the area's musical roots.

In Carthage, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum attract tourists, recognize Texas musicians and host concerts and contests.

Also in Carthage, the Country Music Hayride features lives music and movies in the old Esquire Theater.

A life-size sculpture of the famous singer "Gentleman" Jim Reeves marks his grave on a 1-acre site east of Carthage on U.S. 79.

The Gladewater Opry continues a decades-old tradition of providing live country music and featuring entertainers of all ages in the historical Cozy Theater in Gladewater.

Live music venues are all over East Texas, from the renovated feed store Anvil Brewing in downtown Pittsburg, the Back Porch in Kilgore, and Oil Horse Brewing Co. in downtown Longview, to name a few.

We appreciate the finer things

The Longview Symphony has been around 50 years and features professional musicians. There's also the all-volunteer East Texas Symphonic Band, a community chorus through Kilgore College and a youth orchestra at LeTourneau University, among other performing groups.

ArtsView Children's Theatre has expanded opportunities for East Texas youth to participate in theater.

Longview Ballet Theatre has been training new generations of dancers for decades, while bringing professional ballet to the city to perform with the local dancers.

The Longview Museum of Fine Arts has provided a venue to view and learn about different kinds of art and artists for 60 years.

The world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes introduced a new form of dance to the world, while continuing to teach and celebrate more traditional forms of the art.

The Texas Shakespeare Festival at Kilgore College brings professional theater to East Texas each summer.

LeTourneau University's Belcher Center brings professional performances to East Texas as well, from dance troupes to comedy, theater and more.

We stand the test of time

The Gregg County Historical Museum celebrates this area's rich history with such exhibits as the Buddy Calvin Jones Caddo Collection, which is one of the largest collections of prehistoric artifacts in the region, and one about one of the bloodiest shootouts in the old West - a bank robbery involving members of the Dalton gang that happened right here in Longview.

Jefferson's quaint downtown has regaled us for decades with tales of the old South, steamboats and a standoff with a railroad baron. A multitude of events and attractions celebrate Jefferson's history and its place in East Texas' story, from the annual Historical Pilgrimage to the Historic Jefferson Railway.

The East Texas Oil Museum memorializes that time when oil became king in East Texas and helped change the world. 

Originally built by state jail prisoner to connect Rusk and Palestine, the Texas State Railroad offers rides pulled by vintage steam and diesel locomotives.

Johnson's Ranch Marina on Caddo Lake claims the title of the "oldest inland marine still operating in the state of Texas," having been established in 1908.

T.C. Lindsey & Co. store in Jonesville has been in business since 1847, selling a step back in time along with a host of goods of all kinds.

Gladewater is known as the antique capital of East Texas, with numerous antique stores selling pieces of history, along with other unique shops.

We're pretty sure an East Texan flew first. Take a look at the model Ezekiel Airship inside the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Center and Museum in Pittsburg. It's said the Rev. Burrell Cannon built and flew the airship based on a description from the book of Ezekiel in the Bible.

And did we mention the food?

The original Bodacious Bar-B-Q restaurant on Mobberly Avenue in Longview has gained notoriety and lots of fans under the leadership of Jordan Jackson, son-in-law of the chain's founder, Roland Lindsey, and fellow Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate Scott Turner.

We've got Efurd Orchads with fresh peaches and other fruits and vegetables, along with - we're already salivating - peach ice cream. Yum.

Neely's is marking 91 years in Marshall this year, with a cult following for its famous Brown Pig sandwich - hickory smoked ground pork served on a bun with a secret sauce, lettuce and mayonnaise.

Fugler's Grocery and Market has been in Marsall since 1940, but in about 1984 the business started selling the Bubba burger. It put the restaurant on the map, with its 12-ounce patties of meat - as many as you want, dressed however you want them.

The Pittsburg Hot Links restaurant has made a name for itself with its more than 100-year-old recipe.

Then there's Cace's Kitchen, which has revived the recipes we love from Johnny Cace's; Dudley's Cajun Cafe; the elegant Barron's Cafe and, when we need something sweet, Edible Art, home of the Texas Shaped Cookie.

Seriously, you should park yourself right here

The Lear Park Athletic Complex is the centerpiece of youth sports in Longview and home to the showcase Jack Mann Splash Pad.

Longview's parks are home to three disc golf courses.

Rotary/AMBUCS Park and the Spring Hill Park, built with the help of country musician Neal McCoy and AMBUCS Too, provide accessible playgrounds for children with disabilities.

Longview's trail system and its shining star, the Paul G. Boorman Trail, provide exercise and access to almost the entire city.

Teague Park is home to Veterans Plaza, with a replica Vietnam Memorial Wall and other monuments recognizing veterans of all branches and wars.

Downtown Longview is home to a popular coffee shop, micro-brewery, the historical museum, art museum, children's theater and Longview World of Wonders, a hands-on children's discovery center.

Odds and ends we can't forget

The Great Texas Balloon Race is held each July. The balloon glow that started in Longview has spread throughout balloon festivals worldwide.

In Carthage, the 14-foot "Footprints in the Sand" monument depicts Jesus as he is described in the poem.

Pilgrim's Pride was once king in Pittsburg. The corporate chicken giant is no longer what it was, but a giant fiberglass head of one of the company's founders, Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim and a bronze statue of him and his chicken, Henrietta, still grace the roadside on U.S. 271.