By Vanessa Price
“Love is all around” in the Southeast corner of Van Zandt County, Texas, (between Dallas and Shreveport) where you’ll find a unique district with three small towns and beautiful surrounding countryside. There’s plenty to experience in a four-day weekend kicking it off on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14.
First, make reservations at the lovely Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott on Interstate 20 or try one of the bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, or cabin retreats in the district. There’s a complete list of lodging choices as well as places to wine, dine, shop, and play on the Van Zandt Arts & Cultural District Explore Guide.
Here are some suggestions as you plan your stay.
Thursday, February 14
Start your Valentines’ Day adventure in Edom, home to a row of local artists where the anchors — Potters Brown and Zeke & Marty Jewelry — have created art for more than four decades. Pottery and jewelry from their studios make lovely one-of-a-kind gifts for yourself or others.
Edom has two home-style restaurants for lunch, The Shed and Edom Café. Try the chicken fried steak at The Shed and don’t forget the homemade pie. Go for a walk touring the shops in Edom, then make your way over to Ben Wheeler for drinks and dinner.
The Forge Bar & Grill has a full bar and offers a diverse menu with daily gourmet specials as well as burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and vegetarian options including veggie tacos. Try the bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese.
Across the street is Moore’s Store offering specialty sandwiches like The Dancing Pig, fresh hamburgers, onion rings, cobbler and happy hour from 3-7 p.m.
As you drive between the towns in the district, take some time to look at the scenery with beautiful sunsets, nature, longhorn cattle, and bright starry skies.
This time of year the sunsets tend to be a mix of dusty purples, pinks, and orangey gold. If you are able to enjoy a sunset with a campfire, even better.
Friday, February 15
Depending on your starting point, have a classic Southern breakfast in Van at The Farmhouse near Interstate 20 or the long-time downtown located Dinner Bell; in Ben Wheeler at The Forge; or Edom at The Shed or Edom Cafe.
Whether you enjoy a good round of golf (Garden Valley Golf Resort), museums (try Roseland Plantation tours by appointment), historical sites (see Battle of the Neches site), shopping (Van: Bouquets & Bows; Ben Wheeler: numerous retail shops; Edom: several art and retail shops), wineries (Van: Valle Della Pace or Edom: Green Goat) or just getting to know the local characters, Friday’s a good day to meander about the district.
If you find yourself in Van during the day, try Su Casa Cantina & Grill with fresh guacamole, brisket tacos, and margaritas. They are also open nightly with a full bar and often have live music.
Another dinner option is Edom Café with their Friday Steak Night special from 4-8 p.m. For $16.99 you get an Angus Ribeye steak and sides plus a non-alcoholic drink.
Friday evenings in the Van Zandt Arts & Cultural District offer numerous opportunities for dining and live music. In Ben Wheeler you’ll find live music at The Forge as well as Moore’s Store. Moore’s often has dance bands so if you want to scoot your boots this is the place to be. Green Goat Winery offers delicious meat and cheese trays to go with their tasty wines and a party is often going on at the Edom Art Emporium.
Saturday, February 16
If you have an interest in history, check out the Van Oil Museum, open only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. While in Van, coffee drinkers will enjoy a local favorite, Clean Brew. It’s a gourmet coffee shop in a laundry mat in a residential area off downtown Main Street. They have a drive-thru window.
For the rest of the day, plan to do some of the things you didn’t get to on Friday.
White Fox Vineyards is only open on Saturdays and it’s worth the trip south of Ben Wheeler for wine and live music. Bringing a picnic to go with the wine is suggested.
Blue Moon Gardens east of Edom is a must see. It feels good just to hang out amongst the garden areas but if you want to take some plants home this is the place to find a great selection. It also has a fiber arts studio and an intriguing gift shop located in on old farmhouse.
Other than the anchor stores of Potters Brown and Zeke and Marty, shopping in Edom includes Arborcastle Birdhouses, Buffalo Clover, Cade Republic, Old Firehouse Gallery, Directions Antiques, Whimsical Woods, and the aforementioned Edom Art Emporium — all open Saturday and several worth the trip are open on Sunday.
Sunday, February 17
Sunday Brunch at The Forge is delicious with choices like Eggs Florentine, Migas, Breakfast Pizza, or The Hippy, a three-egg omelet with several cheeses and veggies. Pair up your food choice with a good cup of coffee or one of their delicious Bloody Mary or Mimosa drinks.
This is a good time to check out any of the Ben Wheeler shops you didn’t see previously as most of them are open Sunday. Don’t miss Mr. B’s Antiques, BE’s Records, Rusted Oak Woodworks, and Glitz and Spurs Boutique.
Pop into Vintage Cork 917 after cruising historic downtown Ben Wheeler for a glass of wine. If you like both wine and shopping you are in luck, because they have both under one roof — open Saturday and Sunday only.
While you’re in the district watch for deer and wild hogs while driving on two lane country roads. And, if you’d like more nature relaxation in your getaway — check out campfires, hot tubs, quiet retreats, wooded grounds, fishing, nature trails, and other amenities in the list of lodging choices to find the right fit for you. Learn more about the district on www.VanZandtACD.com.