The Best Things To Do on a Day Trip to Denison, Texas
November 28, 2020
The small and charming town of Denison, TX sits at the border of Texas and Oklahoma with a population around 25,000. It is known for being the birthplace of Dwight Eisenhower, the home of the first electric interurban railway in Texas and for delicious locally produced wine. Over the past few years, they have redesigned parts of the Downtown area, adding ample amounts of parking and places to walk! On Main Street, you’ll find public art, 19th century architecture and lots of things to do. Only a little over away from DFW, Denison is great for a day trip from Dallas or a nearby weekend trip out of the city.
I loved the musical art around downtown. You’ll find crosswalks made up of piano keys, interactive instruments to play with, a guitar sculpture and murals with musical themes.
Unfortunately, while I loved the town, I felt uncomfortable at times because many businesses on Main Street weren’t following the mandated mask guidelines for Covid-19. Please wear a mask if you visit anytime soon.
You could easily spend a day exploring Main Street and popping in and out of the various shops and restaurants. Here are the places that stood out to me:
- 410 Collective: This beautiful boutique is full of greenery and great gifts. You’ll find a plant bar where you can pot your own succulent, clothing and an assortment of other items. You’ll also see a coffee shop in the back of the shop that serves coffee and some pastries.
- Incubator Rail Yard: The Railyard is a small food hall with few different restaurants and a bar serving local craft beer. I ate at Lettuce Indulge - a restaurant that grows their food using aquaponics. They had a bunch of lettuce growing there, it was cool to see!
- 1880 Ice House: 1880 Ice House is slightly off of Main Street but still worth mentioning. They have a large beer garden with lots of outdoor seating. Grab pizza or a sandwich from the Knife & Whisk food truck and order a drink from the bar. There is often live entertainment there as well.
- Ivanhoe Aleworks, Homestead Winery and Devolli's Italian Restaurant: Inside of an old theater, you’ll find a brewery, winery and Italian restaurant. These three businesses all have great selections of their specialties and the location feels unique and local.
- Kaboodles and Vintage Mercantile: Check out these two shops for antiques and gifts. Kaboodles has an eclectic mix of items, from local artisan made products to unique artwork and decor. Vintage Mercantile also has beautiful antiques and a ton of home decor.
For a casual place to grab lunch or dinner, check out the Denison Food Truck Park. It's located about a block south of Main Street. You’ll find a taco truck, BBQ, hibachi, smoothie bowls and more. They have a great variety, perfect for trying a couple places and sitting outside. The park is BYOB and claims to be the first food truck park in Texoma.
Not far from Main Street, you can tour the home in which former president Dwight Eisenhower was born. Inside you’ll find period antiques and learn about Eisenhower’s life growing up. Outside, you can walk around the beautifully manicured landscape and see a statue of the former president. Eisenhower was the first U.S. president to be born in Texas.
Currently due to Covid, tours of the home are self guided and must be reserved in advance. If you don't call ahead to reserve a spot, you can still walk around the grounds.
The Katy Depot has historic train cars that mark the North-South Railway Connection. They’re cool for a photo op. If you want to learn more, visit the Red River Rail Museum to see a ton of railroad memorabilia and learn more about the history. The museum is run by volunteers and they give guided tours.
A little outside of town, the Hidden Hanger Winery is also worth checking out. The land that is now a vineyard used to be a municipal airport in the early 1900’s. The hanger was destroyed in a 1960’s fire, but the concrete foundation remains. Today, they serve delicious wines and cheese plates and have some fun plane-themed motifs inside. They also have a lot of outdoor seating and games like giant jenga.
Denison is located within the Texoma viticultural area in North Texas, meaning that the climate is great for growing wine grapes. There are only eight of these regions in Texas and the Texoma area is the third largest. All this to say that you should definitely enjoy some wine while visiting Denison!
When I visited, the Sweet Tooth Hotel (permanent location located in Dallas) had a pop-up exhibit in Denison. It was an adorable pink container holding a secret winter wonderland. Check out my Instagram reel to see what it was like! The Denison Arts Council helps facilitate special events like this throughout the year, including a Dia de muertos festival. Visit their website to find out if there’s an event happening during your visit!
The Waterloo Lake Regional Park has a small lake with a 7 mile hiking and biking trail surrounding it. They also have a 1.9 mile Cave Trail that will bring you to an interesting little cave that you can walk inside. One thing that really stood out to me at the park were the amount of ducks and geese near the lake - there was a considerable amount. This park is great to check out for an easy hike or just to enjoy the views of the lake.
Eisenhower State Park is located minutes from downtown Denison on the banks of Lake Texoma. The park offers swimming, hiking and biking trails, camping and even ATV trails. Rocky cliffs rise up in contrast to the blue water of Lake Texoma, making for beautiful scenery all around.
There are only a couple trail options for hiking, the Ike’s Hike and Bike Trail and the Armadillo Hill Trail. Large parts of the Ike’s Trail run along the edge of Lake Texoma providing multiple viewpoints of the water. Check out the ‘Lover’s Leap’ point of interest on the park map and you’ll find an eroding cliff standing tall above the water. On the Armadillo Hill Trail, there is not only another great view of the water, but if you look closely you’ll see fossils of shells in the rocks.
You can find a lot of ammonite fossil shells in the park - they look like coiled shells. I saw many while heading towards the water on the Armadillo Hill Trail.
There is a beautiful little beach area at the northern end of the park. It’s framed by cliffs and only a few steps away from the Ike’s Hike and Bike Trail. It’s not huge, but is great for spending time laying out or enjoying the cool Lake Texoma in the summer. Try to get there early because it can get really crowded on warm days.
The park has a whole system of OHV trails, which is super unique! If you have an ATV or dirt bike, check out their trails which range in varying difficulties. Also note that you need to obtain a permit in advance. Find all the details on their website.
Eisenhower State Park is also home to many boat docks and the Eisenhower Yacht Club. At their marina store, you can rent a pontoon boat, kayak, canoe or paddle board to explore Lake Texoma. Exploring the lake by kayak gives you a gorgeous vantage point of the rocky cliffs throughout the park.
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