How to Spend 24 Hours in Port Arthur, Texas
As you approach Texas from the East, Port Arthur is one of the first towns you will come to. It is 100 miles East of Houston.
This Gulf Coast town is home to the largest oil refinery in the state of Texas and several other oil companies. Petroleum is still a key industry and the culture is based around the black gold. Port Arthur has beaches, serene waterways, fun attractions, educational sites, and fantastic birding trails.
During a Texas road trip, Port Arthur was the first stop on the itinerary that my daughter, Taylor, and I chose to visit. See what we found to do with only 24 hours in Port Arthur, Texas, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat in this unique Texas town.
What to Do in Port Arthur
Start with the biggest tourist attraction in town, the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Here, you will find treasures and exhibits that cover Port Arthur’s oil-entangled history, famous local residents, and area history. The Museum of the Gulf Coast also has a great Texas Navy maritime exhibit.
My favorite part of the museum was the tribute to noteworthy Port Arthur (and surrounding areas) residents.Would you have guessed that nearly 200 people are featured in the museum displays? These included George Jones, “The Big Bopper”, Jimmy Johnson (head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and 2 time Super Bowl winner), and Bum Phillips (head coach of the Houston Oilers/Saints), to name a few. They even have an Academy Award.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Snell Gallery features a lovely selection of antique glassware from around the world as well as interesting furniture. Robert Rauscenberg, world-renowned painter and graphic artist, also has a gallery at the museum he helped create. It is said that his early works helped bring forth the pop art movement. Robert was an idol to pop icon Andy Warhol.
Janis Joplin: Port Arthur’s Most Famous Resident
Did you know legendary singer Janis Joplin was from Port Arthur? She was and is still one of the most influential artists and considered the “Queen of Rock”. Two of her biggest songs, “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” earned the soulful singer #1 on the billboard charts and a place in the hearts of her fans, many whom travel internationally to Port Arthur to see the attractions.
You can see her childhood home still standing in Port Arthur at 4330 32nd Street. The Museum of the Gulf Coast has an impressive display of her artwork, photographs, and memorabilia on display permanently.
More Fun Stops
Next, head over to the Pompeiian Villa. This early 1900’s home was built by Isaac Elwood, the barbed wire king. Elwood sent architects to Italy to research the style of elaborate home he wanted and this villa replicated just that.
The Pompeiian Villa, in a beautiful shade of pink, is filled with elaborate antiques, beautiful decorations, and a docent (Monteel) who offers fantastic stories about the grand home, which was purchased by the Port Arthur Historical Society in 1973. Ask her about her connection with Janis Joplin if that interests you.
A visit to Port Arthur should definitely include a stroll through the pristine gardens of the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple, dedicated in 1987. The lush landscape contains towering bamboo, koi ponds, lotuses, rose gardens, and many other beautiful blooms. If you take a tour, expect monks to lead you through the temple and meditation areas. The giant seven-foot tall golden Buddha statue will amaze you! The photo-ops here are more than impressive.
It may come as a shocker to see such a huge Buddhist attraction in Port Arthur. The Vietnamese landed here in the early 70’s for shrimping jobs and have made Port Arthur their home since. It is a lovely blend of cultures and certainly a cool offering in the United States.
We would hate for you to miss the beach so allow time to drive over to Sea Rim State Park located on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you will find five miles of uncrowded beaches for swimming, paddling, and fishing. You can even drive on the beach!
In the marshy areas, be on the lookout for gators (we saw an adorable little one!), coyotes, wild pigs, and a great selection of birds. Take a stroll on the Gambusia Nature Trail or stay overnight via camper, tent, and even sleep on the beach.
Where to Stay in Port Arthur
The TownePlace Suites is in a convenient part of Port Arthur. It provided Taylor and I a comfortable stay during our travels. The hotel showcases all of the wonderful features from Marriott Hotels that you would expect: a stylish lobby, swimming pool, and great gym, plus a functional room with plenty of space. Wi-Fi and parking were included with our stay, as well as a tasty piping hot breakfast buffet served each morning.
Rooms have either King or two Queen beds, attractive bed linens, a table with chairs, kitchen, and sitting area. There were plenty of plug-ins and lights–great for working. The sink area is outside of the bathroom, making it more convenient for two people sharing a room. Finally, the TownePlace Suites staff is exceptionally friendly and attentive.
Where to Eat in Port Arthur
Donut shops are everywhere in Port Arthur, Texas so you might as well join the locals and enjoy a sugary treat for breakfast. I didn’t have a preference, they were all good.
Cajun and Tex-Mex Lunches
For lunch, head over to Reel Cajun Seafood Restaurant and Bar. Although the menu is enormous and lists every kind of seafood you can imagine, it also has lunch priced items, a bonus in our book.
For our visit, Taylor had the RC Fried Chicken Sandwich with French Fries and I went with the Grilled Chicken Dinner with Cajun Creamed Corn and Green Beans. The food was very good and I loved the homemade goat cheese sauce that came on my grilled chicken. The cajun corn was something I’d never tried and it lit me up–good thing I like spicy food. The taste was exceptional!
Another great lunch or dinner choice is Rodair Roadhouse. This was my favorite restaurant in Port Arthur. Taylor and I had exceptional appetizers including Fried Green Tomatoes (which they are known for) and Hot & Crunchy Shrimp.
For my main course, I chose the Red Beans and Rice, a good choice. We also had Cajun Fried Ribs, a unique dish that is a big seller, where the St. Louis pork ribs are actually breaded and fried. Rodair’s country-west setting and decor was appealing to the eye while the comfort food menu items were really tasty. They often have live music of the evenings.
Mexican and Steakhouse Dinners
For dinner, get your Mexican food fix on at Rancho Grande or enjoy Saltgrass Steakhouse, a chain restaurant with all of your classic steakhouse favorites.
At Rancho Grande, start with creamy White Queso, warm tortilla chips, and salsa. The Chicken Fajita Flautas and Quesadillas are both good choices. The flautas are served with rice and beans and a tiny side of yellow cheese dip.
If you choose Saltgrass Steakhouse, a steak is a must. I had the 6 oz Filet Mignon with a side salad and macaroni and cheese. It was heavenly! The steak was cooked to perfection while the macaroni and cheese was creamy and tasty. Another dish we recommend is the Cheese Fries appetizer. Though more chunks of potato than fries, they are very good, with ample toppings (bacon, cheese, green onions) and a zesty Ranch dipping sauce.
Port Arthur: Worth A Look
Port Arthur was a nice laid-back place to start our Texas road trip. We enjoyed the area and learned a lot about the petroleum business and the Golden Triangle area, which refers to the towns of Orange, Port Arthur, and Beaumont.
Next time you are headed to Lake Charles/New Orleans, Louisiana or Houston, Texas along Route I-10, take a little detour and check out Port Arthur. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Thanks for the Port Arthur CVB for hosting our trip through the area. As with all of my posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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