Located just a short trip south of Tyler on U.S. Highway 69 is Jacksonville, in Cherokee County, at an elevation of 522 feet.
View to the east from Love's Lookout near Jacksonville (staff photo)
Jacksonville is a major hub for regional highways, including U.S. 69, U.S. 79, and U.S. 175, and a major facility for the Union Pacific Railroad. According to the 2020 Federal Census, Jacksonville had a population of nearly 14,000 residents.
It is known as the "Tomato Capital of the World" from a time when the area was a huge producer and shipper of tomatoes. The Tomato Bowl, a WPA project, is the home of the Jacksonville High School "Fight'n Indians" football and soccer teams.
Antique Shops, specialty boutiques, historical landmarks, local cuisine, beautiful golf course, a popular zipline course, a fun drive-thru Safari Park and the Tomato Bowl all combine to make Jacksonville a unique destination.
Annual Jacksonville events include the "Tomato Fest" celebration, and the "Tops in Texas Rodeo" in July.
In addition, some Jacksonville visitors choose the wide variety and number of hotels and motels available in nearby Tyler.
The Tomato Fest is held annually on the 2nd Saturday in June in Jacksonville, the Home of the World's Largest Bowl of Salsa. It is located at the corner of Commerce and Austin Streets. Events include Tomato Eating Contest, Soccer and Fishing Tournaments, Farmers Market, Salsa Contest, Chili's Street Dance, and more, with over 200 vendors!
Banner for the Annual Tomato Fest in downtown Jacksonville, Texas ... held the 2nd Saturday in June
Scene during the annual Tomato Fest in downtown Jacksonville, Texas
Seen everywhere in Jacksonville are those well-known painted tomatoes. Made of concrete and weighing 665 pounds, the tomato sculptures have become a popular artistic endeavor for area schools, businesses and alumni groups! The tomatoes were the brainchild of Randy Gorham, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Treasurer. Here are a couple of examples ...
Jacksonville, Texas City Hall
UT Health East Texas - Jacksonville
The famous Tomato Bowl ... Home of the Jacksonville Fight'n Indians
Just north of the City of Jacksonville, Texas on U.S. Highway 69 is Love's Lookout. At an elevation of 713 feet, it has long been known for its spectacular views to the east, on clear days as far as 30-35 miles.
Love's Lookout Scenic Park is a great place for walking or for family picnics, and includes a 5,500 square foot Visitor's Center facility with restrooms, vending machines, an information center and a sheriff's sub-station.
The Visitor's Center at Love's Lookout ... elevation 713 feet above sea level (staff photo)
Another beautifully painted tomato ... at the Love's Lookout Visitor's Center
The River Run ATV Park is located on the beautiful Neches River, west of Jacksonville and southeast of Frankston. The guests of River Run enjoy exploring on over 2,000 acres of private land. There are several miles of trails around the property for any type of riding. These trails lead through the wooded Neches River bottom and over oil field roads.
Many people enjoy riding their ATV’s, UTV’s, 4 x 4 trucks, horses, Bicycles, Golf Carts and other off-road vehicles, this park offers trails for everyone. Offered are extreme muddy trail riding, dry trail riding, and scenic views of the Neches River and mountain area of Big Rock.
Read more at the River Run website
Lake Jacksonville, built in 1957, is located minutes from downtown, about three miles southwest of Jacksonville and covers an area of 1,320 acres.
The lake provides exceptional beauty and recreation for residents and area visitors – including a renowned fishery. One of the lake’s distinguishing characteristics is its crystal clear water, adding to the depth of its natural beauty.
It is the city's main water source and a popular destination for boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities, both for residents and tourists.
The City’s Parks Department offer outstanding waterfront campsites for visitors, located on a peninsula just 3 minutes from downtown. Amenities include 10 screened shelters, seven camping sites with water and electricity, 10 R.V. pads with water and electricity (for those who prefer “glamping” over camping) and panoramic views of the lake. Dedicated restroom facilities provide full showers with heated water for the campers. A public boat ramp adjacent to the campsites offer easy launch access in addition to two other public boat ramps conveniently located around the lake.
Lake Columbia, a project still in the planning stage by the Angelina and Neches River Authority, will cover about 10,000 surface acres and be 14 miles long. The dam will be located about two miles east of Jacksonville, and the lake will have 95 miles of shoreline. Estimated cost: $200 million. The project is currently on hold.
Located on the north side of Jacksonville on U.S. 69, this popular food truck and restaurant provides a large variety of shrimp, catfish, crab legs, and crawfish dishes ... enjoy great fried catfish dinners with hush puppies, okra, or French fries, and a new item on the menu - chicken-fried steak. Plus live and boiled crawfish, and fried turkey, in season.
The setup includes a lighted, on-site gazebo for dining, or for hosting special events. Parking is plentiful ... kids will enjoy the fenced play area. Highly recommended!
3018 North Jackson Street (U.S. 69)
FaceBook or phone 903.571.8890
Cherokee Trace Drive-thru Safari is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. See over two dozen exotic and endangered species that thrive in an open habitat similar to their native territory.
At your own pace, enjoy a self-guided drive through the hills and open savannas of this 300-acre preserve.
The safari is located at 1200 CR 4405, about 12 miles east of Jacksonville, Texas. Phone 903.683.3322
Texas State Railroad
A popular East Texas attraction is the well known Texas State Railroad, which has a rail station in Rusk and one in Palestine.
Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the celebrated rails of the Piney Woods Route between the quaint East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk on a 50-mile roundtrip adventure.
This quintessential daytrip, only a few hours from the metropolitan communities of Dallas and Houston, will create a memory that will last a lifetime.
Visitors and locales alike also enjoy Nichols' Green Park, with miles of walking trails. Also popular is the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge with 7,000 acres of wildlife and trails. The Cherokee Ranch Golf Club offers challenging courses for any level of golfer.
The city has gained recent fame as the hometown of country music singers Lee Ann Womack and Neal McCoy, and Hollywood star and Emmy Award winner Margo Martindale of the hit series "Justified" on the FX channel.
For more information, we recommend a visit to the ...
Vintage postcard of the Hotel Liberty, Jacksonville, Texas
Jacksonville was established in 1847 as Gum Creek. Jackson Smith built a home and blacksmith shop in the area, and became postmaster in 1848. About the same time, Dr. William Jackson established an office near Smith's shop. When the townsite was laid out in 1850, the name Jacksonville was chosen to honor these men.
The Union Pacific railroad and its predecessors has a strong presence in Jacksonville. Two other railroads, the Southern Pacific and Cotton Belt, abandoned their lines in the area in the mid-1980s. Read more about the Cotton Belt rail line running from Tyler through Bullard and Jacksonville to Rusk and Lufkin.
Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot, Jacksonville, Texas
|East Commerce Street, Jacksonville, Texas
|United States Post Office, Jacksonville, Texas
|Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, Texas
|Municipal Building, Jacksonville, Texas