FLORA, FAUNA AND HISTORY
Roses and azaleas are hallmarks of this charming Texas Main Street City of abundant gardens and brick-paved streets. But it wasn’t always that way. When a peach blight threatened Tyler’s main crop in the early 20th Century, growers began cultivating rose bushes. Now called “The Rose Capital of America,” Tyler celebrates the Texas Rose festival in October, a tradition since 1933. The Municipal Rose Garden and Museum showcases more than 450 varieties. In the museum you’ll find the elaborate gowns of Texas Rose Festival Queens and the history of the rose industry. There are more blooms to enjoy in late March and early April during the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail, which includes eight miles of residential gardens and historic home sites.
More natural wonders abound at the 85-acre Caldwell Zoo, where elephants, zebras and lions roam a realistic East African-style savannah and other animals live in environments that replicate their natural habitats of North and South America. Explore area history at the Smith County Historical Museum in the adaptively reused 1904 Carnegie Library, featuring WPA-era murals and exhibits including memorabilia from a pioneer Chinese family. For a taste of antebellum Texas, visit the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum, a Classical Revival mansion filled with antiques and period furnishings, photographs and memorabilia.
Tyler’s role in the Civil War is represented at Camp Ford Historical Park, the largest prisoner-of-war compound for Union troops west of the Mississippi River. The camp operated from 1863 until 1865 and features a kiosk with graphics detailing its history; a walking trail; interpretive signs; and a reconstructed prisoner-of-war cabin.
Downtown Tyler walking tours are available on Mondays, 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., September through May. The walk highlights Tyler's history, historic movie theatres, county courthouse, famous shootouts and jail breaks, and shopping venues and historic sites. Visit Tours of Tyler to schedule an appointment.