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Web Extra: Texarkana is twice as nice

Web Extra: Texarkana is twice as nice

Writer:  DANNY MOGLE

I have a soft spot in my heart for Texarkana. My father lived there during his teen years. When we returned to visit his siblings, I always thought it was cool that as you travel State Line Avenue, Texas is on one side of the street and Arkansas on the other.

I was familiar with the big 1930s-era courthouse that sits right in the middle of the street with half of it in Texas and half in Arkansas (each side has its own area code). A lot of people stop at “photographer’s island” in front of the courthouse to have their photo taken straddling the state line.

 

On a recent trip, after being away for several years, I discovered there is a lot more to see than a big courthouse on the state line. The downtown has more than its share of museums – many within easy walking distance – not to mention the fabulous Perot Theatre.

A new family-friendly attraction on Interstate 30 is bringing in more visitors than ever.

Texarkana – both sides – is worth a day of exploration.

THE PEROT AND JOPLIN MURAL

The Perot Theatre is a jewel of a performance hall. Located at 221 Main St., the Italian Renaissance building opened in 1924 as a vaudeville house called the Saenger Theater. It thrilled audiences with country humorist Will Rogers, sharp-shooter Annie Oakley and other legendary performers before falling into decline. In the late 1970s Texarkana native Ross Perot (the former presidential candidate) launched a $2.5 multi-million restoration.

Returned to its glory, The Perot hosts Broadway shows, symphony concerts and big-name acts. During a tour of the historic landmark, I found the real star to be the restored fresco plasterwork that makes the theater look and feel like a first-class European opera house.

Stepping out of The Perot, you can’t help but notice the large mural paying tribute to one of Texarkana’s famous native sons, Scott Joplin, the father of ragtime music.

Located at 311 Main, the mural depicts scenes from Joplin’s life and music notes from his most famous song “The Entertainer.”

 MUSEUMS

Texarkana’s museums are “places to explore the city’s past, present and future,” promises The Texarkana Museums System.

The Museum of Regional History, 219 State Line Ave., depicts the history of the region dating back to the Caddos. An interactive exhibit pays tribute to Joplin and his music.

Just a block away, 420 Pine St., is the kid-friendly Discovery Place Museum. Exhibits encourage children to have fun while learning about science, history and human perception. Special attractions are the dress-up theater and large “sound wall.”

The Ace of Clubs House at 420 Pine St. literally is in the shape of an ace playing card. It has 22-sides formed from three octagonal wings and rectangular wing. Legend has it that businessman James Draughan built the home in 1885 after winning a poker hand with – you guessed it – the ace of clubs. The furnishings are from families who have called it home over more than a century.

The Tex-Ark Antique Auto Museum, 217 Laurel, is open on weekends. On view at any time are about 20 vehicles from several eras of automobile manufacturing as well as auto related memorabilia.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS

Also worth checking out downtown is the Regional Arts Center housed in the 1911 federal courthouse building at 321 W. Fourth. A $1.6 million renovation transformed it into “the only museum-quality, high security exhibit space between Dallas and Little Rock,” according to the Texas Regional Arts Council,

The old courtroom has a 22-feet high ceiling. Many of the original features, including the marble flooring, have been preserved. RAC displays national and regional art exhibits and works from a growing permanent collection.

The newest attraction is Holiday Springs Water Park at 5501 Crossroads Parkway, just off Interstate 30.

Think of it as a splashing paradise of towering water slides – including a frightful sounding thing called the Blue Beast – wave pools, a lazy river and a special area just for the little ones called Monkeys Island.

This story includes information from Texarkana Museums System, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce and the Holiday Springs Water Park

 

 

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