As an alum of Stephen F. Austin State University, who lived in Nacogdoches for 6 years and began my career there, I feel that the oldest town in Texas will always be a second home. While Nacogdoches is known for its traditions, it is also a constantly evolving and changing town.  Every time I revisit, I find a new spot and hidden gem to enjoy. From coffee shop hopping, to trail running, to main street strolling– Nacogdoches is the perfect place to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the city, relax, and remember what makes life good. 

Let’s start with coffee. I am an avid coffee drinker. Nothing gets me going and energized like a solid cup of joe, and now, Nacogdoches has a wide variety of local coffee shops. My friend and I decided it would be fun to do what we call a “Coffee Shop Hop” as we made our way through town. Our first stop? Java Jacks– An all-time favorite. I spent many afternoons while working on my undergrad degree, reading my text books in the upper level of Java Jacks coffee shop. The comforting, cozy atmosphere and smell of coffee beans as you walk-in entices the senses. If I’m feeling something sweet, the frozen Snickers is my go to, but I can never leave without buying a bag of their Red Dirt coffee blend to bring home. It’s a nice, subtle reminder of the Pineywoods. 

The next stop on our Coffee Shop Hop was University Coffee, which was a new coffee destination for me. The aesthetic of this renovated house was charming and tranquil, and the big, open windows in the front of the shop give customers a nice view of North Street as they sip their coffee or tea. I was pleased to find that this particular shop carries crowd pleasers like the Peppermint Mocha and Pumpkin Spice Latte, and a few original coffee flavors, too, like a Blueberry Pancake Latte. If I were still a student, I probably would have frequented this place at least once a week, but as an alum, I hope to revisit sometime and come here to enjoy a good book or pleasant conversation. 

The last stop on our Coffee Shop Hop was Gall’s Coffee, located on Main Street in downtown Nacogdoches. The door front, sophisticated interior, and glamorous chandelier hanging from the ceiling reminded me of a Parisian Cafe. But, don’t be fooled. There’s nothing stuck up or snobbish about this place. The employees here are warm, welcoming, and immediately greeted us with a smile, and the Southern Cold Brew coffee will have you saying phrases like “Winner, winner chicken dinner” and “Bless your heart” during conversation. The bar window seating gives customers a great view of Main Street and an opportunity to people-watch as they enjoy a nice slice of Gall’s smashed avocado toast. As someone who used to live in downtown’s Main Street theatre apartments, I could definitely see myself coming here to enjoy a slow, relaxed morning cup of coffee and brunch with friends. 

And, if coffee isn’t your thing– Nacogdoches has lots more to offer. Sight-see the new features on campus like the planetarium located in the new STEM building, buy some cute, one-of-a-kind gifts at House of Traditions, Rhinestone Rifles, and Twigs and Tin, enjoy happy hour at the Fredonia Brewery, catch a show at Banita Creek Hall, watch the sunrise at the Carl Monk Sr. overlook, play disc golf at Pecan Park, or go for a run or evening walk along the Lanana Creek Trail. Nacogdoches has something to offer everyone, young or old. The magic is in making memories here and getting back to what makes life good.

Emily Gibson Raley is a former resident of Nacogdoches and alum of Stephen F. Austin State University ‘13. She teaches 8th grade English and works as a freelance copy and technical writer.

All photos taken by Emily Gibson Raley

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