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No Small Wonder

Craft a creative getaway to Denison in north Texas.

Proof that good things can come in small packages, Denison, the north Texas town of just 23,000 people, packs a slew of creativity into eight blocks of Main Street and its offshoots. Nearly every business in the Arts and Cultural District–shops, cafés, and galleries–displays works by local artists.


Above: Some of the tempting fare at CJ’s. Randy Mallory photo

Below: The Eisenhower Birthplace. Texas Historical Commission photo


Denison is located 75 miles north of Dallas and just shy of the Oklahoma border. If you visit the town this fall, check out the annual Dia de los Muertos Festival and Fall Art Walk (Nov. 1 and 2). Hailed as a “cultural celebration of life and the arts,” the festival features mask-decorating, live music, and a parade.

Read on for more can’t-miss spots–including galleries, charming shops, and tempting restaurants–in this colorful town.

Art Galleries Abound

Start out on Main Street, where a half dozen art galleries honor the town’s artsy vibe. Be sure to check out the Mary Karam Gallery, browsing handcrafted jewelry, sculpture, paintings, and other works by nearly two dozen artists. From Old Masters’ style oil paintings to intricately decorated gourds, the gallery contains an eclectic range of artwork. Find treasures like Phil Lichtenhan’s oversized birds’ nests made from discarded metal and topped with hand-fashioned eggs, and Betty Nash’s chiaroscuro-style (light and shadow) oil paintings.

Oodles of Shops

Continuing your trek down Main Street, check out some of the specialty shops like Kaboodles. Walk in the door of this hundred-year-old building, and you’ll find a relaxing welcome thanks to a collection of handmade soaps that send gentle wafts of lavender and sandalwood through the air. The shop offers a well-curated collection of handmade gift items that’s rounded out by a selection of antiques. With carved alabaster crosses fashioned with barbed wire and stained fused glass jewelry, you’ll be tempted to bring home the whole kit and caboodle. The shop occasionally hosts artist demonstrations, workshops, and other events; inquire directly for a schedule.

An Appetizing Palate

If all the artsy browsing works up your appetite, head across the street to CJ’s Coffee Café, which is housed in a former bus station. The café offers locally roasted coffee paired with more than 30 flavored syrups, as well as protein-packed breakfast cookies and pastries, like chocolate chip espresso cake. A daily soup, salad, and sandwich menu is crafted around fresh ingredients and house-baked bread. Warm yellow walls showcase eye-catching artwork.

Find the Sweet Spot

For more sweet treats, check out the sugar-capital of Main Street–Buffy’s Cupcakes on Main. The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars star Buffy Hanson added funky flair to Main Street when she opened her cupcake shop two years ago. Find a tempting array of fun cupcake flavors like Dr. Pepper and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, as well as cookies, whoopie pies, and seasonal treats. The whimsical shop–decorated with lime green walls, dangling paper lanterns, and pink child-sized chairs–features works by local artists.

Step Back in Time

After finally exhausting the artsy treasures of Main Street, head about a mile to the southwest for a find of presidential proportions. The Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site pays homage to Denison’s most famous son, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Glimpse period furnishings in the two-story frame house where the 34th U.S. president was born in 1890. In the visitors center, learn more about Ike’s life and his presidential contributions, such as the creation of NASA in 1958. Eisenhower took up painting late in life, and some of his works are on display in the visitors center. Guided tours are available.

Soak Up Refreshment

If your tired tootsies simply can’t handle any more sightseeing, treat them to a soak in the indoor jacuzzi at the Best Western Plus Texoma Hotel and Suites (AAA Three Diamonds). The complimentary breakfast with Texas-shaped waffles proves that in Denison, even breakfast can carry artistic flare.

Jennifer Babisak is a new contributor from Dallas, Texas.

July/August 2014 Issue



For more information, contact the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce at (903) 465-1551 or

To visit Denison, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Texas through the Free Travel Information Card found online.


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