Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Visitors Find Good Fishing and Friendly 'Gators on Texas Coast

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Visitors Find Good Fishing and Friendly 'Gators on Texas Coast

Article excerpt

ABOUT 15 MILES from the Gulf of Mexico, about 90 miles due east of Houston, this city's history was associated with oil. But the oil bubble burst, and today Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange - three cities that nudge each other - are selling climate and scenery big-time as tourism takes off.

"We've got a heck of a lot to offer," says Faye Liss, marketing director at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's one reason one of the biggest tour bus companies - Mayflower out of Chicago - has targeted this area for 58 busloads starting in November."

Bus tours have been a burgeoning part of tourism for some years, according to Jody Miller, a Mayflower sales executive who helped set up the Port Arthur tours, which will host 3,000-plus people.

Like many Texas towns, Port Arthur suffered when the oil boom went bust. But instead of bewailing the bad luck, the city began adding up its attractions - and the current tourism agenda was born.

The town actually began as a railroad town and is named after Arthur Stilwell, a 19th-century railroad magnate. Today, it and Beaumont are hubs for the super-busy Kansas City Southern Railroad.

The port also features a favorite oddity for tourists - Big Arthur, an enormous crane named for Stilwell.

The area around Port Arthur abounds with good fishing, scenic bayous and airboat rides, and plenty of alligators. In fact, 'gators play a big role when tour buses come to town. Delighted bus riders see a pair of hitchhiking gators - Elli and Alli - who are searching for a preacher to marry them. They get aboard, and soon the bus stops for a Cajun band. The entire ensemble stops at the restaurant of choice for dinner, music and an alligator wedding.

Another stop is Alligator Island Farm, a working farm and home to "Big Al," Texas' largest gator. Port Arthur also offers swamp tours.

Port Arthur also has its share of museums. …

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