It’s getting to be about that time in winter when many of us find ourselves longing for spring: Bluebonnets, sunshine and blue skies. In the southeast Texas city of Beaumont – you can also add wetlands and wildlife to that list.

Situated just east of Houston, near the Texas Gulf Coast, Beaumont boasts a number of outdoor attractions great for a weekend trip.

Visitors to Cattail Marsh can get an up close view of a 900-acre stretch of bayou wetland thanks to a new boardwalk and viewing platforms. Located between two coastal flyways on the Great Texas Birding Loop, Cattail Marsh is home to all kinds of birds and animals – attracting bird watchers and nature enthusiasts from around the world.

One animal you can look at safely is the largest living alligator ever caught in Texas. It became the newest resident of Beaumont’s Gator Country just last year. The gator is appropriately named “Big Tex” and weighs just under half a ton. Gator Country is home to more than 300 alligators, but it won’t be hard to spot Big Tex among them – let’s just say he sticks out in a crowd. There, visitors can feed gators and crocodiles, hold baby gators and take an eco-swamp tour.

Who knew Beaumont was such a mecca for museums? Beaumont is home to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, a recreated town showing life in the early 1900s, at the start of the Texas oil boom.

In downtown, you’ll find the early-20th-century McFaddin-Ward House, now a museum, which reflects the wealth of the family who lived there. The Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Dishman Art Museum showcase regional and national contemporary art. And there’s also the Fire Museum of Texas where little ones will enjoy all the fire engines. Don’t forget the Texas Energy Museum.

But one of our favorites is the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Memorial Museum, which might be the only museum in the world dedicated to a single female athlete. She was a three-time All-American Basketball player and an Olympic and world record holder in track and field. Then she took up golf and was one of the founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. She won the 1954 US Open by 12 shots after recovering from colon cancer and playing with a colostomy bag. It’s worth the quick 30-minute visit and admission is free.

Tell it like it isTweet @TexasStandard or leave a comment here