While the lights of Houston shine brightly, don’t let them outshine this small Texas town just 30 miles north. True, it’s had a number of names over the years (Peck, TX; Oil Town USA), but today it’s named after the man responsible for bringing the railroad to this rural community: Thomas Henry Ball (aka Tom Ball). If you visit, you’ll find a growing city that’s still connected to its historic past.
If you’re looking for the history of town, head to the renovated Railroad Depot. It sits just a stone’s throw from Main Street right on the tracks and takes visitors to the time when the railroad was king. Suddenly this outlying community was connected to the rest of the world and began to boom. Find relics of railroad days past and a model train at this museum.
The next museum you need to see is the Tomball Museum Center. Rather than one building packed with stuff, this is a collection of historic buildings each filled with artifacts giving visitors a glimpse into an era of Tomball’s history. There is a log cabin, a schoolhouse, a church and many more. My favorite is the 1940’s oil camp house commemorating the discovery of oil in Tomball which made this city’s population triple in a few short years.
If you want to step into a flying museum, then contact the Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast Wing to see “Texas Raiders” a restored B-17 Flying Fortress. Multiple times a year, they take this gal up in the sky giving riders a once in a lifetime experience.
When you’ve worked up a giant appetite, Tomball has a number of giant options. For Texas tea room that’s nothing like a grandma-inspired tea party, head to The Whistle Stop Tea Room. Here you’ll find amazing sandwiches (jalapeno pimento cheese anyone?), homemade soups and a dessert case that’s worth the stop alone.
For country cookin’ with a Texas-sized competition, head to Mel’s Country Cafe. It sits out in the country, but that doesn’t stop folks from lining up to partake in the goodness. Both the chicken-fried steak and hamburger are considered the tops by Texas Monthly. But the burger that tops them all is the Mega Mel — a behemoth of meat, cheese, and bacon. It you can eat it in two hours, you get immortal glory on the wall…and a T-shirt.
Tomball has a number of great city parks. Spring Creek Park is massive with tall pines and open fields for playing frisbee or having a picnic. In the back corner, you’ll also find a historic marker for a Confederate gun powder mill that exploded on this site killing everyone inside. It left a crater so big that when it filled with rainwater it became a popular swimming hole that many say is haunted.
This important park down the way from Tomball is the site of Sam Houston’s famous “fork in the road.” During the Texas Revolution, he had to make a decision, turn left and run for safety in Louisiana or turn right and face the Mexican Army. Sam took a right and headed toward San Jacinto…the rest, my friends, is history.
Head into this nature preserve filled with acres of towering cedars and pines for a retreat from the busy world outside. You might even find the old cabin of the mystical “Old Kleb”, himself, who lived without electricity in these woods until the 1990’s! Spending some time in this peaceful nature almost makes you want to give up electricity too (I said almost…)