Slow-moving Tyler will never be confused with fast-paced Austin , but this large town/small city (population 88,316) certainly has a distinctive feel: Southern. From stately plantations  to hospitable residents to deep-fried cooking, Tyler has a strong cultural connection to the Deep South.
The city’s biggest draw is its roses. Once responsible for more than half of the country’s rose bush supply, Tyler now provides 20 percent of the roses in the United States. The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden  contains more than 35,000 rose bushes representing nearly 500 varieties.
The gardens attract bees, butterflies, and more than 100,000 people annually from across the world. Many visitors come especially for the Texas Rose Festival (www.texasrosefestival.com ), a nearly 80-year-old tradition held each October, featuring events such as the queen’s coronation, the rose parade, the queen’s tea, and the rose show.
Tyler changed dramatically in 1930, when the discovery of the nearby East Texas  oilfield turned this small agricultural and railroad city into a major destination for workers and corporations. The town received an added boost in the 1940s when Camp Fannin was established nearby, including a troop capacity of 19,000 at the height of World War II.
In the following decades, Tyler’s economic base shifted from agriculture to industry. Most were petroleum-related, but other manufacturing plants soon followed, including metal and fabricating companies, railroad and machine shops, furniture and woodwork manufacturers, aluminum foundries, and air-conditioning and refrigeration plants.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Tyler was best known as the hometown of football legend Earl Campbell, who earned the Heisman Trophy at the University of Texas  and subsequently became a Hall of Fame running back in the National Football League. Campbell’s nickname, “the Tyler Rose,” forever linked him with his hometown.