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Highlighting the heart and soul of true Texas, the state’s array of charming small towns offer the perfect combination of scenic landscapes, historic landmarks, and pure Texan culture. From the rolling hills of the picturesque countryside in the Texas Hill Country to the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” a trip to these lesser-known destinations means you’ll find off-the-beaten track attractions and an absence of tourist crowds. Perfect for a weekend road trip away, here are some of the most picturesque small towns in Texas.
Known for its vibrant display of colorful flower displays in the spring, Willow Springs feels like a world away from big city life. Located just 12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg, this area boasts a rich history, as it was an emerging city in the 1880s. The area’s biggest attraction is the Willow City Loop, where visitors will find a 13-mile scenic drive peppered with picturesque hills and valleys covered with an array of blooming flowers alongside its meadows and valleys. Just a short drive from the world-renowned views at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Willow City is a perfect place to explore beautiful landscapes in Texas.
A small town in East Texas, Jefferson is a great place to relax and unwind. While it was a thriving river port back in the 1800s, visitors will now find over 70 historic landmarks, including well-preserved homes and interesting museums. Take a leisurely cruise up the Big Cypress Bayou, meander through the Jefferson Historical Society Museum, or hop on one of the famous carriage rides to soak in views of the quaint bed and breakfast accommodations and historic churches that line the area.
Nestled deep in the Texas Hill Country, Wimberley is a small town with loads of charm. On a hot summer day, nothing beats the refreshing waters at nearby Blue Hole Regional Park and Jacob’s Well, while those looking for a scenic drive will find the entrance point to Devil’s Backbone drive appealing. A haven for artists throughout the years, the city’s local galleries, shops and performing arts venues are worth exploring. A perfect place for travelers who enjoy music, soak in the sights and sounds at the local gatherings of bluegrass musicians and lovers alike at the town’s famous “Bluegrass Jam.”
Nestled in an ideal location, Marble Falls sits near five picturesque lakes and some of the best wineries in Texas. In addition to being a perfect base for exploring the area, the city also offers excellent sightseeing opportunities. Cool off in the water park at Lake LBJ Marina, or soak in the beautiful outdoors with a day of swimming and fishing at Lake Marble Falls. The summer is the perfect time to swim in the clear waters at Krause Springs, while Pace Bend Park offers hiking, biking, and camping opportunities.
Home to the second largest canyon in the country, Canyon is referred to as the “Grand Canyon” of Texas. Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers an array of outdoor adventures, where your days can be spent hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Those who appreciate history might enjoy exploring the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in Texas. Perfect for a quiet weekend away, wander through the specialty shops and charming buildings that line the Historic Downtown Square and spend an evening watching the famous outdoor music drama TEXAS.
Located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is a heavily German-influenced town. Full of beauty and charm, this city has a rich history and has long attracted visitors who are lured in by its popular Texas attractions, wildflower farm, and peach-picking opportunities when in season. Meander down the historic downtown strip, indulge in wine tastings or appreciate artifacts at the National Museum of the Pacific War. Outdoor enthusiasts will find Fredericksburg convenient for exploring the vibrant landscapes at nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where a short hike leads to rewarding views from a pink granite dome.
A charming small town that has long attracted the creative types, Salado is full of artists and those who are inspired by their work. It’s here that visitors can find colorful and eclectic shops that line the area, highlighting an array of local artwork and selling handcrafted souvenirs. A number of annual festivals are popular in Salado, making it a perfect weekend destination. Explore this small town and you can learn how to blow glass, catch live music or a performing arts show, or indulge in a cold beverage at one of the local craft breweries. On a sunny day, families can set up a picnic at nearby Pace Park, or take a slow journey through the picturesque displays at Salado Gardens.
With a town motto of “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach,” it’s hard not to love this area. Luckenbach is just a blip on the map, but it makes up for its size with a country personality like no other. Made famous in a song by Willie Nelson, the city has deep Western roots and is a place that songwriters and music lovers flock to pay homage to some of the biggest legends in country music. During the day, you can explore the town’s general store and post office, while the famous dance hall will keep you on your toes at night.
Only 25 miles north of San Antonio, Gruene is the historic area of New Braunfels, famous for its shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation. Spend your day looking for souvenir treasures in its antique shops along the city center that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, kick up your boots at the oldest dance hall, and dine in one of the many excellent restaurants that offer genuine Hill Country hospitality. Fly fishing and floating are popular outdoor adventures, while soaking in the scenic views of the Guadalupe River is just as appealing.
A famous coastal town in Texas, Port Isabel is known as having the only town square with a lighthouse in the state. One of the oldest cities in Texas, tourists flock here for the beautiful views and access to nearby beaches. Outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and kayaking are popular, while adventurous travelers can try parasailing or dolphin-watching tours. Separated by the shores of South Padre Island, Port Isabel is a great family-friendly destination. For a dazzling panoramic view of the city, climb to the top of the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse.
The Cowboy Capital of Texas, Bandera is less than an hour from San Antonio. You’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world here, where you’ll find opportunities to live the authentic cowboy lifestyle at a dude ranch, take in a rodeo reenactment, and kick your boots to the sound of the music at a honky-tonk venue. Playing an important role in keeping these unique American traditions of the Texas cowboy alive, Bandera is famous for its preservation of horseback riding, chuck wagon meals, and trail rides. Explore the history of ranching practices at the Frontier Times Museum, enjoy the outdoors at one of Bandera’s State Natural Areas, and soak in the unique culture in one of the many nightlife venues. Bandera is known as the Texas Cowboy Capital of the World; so you’re sure to find a great “dude” ranch out here. On these ranches, live like a true cowboy by going horseback riding and eating barbecue. To learn more about this area’s history, hit up the Frontier Times Museum that showcases artifacts from the early American cowboy. Furthermore, nature lovers and birdwatchers will love exploring Bandera’s natural area known as Hill Country State Natural Area.
A remote small town in the hall hills of West Texas, Alpine offers the perfect combination of natural beauty and unique attractions. Get away from the stress and traffic of big cities and head to this city, where you’ll find easy access to some of the most picturesque landscapes in Texas. Considered the gateway to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, you’re never far from nature here. For a postcard souvenir of your stay in Alpine, take a 20-minute hike to the top of Hancock Hill. If you’re interested in the history of the city make sure to explore the mercury mining exhibits at the Museum of Big Bend, while a day out with the locals at a baseball game in Kokernot Field offers a glimpse into the local culture.
A coastal enclave flanked by Copano and Aransas bays, Rockport is a small town that offers the perfect location for a beach getaway. With pedestrian-friendly streets and a bustling downtown area, the popular Austin Street is lined with colorful shops and restaurants serving up fresh seafood to friendly locals. Wander through the local galleries and shops in this 15-square-mile town, as this emerging art town offers plenty of shopping opportunities. A great place to relax and unwind, soak in the Texas sunshine and dig your toes in the sand as you indulge in a day of sunbathing and swimming.
Round Top, about an hour drive east of Austin, has many things going for it, but people mostly come here for the shopping and the theater. The Original Round Top Antiques Fair happens every spring and fall where loads of vendors sell vintage and antique goods. After a day out shopping for treasures, enjoy a show by the Round Top Festival Institute. The theater, which seats up to 1,000 people, showcases a number of different performers from all over the world. Before you leave, don’t forget to snag a piece of pie from the town’s popular pie maker at Royers Pie Haven. And then, walk off your pie food coma by visiting a few art galleries around the town’s center, near Henkel Square and Bybee Square.
Terlingua is a small west Texas town that may be known as a ghost town but is the perfect place to stay if you’re wanting to cherish some of Texas’ best landscape. Outdoorsy folks will feel right at home in Terlingua. The town doesn’t have much, but Terlingua’s proximity to both Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, make this place the perfect outdoor paradise. Every November however, the town of Terlingua’s population explodes for the annual chili cookoff, known as the Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff . Thousands of chili lovers flock to Terlingua to make and taste the best chilis in the state.
This Texas panhandle town comes alive in honor of Bob Wills, a famous swing musician who was from the town of Turkey. Bob Wills Day, a multi-day festival in late April, and the Bob Wills Fiddle Festival and Contest truly put Turkey on the map. If you visit the town of Turkey for either of these events, you’re sure to enjoy great live music and country cooking. Don’t leave town, however, without hitting up the oldest gem of the town, Lacy Dry Goods, a general store that has been in operation since 1927.
Find the quaint, tiny town of Rainbow located southwest of Dallas. Rainbow was named so because there was a rainbow in the sky the day local residents gathered to choose the name of the town in 1890. Spring is the perfect time to head to Rainbow because the wildflowers are in full bloom. Only a 10-minute drive outside of Rainbow is Dinosaur Valley State Park. View some of the most well-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world at this Texas state park.
Those who travel from Houston to Austin, or vice versa, have passed the tiny town of Chappell Hill found along Highway 290. Texans might recognize the name “Chappell Hill” because of the sausage brand with the same namesake. Well, the sausage comes from the town of Chappell Hill. The meat market, known as Chappell Hill Sausage Company and meat lovers, have brought Chappell Hill to light. Visit the town of Chappell Hill year round to eat at Chappell Hill Sausage Company’s restaurant and shop at the retail store. However every April Chappell Hill hosts the Bluebonnet Festival where there is live music, food and shopping.
Between Abilene and Fort Worth is the tiny town of Strawn. The town is quite picturesque since it is located in the Palo Pinto Mountains. Therefore, travelers head to Strawn for outdoor recreation. With a number of lakes in and near Strawn, along with Possum Kingdom State Park only a 40 minute drive from town, it’s a great place to enjoy Texas nature.