The following article contains affiliate links.
Small towns in Texas offer visitors the ability to get away from the big cities and enjoy the slower paced country life. However, that doesn’t mean just sitting in a rocking chair and watching the cars go by. Texas small cities have a lot to offer. From wineries, fine art, rare book stores, unique museums, great food and historic attractions, these towns make great destinations to visit in Texas.
The city of Goliad traces its roots back to 1749 when the Spanish government transferred Mission Espiritu Santo and the Presidio La Bahia to the site of a small Aranama Indian village on the banks of the San Antonio River. In 1835 local colonists captured to fort and town from the Mexican government and the first declaration of Texan Independence was signed at the Presidio chapel on December 20, 1835. Today you can visit the Goliad State Park, Mission Espiritu Santo, Presidio La Bahia and learn about early Texas history. Including the Fannin massacre event. There is also a memorial to Fannin located near the La Bahia. The town is also the county seat and has a traditional town square around the courthouse, Cool shops and restaurants and hosts market days on the second Saturday of every month where vendors sell all kinds of things. You can even stay at the La Bahia overnight in the guest quarters.
Founded in the early 1840’s Jefferson Texas quickly became a port of entry to the Republic of Texas for steamboat passengers. By the late 1840’s Jefferson had become a leading commercial and distribution center and the state’s leading inland port. Today the scenic streets, historic hotels and outdoor activities make it a perfect weekend getaway. Stay at the Excelsior House Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel in Texas or the historic Jefferson Hotel who some say is the most haunted hotel in the world. Check out the Carnegie Library, take a swamp tour, tour a private rail car or just walk around and enjoy the historic town.
Georgetown is home to the “most beautiful town square in Texas”. Located just 30 miles North of Austin on I-35, it offers a totally different experience. The downtown square around the historic courthouse has shops and restaurants and on the second Saturday of the month Market Days are held. Various live music events occur around the square and the old Palace Theater has live performances. The many B&B’s make for a perfect stay and you can also visit nearby Inner Space Caverns, check out Lake Georgetown, take a dip in the blue hole near downtown or enjoy a host of outdoor activities.
Lockhart Texas is known as the BBQ Capitol of Texas, designated so by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1996. With four BBQ joints and roughly 12700 people that’s equates out to about one restaurant for every 3,100 citizens. Not to mention the hoards of people that flock to the small town for some of the best BBQ in Texas and the great Texas BBQ feud. Besides the great BBQ visit the old courthouse and historic jail museum, visit Lockhart State Park or the oldest operating library in Texas. Lockhart is only 33 miles from Austin, not too far for Texans to drive for BBQ.
Located on I-35 between Georgetown and Belton lies the small town of Salado. Early native Americans came to Salado Creek and the nearby springs long before settlers formed the Village of Salado in the late 1840’s. The area has always attracted artists and today the town has glass works, stoneware and pottery shops along with art galleries. You can stay at the historic Stagecoach Inn. Built in 1861 as the “Shady Villa Hotel” notable guests have included Sam Houston, General George Custer, cattle barons Shanghai Pierce and Charles Goodnight as well as outlaws Sam Bass and Jesse James.
With the largest density of deer in the US, Llano is known as the deer capitol of Texas. While visiting this town you can check out the Llano County Historical Museum, stop by the fine arts guild and gallery or quench your sweet tooth at the Cowboy Fudge and Candy Shop. Visit the historic Llano red top jail built in 1895 or spend the day at the Llano River Park. You can stay at The Dabbs Railroad Hotel and B&B where Bonnie and Clyde once stayed. The annual Llano River Chuck Wagon Cook Off is fun for the whole family or you can check out one of the nearby wineries, distilleries or breweries.
Palestine Texas is about 110 miles Southeast of Dallas in the piney woods of East Texas. Home of the Texas State Railroad’s western terminal, the town boasts 23 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit the railroad museum or stay at the historic Redlands Hotel originally built to welcome guests arriving on the railroad. During the last two weeks of March and the first week of April the city hosts the annual Dogwood Trails Festival, when the trees are in full bloom, with live music concerts.
Native son Larry McMurtry help put this town on the map when the movies based on his novels The Last Picture Show and Texasville were filmed in town. Stop by Booked Up and check out some rare books and although McMurty has passed his legacy lives on providing people with hard to find books. You can visit the Royal Theater made famous in The Last Picture Show, home to a variety of performing arts and theatrical productions. Spend the night in the historic 1928 Spur Hotel or visit the Archer County Museum and Art Center housed in the old jail. Located 25 miles south of Wichita Falls, Archer city makes for a great day trip.
Rockport – Fulton
While Rockport and Fulton are two separate towns, there is only 3 miles that separate them on the peninsula and they share a chamber of commerce. The Rockport Fulton area has a lot to offer including a stunning beach known for being the cleanest in the state. Visit the 1870’s Fulton Mansion, Goose Island State Park or Mustang Island. Definitely check out the Texas Maritime Museum that chronicles maritime heritage from Spanish explorers to the quest for offshore oil and gas. You can always go fishing offshore or rent a boat, check out the numerous hiking trails or just chill on the beach.
Brady bills itself as the “True Heart of Texas” with it being the city closest to the geographical center of the state. Brady is home to the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum and The Heart of Texas Historical Museum, which is housed in the former county jail. Both museums are really cool and the Historical Museum has the restored WW2 vintage control tower from Curtis Field. Every Labor Day weekend the town holds the World’s Championship BBQ Goat Cookoff. The downtown area has some great shops and places to eat and nearby Brady Creek Reservoir offers some great fishing and outdoor fun.
Named in honor of German author and publicist Ludwig Börne by the German Founders of the town, Boerne lies about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio in the Texas Hill country. Visit the Hill Country Mile that runs on Main Street with locally owned specialty shops and restaurants. You can also check two nearby caverns, The Cave Without A Name is a living cave and Cascade Caverns as been open to the public since 1932. If you don’t like being underground then Guadalupe River State Park offers great outdoor activities for the family. Be sure to check out the Kendall County Historic Jail Museum.
Located at the intersection if Hwy 71 and Hwy 77, about halfway between Houston and Austin is La Grange Texas. You might remember La Grange for the infamous “Chicken Ranch” an actual place that operated from 1905 to 1973 and served as the basis for the ZZ Top song La Grange and also the Broadway musical and movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” La Grange has a lot more to offer though and makes for a great day trip or weekend stay. You can visit the Train Depot Museum, walk around and explore Monument Hill and the Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites, check out the Texas Hero’s Museum in the old historic jail and the many historic buildings in town. The historic Fayette County Courthouse is a great example of of Romanesque architecture and as long as court isn’t in session you can walk around and check it out. There are also a lot of great places to stay and eat in the area.
Located near the southern tip of Texas, Port Isabel is the place to go for beach life. South Padre island and the beaches there draw thousands per year. While there check out the Commemorative Air Force Rio Grande Valley Wing for a look at aircraft from the past. Also visit the Port Isabel Light house and Keeper’s Cottage. Built in 1852 it is the only lighthouse in Texas you can still climb. The Port Isabel Historical Museum holds one of the largest collections of Mexican artifacts from the U.S.-Mexican War. Treasures Of The Gulf Museum is all about shipwrecks on the Gulf Coast and spotlights three 1554 Spanish shipwrecks. Take an excursion boat to view the dolphins or go fishing offshore. If you time it right you might be able to witness one of the launches from Elon Musk’s Space X Facility.
Fort Stockton was named after, well, Fort Stockton, a military post established in 1859 along Comanche Springs. The fort was active from 1867 to 1886. In 1868 land was purchased for a town site. Named Saint Gaul, the town had a couple of stores and about 400 people living there. The town was renamed Fort Stockton in 1881. Today Fort Stockton has great shopping, historic museums, the historic Fort Stockton and outdoor activities. Stop by the old county jail museum, check out Koehler’s Store built in 1878 and visit Comanche Springs which was at one time the third largest source of spring water in Texas. There are several hotels in town along with an RV park.
Albany Texas bills itself as the oldest town on the northwest frontier. This small Texas town, 35 miles northeast of Abilene is steeped in history and art. Ft Griffin State Historic Site is about 15 miles from town, the Shackleford County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and is surrounded by Victorian buildings dating from the nineteenth century. Check out the historic Aztec theater built in 1927 and still hosting concerts and plays. Stop by the Flying A Car museum for a blast from the past and if you are in town in June Check out out the Ft Griffin Fandangle, a old west show telling the story of the wild west. The crowning jewel of this small town has to be the art center in the old jail. Exhibits include pre-Columbian art, over 220 painting of American and European artists and a large collection of ancient Chinese tomb figures and other Asian art.
Small towns in Texas offer a lot. From telling the story of Texas history to small family owned restaurants and great outdoor activities, these lesser traveled places make for great weekend getaways or day trips.
Darla G says
I haven’t spent much time in Texas, let alone the small towns, but now I’m motivated to go on a road trip!
Bob Bales says
I love exploring the small towns
Go Wander Wild says
This Texas guide is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!