As the second largest state in the US, Texas is known for its sprawling ranches, large cities, and diverse landscape. But the Lone Star State is also home to many cultural and natural treasures hidden in smaller, lesser-known areas. From Boerne to Bandera, the small towns of Texas offer a glimpse into the state's rich history and its people through its stunning scenery, beautiful architecture, and unique tourist experiences.
01 Marvel at museums in Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg is probably the best-known small town in Texas. It's nestled into the Texas Hill Country and is famous for its rich German heritage. Visitors can enjoy the town's charming array of antique shops and some of the state's best wineries, such as Becker Vineyards and Grape Creek Vineyard. If you're looking for a hit of history, Fredericksburg is home to the Pioneer Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War.
02 See the mysterious lights of Marfa
In West Texas, Marfa is definitely worth a visit. It's more recently become a popular destination for art enthusiasts, and it has gained notoriety as a great filming location for historical movies. During the day, visitors can enjoy art galleries like the Chinati Foundation, which is home to artist Donald Judd's best installations. By night, the town hosts guided tours of the mysterious Marfa lights. The lights have been visible for over a century but are still a mystery to scientists and locals alike.
03 Take the train to Jefferson
East Texas is home to Jefferson, one of the most romantic towns in the state. Known for its charming downtown area and sweet selection of historic bed and breakfasts, the town is perfect for a weekend away with someone special. While Jefferson was once a bustling river port, this Texas gem is now the ideal destination for history buffs. Explore the town's history at the Jefferson Historical Museum, visit the quaint General Store, or head to the Jefferson Railway for a scenic ride.
04 Head into the waters of Wimberley
Water babies will love Wimberley. Located at the meeting point of Blanco River and Cypress Creek, Wimberley is well known for its natural beauty. Visitors can escape the Texas heat and enjoy a dip at Jacob's Well Natural Area or the Blue Hole Regional Park, then finish the day with a hike up the Old Baldy to enjoy the Hill Country views.
05 Dance your way through Gruene
Although Gruene isn't a small town on its own, it certainly deserves a visit. The historic district of New Braunfels is known for Gruene Hall — the oldest operating dance hall in the state — and its other historic music venues. Music buffs can enjoy a live show or try their hand at country dancing for a fun, unique date idea.
06 Experience country life in Luckenbach
The tiny town of Luckenbach is said to have just three official residents. Despite its minuscule size, the area has garnered quite a reputation for its music scene. Visitors can enjoy a live show at the Dance Hall and peruse the historic general store. There's not a whole lot to see in the town itself; however, it is close to other gems like Fredericksburg and Stonewall for day-trippers.
07 Enjoy the glassworks of Salado
Salado's welcoming, tranquil haven is popular with those who love arts and crafts. The area is home to the Salado Glassworks, where visitors can view some of the most beautiful handmade glass creations. For history buffs, there's the 1861 Stagecoach Inn and the Boles-Aiken log house, which was only discovered in 1986 after being hidden for over a century.
08 Explore nature in Burnet
Located in Hill Country, Burnet is the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. It's the perfect place to explore nature, thanks to the beautiful parks and lakes in the area. Particular favorites are the Inks Lake State Park and Lake Buchanan. For car enthusiasts, there's the Hill Country Motorheads Motorcycle Museum which is certainly worth a look on a rainy day. When the heat is a little too much, Hamilton Creek Park is a city park that's nice and shady.
09 Read notes in Alpine
Alpine is a stunning area with many parks, with Big Bend National Park and Davis Mountains State Park being the most popular. One of the more unique attractions of Alpine is Hannock Hill. At the top, there's a desk on which a notepad filled with messages from previous hikers lies. You can sit for hours and read the notes or add your own to the collection.
10 Go outdoors in Boerne
The adorable town of Boerne is a far cry from the busy city life of neighboring San Antonio. With so much natural beauty and rich history, there's much to see and do here. Head to the Cibolo Nature Center or Boerne City Lake Park for a stroll, or visit the Kendall County Courthouse for a glimpse into the town's past. Visitors might also want to try to visit the Dienger Building, which is now a boutique hotel and restaurant.
11 Take a scenic tour in Grapevine
Unsurprisingly, Grapevine is known for its incredible wineries, so it's the perfect destination for a weekend getaway with friends. Located between Dallas and Fort Worth, the town offers a scenic train tour via the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. It's a great way to travel through the town's historic district. Grapevine is also the Christmas Capital of Texas, with the railroad being transformed into the Polar Express during the festive season.
12 Explore history in Nacogdoches
In East Texas, Nacogdoches is a historic town with an abundance of antique architecture to admire. The Old University Building provides a stunning glimpse into the past, while the Sterne-Hoya House Museum houses a whole range of artifacts from the area. On brighter days, head along the Lanana Creek Trail to enjoy scenic views of the town and its surrounding beauty.
13 Become a cowboy in Bandera
As the Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera is certainly a unique visit for all ages. Visitors can take a stroll around the many cowboy-themed shops, enjoy a bite to eat at the cowboy-themed restaurants and explore the dude ranches for a real glimpse into life in the Wild West. There's also the Frontier Times Museum, where you can learn all about the history of the American West.
14 Feed on barbecue in Lockhart
Foodies should flock to Lockhart to enjoy the many barbecue restaurants. Located south of Austin, Lockhart is a small town that packs in the flavor. Restaurant favorites include Black's Barbeque and Smitty's Market, so make sure to head here on an empty stomach. Like plenty of the other small towns in Texas, Lockhart has its fair share of history to discover. For example, the Caldwell County Courthouse is a stunning building that was built in 1894.
15 Appreciate the architecture in Georgetown
Just north of Austin is Georgetown. The area is often overlooked when tourists visit the state; however, Georgetown is home to the most beautiful town square in the whole of Texas. Although it's technically a city, this is the place to be if you want quaint, small-town charm. Visit the Williamson County Courthouse to see some of the area's stunning architecture or explore the Inner Space Caverns.