The Lone Star State is dotted with gems in the form of its small cities and towns, beyond the skyscrapers and bright lights of Houston and Dallas and Austin’s music-filled streets. Some places are all about music, others are small towns with massive reputations for fashion or art, and others are laid-back seaside towns.
Here are just a few of Texas’ small towns and cities that are well worth visiting. Before visiting, check for any local restrictions and state travel advisories.
Fredericksburg, Texas’ most well-known small town, is known for its numerous wineries and its German heritage. Consider taking the short ride to Enchanted Rock while you’re there. After all, you’ll want to stretch your legs after a meal of German cuisine and Texas wine!
Amarillo is fairly easy to locate. It’s a popular stop along Route 66, whether for a stroll through Cadillac Ranch, one of the most unusual things to see in the state where they transformed classic cars into street art canvases, or for a 72-ounce steak at The Big Texan. Other attractions include the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum, dedicated to the horse breed, and buildings in the Art Deco style. In addition, the city in the Texas Panhandle serves as a gateway to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Dripping Springs is a delightfully charming town with plenty of distilleries and wineries, the famous Hamilton Pool Preserve, and some of Texas’ most beautiful Hill Country wedding venues–and it makes an excellent day trip from Austin!
Check out Tillies, a lovely restaurant nestled in a former Vietnamese courthouse imported to Texas, Mercer Street’s restaurants, boutiques, and the Dr. Pound Farmstead.
On the bayou in East Texas, Jefferson checks all the boxes of what tourists might expect – or hope for – from a small Texan town. There are rows of historic, pre-Civil War buildings, from the beautiful Carnegie Library to the Old Post Office.
There are excellent barbecue restaurants, antique shops, charming bed and breakfasts, and charming features such as the soda fountain at the Jefferson General Store. To top it all off, it’s the most haunted small town in the state, with ghost tours revealing stories of murder victims who haven’t quite passed away.
Round Top is famous in Texas for its yearly antique fair, but it is also one of the most lovely small towns in Texas to visit all year. A visit to Round Top should include a slice of pie from Royer’s and the numerous antique stores around town (don’t skip McLaren’s, complete with the London-style double-decker buses out front).
Take walks around Rummel Square and Henkel Square Market as well. You can also visit the nearby St. Martin’s Catholic Church, the world’s smallest (active) Catholic Church, which is only a short drive away!
Bandera is known as the “Texas Cowboy Capital of the World,” and its downtown is reminiscent of a Western movie set, complete with a general store filled with cowboy garb, gable-roofed buildings, and ramshackle bars stuffed with memorabilia. It also has several small museums, and the surrounding area is dominated by so-called dude ranches and farmland, built on land once used to drive Texas Longhorn cattle.
This tiny town is known primarily for being a short distance from the State Historic Site and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site, both of which are on the former president’s beautiful (and still working) ranch.
While most of the historic site in Stonewall is technically a short drive away, the Johnson Family Homestead, where the old grandparents lived, is right in town. In addition, if you’re looking for small cities to tour in December, Johnson City’s remarkable Lights Spectacular makes it among Texas’ best Christmas towns!
The Prada boutique, which appears like a mirage in the middle of the otherwise blank stretch of desert road, has made this tiny town world-famous. It’s an installation by Berlin-based artists Dragset and Elmgreen on US Route 90 in 2005, with window displays of right-footed shoes and bottomless bags.
The town has long been a cultural center, frequently hosting film and music festivals. Then there’s its other strong point: the Marfa lights, shiny orbs that appear on the horizon regularly and have perplexed observers for more than a century.
The positively tiny town of Luckenbach, with only three official residents, is the smallest of all the Texas small towns! Despite its small size, this town is well-known as a country music hotspot, with a renowned dance hall and far more live performances than one would expect from a town of only three people!
While Luckenbach does not have enough attractions to warrant a separate trip, its proximity to other Texas Hill Country hotspots like Stonewall and Fredericksburg makes it the ideal addition to a Texas Hill Country road trip.
The small Gruene Historic District is technically a former town and part of New Braunfels, but it’s so charming that it deserves its listing. The German-settled town on the Guadalupe River was once a cotton production hub, but tourism is now the main industry.
It’s fun to wander around, stopping in and out of gift and antique shops and stopping for a freshly brewed coffee, but seeing a show at Gruene Hall is a must. It was established in 1878 and is Texas’ oldest dance hall.
Most Texans are intimately familiar with Shiner, even though they’ve never considered exploring this small Texas town of 2,000 people. Shiner Beer, a mainstay of all Texas dive bars and grocery stores, is brewed here!
This claim to fame means that touring the Spoetzl Brewery, the home of Shiner Beers, is the most common activity in Shiner. However, it’s worth sticking long enough to explore the charming downtown after you’ve finished at the brewery!
Port Isabel, just over the causeway from South Padre Island, is even smaller and typically much quieter. The charming resort town dates back to the eighteenth century when Mexican ranchers lived here and established a small village, which was eventually abandoned and claimed by the United States. Today’s attractions include the bright-white lighthouse, fishing on Port Isabel’s longest pier, the beach-themed shops in Lighthouse Square, and the general breezy seaside vibes.