What are the Top Small Towns to Visit in Texas?

What are the Top Small Towns to Visit in Texas? Despite its vast expanse of 270,000 square miles, Texas beckons with its hospitable small towns where Southern warmth and smiles prevail. Whether you’re wandering through bustling cities or quaint honky-tonk towns, Texas embraces you with open arms and lots of Tex-Mex tacos and hearty barbecue sandwiches to enjoy.

While Texas is renowned for its colossal, bustling cities, there are delightful small towns in the state that offer a glimpse into Texas’ distinctive character.

What are the Top Small Towns to Visit in Texas

Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, the heart of German culture in America, was founded by German immigrants in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. This charming Texas town proudly holds on to its German heritage and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It continues to be a haven for all things German, with its historic homes, landmarks, and captivating stories of German settlers who developed thriving ranches, farms, and wineries.

For beer enthusiasts, you’re in for a treat with places like Altdorf Biergarten, Fredericksburg Brewing Company (offering tours!), and the Auslander, where you can indulge in pretzels and sausages.

Part of the Fredericksburg Historic District in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Explore the historic district to discover the town’s rich heritage and admire its charm. Fredericksburg, located in the scenic Texas Hill Country, offers a delightful Main Street filled with Biergarten, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Don’t miss the annual Oktoberfest celebration and the chance to explore over 100 wineries and tasting rooms in and around town.

You can also enjoy boutique shopping, antiquing, and visiting museums like the Pioneer Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War. After a pleasant stroll through the historic district, head out to the enchanting Enchanted Rock, a beautiful pink granite rock formation perfect for adventure seekers.

Marfa

Marfa courthouse

A small town known in the art world, Marfa is tucked away in the desert of West Texas, between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend. This artsy enclave has gained international recognition for its unique art scene and intriguing attractions.

Film enthusiasts will appreciate Marfa’s historical significance as the filming location for the iconic James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor movie “Giant.” Don’t forget to take a snap of the popular Prada Marfa sculpture located just outside of town for your Instagram feed.

Art aficionados will find themselves in a cultural paradise with The Chinati Foundation, a renowned contemporary art museum founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd, as it showcases fantastic installations by artists like Dan Flavin. Many galleries in town also contribute to the vibrant art scene, including the Ayn Foundation with works by Andy Warhol.

For a touch of history, visit the Holocaust and Historic Model Ship Museum to learn about Jewish history during WWII. Treat yourself to a Texas-sized burrito at Marfa Burrito or explore local artisan goods at boutiques like Cobra Rock and Skóra Marfa.

For those seeking thrills, take to the skies with Marfa Gliders for an unforgettable flight over the Marfa Plateau. And, of course, no visit to Marfa would be complete without pondering the mystery of the Marfa Lights, a natural phenomenon or perhaps something more otherworldly, sparking debates since the late 19th century.

There are surely a lot of things you can discover in Marfa. Learn more about this in our post, Is Marfa the Ultimate Hidden Gem of Texas?

Wimberley

view to the west from the summit of Old Baldy in Wimberley, Texas

Located in Hays County, Wimberley is a small town between Austin and San Antonio. It’s the perfect remote retreat if you want to enjoy nature.

One of the highlights is Jacob’s Well Natural Area, a swimming hole formed by an artesian spring and an underground cave system. Before heading there, be sure to check the website for water levels. If swimming isn’t an option, don’t worry, as nearby Blue Hole Regional Park provides hiking trails, picnic spots, and an amphitheater for your enjoyment.

For road warriors, the Devil’s Backbone is a must-see scenic highway that winds through Wimberley and the surrounding towns, offering picturesque views. For a breathtaking panoramic view of Wimberley and the Hill Country, venture up the 218 steps to the top of Old Baldy, also known as Prayer Mountain.

In town, indulge in boutique shopping, explore art galleries, savor delicious meals at restaurants, and revel in live music. Every Friday, locals come together for the Bluegrass Jam in a charming vacant parking lot, creating an informal gathering that defines the town’s warm and friendly atmosphere.

When it’s time to cool off, head to the Blue Hole, a mesmerizing swimming spot with inviting blue waters and tree swings for added fun. Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do, including hiking, horseback riding, camping, and fishing. You may also read our post about the Lesser-Known Texan Towns to discover off-the-beaten-path towns to visit in Texas.

Jefferson

The Old Post Office in Jefferson

Experience the captivating charm and rich history of Jefferson, a quaint pre-Civil War town in East Texas. With nearly 100 historical landmarks – many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places –this town offers a delightful journey back in time to its 1800s glory days as a bustling river port.

This town is a place of many wonders and is certainly a gem in the rich Texas culture, as it holds many different titles. As the “Bed and Breakfast Capital of East Texas,” Jefferson offers an array of delightful experiences, from horse-drawn carriage rides and ghost tours to antiquing in the charming downtown area. Once a thriving river port, Jefferson’s vibrant tourist activities revolve around its rich history. It’s truly a charming town to take a staycation in.

Aside from its historical allure, Jefferson is also known for its captivating mysteries. Visiting the town is like stepping back to the 1800s when its riverports were bustling with steamboats. When railways were established, it ended the golden days for Jefferson, but the town saved its grand 19th-century buildings, where ghosts are said to be lurking. Because of these, Jefferson holds the title of “The Most Haunted Small Town in Texas,” offering eerie encounters and spooky stories to those who dare to explore places like The Grove.

Besides ghosts, you’ll also most likely see Bigfoot here (compared to other places), as there has been a long history of sightings of the mysterious ape-like creatures. Jefferson is also hailed as the “Bigfoot Capital of Texas,” and it holds annual Bigfoot Conferences that bring hundreds of people together.

Bandera

The front of the Bandera General Store on Main Street

Known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera is steeped in Wild West history. This charming town set on the banks of Medina River was once a staging area for significant cattle drives during the late 1800s. The Great Western Cattle Trail, connecting Bandera to Dodge City, Kansas, was a prominent route in its prime.

With multiple dude ranches in the area, Bandera offers the perfect opportunity to embrace your inner cowboy or cowgirl. Head to Dixie Dude Ranch for horseback riding, campfire sing-alongs, and even a cowboy breakfast on the range with the chance to hunt for fossils and arrowheads. Mayan Dude Ranch offers trail rides and dance lessons for an authentic Western experience.

Beyond the cowboy culture, Bandera boasts the stunning Hill Country State Natural Area, spanning over 5,000 acres of plateaus and canyons, as well as the scenic Medina River.

History enthusiasts will find delight in exploring Bandera’s past, including the oldest church in Texas, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, built by Polish immigrants in 1887 and adorned with beautiful artwork. The Frontier Times Museum offers insights into life in 1920s Bandera and intriguing oddities.

For a foot-stompin’ good time, make your way to the famous “biggest little bar in Texas,” 11th Street Cowboy Bar, where lively entertainment awaits.

Dripping Springs

Limestone rock formation at Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs

Located just 25 miles outside of Austin, Dripping Springs is a paradise for spirit enthusiasts with a surplus of distilleries to explore. Enjoy tastings of small-batch vodka and gin at Dripping Springs Vodka, savor the whiskey at Treaty Oak Distilling, or visit Deep Eddy Vodka’s tasting room for a delightful experience.

Wineries are scattered throughout the area, and the Texas Hill Country Olive Co. offers orchard walking tours, olive mill tours, and olive oil tastings for those seeking a unique culinary adventure.

Nature lovers will be thrilled by the Hamilton Pool Preserve, a stunning natural wonder shaped by water erosion over thousands of years, boasting a collapsed grotto, canyons, and a magnificent 50-foot waterfall. A serene quarter-mile trail leads to the pool, where you can spot beautiful bird species like golden-cheeked warblers.

For a more relaxed experience, indulge in boutique shopping, savor live music, and discover delightful dining options. Dripping Springs offers a charming ambiance that is perfect for a leisurely day trip from Austin.

Round Top

The charming little town of Round Top, nestled between Houston and Austin, is renowned for its bi-annual epic antiques show, incredible art scene, and mouth-watering pies. While the town may be tiny, it boasts an array of delightful attractions and experiences.

In the historic district, Henkel Square Market houses various shops within century-old buildings dating back to the 1800s, offering fine art, jewelry, clothing, and beautiful artwork. For a true culinary delight, don’t miss Royers Pie Haven, serving some of the state’s best pies – the Texas Trash pie is an absolute must-try.

Explore the town’s galleries, boutique shopping, and diverse dining options. The Round Top Area Historical Society shares the town’s fascinating history, providing insights into its rich past.

Port Aransas

Port Aransas

Nestled on Mustang Island along Texas’ Gulf Coast, Port Aransas is a beach lover’s paradise with 18 miles of sandy shores. It’s a haven for anglers and fishing enthusiasts, offering various opportunities to cast a line from the beach, public fishing piers or even embark on thrilling off-shore excursions to catch diverse fish species. During the summer, you might witness exciting fishing tournaments.

Beyond fishing, there are many kinds of water activities to enjoy, such as surfing, kayaking, and kiteboarding. For bird enthusiasts, Port Aransas is a dream destination, boasting six sites along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, where hundreds of bird species frequently grace the area.

The town has a thriving arts community featuring numerous studios and galleries. Don’t miss the Port Aransas Art Center and the Port Aransas Community Theatre, offering a vibrant cultural scene. When the sun sets, the town comes alive with a bustling nightlife, as bars and restaurants regularly host live musical acts.

Johnson City

Blanco County Courthouse

As the hometown of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Johnson City holds a special significance. Located in the picturesque Hill Country, Johnson City is a captivating escape brimming with both natural beauty and rich history.

You can explore a side of history in the city by visiting the former president’s boyhood home, offering a glimpse into rural Texas life with its 1920s-era furnishings. For a deeper understanding of President Johnson’s legacy, head to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where you can tour the LBJ Ranch, including the iconic Texas White House, where Johnson spent time during his presidency.

Nature enthusiasts will delight in the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, where meandering nature trails allow you to spot some bison and longhorn roaming freely. The Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm is also a must-visit. Here, you can explore historic cabins built by German immigrants and experience life in the 19th century, where park rangers dressed in period costumes offer a captivating glimpse of bygone times.

Johnson City also offers something for wine enthusiasts. Head down State Highway 290 and explore the numerous wineries showcasing the finest Texas wines. And in the summertime, don’t miss the delightful local peaches –a true treat for the taste buds!

Terlingua

Terlingua is a unique ghost town located near the Mexican border. This desert town holds a captivating history as a former quicksilver-mining town. Over time, its population dwindled, and it transformed into a ghost town, leaving behind rusted-out cars and derelict buildings that evoke a sense of awe and contemplation.

While most of the town is abandoned, Terlingua still manages to keep itself on the map. You can savor tasty Mexican breakfasts at the Chili Pepper Café, enjoy drinks served by friendly barkeeps at The Porch, or partake in the annual international chili cook-off festival held every November.

You can stay in the former Perry Mansion, which may seem derelict from the outside but surprises with well-furnished interiors. A local hangout is the Terlingua Trading Company, a quirky shop where you can browse and enjoy a refreshing beer on the porch.

Terlingua’s close proximity to the awe-inspiring Big Bend National Park makes it an excellent base for exploring the park’s deep river gorges, majestic mountain ranges, vast deserts, and captivating hiking trails.

Granbury

The Hood County Courthouse in Granbury, Texas

If you’re looking for the American old-west vibe with a tinge of outlaw history, Granbury is the place to visit for you. While many believe that the famous outlaw Jesse James is buried in Missouri, locals in Granbury hold strong beliefs that he rests in their town.

This charming Texas town, known as the “Best Historic Small Town in America,” has an iconic town square, a hub of activity with its shops, restaurants, and bars. The Hood County Courthouse in the square, dating back to the 1800s, still boasts its own hand-wound clock.

As you stroll through Granbury, you’ll come across numerous late 19th-century houses, such as the Daniel-Harris Home and the Ashton House. Fascinatingly, Granbury has connections to infamous figures like John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, who is said to have sought refuge here under an alias.

You can also explore the Acton Nature Center to encounter wildlife and flora, spend some time along the banks of Lake Granbury, and then journey to the Granbury Historic Railroad Depot to learn about the iron horses of the old west.

Uncertain

City marker of Uncertain

If you’re unsure of where to travel to next in Texas, you can always check out Uncertain. It’s not on the way anywhere, so “you’ve got to either know where you’re goin’ or be lost to find it,” according to a local sheriff. With a population of around 100 residents, Uncertain certainly doesn’t boast about its charms to outsiders. You’ve However, stumbling upon Uncertain can be a pleasant surprise, as the town offers a range of enjoyable activities beyond capturing the obligatory selfie with its sign.

Situated on the picturesque shores of Caddo Lake near the Louisiana border, Uncertain presents a hauntingly beautiful landscape, with Spanish-moss-draped cypress trees providing a serene backdrop for birdwatching, kayaking, and fishing. It’s approximately a three-hour drive from Dallas.

Although Uncertain may not be a bustling town for nightlife or clubbing, it has a unique charm that appeals to families, history enthusiasts, and photography lovers. Its tranquil ambiance and natural surroundings make it an ideal spot for a peaceful getaway.

For a truly special experience, consider staying in one of the cabins offered by Moonglow Lodges. These fully wooden huts on stilts situated in the lake provide a truly enchanting stay.