There’s no place like Texas’ biggest cities: from Houston and Austin to San Antonio and Dallas. These TX titans are jam-packed with signature Lone Star flair. World-class music scenes co-exist with sophisticated art communities; culture, history, and heritage are proudly venerated and celebrated; and traditional western restaurant faves and eclectic, modern eateries constantly compete to be the jewel in the state's culinary crown.
But it’s the small cities and towns scattered throughout the sprawling Texas landscape that truly set the Lone Star state apart and give it that certain je ne sais quoi that makes it special—tiny towns and country retreats; Hill Country beauties and Gulf Coast gems, all the following minuscule marvels make up for their diminutive size by serving up big time fun and adventure that’s larger-than-life, Texas-style.
Cowboy Up In Bandera
Known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera is the perfect place to go western. Sprawling, scenic landscapes and attractions rich in cowboy culture are waiting for visitors who want to saddle up and head into the beautiful Texas sunset—whether it’s through dude ranch destinations or scenic horseback rides, vacationers will have a blast channeling their inner cowpoke in beautiful Bandera.
- History, Culture, And More: Frontier Times Museum; “Cowboys on Main” weekly shootout at Bandera Country Visitors Center, Houston Lightning Ranch Rodeo (Saturdays in the summer); Lone Star Motorcycle Museum; Bandera General Store
- Outdoor Adventures: Dixie Dude Ranch; Mayan Dude Ranch; Hill Country State Natural Area; Bandera City Park; Medina River; Lost Maples State Natural Area (45 minutes)
- Where To Eat/Drink: 11th Street Cowboy Bar; O.S.T Restaurant; Chicken Charlie’s BBQ; Kickback Korner Bar and Grill; The Bistro Bandera.
- Where To Stay: The Vaquero Motel; Flying L Ranch Resort; Antler Oaks Lodge; Rancho Cortez; Dixie Dude Ranch
Marvelous Marfa Museums
Charming, small-town vibes meet big city art scene in the incredibly hip TX haven of Marfa. A hip downtown area filled with quirky boutiques and contemporary art spaces, the cozy West Texas gem is big on neighborhood vibes and quirky, offbeat attractions that set it apart from many of its tiny town cousins.
- History, Culture, And More: Judd Foundation; Ayn Foundation; Ballroom Marfa; Building 98; Marfa Holocaust and Historic Model Ship Museum; Marfa and Presidio County Museum
- Outdoor Adventures: Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Center; Stardust Motel Sign; Marfa Gliders; Prada Marfa storefront; Chinati Foundation (outdoor exhibits)
- Where To Eat/Drink: Planet Marfa; Lost Horse Saloon; Casita (House) Bar; the Water Stop; Cochineal
- Where To Stay: El Cosmico; Hotel Paisano; The Lincoln Marfa; Hotel Saint George; Thunderbird
Wet And Wild In Wimberley
A small town almost smacks dab in the middle of Texas heavy hitters Austin and San Antonio, Wimberley is a nature lover’s dream with its abundance of outdoor areas—including one of the best swimming holes in the Lone Star state. Spectacular scenery stans will love the beautiful drive through Wimberley via the Devil’s Backbone, while fans of Main Street Americana will dig the eclectic downtown area.
- History, Culture, And More: Wimberley Texas Market Days (first Saturday of every month); Wimberley Glassworks; Wimberley Valley Museum; Wimberley Valley Winery; Pioneer Town
- Outdoor Adventures: Jacob’s Well Natural Area; Blue Hole Regional Park; Prayer Mountain (Old Baldy); Cypress Creek Falls; Rough Creek Lavender Fields (about ten minutes)
- Where To Eat/Drink: The Wooden Spoon; The Leaning Pear; Cypress Creek Reserve (distillery); Chill’s on the Creek; Longleaf Craft Kitchen and Bar.
- Where To Stay: 7A Ranch; Wimberley Inn & Bar; Creekhaven Inn & Spa; Mountain View Lodge; Hotel Flora and Fauna
Get In The Spirit(s) In Dripping Springs
Like many of the small towns on this list, Dripping Springs is a Hill Country haven known for its super scenic hills, rivers, and creeks that are perfect for outdoor activities and adventures. However, the highlight of Dripping Springs is undoubtedly its myriad of distilleries, wineries, and breweries that call the charming town their home—here, country charm and big downtown vibes go hand in hand to create true TX tiny town magic.
- History, Culture, And More: Deep Eddy Distillery; Dreamland; Hudson’s on Mercer; Mercer Street Dance Hall; Dr. Pound Historical Farmstead & Museum
- Outdoor Adventures: Hamilton Pool Preserve; Reimers Ranch; Hawk’s Shadow; Texas Hill Country Olive Company; Pedernales Falls State Park (25 minutes)
- Where To Eat/Drink: Bell Springs Winery; Twisted X Brewing Company; Treaty Oak Distilling; Get Along Grill; The Salt Lick (ten minutes);
- Where To Stay: Lucky Arrow Retreat; Camp Lucy; Hill Country Casitas; TyRosa Ranch; Infinity Ranch
Beachy Fun In Port Aransas
A Gulf Coast gem that calls Mustang Island its home, the scenic Port Aransas is perfect for those looking for big-time beachside fun with a side of outdoor recreation—both on and off the water. And though parasailing, kayaking, and surfing are tops when it comes to water sports, this seaside retreat is more notably known as the “Fishing Capital of Texas.” Small-town vibes and big-city fun are also on tap—notably within the community’s thriving arts district and cool downtown area (especially after dark).
- History, Culture, And More: Port Aransas Art Center; Port Aransas Community Theatre; Farley Boat Works; Port Aransas Museum; Chapel on the Dunes Tour
- Outdoor Adventures: Great Texas Birding Trail; Mustang Island State Park; Dolphin Watching Cruise; Port Aransas Nature Preserve; Wetland Park
- Where To Eat/Drink: Grumbles Seafood Co.; Fins Grill and Icehouse; Bernie’s Beach House; Tortuga’s Saltwater Grill; Shell’s
- Where To Stay: Captain’s Quarters Inn; Whatabeach House (Airbnb); Plantation Suites & Conference Center; Seashell Village Resort; Tropic Island Resort
Everyone knows that Texas knows how to go big—from its top cities like Austin and Houston to its sizzling steaks; to its sprawling landscapes and quirky roadside attractions. However, for those who want to see a different (smaller) side of the Lone Star state, these tiny towns are the best way to explore. Packed with charm and quaint (yet bustling) vibes, these cozy spots are an eclectic mix of scenic, outdoor adventures; hip, high-end art enclaves, historical/cultural attractions; and good eats galore that make for unforgettable getaways small on size but big on TX-sized fun.