Wimberley, Texas: The small shops at Wimberley Square

11 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Texas

Texas, the Lone Star State, is the second biggest state in the United States (behind only Alaska) and a place that is full of character and southern charm. From the pine forests to the east to the arid plains of the west, and the tropical beaches of the south on the Gulf of Mexico, this massive state has earned its reputation as a destination that is perfect for a road trip through its diverse landscapes and cultures. Along the way, you can visit a plethora of small small towns that exemplify the true character of Texas. Let's take a look at eleven of Texas' most idyllic towns that you should check out on your next trip.


The Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas.
The Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas. Editorial credit: ShengYing Lin / Shutterstock.com.

Fredericksburg, a town in the Texas Hill Country, stands out for its unique German heritage amongst the scenic beauty of its surrounding countryside. Its roots trace back to the mid-1800s, when German immigrants settled in the area, bringing with them traditional architecture and customs that still resonate today. including culinary influences (smoked meat) that helped create Texas' most well-known cuisine: BBQ. Be sure to stop off at restaurants like Eaker Barbecue for some Texas-style brisket. As you can imagine, Fredericksburg is yet one of many towns with its own annual Octoberfest too.

Fredericksburg is also renowned for its wineries and vineyards, with its hot, sunny climate and rich soils, making it a popular destination for wine enthusiasts.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a massive pink granite dome, is a short drive from the town center. Visitors can hike to the top for panoramic views of the Hill Country and explore the various trails and picnic areas around it.


The small desert town of Terlingua in Texas near the Big Bend National Park.
The small desert town of Terlingua in Texas near the Big Bend National Park.

Terlingua, in the far southwest of Texas near Big Bend National Park, is a rugged and wild town that is a place to go if you really are trying to get away from people. Originally a mining town in the late 1800s, Terlingua became known for its quicksilver (mercury) production. After the mining industry declined, the town was largely abandoned, leaving behind a semi-ghost town with crumbling buildings and weathered ruins that visitors can explore, and a population of less than 200 as of today. This haunting yet fascinating setting is highly sought after by urban and abandoned place explorers alike. However, the "semi" part before ghost towns stands out a little more these days, as Terlingua's has had a bit of a modern revival as an eclectic, offbeat community.

Despite its ghost town roots, Terlingua is home to lively venues like the Starlight Theatre, where you can enjoy live music, tasty Mexican food, and sunsets on the patio looking over the Chihuahuan Desert. Terlingua is also famous for its annual chili cook-offs.

Beyond the town, this area contains incredible natural beauty, with Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park providing opportunities for hiking, camping, and stargazing in some of the darkest skies in the continental U.S.


A view of the courthouse building in Marfa, Texas.
A view of the courthouse building in Marfa, Texas. Image credit jmanaugh3 via Shutterstock.

Explore the deserts of the southwest in Marfa, a remote town in West Texas that has gained international recognition for its unique combination of minimalist art around town and dramatic landscapes around it. Although it has a population of just around 1,800, Marfa draws visitors from all over the world who come looking for this artistic flair. The town's art scene is largely attributed to the late artist Donald Judd, who established the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum featuring large-scale installations spread across a former military base. Judd's influence is evident throughout Marfa, with various galleries and public artworks adding to the town's artistic character.

Besides the art scene, Marfa is surrounded by the vast and rugged terrain of the Chihuahuan Desert, providing an inspiring background for your visit. Be sure to see nearby attractions like the Marfa Lights, a mysterious phenomenon of unexplained lights that appear in the desert at night, or venture into the Big Bend National Park for hiking and camping.


Gruene, Texas: Old brick building housing an antique store.
Gruene, Texas: Old brick building housing an antique store. Image credit Roberto Galan via Shutterstock.com

A short drive north of San Antonio, Gruene (pronounced "green"), is a historic district within the city of New Braunfels. Once a thriving cotton-producing community, Gruene experienced decline in the early 20th century but was revived in the 1970s through preservation efforts.

In downtown Gruene is Gruene Hall, the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas. The hall's tin roof, high-beamed ceilings, and wooden floors create an authentic Western atmosphere that draws musicians and visitors alike looking for an authentic Texas experience. Live music performances, from country to rock, take place here regularly. During events like the Gruene Market Days and the Texas Clay Festival, this town truly springs to life.

As far as natural attractions go, the nearby Guadalupe River is a popular spot for outdoor activities, such as tubing, camping, landscape photography, and fishing.


Colorful shop in the small Texas Hill Country town of Wimberley, Texas
Colorful shop in the small Texas Hill Country town of Wimberley, Texas. Image credit Fotoluminate LLC via Shutterstock.

After a short drive west of Gruene, you'll find Wimberley, a village of just around 3,000 residents. It is situated along the Blanco River, with Cypress Creek running through its center, providing you with picturesque views and outdoor activities like swimming and kayaking without having to go far. The nearby Old Baldy Hill is also worth going to, with its short hikes and amazing views of the area.

One of the most famous natural landmarks in Wimberley is Blue Hole Regional Park, featuring a spring-fed swimming hole surrounded by towering cypress trees, offering a cool escape during the Texas summer. Wimberley's town square, known as Wimberley Square, is filled with local boutiques, art galleries, and craft shops. The town also has a vibrant arts community, with several annual events like the Wimberley Art Walk and the Wimberley Valley Art League Show.

Port Aransas

Port Aransas, Texas marina.
Port Aransas, Texas marina.

Port Aransas, often called "Port A" by locals, is a coastal town on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico in the far south of Texas. It is known for its sandy beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and abundant wildlife that call this place home. Visitors come to Port Aransas for the pristine beaches that stretch for miles, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or building sandcastles. Make sure to bring along your sunscreen and lots of refreshments. The annual Texas SandFest, where sand sculptors from across the globe create stunning works of art on the beach, provides great fun for the whole family on its beaches.

The area around the town is renowned for birdwatching, with locations like the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center providing excellent opportunities to spot a variety of bird species, including roseate spoonbills and egrets.


Downtown, Jefferson, Texas.
Downtown, Jefferson, Texas. Image credit NicholasGeraldinePhotos via Shutterstock

Established in 1841 as a port city along the Red River, Jefferson played a significant role in Texas's early commerce and transportation. Today, you can explore this history through well-preserved antebellum homes, historic sites, and a variety of museums, like the Jefferson Museum, and the Museum of Measurement & Time for something a little more quirky.

One of Jefferson's most notable attractions is the Historic Jefferson Railway, a narrow-gauge steam train that takes visitors on a ride through the Piney Woods, offering a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape that can't be seen via car.

Additionally, Jefferson is home to Caddo Lake State Park, a short drive away, where you can take a canoe trip among the majestic cypress trees and Spanish moss in one of Texas's only natural lakes.


Beach, Rockport, Texas
Beach, Rockport, Texas. Image credit Grossinger via Shutterstock.

Rockport sits along the beautiful Aransas Bay, offering a peaceful setting with plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxing activities. The Rockport Beach, Texas's first "Blue Wave Beach" (a beach that is specifically designed to be clean for human use and accessible for all), is a hot spot for beachgoers because of its calm waters, clean sand, and family-friendly amenities. Along the shore, you can also rent a boat for the day at one of the many yacht clubs/marinas. Fishing is also incredibly popular here, both from the land and on charter boats.

Rockport's cultural scene is a significant part of its charm. The Rockport Center for the Arts is a hub for artists, featuring galleries and hosting annual events like the Rockport Art Festival. Another notable attraction is the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, a restored Victorian mansion where you can get an in-person look into Texas's 19th-century coastal life.


Norton-Orgain House in Salado, Texas
Norton-Orgain House in Salado, Texas, By Renelibrary - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, File:NortonOrgain1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Back to the plains of Central Texas, Salado is a popular stop between Dallas and Austin. Salado's charm is enhanced by its gorgeous natural setting along Salado Creek and its collection of historic buildings, many of which date back to the late 19th century.

If you happen to be here at Christmas, make sure you attend the Salado Christmas Stroll. On the other hand, for wine fans, the Texas Wine & Rogue Art Fest, which draws crowds from across the state is a top spot to taste some local products. To continue your adventures outside, the Chalk Ridge Falls Park is a serene setting for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

To learn more about Salado's longstanding history and to find a place to rest your head at night, you should definitely check out sites like the Stagecoach Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in Texas.


Granbury Bank, Texas.
Granbury Bank, Texas. Image credit Renelibrary, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Near Fort Worth, Granbury is an easy-to-access small town just outside of one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, the Dalls-Fort Worth Metroplex. Its centerpiece is the historic Granbury Square, one of the most beautifully preserved courthouse squares in Texas. The square features structures dating back to the mid-late 1800s, and is home to a collection of shops, antique stores, and cafes. At the center stands the Hood County Courthouse, a magnificent limestone building that dates back to 1891.

Granbury's history is deeply intertwined with the Wild West and the Texas frontier. Be sure to visit the Hood County Jail Museum, which focuses on the town's law enforcement history, or take a tour of the historic Opera House, a beautifully restored theater with live performances throughout the year.

Granbury is also located on the shores of Lake Granbury, providing ample ways to boat, fish, or simply lounge by the water.


The historic Llano Courthouse, Texas
The historic Llano Courthouse, Texas. Image credit Fotoluminate LLC via Shutterstock

Llano is located on the banks of the Llano River and is mostly known for two things: Great state parks and even better BBQ. The town is also renowned for its barbecue, with Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que being a famous destination for both locals and visitors.

Badu Park, a popular spot along the river, provides picnic areas, trails, and a dam that creates a gentle cascade, adding to the beauty of the area. Maybe bring some brisket along with you for an epic outdoor feast in this truly American landscape.

Llano's downtown area has retained much of its historic charm over the decades, with classic-looking storefronts, local shops, and the Llano County Courthouse, an impressive 19th-century building at the center of town. The Llano Country Opry, a monthly music event, brings traditional country and bluegrass artists to the stage.

Find Your Ideal Weekend Retreat in Texas

These small Texas towns demonstrate the state's huge variety of landscapes, history, and culture. Each town, from the coastal charm of Rockport to the artistic allure of Salado, has something (or many things, usually) that appeal to a wide range of visitors. Whether it's exploring ghost towns in Terlingua, walking through the historic squares of Granbury and Fredericksburg, or enjoying an outdoor adventure in Wimberley, these are just some of Texas' towns that provide an escape from everyday life in the Lone Star State.

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