The Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas. Editorial credit: Moab Republic /

11 of the Most Overlooked Towns in Texas

Texas is a massive state, being the largest in the lower 48 of the United States. It has many large and notable cities, such as Dallas, Austin, Houston, and many more. What many look over, however, are many of the smaller towns that are honestly just as worth your time as you explore the Lone Star state. If it is a delicious BBQ meal, sweeping parks full of unique natural sights, historic landmarks, or notable cultural locations you are after, you will not be disappointed by these 11 towns. Join us on this adventure and see how many you can add to your itinerary.


Courthouse building, Marfa, Texas
Courthouse building, Marfa, Texas. Image credit jmanaugh3 via

Marfa, located in the high desert of West Texas, is an unassuming yet fascinating small town with around 1,800 residents. Founded in the 1880s as a water stop for the newly built railroad passing through, Marfa has since transformed into a cultural hub. This is in large part thanks to the influence of artists like Donald Judd, who arrived in the 1970s and built up artistic interest in the area. His large-scale installations and the Chinati Foundation draw visitors from around the world.

Beyond the art scene, Marfa is full of historic architecture such as the Presidio County Courthouse, and remnants of its ranching past. Nearby, the mysterious Marfa Lights, unexplained glowing orbs in the night sky, add to the town’s mystique. It is certainly a hotspot for fans of the weird and paranormal, as alleged UFO sightings are also common in this corner of the country.

The surrounding landscape, characterized by vast plains and distant mountains, provides ample opportunity for outdoor activities, including hiking and stargazing in the pristine night sky.


Old brick building housing an antique store in Gruene.
Old brick building housing an antique store in Gruene. Editorial credit: University of College /

Gruene (pronounced "green") is a tiny 25-acre town that is now part of the larger city of New Braunfels. It still retains its distinct character and is most well-known for its preserved buildings dating back to the 180s. The Gruene Hall stands out as the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas. This venue has hosted numerous famous musicians and continues to be a cultural landmark of central Texas. For more, the Gruene Historic District is also home to a variety of antique shops, craft stores, and dining establishments, all housed in old buildings. Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar has a great view of the Guadalupe River and is located inside a cotton gin that was originally built in 1878.

The Guadalupe River flows through the center of town and offers opportunities for tubing, fishing, and picnicking along its scenic banks, a great place to bring the family on a hot day. For more outdoor fun, parks like Camp Huaco Springs are a short drive away and have ample spots for camping, both for RVs and tents.


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

Jefferson is located in the pine woodlands of East Texas. Once a thriving riverport in the mid-late 19th century, Jefferson’s streets are now filled with antebellum architecture that better serves as tourist hotspots. Included in these notable structures is a list of historic homes that can be explored when you book a tour with the Jefferson Candlelight Tour Of Homes, and the Jefferson Historical Museum, housed in a former federal courthouse. As you can imagine, Jefferson is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts with sites like the Excelsior House Hotel, which has hosted numerous notable guests since 1858, like Ulysses S. Grant, among others.

Looking to get a better look at the wildlands of this area? A visit to the Caddo Lake State Park is a great way to see up close the natural beauty of the forests of east Texas, with its bayous and wetlands, perfect for boating and hiking.


The small shops at Wimberley Square
The small shops at Wimberley Square. Image credit Roberto Galan via Shutterstock.

In the Hill Country of Central Texas, Wimberly is renowned for its scenic landscapes and artistic community. Located at the confluence of the Blanco River and Cypress Creek right between San Antonio and Austin, Winberly is popular for its swimming spots like the Blue Hole Regional Park and Jacob's Well, a deep natural spring and popular diving spot.

The natural beauty of the area is complemented by a downtown area that is not nearly as busy as the two major cities that Winberly is sandwiched between. Wimberley is also known for its monthly Market Days, one of the largest outdoor markets in the state, where you can browse a variety of locally sourced crafts, antiques, and foods.

This town's proximity to hiking trails and nature preserves makes it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a mix of leisure and adventure. Jacob's Well Natural Area is another swimming hole that also has a variety of trails for easier day hikes.


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

Fredericksburg, founded in 1846 by German immigrants, is an excellent spot to experience the unique cultural heritage and natural beauty of Texas. This town with a population of around 12,000 is famous for its historic German architecture, including the Vereins Kirche, a replica of the original 1847 church that now operates as a museum. It also serves as a rare example of an octagonal building, a once-popular style of building that used to be common in German enclaves in the United States.

This region of Texas also has a rich winemaking tradition, and Fredericksburg is widely seen as the center of that scene. East Main Street is packed with various wine bars and tasting spots, such as Fiesta Winery, Cuvée Wine & Piano Bar, and numerous others. Every October, this town also hosts its own Oktoberfest, where wine, beer, sausage, and other Gemran-style treats abound.

Nearby, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is the place to go for hiking, rock climbing, and stargazing, with its massive pink granite dome offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside during the day and the unobstructed sky at night.


Street view in downtown Alpine, Texas
Street view in downtown Alpine, Texas. Image credit jmanaugh3 via

Alpine, located in the Big Bend region of West Texas, is a gateway to some of the state's most dramatic landscapes. The town itself is home to Sul Ross State University, giving it an academic vibe, and has an attractive artistic flair, with many galleries, murals, and cultural events that can be seen and visited throughout the year. The Museum of the Big Bend, situated on the university campus, gives an in-depth look at the history and natural environment of the area. Alpine’s historic downtown has notable landmarks like the Granada Theatre, which is home to various performances and film screenings.

Many come here for the parks and gorgeous natural destinations nearby. Just outside of town, visitors can explore the Davis Mountains, with world-class hiking trails and stunning scenic drives. And who can forget the famous Big Bend National Park? With its campgrounds, trails, visitor center, and viewpoints in the Chihuahuan Desert.


Davis Mill historical market in Salado, Texas.
Davis Mill historical market in Salado, Texas. Image credit Larry D. Moore, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salado sits along the I-35 corridor just north of Austin and a short drive south of Waco. Established in the 1850s, Salado's history can be explored in destinations including the ruins of Salado College and the Stagecoach Inn, which served travelers on the Chisholm Trail.

In the downtown core, the Salado Sculpture Gardens and the variety of art studios have built its reputation as an artistic retreat. Continue your adventure downtown and walk along Salado Creek, which runs through the center of town connecting to the Salado Sculpture Garden. Nearby trails at the Chalk Ridge Falls Park provide more things to do for outdoor enthusiasts, with ample opportunities to explore the local flora and fauna right at the shores of the sizable Stillhouse Hollow Lake.


The historic district in Blanco, Texas
The historic district in Blanco, Texas, via Wikipedia

Named after the Blanco River that flows through it, Blanco is a small town of around 1,900 residents that is a great escape from the big city. The town's centerpiece is the Blanco State Park, where visitors can enjoy activities such as swimming, fishing, and picnicking along the river's banks.

The historic Old Blanco County Courthouse, built in 1885, stands as a testament to the town's rich past and now serves as a visitor center and community hub. Blanco also hosts the annual Lavender Festival, celebrating the famous local lavender farms that dot the region. Here you can pick up homemade lavender products such as soaps, perfume, and even lavender-infused food, along with being able to explore the lavender fields. Be sure to stop by in June or July when the brilliant purple flowers are in bloom.

Craft breweries and delicious mom-and-pop restaurants are easy to find in downtown Blanco, with spots like the Texas Cannon Brewing Company and Old 300 BBQ being highly recommended.

Glen Rose

Downtown Glen Rose, Texas
Downtown Glen Rose, Texas, By Renelibrary - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:Downtown Glen Rose Texas (1 of 1).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

A little south of Dallas, Glen Rose is often referred to as the "Dinosaur Capital of Texas" due to its significant paleontological sites. Dinosaur Valley State Park is a major attraction, where you can view preserved dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River and enjoy hiking and camping in the park's forested landscape. To see some creatures that are currently alive, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center contains a drive-through safari experience, even featuring some endangered species.

The town itself has a quaint historic district with amenities for travelers, and the historic and picturesque Somervell County Courthouse. Glen Rose is also known for "The Promise," a long-running outdoor musical that depicts the life of Jesus Christ, attracting more religiously inclined visitors from across the country.


Downtown of Lockhart in Texas.
Downtown of Lockhart in Texas. Image credit Philip Arno Photography via

Another "capital-type" town in Texas, Lockhart is considered the "Barbecue Capital of Texas." This title reflects the town's culinary tradition of making world-class Texas-style and a plethora of BBQ joints, with legendary barbecue establishments like Terry Black's, Kreuz Market, and Smitty's drawing hungry visitors from far and wide.

Beyond its culinary fame, Lockhart has a fantastic historic district in which you can stroll around to help work off the meat sweats, featuring the grand Caldwell County Courthouse, a striking example of Second Empire architecture. For a show after dinner, the Gaslight-Baker Theatre is a popular spot for live performances. Looking for a more unique educational experience? The Southwest Museum of Clocks & Watches is also conveniently located downtown and has a vast collection of... clocks and watches, along with info about the history of these time-keeping devices.

Definitely visit the Lockhart State Park, which is known for activities such as hiking and fishing, and a visitor center in which you can learn more about the area.

Port Isabel

Harbor in Port Isabel, Texas.
Harbor in Port Isabel, Texas.

Port Isabel sits on the southern coast of Texas near South Padre Island right on the border of Mexico. The town's most iconic landmark is probably the Port Isabel Lighthouse, built in 1852. This beautiful structure gives you a panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico. The Port Isabel Historical Museum and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum offer more in-depth knowledge of this region's coastal history.

Port Isabel's location makes it a destination for vacationers looking to get out on the water or simply spend a weekend on the beach, with fishing, boating, and dolphin-watching tours available alongside a selection of sandy beaches near town. However, it is less crowded than other coastal towns and cities in Texas like Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Rockport, and Galveston.

The Laguna Madre Nature Trail is where many here go hike and enjoy the unique coastal ecosystem, full of wildlife that call this paradise home.

Explorer the Lesser-Traveled Parts of Texas This Weekend

Exploring Texas’s overlooked small towns reveals the state's unique history, culture, and natural beauty. Each town, from the artsy vibe of Marfa to the sun-soaked Port Isabel on the coast, offers experiences that enrich any road trip through the state. These gems provide a slower pace away from the bigger cities, inviting you to delve deeper into the Lone Star State's diverse heritage. Whether seeking adventure, relaxation, or a glimpse into Texas's past, these towns promise a memorable journey off the beaten path, wherever you decide to go.

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