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

12 Most Underrated Towns In Texas To Take A Trip To

As the largest state in the contiguous US, it is no surprise that Texas is a tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the globe. With its rapidly expanding cities, diverse natural landscapes, and a unique blend of cultures, the state offers something for everyone. While its larger metropolitan areas, such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston, are well known, the vast state is also home to many smaller towns that should also be in contention by those planning a Texas getaway! These underrated towns invite visitors to enjoy authentic experiences only the Lone Star State offers. From the scenic Gulf Coast to rugged West Texas, there is no shortage of fascinating places to explore.

Fredericksburg, Texas

View of Vereins Kirche Museum - Memorial to the pioneer that settled in the Fredericksburg area
View of Vereins Kirche Museum in the Fredericksburg area. Image credit ShengYing Lin via Shutterstock.

Settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, Fredericksburg, Texas, has a distinctive mix of Texas heart and German soul.

While strolling down the historic main street, one can enjoy the beautiful German architecture that has been preserved while perusing the more than 150 shops, boutiques, and restaurants. The Grasshopper has gifts from around the world, and the Kuckuck's Nest sells traditional German clothing. Those looking to take home their favorite German foods must look at Opa's Smoked Meats. Visitors coming in the fall or winter can also experience the blend of Texas and German culture here by attending Oktoberfest or Fredericksburg's Christmas Nights of Lights.

This town not only offers phenomenal cultural experiences to visitors but also an opportunity to engage with the exciting history of this town through its renowned museums. The National Museum of the Pacific War is the world's premier museum about the World War II Pacific Theater. It has recently been touted as one of the top museums in the United States. The Pioneer Museum is also worthy of a visit. The 3.5-acre complex includes authentic pioneer buildings and frequently holds events allowing experiential learning.

A trip to Fredericksburg would only be complete by experiencing the marvel of Enchanted Rock, one of the largest batholiths in the United States. Explore it through hiking or rock climbing, allowing you to take in the stunning views and diverse plant and animal life. Fredericksburg has an illustrious winery scene for those looking to relax after sightseeing. With over sixty wineries, vineyards, and wine-tasting rooms, the region has garnered fame for producing award-winning wines utilizing the native Mustang grape.

Johnson City, Texas

 "The Texas Whitehouse" at Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park
 "The Texas Whitehouse" at Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park. Image credit Mike Brake via Shutterstock.

Along the banks of the Pedernales River, just 48 miles west of Austin, is Johnson City, Texas. Johnson City is best known for its connection to the famous U.S. President, Lyndon B. Johnson. On President's Day, the community celebrates his legacy with special events and activities each year. His boyhood home also remains open to tourists year-round, offering a glimpse into his early life.

Beyond its connection to an American icon, Johnson City offers the opportunity to step back through its many historic sites, including the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, the Pioneer Museum, Cypress Mill, and most notably, the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. At the Living History Farm, an immersive experience is provided as park rangers donning period clothing carrying out the daily chores of a 19th-century American pioneer, and answering any questions visitors may have. Additional interactive learning and fun can be had at the Science Mill. With more than 50 exhibits, there are endless opportunities for hands-on discovery for visitors of all ages.

Each month, Johnson City Market Days features local artisans and live music, making it a great way to experience the local culture. During the holiday season, you can also attend their Light Spectacular. As observed by NASA, this is an opportunity that cannot be missed, with over 2 million lights on display, shining so bright that they have reportedly been visible from space.

At the end of a long day of sightseeing, you can wind down by taking in the breathtaking views of the night sky. Besides the annual Light Spectacular, Johnson City has taken steps to reduce light pollution, making it an ideal place for stargazing.

Wimberley, Texas

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

Wimberley, Texas, is a picturesque and quiet town known for its stunning geography and local art scene—home to Jacob's Well. This artesian spring delivers several thousand gallons of water per minute. The underground water flow has created some of Texas's largest underground cave systems. It also serves as the headwater to Cypress Creek, which flows through Wimberley into the renowned Blue Hole. Jacob's Well and Blue Hole are considered two of the most scenic destinations in the Lone Star State. You will not be disappointed if you enjoy a hike or a swim.

In addition to unforgettable scenery, Wimberley offers a rich cultural experience thanks to local artisans, artists, and actors. As a hub for local artists and craftspeople, the town square features one-of-a-kind shops, boutiques, and art galleries. At Wimberley Glassworks, customers can witness a team of artisans skillfully create hand-blown masterpieces during live glass-blowing demonstrations. The Wimberley Players Theater is a must-visit for those who appreciate live performances. Additionally, the Wimberley Arts and Cultural Alliance regularly hosts various art-related events, ensuring visitors get to experience the enriching cultural tapestry of this charming town year-round.

Brenham, Texas

 Exterior view of Dunlap Buildings, dating from 1870, in Brenham, TX,
 Exterior view of Dunlap Buildings, dating back to 1870, in Brenham. Image credit Alizada Studios via Shutterstock.

Located in Washington County, in the heart of Texas, lies Brenham. Like many other small towns in Texas, it has a well-preserved history for tourists to explore. What sets Brenham apart is the variety of historical experiences it offers. Brenham boasts historic homes, farms, and schoolhouses and a historic downtown home to Glissmann’s Gift Gallery & Historic Drug Store, with the Brenham Fire Museum nearby. Tourists can also ride on Brenham's Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest remaining antique carousel in the state. Brenham is also the birthplace of Blue Bell ice cream. Named to honor the state's flower, the Bluebonnet, Blue Bell ice cream is considered the best and only choice for ice cream by many Texans. The Blue Bell Creamery offers self-guided museums showcasing over 100 years of history and the opportunity to observe the ice cream-making process or sit down in their ice cream parlor to try their delicious creations.

In addition to these attractions, Brenham is home to captivating lavender farms and an enchanting rose emporium. It has a burgeoning brewery scene that offers visitors a delightful range of experiences.

Port Isabel, Texas

Welcome to Port Isabel sign welcoming beach vacation travelers
Welcome to Port Isabel sign welcoming beach vacation travelers. Image credit Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock.

On the southern tip of Texas, less than three miles from the Gulf of Mexico, lies the town of Port Isabel. This charming coastal town offers the same views as busier coastal towns without all the crowds.

Port Isabel’s most notable landmark is the Port Isabel Lighthouse, constructed in 1852. It's the only Texas lighthouse open to the public, helping to preserve the town's rich maritime history. After climbing to the top, visitors can see beautiful beaches for miles.

Those wanting to set sail can book a cruise on the Black Dragon, a replica 17th-century pirate ship. Upon boarding the ship, guests will be entertained by a crew of professional pirates who keep the fun going with treasure hunts, water pistol battles, music, sword fights, and more. Dolphin Docks is another great tour outfitter in Port Isabel, allowing you to see dolphins in their natural habitat.

Known for its shrimp industry, it is no surprise that Port Isabel's local dining features delectable seafood. Such delights can be found just down the street from the Port Isabel Lighthouse at Joe's Oyster Bar. This unassuming restaurant is the perfect end to a long day at the beach.

Concan, Texas

Colorful fall sunrise over Frio River and Old Baldy in Garner State Park
Colorful fall sunrise over Frio River and Old Baldy in Garner State Park.

Located in Southwest Texas, Concan offers scenic adventures to visitors. With mountains, rivers, and ranches, various rustic experiences can be had.

The highlight of any vacation to Concan is the opportunity to tour Garner State Park. Spanning across 1,774 acres of a river valley, it is the most popular camping site in the state parks system, attracting day trippers and overnight guests. Visitors can hike "Old Baldy," geocache, or dance to the jukebox on summer evenings. The park also provides access to the beautiful and aptly named Frio River, where guests can swim, paddleboard, or float down the river while taking in some of the most majestic views in Texas amidst a fun and lively atmosphere.

Travelers seeking further adventure can follow the Frio River outside Concan to Ox Ranch. Ox Ranch offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for World War II enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike, as it is the only place in the world where visitors can drive and operate real tanks, artillery, and machine guns in one location. For those looking for a more traditional ranch experience, Concan and its neighboring towns have several family ranches that offer authentic Texas hunting opportunities and horseback riding adventures.

Before leaving your vacation rental, you can round off your vacation with a trip to see the bat caves, where you can witness 10 to 12 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats ascend into the evening sky.

Port Aransas, Texas

Aerial view of Port Aransas, Texas' Marina
Aerial view of Port Aransas, Texas' Marina.

With a population of only 3,000, Port Aransas offers the perfect beach vacation away from crowded coastal towns. Located on Mustang Island, it's celebrated for its 18 miles of pristine Gulf of Mexico beaches, consistently ranked among the top 25 in the U.S.

Here, you can dive into water-based fun, including surfing, sailing, and paddleboarding. It is also a fisherman's paradise. Known as the "Fishing Capital of Texas," it offers premier fishing opportunities, including shallow and deep-water fishing and regular fishing tournaments. Local eateries will cook up your fresh catches, allowing you to savor the fruits of your labor while dining waterside.

Port Aransas has a vibrant arts scene, which can be enjoyed through the local studios, galleries, and the Port Aransas Art Center. You can also delve into the local history and learn more about the craft of shipbuilding at the Port Aransas Museum and Farley Boat Works.

You can wind down in the evenings by watching the sunset aboard a Scarlet Lady Dolphin excursion ship. Keep the fun going after dark by heading to beachfront restaurants like The Gaff, where you can listen to talented local musicians while overlooking the ocean. Head to venues like Shorty's Place for a more intimate and cozy atmosphere. There is no shortage of fun ways to experience this coastal town.

Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua Ghost Town sign in Texas
Terlingua Ghost Town sign in Texas.

Formerly a prosperous mining town, Terlingua's population fled after the Chisos Mining Company filed for bankruptcy in 1942, earning this town the nickname "Ghost Town." During the 1970s, tourism brought this forgotten town back to life. The proximity to Big Bend National Park drew tourists to this border town.

This isolated desert expanse offers rugged camping and upscale glamping experiences for those staying overnight. With over 150 miles of diverse trails, Big Bend Park is all about hiking. It also offers water-based activities for those who wish to kayak, canoe, or raft down the Rio Grande River. You can also relax as you take a soak in the historic hot springs by the river's edge.

After exploring the local geography, you can check out Terlingua's mining ruins and historic sites, including St. Agnes Church, Terlingua Jail, and the Terlingua Cemetery. The cemetery is a particular sight of interest. Unlike traditional cemeteries, there are few gravestones in view. Instead, unmarked wooden crosses are haphazardly staked in mounds of dirt, and handmade monuments are scattered about to honor the dead. This sad sight comes to life each November as Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated here.

Those looking for entertainment among the living can grab a bite to eat at the Starlight Theatre and Saloon. Here, you can taste the fusion of Mexican and Texan cuisine and listen to live entertainment.

Kountze, Texas

A large common snapping turtle moves slowly through an amber shallow creek and leaves at Big Thicket National Preserve in Kountze, Texas.
Common snapping turtle in Big Thicket National Preserve in Kountze, Texas. 

In East Texas, you will find one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Kountze, TX, is home to Big Thicket National Preserve, making it the ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. Here, nine different ecosystems converge, creating a natural wonder.

The size of Big Thicket National Preserve sets it apart from other national parks. It comprises 15 separate units of parkland varying in size from 552 to 24,828 acres. With undeveloped and developed units and waterway corridor units, the preserve offers a wide range of experiences, each catering to different preferences and adventure levels.

One of the more intriguing features found in Big Thicket is Bragg Road. This sandy 8-mile road has gained attention for its supposed connection to the supernatural. In 1934, stories of a strange light shining on the road began to be reported, along with theories about its cause. Many believed it must be linked to a decapitated railroad man searching for his head or the restless spirits of a road crew buried in a Mexican cemetery. While more mundane explanations have been put forth, investigations into the cause of the light have yet to yield answers, leaving the source of the light shrouded in mystery.

After working up an appetite, Kountze offers excellent options for those seeking authentic Southern-style eats in East Texas. Caroline's Quality and Quantity Bar-B-Que, GiGi's Country Kitchen, and Mama Jack's will water your mouth. While Kountze is a relatively small and quiet town, its access to the preserve, savory dining options, and relaxed atmosphere make it an appealing destination for those looking to connect with nature.

Granbury, Texas

Drone fall photo in Granbury, Texas.
Drone fall photo in Granbury, Texas.

Just 45 minutes outside Fort Worth, Granbury is the perfect weekend getaway. This active beachfront community offers abundant enjoyable activities that keep visitors coming back for more.

In the heart of this town is Lake Granbury, known to be one of the best lakes in Texas. You can find picnic tables, tiki huts right on the beach, and a splash pad nearby. Beachside Toys & Takeout offers rentals for kayaks, paddleboards, tubes, and bicycles. Spending an afternoon on the sandy beach or swimming is a great way to spend the day. Lake Granbury is within walking distance of Granbury’s historic downtown square, which offers many places to eat and shop when you need a break from the sun.

Granbury is also home to a variety of museums. Some of these focus on the experiences of pioneers in the Wild West, such as The Railroad Museum, the historic courthouse and jail, and the Yeats-Duke working museum. Others cater to niche interests, such as Ghost Tours and Doll Museum. As the day turns into the evening, you can watch captivating performances at venues like The Granbury Opera House, Granbury Live Theater, and the Brazos Drive-In Theater. 

Living up to the idea that everything is bigger in Texas, from its vast landscapes to its towering skyscrapers, it is easy to overlook the small towns that possess a unique grandeur in their own right. From the German charm of Fredericksburg to the rich history of Johnson City, these destinations offer a distinct Texas experience. Wimberley's natural beauty and thriving arts scene enchant, while Brenham's historic allure and Blue Bell ice cream legacy provide a sweet escape. Port Isabel, Concan, and Port Aransas deliver coastal delights, and Terlingua brings the past to life amid desert landscapes. Kountze showcases the wonders of Big Thicket National Preserve, and Granbury offers a lively getaway. Texas’ small towns, while less well-known, provide a wide range of vacation experiences that make them well worth venturing off the beaten path.


More in Travel