From the "Tip of Texas" on the Mexican border to the Panhandle Plains, Texas is full of vibrant small towns. These villages might not be as flashy or as big as cities like Houston and San Antonio, but the warm hospitality and eclectic attractions found in the sparsely populated patches up in the hills, through the desert, and along the coast are well worth a trip to explore. Here are a few suggestions for unique small towns in Texas to add to your next getaway in the Lone Star State.
Wimberley is a quaint little village in the Texas Hill Country, situated within an hour's drive to either Austin or San Antonio. It's central location is conveniently located to many Hill Country attractions and is home to a host of specialty shops and restaurants. Whether you're browsing through one of the town's art galleries, going bird-watching in the nature preserve, or shaking a tail feather at one of the dance halls — you're sure to find something fun to explore and do in Wemberley.
A town that loves to honor the past, Granbury is a great spot for history lovers. The town boasts a dozen historical sites and museums — including both a county jail and courthouse museum. History buffs and conspiracy theorists will love the popular Ghosts and Legends Tour, where guides share some of the town's favorite urban myths, including the one about John Wilkes Booth seeking refuge in the small town.
For those who prefer to stay in the present, the town also has markets, vineyards, shopping, and more. With so much to do, eat, and see, families could easily spend a week in Granbury taking it all in — and still not see it all.
Originally known as "Point Isabel" this seaside town and its famous lighthouse date back to the early 1800s. Today Port Isabel — which is located just across the bay from South Padre Island — is home to a variety of museums, restaurants and curio shops, making it a perfect spot for a relaxing beach vacation.
Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town outside of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas — and that's not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title.
Hundreds of thousands of people make the trip to Lockhart every year, where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables. Unlike Kansas City or Carolina barbecue, Lockhart's signature smoked meats are made using a dry rub instead of sauce to flavor the cuts.
Home to Caddo Lake and nearby Lake O' the Pines, Jefferson is located near the Texas/Louisiana border and is widely known as the "Bed and Breakfast Capital of East Texas." Travelers here can enjoy quaint and cozy lodgings, beautiful outdoor activities, boutique shops, and more.
Home to the mysterious "Marfa Lights," the tiny west Texas town of Marfa plays host to thousands of visitors annually, who come to watch this unexplained nightly light show. Although the lights have been viewed practically every night since 1883, no one has yet been able to explain why they occur.
This real-life ghost town is getting something of a second wind, thanks to the inflow of visitors eager to see the ramshackle remnants of abandoned homes and Wild West-style cemeteries. Once a mining community, the town was deserted when the price of mercury crashed in the mid-1800s, when families there up and left their homes for greener pastures.
The town is now home to a few dozen families, some rattlesnakes, and a whole lot of desert cactus. Modern-day Terlingua has fully functional lodgings and eateries — complete with indoor plumbing — but you can still see the decaying buildings and empty mine shafts of a time long gone.
The "Gateway to the Grand Canyon of Texas," Canyon is located on the edge of the famous Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. Touring the Canyon can take a full day or more, but the town offers visitors plenty of other things to see and do, like museums, zip lines, horseback riding, and golfing.
Bandera — located just a short drive from San Antonio — has fewer than 1,000 people living inside its city limits, but don't let the census numbers deter you. The town was the start of the Great Western Cattle Trail and claims to be the "Cowboy Capital of the World." In addition to several museums and nature sites, Bandera features lots of opportunities for visitors to glimpse the cowboy life, including visiting local ranches and going horseback riding.
Whether you want a romantic getaway or a quiet weekend alone, Salado is the perfect spot. Offering fine bed and breakfast inns, as well as quaint shops, dynamic water gardens, and carriage tours, Salado is sure to put your mind at ease. The village is particularly known for its vibrant art and creative residents — both of which can often be found in one of the town's eclectic shops.
Made famous by a Willie Nelson tune, the tiny Hill Country town of Luckenbach continues to symbolize all that is Texas to many — down to the country music and cowboy boots. On your next trip to the Lone Star State, don't miss your opportunity to go to the town where "Everybody's Somebody."
Best known as a mecca for Texas artists, Rockport is also home to the Maritime Museum, prime saltwater fishing, and tons of outdoor activities. The area is popular for being a great place for bird-watching due to its small crowds and vibrant natural landscape, and visitors often come from all over the Texas coast to see the flocks of coastal birds that call the region home.
The oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches was originally a Spanish settlement. Over the years, the town has blended Southern hospitality with its Spanish heritage to make it a uniquely "east Texas town," where people are friendly and the pace is slow.
In addition to the warm smiles and southern hospitality, Nacogdoches features a wide selection of attractions for visitors, including museums, historic landmarks, scenic gardens, wineries, antiques — and even a zoo.
Every year from mid-March to mid-April, bluebonnets sprout up across Texas, and snapping photos with them is something of a Texas tradition. While these wildflowers can often be seen from freeways and on the edges of bayous, few places offer such breathtaking bluebonnet fields as Marble Falls.
Even if you aren't able to see the bluebonnets in bloom, be sure to swing by The Blue Bonnet Cafe. This mom-and-pop shop features a Pie Happy Hour on weekdays from 3 - 5 p.m., where you can get a slice of home-baked with real whipped cream and a side of small-town charm.
One of the most popular small towns in Texas, Fredericksburg offers visitors quaint shopping and fine dining in a relaxing Hill Country atmosphere. Fredericksburg is also home to a number of annual events and offers a great starting point for those wishing to visit the numerous Hill Country wineries just a short drive from the town center.
This small town, sitting just a short drive west of Austin in Travis County, features the Hamilton Pool Preserve, an Instagram-worthy swimming hole created when an underground river collapsed in on itself thousands of years ago. There, visitors can gawk at the 50-foot waterfall before taking a dip in the picturesque pool below. Reservations are required, so be sure to visit the county's website for instructions before visiting.
West, Texas' claim to fame is the Czech Stop, a combo bakery and gas station on I-35 that boasts the best kolaches in Texas — and that's saying something. In addition to the traditional ham or sausage breakfast pastries, the menu offers some fruit-filled ones, too, as well as a host of other sweet and savory puffs, cookies, cakes, and pies.
This roadside shop is open 24/7, including on major holidays, but if you can't make it, the store can overnight ship you your order, so long as its below 50 degrees outside (to preserve freshness). Visit the website for directions and details.
Its Irish counterpart might be home to Guinness, but Dublin, Texas is where Dr Pepper was born. The popular soda company has since left this central Texas town, but you can still swing by a museum devoted to the carbonated drink. If you get parched, you can always grab some samples from Dublin Bottling Works. The small, century-old bottling plant only uses cane sugar in its drinks, and many visitors swear it's the best soda you'll ever taste.
Speaking of beloved American beverages... Shiner, Texas is home to just a couple thousand people, a Subway restaurant, and — most famously — the Spoetzal Brewery where Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week, where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews get made.
South Padre Island might get all the fanfare, but this south Texas beach town can hold its own. Located on Mustang Island just outside of Corpus Christi, Port Aransas has only about 4,000 residents but visitors come from all over throughout the year to fish in its waterways, spot dolphins, and splash in the Gulf. Port Aransas offers a quiet contrast to attraction-packed Corpus, with a slower pace and simpler sights that are perfect for a relaxing getaway.
Robyn Correll contributed to this report.