Those who are new to San Marcos, Texas, and our campground are always astonished by how much there is to do in our area. The Central Texas region surrounding us, including Texas Hill Country, is full of charming small towns. You can spend a half or full day wandering around each one: visiting boutique shops, exploring history museums, tasting local wine and food, or relaxing in a swimming hole.
For those who are new to the area, here’s your crash course guide to 8 charming Central Texas towns less than an hour away from Pecan Park Riverside RV Park in San Marcos.
20 minutes away
Go hungry when you make your way to Lockhart, the “Barbecue Capital of Texas.” The three meat-loving cornerstones are The Original Black’s Barbecue, Smitty’s Market, and Kreuz Market. Try to visit them all in one day for an accurate comparison. Just don’t expect to fit in your pants afterwards. (And don’t expect barbecue sauce. This meat is so good that many of the joints don’t provide condiments.)
Loop & Lil’s Pizza is another local restaurant we love. Nice people, welcoming atmosphere, good food.
There are three Lockhart events you should know about. First Friday takes place downtown on the first Friday of each month, from 5-8 p.m. Shop local merchants and meet the locals.
Sip & Stroll is an annual festival that highlights the historic square with food, drink, music, and more. The event usually takes place in April.
Chisholm Trail Roundup is the biggest local event of the year, a full weekend of rodeo events and music. The festival celebrated 46 years in June 2018.
And when you’re ready to unwind in nature (and walk off all that barbecue), Lockhart State Park features a historic golf course, fishing, geocaching, and a junior ranger program. Rental electric carts and clubs are available for the golf course.
25 minutes away
We could write a full article about Gruene (pronounced “green”) because there’s so much to do. Stop for a beer and live music at Gruene Hall, the oldest continuously operating dance hall in Texas. Then wander next door to Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar for a delicious meal. If it’s a nice day, ask for a seat out back overlooking the river.
The unique shops on main street could keep you occupied for a full day, all on their own. When Gruene Market Days comes around (full weekend, once a month), you’ll really have your fill of antiques and artisan goods.
Last but not least, the Christmas town lighting and related holiday events are really something to see. Nothing will put you in the holiday season like hearing the gasp from the crowd as this beautiful town illuminates in shiny lights, with Old Kris Kringle looking on from the saddle of his horse.
You will love Gruene.
30 minutes away
Wimberley is another small town (population 3,000) that manages to supply countless points of interest. Wimberley Glassworks is a must, where you can watch a free and fascinating glassblowing demonstration.
For the adventurous spirit, Wimberley Zipline Adventures is a lot of fun. Once you’ve taken a day time tour, you’re “qualified” to run the course at nighttime, which is something special.
This area is full of swimming holes, such as 7A Ranch (day pass required), Blue Hole Regional Park (reservation required), and Jacob’s Well. Swimming at Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well is seasonal, roughly May through September.
Other highlights include hiking up Lookout Mountain, dining at The Leaning Pear, experiencing a tasting at Cypress Creek Rum Distillery, and seeing Wimberley Holiday Trail of Lights.
35 minutes away
Driftwood doesn’t have a walkable main street like many of the towns on this list. However, you won’t go home hungry or thirsty.
The Salt Lick is famous in the region. Spend an hour or two at the original location with a wine glass in hand, relaxing in the shade of the oak trees. When you’re ready, get a table and inhale some of the best Texas barbecue around. You can even stop at the pit and ask for a sample of meat.
If you haven’t had your fill yet, drive eight minutes to Duchman Family Winery, one of the most beloved staples of Texas Wine Country. The selections here are made of 100% Texas grapes.
Or if you’d like to try something more exotic, Desert Door is a newcomer to our area, distilling a spirit called sotol. Get an education while trying a unique cocktail you can tell your friends about.
5/ Dripping Springs
45 minutes away
A few years ago, Dripping Springs may not have made this article. But today, the area is exploding as an affordable alternative to Austin.
And we really mean exploding. It’s hard to know what to suggest first. A meal at Rolling in Thyme & Dough, Crepe Crazy, or The League Kitchen & Tavern?
A drink at Sidecar Tasting Room, Treaty Oak Distilling, San Luis Spirits (tours available), or Mazama Coffee Co?
Or what about “hopping” around the craft breweries in the area, including Jester King Brewery, Last Stand Brewing Company, and Twisted X Brewing Company?
This is barely scratching the surface of the standout local businesses in the area.
When it comes to outdoor activity, Hamilton Pool is that bucket list item you’ve got to do at least once. The place has become so popular that reservations are now required for most of the year, so make sure you plan ahead.
50 minutes away
To the northeast of us, Bastrop is home to a few points of interest. Bastrop and Buescher State Park have both come a long way since the wildfires of 2011, which burned 34,000 acres. Today, both state parks are beautiful respites, featuring opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and ranger programs.
Dinosaur Park is a fun stop for kids and kids at heart. The nature trail is unlike any you’ve probably ever seen, with life-sized dinosaurs of all kinds!
When it’s time to eat, Roadhouse Bastrop is a good bet.
Last, but not least, make Bastrop a part of your Christmas season, with Bastrop River of Lights and the Lighted Christmas Parade.
50 minutes away
Blanco visitors enjoy wandering around the quaint town square, which features local dining at Old 300 BBQ and Redbud Cafe, and hosts the Bluebonnet Festival every April.
Blanco State Park is a fabulous swimming hole, especially if you have a tube for relaxing in the deeper water. Hill Country Lavender is another stop you’ll enjoy, if you’re visiting at the right time of year. The season usually begins in May, and you can stroll through the perfumed fields to cut your own lavender.
When it’s time to hydrate, Ben Milam Whiskey and Real Ale Brewing Company are Blanco originals.
8/ Canyon Lake
55 minutes away
When you want to experience that #lakelife, there’s nowhere quite like Canyon Lake. Pick your boat rental of choice at Canyon Lake & Cranes Mill Marinas and stock up on supplies at the marina store before spending a day on the water.
If you’d prefer to enjoy the lake view from shore, then Overlook Park is a good choice.
As far as we’re concerned, we’d drive all the way to Canyon Lake just for the pancakes at Granny D’s, where breakfast is served all day. Specialty pancake options include caramel apple with pecans, cinnamon roll, carrot cake, and banana foster!
Exploring Small Central Texas Towns
We hope you feel equipped to get out and explore the Central Texas towns within an hour of our campground! We’d love to hear your questions and suggestions. We love this region we call home and hope you will, too.