#TravelTuesday: Travel Texas Like a Local, 6 Small Towns to Savor

by Bebe Brown on March 1, 2022 in Living Texas, Travels,

Most seasoned travelers have heard of Austin, Houston and Dallas, but what about the likes of Bryan, McKinney or San Angelo? 

The list of best under-the-radar Texas towns goes on, each one offering its own distinctive and memorable experience, ideal for weekend trips and relaxing vacations. With trendsetting charm, a rich sense of community, outdoor adventures and one-of-a-kind attractions, these six small Texas towns are some of the state’s best-kept secrets. 

1. Bryan

Owned and operated by the Catalena family of Bryan, Texas, Catalena Hatters has been producing custom hats since 1983. Photo courtesy Destination Bryan Texas

Less than a three-hour drive from each of the largest metropolitan areas in the state, Bryan boasts converging cultures, deep Texas roots and unforgettable experiences. You can stroll hip boutiques and listen to live music during Historic Downtown Bryan’s First Friday events, shop local produce at the Brazos Valley Farmers Market, explore the Brazos Valley African American Museum, sip regional wines at Messina Hof Winery or take a sunny stroll along Lake Walk. Known as a foodie city, Bryan offers award-winning dining, farm-to-table fare and everything in between. Its hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and elegant bars make great spots to sip and watch the world go by.

2. Gruene

Arriving in the state in the mid 1840s, German farmers became the first settlers of what is now known as Gruene, Texas. Photo courtesy Gruene Historic District

Gruene is a historic district located within the city of New Braunfels, about an hour outside of Austin. Perfect for travelers looking for a laid-back vacation in a modern rustic environment, this quaint German-Texan town is flanked by the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. Once a significant cotton-producing community, Gruene is now a hot spot for delicious cuisine in riverfront venues like the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar and Gruene River Grill, a hub for painters, potters and other creatives and outdoor adventures like tubing the river on a sunny day. The community is anchored by the famous Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas at which legendary names like Willie Nelson, George Strait and LeAnn Rimes have performed.

3. Marble Falls

What to do in Marble Falls, Texas? All things Hill Country. Shopping, breweries, wineries, galleries, hiking, boating, kayaking, fishing. Photo courtesy Rock Studios

The town’s name is reminiscent of what visitors will find in this sweet Texas town. The glistening marble-like waters of Lake Marble Falls, a central source of natural beauty, are part of the Highland Lakes on the Colorado River, the largest chain of lakes in Texas. In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Marble Falls offers an ideal waterfront location for boating, kayaking and fishing, and a walkable downtown district overflowing with restaurants, breweries, wineries, locally-owned shops and curated art galleries. 

4. McKinney

Photo courtesy Visit McKinney Texas CVB

McKinney is loved by Texans for its contemporary yet historic downtown area, tree-lined streets and easy-going pace. Just 30 miles north of Dallas, McKinney’s nostalgic setting blends old and new with its boutique collection of wineries, breweries and vineyards, quirky shops and art galleries and extensive selection of cuisine. Stroll the downtown square, catch a live show at a local bar, sample delectable wines, or just camp out on a patio to people watch — McKinney is a prime spot for daytime leisure or exciting nightlife.

5. Round Top 

Junk Gypsy is just one of the many Round Top shopping options to choose from, making each day a treasure hunt all its own.
Photo courtesy Round Top Area Chamber of Commerce

Round Top gives visitors the best of both worlds with its tasteful blend of country chic and arts and culture. The small town (with a population under 100) is known for the world-famous Round Top Antiques Show, an epic treasure hunt exhibiting rare antiques, best-of-its-kind junk, unparalleled home decor and other amazing finds from vendors across the U.S. The two-week antique show spans 11 miles and takes place two times each year. Whether visiting for the antique show or stopping by to relax and take in the area’s scenic landscapes, you are sure to enjoy Round Top’s fine dining options, front-porch living, stellar shopping and Southern hospitality.

6. San Angelo

Dubbed the Visual Arts Capital of Texas, San Angelo is a hidden gem in the Panhandle Plains region of Texas.
Photo courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

San Angelo is a hidden gem in the Panhandle Plains region of Texas. Its position on the Concho River sets a beautiful scene next to the restored 19th-and-20th-century buildings downtown and nearby green corridors with ample walking trails, gardens and parks. Dubbed the Visual Arts Capital of Texas, San Angelo offers eye-catching murals, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and hip galleries. You won’t want to miss the painted sheep sculptures dotted around town. With a dining scene that showcases barbecue and Tex-Mex to burgers and country cooking, hopping nightlife, brilliant shopping and entertainment, San Angelo is a top-notch tiny town.

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Cover photo courtesy Destination Bryan Texas