Travel

The Ultimate Small Town Texas Road Trip

As far as Texas traditions go, road-tripping is up there with rodeos and Friday night lights. Texans are stubborn when it comes to road trips, and we pretty much refuse to fly anywhere within the borders of our massive state.

Common road trips are from Austin to San Antonio, Houston to Dallas, and pretty much anywhere to South Padre Island. But with so many fantastic big cities and fascinating destinations, the small towns can get overlooked.  The small towns of Texas should not be ignored. The small towns are where some of the most interesting Texas history took place. And even today, you can have some great adventures traveling the small towns of Texas. With that in mind, we’ve created the ultimate small town Texas road trip.

Starting in Marfa, you’ll hit I-10 and head east, with very few detours. Outside Houston start heading North on 146 and take it until it turns into 59. Drive through the picturesque Angelina National Forest up to Jefferson. Then head back West on I-20 until just outside of Tyler. From there you’ll drive Southeast to West, Texas, and eventually pick up on 183 to Seymour. The last leg is on US 70 and up I-27 into Canyon.

This list represents just 22 of the small towns you’ll pass through if you travel this route. There are even more adventures in between!

Marfa

Flickr/Paul Joseph
Flickr/Paul Joseph

We begin our road trip in the tiny town of Marfa. A lot has been written about the West Texas art community that is Marfa. Stay at El Cosmico, visit the Museum of Electric Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlor. Try to see the “Marfa Lights,” and enjoy this unique oasis in the middle of the desert.

Alpine

Wikimedia Commons

Just down the road from Marfa you’ll pass through Alpine. Alpine is perhaps most well known for being the home of Sul Ross State University. But it’s also a slice of old West Texas. Visit the Museum of the Big Bend, and check out the intricate murals that adorn the exterior walls of the town buildings.

Fort Stockton

3262703463_1c56ee60e0_z
Flickr/Saxettom

While stopping in Fort Stockton be sure to check out the enormous road runner statue. The Annie Riggs Memorial Museum is also a great place to check out. This historic Texas town has plenty of interesting things to see.

Ozona

Crockett_County_Courthouse
Wikimedia Commons

“The biggest little town in the world” is the motto of Ozona, Texas. While traveling through Ozona take a look at the Davy Crockett statue. The Crockett County Museum is across the street from the statue, and contains a lot of interesting West Texas history.

Junction

Adult female hummingbird perched on a small branch. Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri). ** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

As you leave the Big Bend region and near the Texas Hill Country, you’ll come to Junction. In Junction, you can go fishing on the South Llano River, and do some bird watching in the South Llano River state park.

Fredericksburg

Wikimedia Commons/Larry D. Moore
Wikimedia Commons/Larry D. Moore

One of the premier destinations in the Texas Hill Country is Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg steeped in Texas history, and has ample shopping and entertainment. If the peaches are ripe, you can’t miss out on some Fredericksburg peaches. If not, check out one of the many wineries on Main Street.

Luckenbach

Flickr/Gino
Flickr/Gino

No small town Texas road trip would be complete without swinging by Luckenbach. Step into the dance hall for a beer and check out the general store. Be sure to get a few pictures of Texas’s smallest town. With a population of three, they’re not joking when they say everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach.

Blanco

BSP1
Blanco State Park, Courtesy Jason Cox

Just down the road from Luckenbach is the quaint little town of Blanco. Blanco is home to the Real Ale brewing company so stop in the tap room for a good brew. The Blanco River also runs through the town, and (depending on the season) you could stop into the Hill Country Lavender Farm.

Gruene

Flickr/Richard
Flickr/Richard

Gruene is a must-see for anyone traveling through the Texas Hill Country. This small town is nestled within the larger city of New Braunfels. But Gruene has a history all its own. Visit the many shops and restaurants that line the shady streets, and take in some live music at the historic Gruene Hall.

Gonzales

Image via TourGonzales.com
Image via TourGonzales.com

Gonzales is truly one of Texas’s most historically significant towns. If you’re familiar with the phrase “Come and Take it,” that phrase (in Texas history at least) originated in Gonzales. Check out the Gonzales Memorial Museum to learn more about that. And don’t miss the Old Jail Museum.

Shiner

FB/Shiner Beer
FB/Shiner Beer

If y’all thought Shiner is just the name of the beer, you’ve got another think coming. This tiny Texas town is home to the Spoetzl Brewing Company, who makes Shiner beer. Shiner is one of Texas’s favorite brews, and the town is something else as well. The brewery is open for tours, and you can also take in a show at the historic Gaslight Theatre. Be sure to stop by Howard’s on your way out of town.

Goliad

Flickr/Ken Lund
Flickr/Ken Lund

Another great place to learn about Texas history is Goliad. The Goliad Massacre took place in this tiny Texas town in 1836. It’s also the home to the Spanish mission Presidio La Bahia, which you can actually stay in overnight if you reserve it in advance.

Liberty

Flickr/Patrick Feller
Flickr/Patrick Feller

Liberty, Texas is just past the hectic Houston traffic on the Northeast end of town. Take in a show at the Liberty Opry and the full-sized replica of the Governor’s mansion.

Marshall

Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn

Though 24,000 residents may seem like a pretty large small town, Marshall is still a must on this trip. Marshall is called the “cultural capital” of Texas. The town is rife with history from the Civil War era as well as the Texas Revolution. Also, you’ll be traveling through it twice on this road trip, so you might as well check it out.

Jefferson

Flickr/Nicolas Henderson
Flickr/Nicolas Henderson

It might seem odd to trek out to Jefferson, given that you’ll have to backtrack a bit, but trust us, it’s worth it. Jefferson is a vibrant little town where you can find all kinds of fun and interesting activities. Since Jefferson is reputed to be one of the most haunted towns in the state, you can take a ghost tour, or check out any one of the over 70 historic landmarks in town.

Athens

Downtown_Athens,_TX_IMG_0587
Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn

Why not stop at the East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society in Athens? You could also do some fishing at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. You could also try to catch the annual Warriors Auto Show if you’re a car lover. It may be a small town, but there’s plenty to do in Athens.

West

Flickr/Kent Wang
Flickr/Kent Wang

If you’re traveling through Texas trying to hit as many small towns as possible, you’ve gotta stop in West. West is known for their kolaches, but there’s more to this tiny town than delicious baked goods. Since West is the “Czech point of Central Texas” you’ll want to check out the cultural festival of Westfest if possible. Westfest is held annually every Labor Day weekend.

Dublin

Flickr/Nicolas Henderson
Flickr/Nicolas Henderson

Though Dublin Dr Pepper may be a thing of the past, that’s no reason to skip out on Dublin. You can’t miss the Dublin bottling works where delicious cane-sugar sodas are made. But there is also plenty of historical places to visit. Try out the Rodeo Heritage Museum, or the Dublin Historical museum.

Cisco

Wikimedia Commons/Renelibrary
Wikimedia Commons/Renelibrary

Cisco has an interesting history in Texas. Cisco was the location of the very first hotel ever owned by Conrad Hilton. Also, in 1927 it was the site of a bizarre crime known as the Great Santa Claus Bank Robbery. While passing through Cisco check out the shops and restaurants, and if you’re there at the right time of year you might even be able to catch Rock the Ranch, a faith-based concert series.

Seymour

Image courtesy of the Whiteside Museum of Natural History
Image courtesy of the Whiteside Museum of Natural History

On the last leg of your small town Texas tour you should stop in Seymour. The little town in Baylor County is a hotbed of paleontological finds. There’s even an ancient critter named for the town. Seymouria was a small Permian-era reptile that is a link between dimetrodons and dinosaurs. You can learn more about that at the Whiteside Museum of Natural History.

Happy

Wikipedia/Charles Henry
Wikipedia/Charles Henry

If you’ve never been, then you’ve just got to stop in Happy, Texas. “The town without a frown” as it’s called is one of Texas’s most famous tiny towns. If nothing else, you need a selfie in front of the city limit sign.

Canyon

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

If you make it this far, congratulations! Your prize is Canyon, Texas and the gorgeous Palo Duro Canyon for which it is named. Hike out to the Lighthouse (a rock outcropping in the canyon) or take a bike ride through the quiet bliss of the canyon’s natural beauty. You could also visit the Panhandle-Plains Historical museum if you get too hot out wandering the canyon. You can actually stay in cabins on the rim of the canyon as well, if you book them far enough in advance!

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The Ultimate Small Town Texas Road Trip