If you're a cowboy or cowgirl or just interested in the cowpoke lifestyle, there's one Texas town that should be on the top of your list: Bandera, Texas. The town's reputation as the "Cowboy Capital of the World" isn't just big talk. Bandera County is so committed to its cowboy brethren; even the town bank caters to buckaroos.
Between the down-home, no-frills watering holes, the quirky historical museums, dude ranches, and the drop dead gorgeous scenery (Bandera City Park), Bandera is a must-see for any Texas traveler. And it's only an hour outside of San Antonio right off Highway 16. Let's take a closer look at the cowboy capital and see what the Texas Hill Country gem has to offer.
Feelin' Good in Bandera
No trip to Bandera would be complete without a stop at Arkey Blues Silver Dollar Saloon, the oldest continuously operating honky-tonk in Texas. Arkey Blues has live music every night and even inspired former Bandera-resident Robert Earl Keen to write his classic "Feelin' Good Again."
Hank Williams, Sr. once played in the honky tonk. Rumor has it the legend even carved his name in one of the wooden tables. Look for Hank's name while browsing all the classic country memorabilia covering the walls.
If that's not enough, Arkey Blues even has a Dolly Parton pinball machine. Yes, this exists. And it's extraordinary.
But Arky Blues isn't the only tried and true honky-tonk in Bandera. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar attracts cowboys, bikers and everyone in between.
The 11th Street Cowboy Bar has some of the most colorful decor in Texas. Countless bras are hanging from the ceiling that dedicated and possibly inebriated patrons have left in tribute over the years.
The bar, which features live music every week and has a jet-cooled dance floor and patio, is a great place to cut a rug.
Two-Headed Goats and More
Bandera is also home to the Frontier Times Museum. The museum was opened by avid historian J. Marvin Hunter, who prided himself on maintaining a collection of well-curated curiosities and historical artifacts. The exhibits include a stuffed, two-headed goat and a gavel once belonging to the eccentric Old West icon Judge Roy Bean. Beyond an impressing range of taxidermy, the museum houses a western art gallery and a collection of saddles used by past rodeo stars.
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I never thought I'd be enamored by barbed wire, but the collection at the Frontier museum was really cool. Interesting to think that some people have dedicated large portions of their lives to creating a better barbed wire. Also, it made me feel better about the weird things I collect.
After a day in Bandera you're sure to have worked up an appetite. Grab a bite to eat at Old Spanish Trail (or OST for those in the know). The restaurant has been filling Bandera natives and tourists alike with southern and Tex-Mex goodness for years.
Without a doubt, the best part of Bandera is its gorgeous scenery.
The Medina River runs through Bandera, making the town a prime spot for camping, kayaking, and tubing.
If hiking is more your speed, visit the Hill Country State Natural Area, which has 40 miles of multi-use trails.
This post was originally published on May 22, 2017.