Texas, the Lone Star State, is known for its vast landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. While big cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston often steal the limelight, there’s a world of charm and hidden treasures to be found in its small towns. If you’re looking for a unique and authentic Texan experience this summer, I’ve curated a list of the top 10 small towns you won’t want to miss. From quaint historic districts to breathtaking natural wonders, let’s explore the lesser-known gems of the Lone Star State.
Top 10 Texas Small Towns
Ten: CANADIAN. Nestled in the northeastern corner of Texas, Canadian is a small town with a big heart. Its picturesque downtown boasts well-preserved historic buildings and a charming Main Street atmosphere. Have fun taking photos on the historic Canadian River Bridge, then check out the Citadelle Art Museum when the afternoon gets too warm to be outside. Whether you’re fishing, hiking, or checking out local hometown shopping, Canadian offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city life. (Canadian is 100 miles from Amarillo, so be sure to fill up your favorite travel tumbler!)
Nine: LINDALE. Lindale, located just north of Tyler, is a small town with a rich musical heritage. Known as the birthplace of country music legend Miranda Lambert, Lindale embraces its roots at Pink Pistol, Lambert’s signature boutique. But this small town offers even more. If you’re hungry, check out the Texas Twinkies (a smoked jalapeno appetizer) at Texas Music City Grill & Smokehouse, but save a little room for something truly sweet. Lindale Candy Company is just a few blocks away! In addition, the natural beauty of the East Texas Piney Woods is only a short distance from here. (Wanna wear some statement-making boots on your visit to Lindale? Check out this pretty pair!)
Eight: NAVASOTA. Situated between College Station and Houston, Navasota is a charming town overflowing with history and Southern hospitality. Stroll along the streets lined with Victorian-era homes and visit the historic P.A. Smith Hotel. Or grab a cup of coffee and take a scenic drive through the rolling countryside. Navasota is the perfect place to unwind and experience true Texan warmth. Be sure you allow some time to peruse the shops on Main Street, as well. My favorite is Stonecroft Marketplace. Be sure to tell ’em who sent ya’! (Interested in the history of Navasota?)
Seven: COMFORT. True to its name, Comfort is a delightful town located in the scenic Texas Hill Country. Known for its German heritage, this quaint destination offers a relaxing blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Explore the charming downtown area, visit local wineries, and even immerse yourself in learning to knit (#1 in my Ultimate Texas Winter Bucket List book)! Don’t miss the opportunity to float down the Guadalupe River or visit the nearby stunning Cascade Caverns. (If you love the name of this Texas small town, you’ll like this highly rated book set by Hill Country author, Kimberly Fish.)
Six: MARBLE FALLS. Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Highland Lakes region, Marble Falls is a captivating town blessed with natural beauty. Enjoy panoramic views of the Colorado River from iconic Lake Marble Falls and indulge in water sports. Explore the charming downtown area with its boutique shops and art galleries. Since this small town is also known for the huge selection of mile-high meringue pies at Blue Bonnet Cafe, you might want to save room for your favorite slice. Experience a summer visit to Marble Falls and make plans to return for berry picking next spring. (Speaking of berries, here’s my delicious strawberry smoothie recipe!)
Five: BRENHAM. Known as the “Heart of Bluebonnet Country,” Brenham is a delightful small town with a vibrant personality. Famous for being the home of Blue Bell ice cream, visitors can tour Blue Bell Creameries and indulge in delicious ice cream treats. Equally inviting for history buffs is a visit to the Brenham Heritage Museum. Those in your party who like to shop and eat can take a leisurely stroll through Brenham’s downtown area, as well as find great food at local eateries. One of my favorite things to do in Brenham is to check out Barnhill House Toys & Books. This amazing store offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, fun for absolutely everyone. (My girlfriends and I stayed in this 1928 Craftsman house on our visit to Brenham last year.)
Four: ROUND TOP. Round Top, a small town with big cultural offerings, is a haven for art enthusiasts, antique collectors, and lovers of all things creative. Famous for its biannual Round Top Antiques Fair, this town comes alive with treasure hunters from all over the country. Besides shopping that will knock your socks off, the local food choices may make your head spin. There’s barbecue, pasta and salads, not to mention a yummy pie shop. In general, this summer is the perfect time to experience the magic of a cultural oasis in the heart of Texas. (I love pie! But my daughter bakes them prettier than I do. Here’s a 5-star rated cookbook I think I’ll order for her.)
Three: LLANO. Nestled along the banks of the Llano River, Llano is a hidden gem surrounded by rugged landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty. Discover the town’s rich western heritage at the Llano County Historical Museum or embark on outdoor adventures like fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. Llano is considered to be the original location of Cooper’s Old-Time Pit Bar-B-Que. Love coffee? Be sure to check out Fuel Coffee House on Main Street. Due to typical summer temperatures, plan to kick back and enjoy the air conditioning with a movie at Llano’s historic 1927 Lantex Theater, too. There’s plenty of hiking to do in Llano as well. In addition to daytime exploring, there are many places to get a good night’s rest in Llano. Here’s a link to find unique overnight lodging. (Of course, you’ll want to protect your skin with my favorite adventure hat while enjoying the outdoors in Llano.)
Two: MARATHON. Marathon, a small town located in the high desert of West Texas, is a captivating destination for nature enthusiasts and stargazers. Explore stunning Big Bend National Park, but also include time in your Marathon visit for a stroll through Gage Gardens across the road from the legendary Gage Hotel. Although it may be hard to stay awake after dinner at 12 Gage, you’ll still want to observe the Far West Texas night sky. Here’s a link to reserve a spot at Marathon Motel’s nightly star party. Basically, with its wide-open skies, tranquil atmosphere, and stunning sunsets, Marathon offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. (Check out these one-day, three-day and week-long itineraries before planning your trip into Big Bend National Park.)
One: CANYON. Lastly, the star of our Top 10 list is the energy-filled town of Canyon. Wear patriotic colors for the July 4th parade and festivities. Then, shop the town’s square, where you’ll find everything from boutique clothing to beautiful cupcakes. Just a few miles down the road is the iconic Palo Duro Canyon. After hiking through the state park, be sure to stop at Sad Monkey Mercantile for live music and refreshment. Whenever you’re ready to cool off, head over to Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Finally, be sure to see Texas, a fabulous outdoor musical, performed nightly on the state park’s amphitheater stage. (My favorite thing to do when in Canyon is to get donuts and coffee and watch the sunrise over the rim of Palo Duro Canyon.)
In summary, Texas is virtually brimming with small towns that offer an authentic Texan experience. Each one presents its own unique charm and allure. For the most part, these are places where picturesque landscapes and rich history have created cultural gems with warm hospitality. In essence, these Texas small towns are always ready to be explored. So, grab your boots, hit the road, and discover more of what makes the Lone Star State truly remarkable.
Encouraging a life filled with everyday intentional adventure, especially a summer filled with visits to Texas small towns,
PS: If you know someone who is planning a visit to Texas, tell them about my checklist – Top 15 Adventures for Texans Over 50. As soon as they enter their email address here, the list will appear in their inbox!
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