Skip the big cities and travel back to a simpler all-American past with a visit to these storied small towns in Texas.
The Lone Star State is enormous, but hiding within its bold landscapes and endless highways are charming main streets, historic buildings, and stunning swimming holes that feel frozen in time.
We’re giving you the inside scoop on 17 of these lesser-known spots, with enough must-see highlights and unique activities to pack your itinerary.
Ready to stray from the big-city circuit and experience the real American South? Unheard of by most out-of-state travelers, these Texas small towns offer secluded escapes and Southern charm at its finest.
17 Cutest Small Towns in Texas
Antique shops, comfort food, and natural wonders are all coming your way on this list with some of the best places to visit in the USA. Keep reading to plan your adventure through the best small towns in Texas.
Fredericksburg is an enchanting small town in Texas!
Nestled in the heart of the Texas Wine Country, this lovely German enclave has excellent wineries in and around town.
Although it is a small place, Fredericksburg has lots of history because it was founded by German immigrants in 1846.
Therefore, you can imagine the town has some of the best German restaurants in the whole state!
After indulging in downtown, prepare to experience the real Texan wine.
As said, Fredericksburg is located in the heart of the Texas Wine Country and boasts some world-class wineries in town, which are fantastic and absolutely worth the trip.
You might want to join a wine tour to enjoy a few of them on your trip.
If you need a place to stay, consider checking out some of the Airbnbs in Fredericksburg.
There is a whole array of options when it comes to where to stay. Still, if you’re traveling with your significant other, you might want to stay in a romantic cabin for some quality time.
Just 30 minutes west of Austin, Dripping Springs (as the name suggests) is known for its soft but effortlessly enchanting nature, from the gently rolling hills to the turquoise waters of its natural swimming pools.
Plan for plenty of outdoor time while you’re there! Hamilton Pool Preserve is one of the most spectacular destinations in the state, with a 50-foot waterfall, steep canyon walls, and a rocky beach.
The surrounding area features hiking trails if you want to work up a sweat before you swim.
Dripping Springs is in the heart of Texas Wine Country, which makes it the perfect place to sample locally sourced reds and whites.
If wine isn’t your thing, the town is also known for its vodka. Deep Eddy is a favorite Texas brand, and their tasting room offers both guided tours and tasting flights.
Meanwhile, history buffs will fall in love with Historic Mercer Street, a central throughway still lined with buildings constructed from 1870-1940 and bustling with antique shops, bars, and live music venues.
Tucked away on the edge of West Texas, not far from the Mexican border, Marfa is a whimsical little desert town full of tall tales and legends.
Some of the strangest include a fully built-up Prada store on the side of a dusty highway just outside of town and the mysterious (and much debated) Marfa Lights.
Since the 1800s, various locals and visitors alike have reported strange, inexplicable lights dancing on the horizon. Read the lore before you go, or head for the annual Marfa Lights Festival and try to spot them for yourself.
Getting there is a bit of a hike (6 hours driving from San Antonio and 6.5 from Austin), but it’s well worth it!
You’ll be greeted by dramatic mountains, sprawling ranches, and a quirky cultural scene that makes it hard not to stick around for a while.
Read next: 28 Facts About Texas That You Need to Know
Welcome to wine country! Johnson City proudly serves as one of the jumping-off points for the famous 290 Texas Wine Trail.
The stretch of highway that heads west to Fredericksburg is the second most-visited wine touring area in the world.
And that’s not all this small town has to offer. Johnson City has a long list of attractions, with history, art, and tons of fun in store.
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson was born and raised there, and you can still visit his childhood home (dubbed the “Texas White House”) or tour the historical LBJ Ranch.
For an artistic twist, check out the monthly Art Walk, Sculpture Ranch, or one of the area’s many cozy galleries.
Craving for outdoor activities? Then head over to Pedernales Falls, an incredible Texas state park.
If you happen to visit during the holidays, you’re in for an extra treat. Johnson City’s Christmas light show earned it the title of “twinkliest town in Texas,” and NASA even reported seeing the glow from space!
You can find all this and more just 1 hour from Austin and 1.5 hours from San Antonio.
Among small towns in Texas, this one is certainly a stand out. Only in New Braunfels would you be able to find 19th-century German architecture, natural wonders, and one of the best waterparks in the world.
The downtown area alone holds Texas’ oldest bakery and its oldest hardware store, not to mention plenty of leafy parks, antique shops, and live music venues, like the 19th-century Gruene Hall.
Just 25 minutes outside of this charming town, you can visit the iconic Natural Bridge Caverns. These incredible underground tunnels make up the largest known system of commercial caverns in Texas!
For outdoor enthusiasts, they’ll enjoy boating on Canyon Lake, tubing down Comal River or Guadalupe River, or spending a splashy day at the world-famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Although New Braunfels can certainly hold its own, the cultural hub of San Antonio is only a 40-minute drive away and makes for an easy day trip!
With a town slogan of “Halfway to Everywhere,” Schulenburg truly is situated in the heart of Texas, making it a great day trip from Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.
This quiet, cozy spot is usually used as a stopover for those long road trips in Texas, but it deserves more time on any itinerary.
Schulenburg is known for its rich Czech and German heritage, and one of the local highlights is a stunning series of “Painted Churches of Texas” that some say rival the cathedrals of Europe.
Downtown, you can explore the area’s musical history at the Texas Polka Music Museum or dance the night away at Sengelmann Hall, a fully restored Texas dance hall that still has its original pinewood floors from 1894!
Pssst: West, an hour north of Waco, is the place to go for Czech heritage in Texas!
Most small towns in Texas are tucked away inland, but Port Isabel offers sandy beaches and a storied history that stretches all the way back to 1519 when Spanish explorer Alonzo de Pineda landed on this tiny tip of south Texas.
It’s a bit of a hike from any major city, 5-6 hours driving from Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.
Although you may not have heard of Port Isabel, you’re probably familiar with South Padre, the state’s tropical paradise and popular party island just across the bay.
But since this guide is all about skipping the crowds, opt for a sleepy, seaside stay complete with flea markets, quaint fishing piers, and wildlife-rich wetlands.
For a peek into the past, climb the steps of the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse and explore the Keeper’s Cottage.
Then, dig deeper into shipwrecks, trade, and town history at one of Port Isabel’s several museums.
Read next: Best Beaches in Texas
If your imagination of Texas small cities includes Victorian-era storefronts, charming streets, and a cozy downtown, look no further than Georgetown.
In fact, they won the title of Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas! Around the area, you’ll find antique shops, theatres, wineries, and art galleries galore.
For some more adventurous activities, head deep into the otherworldly Inner Space Cavern (estimated to be approximately 20-25 million years old!) or swim, cliff jump, tube, and sunbathe to your heart’s content at the beautiful Blue Hole Regional Park.
Meanwhile, history buffs will love a tour of Old Williamson County Jail and the 1911 Courthouse, two of Georgetown’s architectural wonders.
Perhaps best of all for those already touring Texas’ big cities, this spot is only 30 minutes from Austin.
Read next: 11 Magical Sunflower Fields in Texas (And Farms!)
There aren’t many notable getaways near the urban sprawl of Texas’ largest city, so when it comes to small towns near Houston, Conroe is something of a standalone star.
Located 40 minutes from downtown, Conroe is home to a picturesque natural landscape and a welcome respite from city life. You can boat on Lake Conroe or hit the trails at one of several state/national parks in Texas.
Sam Houston National Forest and W. G. Jones State Forest are nearby, both offering towering pine forests and tons of opportunities to hike, bike, picnic, and birdwatch.
Those that want to stick to civilization can tour Conroe’s historic district, known for its bold brick storefronts built during the oil boom of the 1920s and 30s.
Located 2-2.5 hours from Austin and Dallas, Dublin is “a small Texas town with a big personality,” famous for its status as the Irish capital of Texas.
The most notable attraction is the Dublin Bottling Works, one of the oldest producers and distributors of bottled soda in the United States.
You can tour the plant (which is still making soda today!) and even sample the original drink at Old Doc’s Soda Shop.
There are still a handful of museums and historical parks to explore for such a tiny town, covering everything from rodeo to log cabins to local history.
Just half an hour from Austin, Lockhart is officially the barbecue capital of Texas!
So make sure to visit at least a couple of the family-owned restaurants in town to snag some delicious Texas BBQ.
Aside from filling up on mouthwatering barbecue, there’s still a lot more to do in Lockhart. For instance, wander through town to spot some gorgeous historical buildings.
Buildings like the Caldwell County Museum, Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches, Dr. Euguene Clark Library, and of course, the Caldwell County Courthouse are some of the constructions to look out for.
Voted USA Today’s Best Historic Small Town in America in 2019 and 2020, this quaint town boasts Texas history, exciting culture, and lots of southern hospitality, of course.
It is filled with lots of things to do, from shopping to eating to enjoying the outdoors at Lake Granbury.
Oh, and the Dinosaur Valley State Park is just a stone’s throw from Granbury!
You haven’t experienced small towns in Texas until you’ve experienced Luckenbach. This truly tiny settlement has a population of only 13 people!
Located 1-1.5 hours from Austin and San Antonio, Luckenbach is the embodiment of tiny but mighty, with a hefty history of country music and name recognition that stretches far beyond its borders.
The town center holds only two main buildings. One does triple duty as a retired post office, working saloon, and general store. The other is, of course, Luckenbach’s iconic dance hall.
Thousands flood into the town on weekends when the dance hall features boot-stomping performances from local bands and big stars alike (Willie Nelson among them).
Most of the destinations on this list are around Central Texas, but there are small towns near Dallas too!
Ennis is just 30-40 minutes from downtown, making it a perfect day trip from Dallas. With its sprawling wildflower fields, quiet parks, and tranquil lake, it’s a popular escape for city dwellers.
The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails are open every April, featuring more than 40 miles of scenic landscapes full of spring color.
There are plenty of stopping-off points where you can park and take photos in the fields or enjoy a picnic.
If the flowers aren’t in bloom during your visit, explore the Ennis Railroad & Cultural Heritage Museum or catch a double showing at the retro Galaxy Drive-In Movie Theatre.
Did you know there are a handful of picture-perfect German towns in Texas? Boerne, sometimes overshadowed by the much more well-known Fredericksburg, deserves a spot at the top of the list!
Head to Herff Farm to wander a historic German farmstead or shop local produce at their Saturday market, cool off in the turquoise waters of Boerne Lake, and enjoy the best of both worlds with hearty meals of Texas BBQ and German baked goods.
Looking for small towns near San Antonio? Boerne is just 30 minutes from the big city but feels a world away with its slow pace of life and blend of Southern charm + European influence.
Needless to say but this is a lovely day trip from San Antonio!
With a population of just over 100 people and a reputation for spectacular landscapes, Terlingua Ghost Town is a unique small town in Texas.
It’s nestled in far West Texas, 7 hours from San Antonio and just 15 minutes from the Mexican border. The perks of such a remote location?
Sweeping mountain views, eclectic bits of history, and plenty of magical desert sunrises and sunsets.
Big Bend National Park is just next door, so hikers will love a stay here. But perhaps the best thing to do is just wander around town and see what you find!
Abandoned buildings, random art installations, the old Terlingua jail–it’s all par for the course in this ghost town.
If you just so happen to be visiting on the first Saturday of November, Terlingua hosts a famous annual championship chili cook-off where chefs from across the world show off their Southern cooking.
We’re ending with a bang with one of the most beloved beach towns in Texas, 3-4 hours from San Antonio and Houston.
Port Aransas on Mustang Island is best known, of course, for its eponymous beach, a clean stretch of sand, and warm waters popular for sunbathing, surfing, and swimming.
Nature lovers have a strong chance of spotting some wildlife on their visit, from dolphin watching in Roberts Point Park to encounters with rare birds and giant alligators at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.
It’s an incredible place to soak up the natural environment!
Although the area is most recognized for its nature, there are a handful of fascinating spots where you can dig deeper into arts and culture.
Check out the picturesque Chapel on the Dunes, browse the Port Aransas Art Center, or learn more about local history at the Port Aransas Museum.
We’re sure this coastal town won’t disappoint you!
Wrapping Up on Small Texas Towns
We know it’s difficult to resist the Lone Star State’s charm with so many lovely Texas towns!
Wherever you decide to go, take your time to enjoy the place entirely, stroll around downtown, and recharge your energies in a family-owned coffee shop.
This way, you’re experiencing a fantastic place and supporting the local community. Win-win.
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