4 Small Texas Towns to Visit

Across the Lone Star State, these small towns brim with new energy and welcome retreat from the city

There was a time when most Texans lived over yonder. But over the past century, the percentage of Texans living in rural areas versus urban areas flipped. Today, 85 percent live in cities while only 15 percent live in the country according to the Texas Demographic Center. It’s an understandable trend. With booming job markets, diverse cultural offerings, and fast-paced living, Texas’ major cities project a magnetism that leads to ever-expanding urbanization.

Here we chronicle four such towns that are thriving—places to visit now for both escape and discovery.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton

Pop. 10,759

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport-Fulton has been a favorite coastal hideaway and Winter Texan roost for years. The town’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and festivals feels fresh again.

Fulton Mansion Historic State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 1,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Grange

Pop. 4,673

Fayette County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This might just be the “Best Little Day Trip in Texas.” I’m sure Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton would agree as it was the events of La Grange’s famous “Chicken Ranch” that inspired the classic musical “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” While the brothel is no longer around there’s still plenty to do in this town.

Kaloches at Weikel’s Bakery…um, delicious!! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For starters, “Czech” out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. This museum gives visitors a feel for the culture and early days of Fayette County when thousands of Czech immigrants populated the area. Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site. The settlers also introduced a town favorite treat—the kolache! One of the best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery.

Davis Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis

Pop. 1,201

Fort Davis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis started as a military post on the turbulent Texas frontier, but nowadays you’ll find a decidedly laid-back town. Some streets remain unpaved, cell phones tend to fall silent, and folks still wave to each other on the street.

McDonald Observatory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s a quiet little town that doesn’t have a lot of tourist infrastructure. It has the essentials, though, and attractions such as the recently made-over Indian Lodge and the nearby McDonald Observatory, which last year overhauled the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and George T. Abell Gallery. Be sure to visit Fort Davis National Historic Site.

Davis Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A bonus: 5,050 feet of elevation makes Fort Davis the highest town in Texas and, on summer nights, one of the coolest.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blanco

Pop. 2,012

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blanco calls itself the “Lavender Capital of Texas” as home of Hill Country Lavender farm and the annual Lavender Festival in June, complete with tours of lavender crops, growing tips, and music. If swimming or fishing’s your thing, head to Blanco State Park, where you can hook up your RV or pitch a tent and stretch your legs along the Blanco River.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Real Ale Brewing Company sip an unfiltered beer and toss washers. Each spring the brewery hosts the popular Real Ale Ride with Hill Country routes ranging from 15 to 80 miles and beer at the finish line.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

Discover Why Rockport is the Charm of the Texas Coast

The Native Americans figured it out first, as far as we know

Find yourself in Rockport-Fulton and discover why Rockport-Fulton is the Charm of the Texas Coast. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.

Rockport harbor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport-Fulton changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the shores of Aransas Bay, the Copanes—a band of the Karankawas—made the most of coastal resources to support their lives as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They wadded the shallow lagoons, spearing redfish with bows-and-arrows. They scooped up oysters, tossing the shells into middens that grew over decades into mounds 65 yards long. They ventured inland on the coastal prairie tracking deer and foraging for berries and cactus fruit.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region provided sustenance enough to support them and their predecessors for thousands of years. Even today, the Coastal Bend’s natural resources and moderate climate remain the primary attraction for visitors to the Rockport-Fulton area. Be it sportfishing, bird-watching, seafood, shopping, the arts, water recreation, or simply relaxing in the shade of wind-sculpted live oaks life here still revolves around Aransas Bay.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think of the Copanes as being the original Winter Texans. They would spend their winters here along the shorelines feeding on a diet of oysters, shrimp, and other seafood. And then during the spring and summer months they’d travel up the rivers and streams and hunt game.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton offers a range of activities to keep you busy for a week or so. Many visitors find the area inviting enough to stay for longer. During the cold months, Winter Texans nearly double Rockport-Fulton’s population of 10,000 residents.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A common starting point for visitors is the Rockport-Fulton Visitor Center. A timeline of local history spans a wall of the center and highlights important moments such as Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda’s mapping of the Texas coast in 1519, U.S. General Zachary Taylor’s 1845 encampment on Live Oak Peninsula en route to the Mexican War, and the establishment of tourist attractions such as the Texas Maritime Museum in 1989.

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Maritime Museum sits across the street from the Visitor Center among a cluster of tourist sites adjacent to Rockport Harbor. The museum covers various subjects including the tale of French explorer La Salle’s ill-fated expedition to Texas—illustrated by a striking five-foot-long wooden scale model of the shipwrecked La Belle and artifacts from the shipwreck such as knives and axe heads. The museum also delves into other seafaring topics including navigational devices, boat-building tools, the Texas Navy, and offshore drilling.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at Rockport Harbor, the Rockport Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of exhibits, special events, education workshops and classes for children and adults, performing arts, sculpture garden, and much more. The Center is a hub for The Arts in the beautiful coastal Rockport Fulton area. After 48 years, the Center re-established operations on South Austin Street in the wake of devastation sustained to the original building from Hurricane Harvey. The new facility is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and admission is free. 

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. Plans are in the works for a new and improved center with exhibits about local habitats as well as the creatures that thrive in the rich blend of fresh water and seawater including oysters, blue crabs, and whooping cranes.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come evening, after a day of exploring Rockport-Fulton’s coastal scene, a fitting way to reflect on the experience is from the shade of one of these magnificent live oaks. As the bright orange sun sinks into the horizon, a gentle breeze blows ashore, and the aroma of fresh fish smokes from the grill, it’s easy to understand why the Copanes chose this stretch of the Texas coast for their home and why others have followed them ever since.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan