Looking for the best small towns to visit in the Lone Star State? We’ve got you covered.
These burgs might not be as flashy or as big as cities like Houston and San Antonio but the warm hospitality and eclectic attractions are found in the sparsely populated patches up in the hills, through the plains, and along the coast are well worth a trip to explore. So put on your boots, and hit the back roads. and get ready to say “Howdy, y’all” to these small Texas towns!
Here are a few suggestions for unique small towns in Texas to add to your next getaway in the Lone Star State.
The site of one of the most infamous battles of the Texas Revolution, Goliad, is a top spot for history buffs traveling through Texas. Goliad is the third oldest municipality in Texas and is the County Seat of Goliad County, which is one of the oldest counties in all of the state.
The original name for Goliad was Santa Dorotea, noted by the Spaniards in the 16th century. It was then changed to Goliad in 1829 with religious origins. Places to visit include the Goliad State Park and the General Ignacio Zaragoza state park and historic site.
Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews gets made.
Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”
Port Lavaca, Texas
It’s no secret that the Texas Gulf Coast is a fantastic destination for seaside fun. Port Lavaca is a place where you can enjoy all the sun, sand, and surf without bustling crowds and traffic jams. Nestled halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, Port Lavaca is a spectacular place to go fishing on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Anglers have access to a number of public boat launches and fishing piers around town such as those at Bayfront Peninsula Park, Lighthouse Beach, and Magnolia Beach. Along with all the fishing, Port Lavaca is a bird watcher’s delight. Lighthouse Beach offers a birding tower and walkway for getting out among the wetlands creatures of the bird sanctuary, but it is just one of many places around town to bird watch.
You may have passed this county seat because you were too busy looking at your fuel gauge. It’s on Highway 77 on route to The Valley between Kingsville and Raymondville. Sarita was once part of the Kenedy Ranch and John G. Kenedy named the town after his daughter Sarita Kenedy East when it was established in 1904 as a center for the ranch and the Kenedy Pasture Company. Kenedy Ranch Museum is worth a visit.
Take a picture of the Courthouse as I did, nobody will bother you. Look for gophers in the courthouse lawn. There isn’t much more to do. Population is up from 185 in 1993.
Alamo’s claim to fame as the “Refuge to the Valley” illustrates its symbiotic relationship with the adjacent Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, an internationally renowned birding destination. The subtropical thorn forest along with the resacas draw birds such as tropical green jays, Altamira orioles, great kiskadees, and chachalacas.
After exploring the refuge, check out the Mercadome Flea Market and Alamo Dance Hall which draws thousands of weekend visitors to shop, eat, and move their feet to the sound of accordion-driven conjunto and norteño music.
With its rolling hills and relaxed pace, Schulenburg will put a little oompah in your step. Located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and US 77, Schulenburg may be best known as a reliable stop for a kolache fix. But with its roots in German and Czech settlement, this little town offers outsized cultural attractions including spectacular painted churches, the Texas Polka Music Museum, and the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum.
Nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Kerrville stands as a gorgeous getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. From its many public parks to the picturesque Guadalupe River that runs right through downtown, Mother Nature is truly the star here. In short, finding enjoyable things to do in Kerrville is as simple as stepping outside. Visitors also travel to Kerrville for its music festivals, arts and crafts fairs, outdoor sports and activities, shopping, and world-class dining.
Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town 35 miles south of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—and that’s not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title.
Hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to Lockhart every year where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables.
Fort Stockton, Texas
Few Texas towns can claim a past as colorful or well preserved as Fort Stockton. The best way to experience these cultural treasures is to take a self-guided driving tour beginning at the Visitor Center inside the railway depot that was built in 1911. During the tour, you’ll pass more than a dozen legendary sites such as the Pecos County Courthouse, the Historic Old Jail of 1884, the “Oldest House” that is believed to have been built as early as 1855, and the Comanche Springs Pool. Following this route takes you to some of Fort Stockton’s most fascinating places, a great way to get acquainted with this exceptional West Texas town.
Port O’Connor is a small fishing village on the Texas Coast. It is often known as the “Best Kept Secret on the Gulf Coast” for its relaxing, laid-back atmosphere, and numerous fishing and boating venues. The most common activity in Port O’Connor is fishing followed by recreational boating and coastal sightseeing.
The Port O’Connor area is an excellent place for birding. Some places to view birds in town are at the Nature Park at Boggy Bayou, King Fisher Beach, and the Little Jetties as well as walking the residential areas.
If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in February
The past year and a half have been marked by tragedy, upheaval, and loss. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have been locked down, our freedoms curtailed, our hospitals brought to the brink, and children forced from their classrooms.
“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.”
—Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson refused to be bound by any conventions, especially in his writing. As a reporter in the 1960s and ’70s, he made no attempts at objectivity and often anointed himself the main character in narratives he was dispatched to just observe. This quote derives from one of the last career-spanning interviews he granted, a 2003 conversation with “Salon.” Thompson was speaking not about how he emerged as gonzo journalism’s leading voice but about complacency in general. Exercising our liberties is how we build a better world for ourselves, our communities, and future generations.
Enjoy your journey—RV living is the freedom lifestyle.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in December and January. Also, check out my recommendations from February 2021.
Camp at Alamo Lake
Alamo Lake is perhaps the most remote of Arizona State Parks. The lanky piece of water stretches along the base of desert mountains down a dead-end road 37 miles north of Wenden.
A legendary bass fishing spot, the lake is often dotted with boats. This is where you come for peace and solitude. Nearly 250 campsites ($15-$30 per night) and four cabins ($70 per night) overlook the water.
Even though there are no official hiking trails, the wild burros will lend you some of their routes. The sparse terrain makes cross-country travel fairly easy. And just about every hilltop affords a beautiful panorama of the lake.
Yet as impressive as the daytime vistas are, the ones at night are even more amazing. Alamo offers an incredible night sky with a canopy of glittering stars stretching from horizon to horizon and punctuated by the frosted river of the Milky Way.
Park admission is $10 per vehicle.
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
The largest wildlife and nature event of its kind, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) features artwork by 500 wildlife artists, educational wildlife shows, falconry, and retriever demonstrations. SEWE is a celebration of the great outdoors through fine art, live entertainment, and special events. It’s where artists, craftsmen, collectors, and sporting enthusiasts come together to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and connect through a shared interest in wildlife. The largest event of its kind in the U.S., SEWE promises attendees unforgettable experiences every February (17-20, 2022) in Charleston, South Carolina.
Since the inaugural event was held in February 1983, SEWE has become an important event in Charleston, kicking off the city’s tourism season and becoming synonymous with Presidents’ Day weekend celebrations. The original show hosted 100 artists and exhibitors and 5,000 attendees. Now SEWE welcomes approximately 500 artists, exhibitors, and wildlife experts and 40,000 attendees annually.
Experience the nation’s premier celebration of wildlife art and the great outdoors at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Hunt for your next piece of fine art, collect handcrafted goods, witness live demonstrations, and get a taste of the Lowcountry.
Greater Palm Springs
Surely, this one doesn’t require much convincing. Along with the weather—which stays in the 70s and 80s year-round—and the gorgeous desert vistas, you can basically get anything you want during your visit to Palm Springs. Spa getaway? Check. Hiking adventure? Check.
If you’re staying in Palm Springs proper, there’s no need to leave Highway 111, which has everything within walking (or free trolley!). If you’re in one of the neighboring cities, you’re probably there for relaxation. Make the quick jaunt out to the trippy paradise that is Joshua Tree National Park and the equally weird town of Joshua Tree proper.
Louisiana’s Cajun Country is home to the world’s favorite hot sauce. Avery Island is the birthplace of Tabasco Brand Products including TABASCO pepper sauce. Lush subtropical flora and live oaks draped with Spanish moss cover this geological oddity which is one of five islands rising above south Louisiana’s flat coastal marshes.
The 2,200-acre tract sits atop a deposit of solid rock salt thought to be deeper than Mount Everest is high. Geologists believe this deposit is the remnant of a buried ancient seabed, pushed to the surface by the sheer weight of surrounding alluvial sediments. Although covered with a layer of fertile soil, salt springs may have attracted prehistoric settlers to the island as early as 12,000 years ago.
After the Civil War, former New Orleans banker E. McIlhenny met a traveler recently arrived from Mexico who gave McIlhenny a handful of pepper pods, advising him to season his meals with them. McIlhenny saved some of the pods and planted them in his garden on Avery Island.
Around 1866 McIlhenny experimented with making a hot sauce from these peppers, hitting upon a formula that called for crushing the reddest, ripest peppers, stirring in Avery Island salt, and aging the concoction he then added French white wine vinegar, hand-stirring it regularly to blend the flavors.
After straining, he transferred the sauce to small cologne-type bottles, which he corked and sealed in green wax. That hot sauce proved so popular with family and friends that McIlhenny decided to market it, growing his first commercial crop in 1868.
Today, Avery Island remains the home of the Tabasco Factory, as well as Jungle Gardens and its Bird City waterfowl refuge. The Tabasco factory and the gardens are open to the public.
In addition to the original red pepper sauce, other hot sauces available for purchase in the TABASCO Country Store include green jalapeño, chipotle pepper, cayenne garlic, habanero pepper, scorpion, sriracha, sweet & spicy, and buffalo style. TABASCO hot sauces can also be purchased online.
Art and History of Tubac
In Arizona, there are several villages that have been preserved in their original state; however, none are quite as untouched as the beautiful artist colony of Tubac. Located on the Santa Cruz River in Southern Arizona, it was founded in 1752 when the Spanish army built the Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac, in other words, the Fort of Tubac. It was established in order to protect the Spanish missions and settlements which were located around the Santa Cruz River Valley. Today, Tubac Presidio is a state historic park.
With a population of nearly 1,200, the town has become famous for the Festival of the Arts in February. As an artist colony, Tubac is home to 100 art galleries, home decor shops, jewelers, potters, and artists of all kinds. You can purchase clothing, paintings, sculptures, and many other hand-crafted items which have been made by the locals.
You may have passed this county seat because you were too busy looking at your fuel gauge. It’s on Highway 77 on route to The Valley between Kingsville and Raymondville. Sarita was once part of the Kenedy Ranch and John G. Kenedy named the town after his daughter Sarita Kenedy East when it was established in 1904 as a center for the ranch and the Kenedy Pasture Company. Kenedy Ranch Museum is worth a visit. Take a picture of the Courthouse as I did, nobody will bother you. Look for gophers on the courthouse lawn. There isn’t much more to do. The population is up from 185 in 1993.
Explore the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
From upland forests to Cypress/Tupelo swamps, to an active land-building river delta, the Atchafalaya has lots to see. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, known as “America’s Foreign Country,” is full of opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether it’s paddling on the sparkling waters, hiking through the lush greenery, biking on winding paths, or keeping an eye out for that elusive bird you’ve been looking for—the Atchafalaya National Heritage area has everything to offer.
An American-Indian word, “Atchafalaya” (Think of a sneeze: uh-CHA-fuh-lie-uh) means long river. Established in 2006, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area (NHA) stretches across 14 parishes in south-central Louisiana. It is among the most culturally rich and ecologically varied regions in the United States, home to the Cajun culture as well as a diverse population of European, African, Caribbean, and Native-American descent.
With a story around every bend in the river and music from every corner, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is an ever-changing landscape.
Discover the Wild Side of Florida
Meet a manatee face-to-face without even getting wet at Florida’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Underwater viewing stations allow visitors to see the manatees—and other fish they swim with—up close and personal at this showcase for Florida’s native wildlife.
Known as a year-round home for West Indian manatees, the park is also an animal education center with mammals such as panthers, bobcats, foxes, deer, wolves, black bears, and otters; birds such as eagles, hawks, flamingos, vultures, and owls; and, of course, plenty of alligators.
Visitors enter the preserve by taking a tram or a boat ride. You also can walk to the main entrance via the ¾-mile Pepper Creek Trail. The tram is the fastest way to go and it may be your only option if the weather is not cooperating. If the weather cooperates you can opt for the boat. You may see alligators, raccoons, and deer; birds small and large, such as nesting ospreys; and turtles, including the alligator snapping turtles, painted turtles, and red-eared sliders.
“But, after all, if, as a child, you saw, every Mardi Gras, the figure of Folly chasing Death around the broken column of Life, beating him on the back with a Fool’s Scepter from which dangled two gilded pig bladders; or the figure of Columbus dancing drunkenly on top of a huge revolving globe of the world; or Revelry dancing on an enormous upturned wine glass—wouldn’t you see the world in different terms, too?”
—From The Untidy Pilgrim by Eugene Walter
Mobile is the birthplace of America’s original Mardi Gras? That’s right, Mardi Gras originated in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama. It was revived after the Civil War when citizen Joe Cain, fed up with post-war misery, led an impromptu parade down city streets. The city has been doing it ever since and marks the annual occasion with spectacular parades, colorful floats, and flying Moon Pies. Mardi Gras celebrations begin two and a half weeks before Fat Tuesday (March 1, 2022) and the Port City comes to life. Elaborately themed floats manned by masked mystic societies; mounted police, and marching bands wind through downtown Mobile and surrounding areas, entertaining nearly a million revelers each year.
The Mobile Carnival is a family-friendly time of parties, balls, parades, and revelry. Find your spot and get ready to catch Moon Pies, beads, and trinkets. And not to forget the man who kept Mardi Gras alive, Joe Cain Day is observed the Sunday before Fat Tuesday.
Start your Mardi Gras adventure in Mobile at the Mobile Carnival Museum. The Mobile Carnival Museum highlights the history of Mardi Gras in its true birthplace—Mobile, Alabama. The museum features 14 galleries, video presentations, a pictorial hallway, and an interactive float area—all in a restored historic mansion.
A Slice of Paradise
Get back to nature with an unparalleled experience at the Padre Island National Seashore. With more than 70 miles of unspoiled coastline and 130,000 acres of pristine sand dunes and grassy prairies, it’s fair to say there’s no place quite like the Padre Island National Seashore.
From the beach to the bay, Padre Island National Seashore offers countless opportunities to discover and enjoy the amazing recreation and resources of the park. Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico or build a sandcastle. Swim in the recreation area at Bird Island Basin or in the Gulf of Mexico. Use caution when swimming and never swim alone. Strong currents flowing parallel to the beach, tides flowing to-and-from the beach, and sudden drop-offs in the Gulf floor can be dangerous for swimmers and waders alike.
Padre Island National Seashore has access to the Laguna Madre waters through the boat ramps at Bird Island Basin. The boat ramps are located separately from the campground at Bird Island Basin limiting traffic through the campground. There is plenty of parking at the boat ramps for day use but the boat ramp parking can still fill up quickly. Spring and fall usually are the busiest as anglers use Bird Island Basin as a closer entry point to access the legendary Baffin Bay in search of trophy trout.