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

4 Small Town Gems in Arizona

Arizona is blessed with small town gems you’re sure to enjoy

Arizona is blessed with small towns that beg to be explored. But no matter how many times you may have visited, here are things you probably didn’t know about them.

Visiting small towns is one of the great joys of travel. Combine scenic beauty, easy access, and welcoming main street businesses and you’ve got all the makings of a memorable day trip.

We’ve explored Arizona and found these four small-town gems you’re sure to enjoy.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee

Two- and three-story buildings built of brick and stone line Main Street as if holding back the canyon walls rising sharply along its length. Bisbee’s slopes display a century’s worth of architecture, from historic inns to refurbished, modern-looking former miners’ shacks.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee thrives on a laid-back foundation of artists, entrepreneurs, and free thinkers. Whether you’re exploring the shops downtown, the drinking establishments of Brewery Gulch, or the town’s dizzying network of concrete stairs, you’ll be welcomed with a smile. 

Copper Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: Put on a yellow rain slicker, climb aboard a rail car, and rumble into the heart of a mountain. The Copper Queen Mine Tour follows what was once one of Bisbee’s richest veins, mapped by men with no fear of dark, enclosed spaces.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Prescott

On sunny, mild weekends—and so many of them are—residents and tourists flock to the grassy square at the heart of downtown. In view of the Yavapai County Courthouse, a four-story granite structure looming like a castle, many stake claims to shady spots under spreading elms, or people-watch from the courthouse steps.

Sharlott Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Others browse the shops, restaurants and bars that box in the 4-acre plaza, a design that’s as perfect today as it was in 1864 when the town was laid out. Founders couldn’t have envisioned the role the plaza now plays, hosting more than 100 festivals and events annually. The square is not just Prescott’s heart, but its soul.

Granite Cliffs and Watson Lake, Prescott

Claim to fame: Step back in time at the Palace Restaurant Saloon and Restaurant. Opened in 1877, the state’s oldest bar is one of the most popular stops on Whiskey Row and once hosted Doc Holliday as well as Wyatt and Virgil Earp. The Palace burned to the ground in 1900 but not before patrons carried the bar itself to safety. That original Brunswick bar remains, polished smooth over more than a century of use. 

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Jerome

The way buildings cling precariously to the side of Cleopatra Hill, it’s as if gravity has been suspended in this former mining town. Jerome is laid out vertically, with Arizona 89A switchbacking through it. The Verde Valley spreads out below in one of the most accessible vistas in Arizona. 

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With few signs of the mine shafts that run through Cleopatra Hill like a honeycomb, Jerome now thrives on tourism, enhanced by a welcoming vibe exuded by artists and small-business owners.

Jerome State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: The town may be Arizona’s most haunted. Many visitors hoping for a spontaneous outbreak of spirits can play it by eerie at the Jerome Grand Hotel. The building opened in 1927 as the United Verde Hospital and since then guests and staff have reported all sorts of unearthly activity, from apparitions and flickering lights to disembodied voices. The hotel looms over Jerome and even appears menacing at sunset. That’s a great time to duck into its bar, The Asylum, where spirits of a different kind are served.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sedona

The first glimpse of Sedona is one of awe. Towers and walls of red rock surround the hamlet like a fortress. But rather than keep visitors out, the surreal landscape attracts tourists by the thousands. 

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Claim to fame: Many come to Sedona to experience the spiritual energy said to emanate from vortexes. Those open to the possibilities may feel psychic forces energize and heal them, per adherents. Even if you don’t believe, it’s worth visiting the vortexes because they happen to be in some of Sedona’s most scenic spots, such as Bell Rock and Airport Mesa. 

Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers