Bandera, Texas is located just one hour northwest of San Antonio. The “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera is a picturesque Hill Country town that was once the staging area for the historical cattle drives of the 1800’s. The name “Bandera” comes form the Spanish word for flag, a reference to the red banner that once flew in the area to delineate the boundary between Spanish and Native American hunting grounds.
1.Hill Country State Natural Area
The Hill Country State Natural Area ten miles southwest of Bandera, Texas has preserved over 5,000 acres of Hill Country terrain since the mid 1980’s. The site boats the limestone mesas and hills that the Hill Country is known for, populated with beautiful Texas Live Oak and pecan trees, grasses and sotol. The site differs from a state park in that it is purposefully kept wild, and as such, offers ample opportunities for wildlife viewing. Common fauna includes white tailed and axis deer, rock squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys and armadillos. Over 160 species of birds live in the area or migrate through, including the endangered black capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler.
10600 Bandera Creek Rd, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-796-4413
Texas’ Medina River spans 120 miles through the Texas Hill Country from its source in Bandera County at the Edwards Plateau. The spring fed river is made possible through the Balcones Fault, and the river has become a dividing line of sorts between the two distinct ecosystems along its east and west banks. One of the most calm rivers in Texas, it’s a perfect location for kayaking or canoeing, or a lazy float in an inner tube. The cool water temperatures feel best when its warmest outside, from late spring to early fall. In the heat of the summer, it’s possible for the water levels to dip too low, so check the rainfall before your on-the-water recreational trip. One of the best swimmable public access points is inside the Hill Country State Natural Area.
3.Frontier Times Museum
The Bandera County Frontier Times Museum preserves the cultural heritage of Bandera County, and its history as a Texas frontier. Collections, exhibits and educational programming tells the history of the area from the 19th century onward. The museum was built by an eccentric local newspaper publisher in 1933, with an expansion in 1935. The eclectic stone building was pieced together from the rocks of abandoned local ranches, wells and walls dating back to the 1870’s. Exhibits include curiosities ranging from a 2,000 year old corn cob, to a two headed goat and the first piano to arrive in Bandera County. Galleries honor local rodeo stars, and include a Bandera Hall of Fame. A Western Art collection is among the more traditional exhibits, as well as a display on the history of Medina Lake.
510 13th Street, Bandera, Texas 78003, Phone: 830-796-3864
4.Bandera Natural History Museum
© Bandera Natural History Museum
The Bandera Natural History Museum occupies a 14,000 square foot building on 8-acres of Hill Country land. The museum originally opened in 2011 as the Bandera Exotic Wildlife Museum, but with expansion in 2016, changed its name to better reflect the current mission of exposing visitors to the natural beauty of the world through exhibits, education and events. Exhibits at the museum include the museum’s icon, a 17-foot tall giraffe. Also on display is a 2,000 pound jade tiger, and mounted tigers, leopards, grizzly bear and kangaroo. Outside the museum are several sculptures of life-sized dinosaurs, surrounded by four different play stations where children can dig for fossils. The museum’s “Sensory Safari” is a special exhibit for sight-challenged guests that allows for the experience of the animals through touch and sound. A gift shop, café and patio with snack machines are all available on site.
267 Old San Antonio Hwy, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-328-5090
5.Silver Spur Guest Ranch
© Silver Spur Guest Ranch
Bandera’s Silver Spur Guest Ranch is a privately owned Hill Country guest ranch that neighbors the Hill Country State Natural Area. Lodging is offered in the 3-story main lodge, or in any of several rock cabins located throughout the property. While staying at the ranch, guests may enjoy guided horseback riding, hiking and historic hayrides, or swim in the junior Olympic sized pool, the largest in Bandera. Guests spend evenings by the campfire roasting marshmallows, and enjoy cowboy style breakfasts and outdoor Texas barbeque when the weather is right. The ranch is a popular location for family reunions, weddings and scout groups.
9266 Bandera Creek Road, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-796-3037
6.St. Stanislaus Catholic Church
Bandera’s St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Parish dates back to the 1850’s when Polish immigrants first began to settle in the area. The original nunnery, which doubled as a schoolhouse, was built in the 1870’s, and was restored in 2016. The small stone cabin has been awarded a Texas Historical Landmark designation. The adjacent main church was built in the 1870’s from Texas limestone native to the area. The current steeple dates back to 1906. Stained glass windows were donated by the parish families in the 1940’s. Still an active parish, the church has seen continual renovations over the course of the past hundred years. The church is a member of the archdiocese of San Antonio.
311 7th Street, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-460-4712
7.Dixie Dude Ranch
© Dixie Dude Ranch
The Dixie Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas has offered lodging and activities for family vacations in the Texas Hill Country for over 75 years. Guests stay on a 725-acre working ranch where livestock are raised, and cowboys have been working and competing in rodeos since 1901. Lodging options include rooms in the ranch headquarters, or quaint cabins and cottages throughout the property, most of which retain their 1950’s charm. Activities include horseback riding, hiking and swimming, with sports courts for volleyball, basketball. Families enjoy evenings by the campfire, western dancing, and classic games such as horseshoes, tether ball and washers. The scenic ranch is located near the Bandera Gun Club and the Lost Maples State Natural Area.
833 Dixie Dude Ranch Road Bandera, Texas 78003, Phone: 830-796-7771
8.Western Trail Antiques Marketplace
© Western Trail Antiques Marketplace
Bandera’s Western Trail Antiques Marketplace brings together over 70 vendors in 22,000 square feet of space offering everything from vintage cowboy boots and western wear, to furniture and architectural salvage items, western paintings and artwork to jewelry and fine antiques. The marketplace is located in the historic Wool and Mohair Warehouse Building, a two-story stone building dating back to the 1860’s. The building is home of one of Texas’ oldest elevators, installed sometime in the late 1800’s. Wandering through it all is Tex, the famous marketplace cat, who has grown up on site since he was a kitten and can frequently be seen napping in the display cases.
200 Main Street, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-796-3838
9.11th Street Cowboy Bar
© 11th Street Cowboy Bar
Bandera’s 11th Street Cowboy Bar is located just off Main Street. Known as the “biggest little bar in Texas” the location is a destination for Country Swing and Country Western Dancing. The old wood-framed building, surrounded by a front porch opens up into a spacious backyard with jet-cooled dance floor. Both the locals, and the tourists go to the 11th Street Cowboy Bar to enjoy live music and beer or join in on a jam session on any given night. The bar has been featured on several national television programs, and is in part famous for its interior décor, as hundreds of bras hang from the ceiling.
307 11th Street, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-796-4849
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10.Sid’s Main Street BBQ
© Nattawut Thammasak/stock.adobe.com
Sid’s Main Street BBQ is well known for its Texas Style BBQ, including chopped or sliced brisket, Texas sausage, smoked turkey, pulled pork and baby back ribs. Sides are made from scratch daily and include classics such as coleslaw, potato salad and beans. Located in an old gas station with picnic tables out front, the Main Street location is centrally located and perfect for casual outdoor dining. Enjoy a sweet Texas tea or a cold beer, and top off your meal with ice cream. Sid’s has been consistently voted best BBQ in Bandera, and is located just around the corner from their second location, the Brick’s River Café.
702 Main Street, Bandera, TX 78003, Phone: 830-796-4227
10 Best Things to Do in Bandera, Texas
- Hill Country State Natural Area, Photo: callipso88/stock.adobe.com
- Medina River, Photo: Clifford/stock.adobe.com
- Frontier Times Museum, Photo: venerala_wideonet/stock.adobe.com
- Bandera Natural History Museum, Photo: Bandera Natural History Museum
- Silver Spur Guest Ranch, Photo: Silver Spur Guest Ranch
- St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Photo: wideonet/stock.adobe.com
- Dixie Dude Ranch, Photo: Dixie Dude Ranch
- Western Trail Antiques Marketplace, Photo: Western Trail Antiques Marketplace
- 11th Street Cowboy Bar, Photo: 11th Street Cowboy Bar
- Sid’s Main Street BBQ, Photo: Nattawut Thammasak/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Reagan/stock.adobe.com