San Marcos is located only 30 miles away from Austin, and it boasts plenty of green space, a historic downtown core, and the largest outlet center in America. There are plenty of trendy shops and welcoming cafes for visitors to enjoy, but nature lovers shouldn't despair; the nearby San Marcos River provides the opportunity to enjoy watersports like kayaking and fly-fishing. The city is worth more than a day trip from Austin, but no matter how long your visit is going to be, here are the best things to see and do while you're there. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, San Marcos, Texas
© Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force
Founded to keep the aviation history of World War II alive, the Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force sits inside a vintage wooden airplane hangar built in 1942. In addition to a collection of historic aircraft, the museum features a military museum and a library with a large collection of military books. Visitors will also have the chance to hop into a real airplane from World War II, and actual flight experiences are available if arranged in advance.
1841 Airport Dr Blding. 2249, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-396-1943
2.Calaboose African American Museum, San Marcos, Texas
© Calaboose African American Museum
Located inside the building that was built to serve as the county jail in the late 1800s, the Calaboose African American Museum houses a variety of letters, photos, and other artifacts that tell the story of African American life in the early days of Texas. The museum boasts a number of permanent and temporary displays, but one of the primary highlights is a collection of memorabilia that formerly belonged to jazz musician Eddie Durham.
200 Martin Luther King Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-393-8421
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3.Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas
© Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos
For visitors interested in Hispanic art, culture, and history, the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos is one of the town's must-sees. Even the building that houses the center holds historical significance; it served as a Mexican school back when education in Texas was still segregated. The center consists of a museum, a small library and free book exchange, and an art gallery, and guided tours are available upon request. There are also plenty of educational programs and interactive events for people of all ages, including children's art classes, accordion lessons, art receptions, and comedy nights.
211 Lee St, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-878-0640
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4.Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Charles S Cock House Museum
© Charles S Cock House Museum
Built in 1867, the Charles S Cock House Museum is a beautiful stone home that happens to be the oldest residential building in the town. The home was built in the Greek revival style and it still retains many of its original furnishings, including a collection of beautiful antiques. Locals refer to the kitchen as the "Cottage Kitchen." Most of the home can be rented out for weddings and other special events; it has space for 40 people seated or 60 people standing.
400 E Hopkins St, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-392-4295
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© Middleton Brewing
Middleton Brewing in San Marcos, Texas is a 10-barrel brewpub that creates a rather extensive selection of ales, along with the occasional lager, suited perfectly for the state’s Hill Country. Along with the various craft brews, the brewery also offers a variety of locally made ciders and wines for guests to enjoy while visiting the taproom. In addition to the good beer, there’s often live music at Middleton Brewing, as well as food trucks, friendly staff, and a spacious patio area. Dogs are also welcome and many dogs owned by the brewery owners and the staff can be seen running around.
101 Oakwood Loop, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-847-3435
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6.Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Hill Country Flyfishers
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Hill Country Flyfishers was founded based on the idea that anyone can enjoy fly-fishing regardless of their skill level, and today the company offers a range of guided fishing trips and workshops that cater to individual needs and interests. The half-day and full-day guided tours take guests down the Llano River, the Blanco River, or the San Marcos River; all of the necessary fishing gear is provided, and food and drinks are included in the price of the trip. Both individual and group casting workshops are available, and the company is also proud to sell custom-tied flies.
Phone: 512 589-3474
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7.LBJ Museum, San Marcos, Texas
© LBJ Museum
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, attended and graduated from Texas State University with a history degree and a teaching certificate; the LBJ Museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of his early years. The permanent exhibits include old photographs, original statues and paintings, fascinating artifacts like a sample voting machine dating back to 1930, and a wide range of other memorabilia from Johnson's time as president. Admission is free of charge. Guided group tours can often be arranged outside of regular operating hours.
131 N Guadalupe St, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-353-3300
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8.Wonder World Park, San Marcos, Texas
© Wonder World Park
Wonder World Park is a unique theme park that holds the honor of being home to the only accessible earthquake cave in the United States. Guided tours first bring visitors underground, where trained guides provide information about the area's geological history and walk them past the cave's many unique formations. After spending some time underneath the Earth, visitors can shoot up to the park's observation tower on an exhilarating elevator. The park offers several other attractions as well, including a petting zoo, an anti-gravity house, and a trackless train that brings visitors underneath a waterfall.
1000 Prospect St, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-392-3760
9.Mama Kat's Restaurant, San Marcos, Texas
© Mama Kat's Restaurant
Family owned and operated since 1994, Mama Kat's Restaurant is known for its delicious comfort food and its incredibly friendly service. All food is prepared from scratch whenever possible, and the restaurant prides itself on serving locally roasted coffee and homemade baked treats. The selection of homemade pies is especially worth a visit; diners can choose from an excellent selection of cream pies, fruit pies, and traditional family favorites like lemon meringue or buttermilk pie.
950 W San Marcos Blvd, San Marcos, Phone: 760-591-4558
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10.Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club
© Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club
The Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club offers a family-friendly disc golf experience in San Marcos, Texas. Guests can get set up at the pro shop before heading out to the big course or the mini-course, which is like “putt-putt golf for disc golf.” The par 2, 18-hole Mini Course at the Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club is designed for both beginner and skilled disc golfers of all ages with holes averaging 100 feet in length. The Mini Course also provides a good warm up for the longer, 18-hole Big Course. The courses are open daily to the public.
3115 Hilliard Rd, San Marcos, TX 78666, 737-266-3990
11.Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours, San Marcos, Texas
© Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours
Offering interpretive glass-bottom boat tours, Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours allows visitors to explore the beauty of Spring Lake. While the guides share information about the lake's unique ecosystem and archaeological importance, visitors will get a close look at turtles, prawns, various species of fish, and other aquatic animals. Hours vary according to the season, but the half-hour boat tours run regularly from 30 minutes after opening until 30 minutes before closing. After their boat tour, visitors are more than welcome to browse the on-site gift shop, stroll through the center's grounds, and enjoy the educational exhibits.
201 San Marcos Springs Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-245-7570
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12.The Root Cellar Cafe
The Root Cellar Café can be found in the historic Donaldson building’s bottom floor in San Marcos, Texas. This building throughout history has housed several different businesses, such as Bond’s Cafe and Restaurant during the 1930’s and G.W. Donaldson & Co. Hardware before that. Opening in February of 2055, The Root Cellar Cafe prides itself on continuing to be a part of the city’s rich history. Guests can dine on a variety of dishes made from scratch for lunch, brunch, or dinner in the underground dining room, along with enjoying views from upstairs on the deck or outside on the patio.
215 N LBJ Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-392-5158
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13.Paddle SMTX, San Marcos, Texas
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The San Marcos River is a wonderful destination for paddleboarding and kayaking, and Paddle SMTX offers a wide range of tours for visitors looking to get out and enjoy some time on the river. Daytime options include paddleboard yoga classes and customizable guided tours, while the Glow Light Night Tours are perfect for anyone looking for a unique experience after dark; the boards are equipped with waterproof LED lights that illuminate the water and create a colorful display. The company also offers equipment rentals, including kayaks, paddleboards, and a “supzilla” board that can hold up to 5 people.
500 Wonder World Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-400-6259
14.Paddle with Style, San Marcos, Texas
© Courtesy of nullplus - Fotolia.com
Paddle with Style aims to introduce people to the joy of canoeing and kayaking, and they offer lessons, equipment rentals, and an excellent selection of guided tours. Customers can choose from single day or multi-day tours; all trips are led by experienced guides, and basic paddling and safety training is included. The tours range in length from 2 to 4 hours, and special options include nighttime paddles on the San Marcos River and wine tasting tours that end at the Three Dudes Winery. Both individual and group lessons are available, and the company runs a special paddling day camp for children in the summer.
307 Lockhart St, Martindale, TX 78655, Phone: 512-749-2350
15.Purgatory Creek Natural Area, San Marcos, Texas
© Courtesy of patarapong - Fotolia.com
Encompassing more than 700 acres, the Purgatory Creek Natural Area is the largest dedicated natural space in the area around San Marcos. One of the most popular parts of the area is 9-acre Prospect Park, with walking paths and a learning center that offers educational opportunities for people of all ages. The area can be divided into two sections: Upper Purgatory and Lower Purgatory. Upper Purgatory features a limestone grotto and a series of trails popular with birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, while Lower Purgatory boasts 12 miles of trail popular with mountain bikers and trail runners.
2102 Hunter Rd, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-393-8400
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16.Rhea's Ice Cream, San Marcos, Texas
© Rhea's Ice Cream
Specializing in locally inspired handcrafted ice cream, Rhea's Ice Cream is a quirky counter-serve ice cream joint with a nostalgic atmosphere. The small-batch flavors typically include unique, seasonal offerings like avocado coconut or caramel apple cider, and vegan options are usually available. Customers can choose to enjoy their ice cream in a dish, in a handmade waffle cone, or as part of a freshly baked cookie ice cream sandwich. Other offerings include espresso drinks and brownies made in the local Root Cellar Bakery.
318 N LBJ Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-667-7598
17.Rio Vista Dam, San Marcos, Texas
© Courtesy of Bruce Blackwell - Fotolia.com
The Rio Vista Dam was badly damaged by a flood in 1998, but it has since been rebuilt and turned into a 13-acre park with artificial rapids and a deep swimming hole perfect for cooling off in the hot summer months. Tubes can be rented within the park by anyone who wants to float down the rapids, and the nearby Olympic Outdoor Center rents canoes and kayaks to those interested in journeying farther down the river. There are also plenty of amenities for visitors to use, including picnic tables, tennis courts, hiking and cycling trails, and even a city swimming pool.
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18.Snorkel TX, San Marcos, Texas
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Not many people are aware of the fantastic snorkeling that the San Marcos has to offer, but Snorkel TX is happy to introduce visitors to its beautiful underwater world. Both self-guided and guided tours are available; the most popular option is the 1-hour Olympic Tour, which takes customers down a crystal-clear stretch of the river. Participants can expect to see turtles, sunfish, and plenty of other aquatic life, and student and veteran discounts are offered for all tours. Wetsuits can be rented for an additional fee, and personal videos are available for anyone who wants to relive their experience at a later date.
602 N Interstate 35, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 210-415-5115
19.Texas State Tubes, San Marcos, Texas
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The San Marcos River is the closet river to Austin that allows recreational tubing, and Texas State Tubes prides itself on providing an affordable and hassle-free service for anyone interested in enjoying a day on the river. The company offers parking lots at both the beginning and end of the float, and a one-way shuttle service is provided so that customers can easily get to and from their vehicles. Private float trips are available for groups of at least 10 people, but the company also offers public beatbox floats. Both types of float take approximately 3 hours.
2024 N Old Bastrop Hwy, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-638-7165
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20.The Longhorn Racing Academy, San Marcos, Texas
© The Longhorn Racing Academy
Boasting a collection of world-class sports cars, the Longhorn Racing Academy is a car enthusiast's dream come true. The company takes visitors to the nearby Harris Hill Raceway, where they can either join in on a ride-along with a professional driver or hop in behind the wheel to take one of the cars for a few laps around the race track. Insurance and helmet rentals are included in the rate, and both classroom and in-car instruction are offered for drivers. Another option is to take a high-performance driver's education class, which includes two classroom sessions and four track sessions.
2840 Harris Hill Rd, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-983-4976
21.Palmer's Restaurant Bar
© Palmer's Restaurant Bar
Palmer's Restaurant Bar serves the cuisine of the Texas Hill Country, paired well with its carefully selected wine and beer list and “luscious cocktails.” Located inside a 1920’s building that has been beautifully renovated, this historic west San Marcos restaurant is a great local dining spot for business dinners, gatherings of family or friends, lively lunches, or romantic date nights. Palmer's Restaurant Bar is a smoke-free restaurant that has been a part of the community since 1978, serving classic cocktails, infamous Mexican margaritas, and signature margaritas with its fusion regional cuisine from New Orleans to New Mexico for decades.
218 Moore St, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-353-3500
22.San Marcos BBQ
© San Marcos BBQ
San Marcos BBQ is a popular local dining establishment with a very welcoming and wide open atmosphere. The restaurant has been described by many people who have dined there as a “great place to eat some delicious barbeque and to sit back and relax. Striving to not be the typical barbeque joint, San Marcos BBQ aimst to make guests feel like they’re a “part of the family” just as soon as they walk through the doors. Only the best cuts of meats are served here and the BBQ joint makes sure to keep a consistent quality of food.
2601 Hunter Rd, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-938-1019
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23.Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Wake the Dead Coffee House
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Wake the Dead Coffee House is much more than a simple cafe; it's a unique Tim Burton-esque space with a large wraparound deck and a stage that hosts regular live music events. In addition to coffee and gourmet espresso drinks, the joint offers a selection of wine, more than 55 varieties of beer, a variety of sandwiches and sweet baked goods, and even a rotating exhibit of works done by local artists. The coffee shop is open every day between 7 am and 12 am, and it regularly hosts evening events like movie nights, chair massage sessions, and improv workshops.
1432 Old Ranch Rd 12, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-754-9253
24.Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Wimberley Glass Works
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Known for its stunning handblown glass art and light fixtures, Wimberley Glass Works offers the unique opportunity to watch talented craftsmen create beautiful pieces of art using techniques that date back hundreds of years. Live demonstrations are held throughout the day Tuesday through Sunday; there is no charge to watch these demos, and the viewing area can accommodate up to 75 people. Group tours can be arranged for groups of ten or more people, and the gallery is happy to arrange a scavenger hunt to keep children entertained while their parents watch the demonstrations or browse the shop.
6469 Ranch Rd 12, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-213-4148
25.Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Grins Restaurant
© Grins Restaurant
Just up the hill from Texas State University, Grin's Restaurant is a favorite dining spot with students, alumni, locals, and visitors alike. The menu offers an excellent selection of appetizers, fajitas, steaks, chicken and fish dishes, sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, and vegetarian plates; popular choices include the world-famous hamburger, the Texas-sized onion rings, and the frozen strawberry margaritas. Steak specials are offered Friday through Sunday, and additional dinner specials are offered every Sunday. Guests are welcome to enjoy their meal outside on the shady deck, and two private dining rooms are available for no additional fee.
802 N LBJ Dr, San Marcos, TX 78666, Phone: 512-392-4746
25 Best Things to Do in San Marcos, Texas
- Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force
- Calaboose African American Museum, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Calaboose African American Museum
- Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos
- Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Charles S Cock House Museum, Photo: Charles S Cock House Museum
- Middleton Brewing, Photo: Middleton Brewing
- Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Hill Country Flyfishers, Photo: Courtesy of Rob - Fotolia.com
- LBJ Museum, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: LBJ Museum
- Wonder World Park, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Wonder World Park
- Mama Kat's Restaurant, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Mama Kat's Restaurant
- Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club, Photo: Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club
- Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours
- The Root Cellar Cafe, Photo: magdal3na/stock.adobe.com
- Paddle SMTX, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of chachanit - Fotolia.com
- Paddle with Style, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of nullplus - Fotolia.com
- Purgatory Creek Natural Area, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of patarapong - Fotolia.com
- Rhea's Ice Cream, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Rhea's Ice Cream
- Rio Vista Dam, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Blackwell - Fotolia.com
- Snorkel TX, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of JJAVA - Fotolia.com
- Texas State Tubes, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: Courtesy of Colin - Fotolia.com
- The Longhorn Racing Academy, San Marcos, Texas, Photo: The Longhorn Racing Academy
- Palmer's Restaurant Bar, Photo: Palmer's Restaurant Bar
- San Marcos BBQ, Photo: San Marcos BBQ
- Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Wake the Dead Coffee House, Photo: Courtesy of Chee - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Wimberley Glass Works, Photo: Courtesy of wip-studio - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in San Marcos, TX: Grins Restaurant, Photo: Grins Restaurant
- Cover Photo: City of San Marcos TX - City Hall - Facebook Page
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