ADVERTISEMENT
  • San Marcos, Texas
LeftLeft

    San Marcos,

    Texas

    dlewis33 / iStock

    Save up to 50% on Hotels

    San Marcos ( SAN MAR-kəs) is a city and the county seat of Hays County, Texas, United States. The city's limits extend into Caldwell and Guadalupe counties, as well. San Marcos is within the Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos metropolitan area and on the Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio. Its population was 44,894 at the 2010 census and 67,553 at the 2020 census. Founded on the banks of the San Marcos River, the area is thought to be among the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the Americas. San Marcos is home to Texas State University and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.In 2010, San Marcos was listed in Business Week's fourth annual survey of the "Best Places to Raise your Kids". In 2013 and 2014, the United States Census Bureau named it the fastest-growing city in the United States. In December 2013, it was named number nine on Business Insider's list of the "10 Most Exciting Small Cities In America".
    logoFind more things to do, itinerary ideas, updated news and events, and plan your perfect trip to San Marcos
    ADVERTISEMENT

    San Marcos Articles

    Inspiration

    Can’t Get to Europe? These U.S. Destinations Will Make You Feel Like You’re There

    With much of Europe off limits amid the current pandemic, Americans will have to wait longer to travel to and throughout the continent. However, they can find resemblances to some European countries a little closer to home. Here are locations across the U.S. that make you feel like you’ve set foot in a European destination with no passport required. To feel like you're in Greece... Head to Tarpon Springs, Florida More than one in 10 residents in this Gulf Coast city claim Greek ancestry, with Greek immigrants arriving in the late 19th century. They also gave Tarpon Springs the moniker, “The Sponge Capital of the World,” in that divers would apply the Greek Islands tradition of diving for sponges to Floridian waters. Nowadays, Greek heritage can be seen with locals in coffee shops along Athens Street. Along Dodecanese Boulevard, shop at Getaguru Handmade Soap Company and dine at Mykonos and Hellas Greek Restaurant. The Netherlands... Holland, Michigan Founded in the mid-19th century, this city on the shores of Lake Michigan makes you feel like you’ve set foot in the Netherlands. Experience a Dutch wonderland at the Windmill Island Gardens, with a windmill that grinds West Michigan sourced wheat into flour, while Nelis' Dutch Village shows the traditional making of wooden shoes. Every May, take in its Tulip Time Festival; later on in the year, do your holiday shopping at Kerstmarkt. Pella, Iowa Another Dutch destination, this Iowa location is all heritage museums, Dutch architecture, and the Vermeer Windmill, the tallest working grain windmill in the U.S. Then there’s Klokkenspel, a carillon clock going off on odd hours and with historic figurines coming in and out. And cuisine options are plenty, from Dutch bakeries’ Jaarsma Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery to Dutch Fix, serving up Dutch street food. lowthian, Getty Spain... St. Augustine, Florida As the nation’s oldest city, this former Spanish settlement is still noted through Colonial-style architecture and historic venues. Avile Street is the oldest street in the U.S. and is now an arts district with galleries and restaurants and historic venues. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, an old Spanish fortification built to protect their claim on the Atlantic trade route, is now overseen by the National Park Service. Denmark... Solvang, California Referred to as the “Danish capital of America,” this village in Santa Ynez Valley gets quite festive with its Solvang Julefest, a holiday event; Solvang Grape Stomp, a wine harvesting celebration; and Solvang Danish Days, a full-blown heritage festival. Regularly, you can see a copy of Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture and Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, whose exterior resembles an 18th-century Danish farmhouse. But be sure to try Danish pastries at bakeries including Aebleskiver Café and Birkholm's Bakery & Cafe. California, USA - August 6th, 2019 : Solvang Brewing Company in Solvang Historic Downtown, a Danish Village in Santa Ynez Valley. nicolasboivin, Getty Poland... New Britain, Connecticut Nicknamed “Little Poland,” this Hartford County city’s section of Broad Street continues the legacy built by Polish immigrants coming to work in factories over two centuries ago. It’s known for its annual Little Poland Festival, which holds cultural and family-friendly activities. Do some shopping in Polmart, a store with all things Polish, or for pierogis and stuffed cabbage at Roly Poly Bakery. Or order a meal at the highly recommended Staropolska Restaurant. Basque Region... Boise, Idaho With the most concentrated population of Basques living in the U.S., the “Basque Block” is a downtown section along Grove Street reflecting this legacy dating back two centuries. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center tells the history behind these emigrants from this northern Spain. The Basque Market carries Txakoli, Basque and Spanish wines and is known for weekly preparing giant paellas on the street. Go pintxo hopping at Txikiteo and Bar Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery. knowlesgallery, GettySwitzerland... New Glarus, Wisconsin Referred to as “America’s Little Switzerland,” this Wisconsin village showcases its Alpine-style architecture and a Cow Parade of statues depicting these dairy-producing animals. Established in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus holds a Harvest Fest in October, where daily routines and responsibilities of the past – cheese making, blacksmithing, yarn spinning, you name it – are re-created. And at Emmi Roth Käse Cheese Factory, a Swiss-owned cheesemaker, take a self-guided tour. Germany... New Braunfels, Texas Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels arrived in what’s now the Texas Hill Country to motivate the founding of this 19th-century German colony. His royal presence lives on in murals depicting him and other key figures in The New Braunfels Historic Outdoor Art Museum. Head to Krause’s Cafe for its Biergarten and German fare, and the Gruene Historic District is where German farmers lived but now has a hopping’ dance hall, general store, and restaurant. Every November, Wurstfest serves up a German food-focused celebration. Leavenworth, Washington In the 1960s, officials decided to make this Deadwood-looking town into a Bavarian village to attract visitors. Today, its architecture is full of beamed houses with other German features ranging from restaurants (try the Bavarian Bistro and Bar) to German named gift shops (with European ornaments at Kris Kringl). Sweden... Lindsborg, Kansas Known as “Little Sweden, USA,” this city in Kansas’s Smoky Valley was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1860s and Lindsborg still celebrates its Scandinavian roots through Swedish traditions year-round. Their event calendar includes St. Lucia Festival in December; Våffeldagen, which celebrates Swedish waffles in March; and Svensk Hyllningsfest, a biennial celebration. Spot sculptures of the Swedish Dala Horse around town and purchase a hand painted one from Hemslöjd. Italy... Napa Valley, California Giving a Tuscan landscape vibe, this wine-producing destination boasts wineries whose architectural features make you feel like you’re in Italy or another similar European countryside. To start, the Castello di Amorosa gives off the feeling of exploring a hill town in Tuscany or Umbria, with its 13th-century-style winery. Napa Valley is also noted for producing another associated Italian export -- oil olive -- and sample the bounty produced at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company. Napa Valley wine country mountain hillside vineyard growing crops for grape harvest and winery winemaking. Rows of lush, green grapevines ripen in cultivated agricultural farm fields glowing in sunset. Spondylolithesis, GettyFrance... New Orleans, French Quarter, Louisiana While bounced between the Spanish and influenced by indigenous peoples and African Americans, New Orleans was first founded and settled by the French. Their imprint lingers within nearby Cajun country, with those speaking “Louisiana French,” and in NOLA’s French Quarter, the city’s most famous neighborhood. Here, dine on fine French and Creole cuisine at Arnaud’s, Galatoire's, and Antoine’s Restaurant. New Orleans, USA - April 22, 2018: People ordering food in Cafe Du Monde restaurant, eating beignet powdered sugar donuts, drinking chicory coffee, waiter taking order. ablokhin, Getty England... Alexandria, Virginia Founded by Scottish merchants in 1749, this city outside of Washington, D.C. gives off a Colonial English vibe within its Old Town District. Captain’s Row is a cobblestone streetscape, while the brick-lined King Street has many shopping ops. The Old Town Farmers’ Market has been in existence since before the American Revolution; George Washington sent produce grown at nearby Mount Vernon to be sold there.

    Inspiration

    Can’t Get to Europe? These U.S. Destinations Will Make You Feel Like You’re There

    With much of Europe off limits amid the current pandemic, Americans will have to wait longer to travel to and throughout the continent. However, they can find resemblances to some European countries a little closer to home. Here are locations across the U.S. that make you feel like you’ve set foot in a European destination with no passport required. Greece Tarpon Springs, Florida More than one in 10 residents in this Gulf Coast city claim Greek ancestry, with Greek immigrants arriving in the late 19th century. They also gave Tarpon Springs the moniker, “The Sponge Capital of the World,” in that divers would apply the Greek Islands tradition of diving for sponges to Floridian waters. Nowadays, Greek heritage can be seen with locals in coffee shops along Athens Street. Along Dodecanese Boulevard, shop at Getaguru Handmade Soap Company and dine at Mykonos and Hellas Greek Restaurant. Pella, Iowa. The Netherlands Holland, Michigan Founded in the mid-19th century, this city on the shores of Lake Michigan makes you feel like you’ve set foot in the Netherlands. Experience a Dutch wonderland at the Windmill Island Gardens, with a windmill that grinds West Michigan sourced wheat into flour, while Nelis' Dutch Village shows the traditional making of wooden shoes. Every May, take in its Tulip Time Festival; later on in the year, do your holiday shopping at Kerstmarkt. Pella, Iowa Another Dutch destination, this Iowa location is all heritage museums, Dutch architecture, and the Vermeer Windmill, the tallest working grain windmill in the U.S. Then there’s Klokkenspel, a carillon clock going off on odd hours and with historic figurines coming in and out. And cuisine options are plenty, from Dutch bakeries’ Jaarsma Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery to Dutch Fix, serving up Dutch street food. Denmark Solvang, California Referred to as the “Danish capital of America,” this village in Santa Ynez Valley gets quite festive with its Solvang Julefest, a holiday event; Solvang Grape Stomp, a wine harvesting celebration; and Solvang Danish Days, a full-blown heritage festival. Regularly, you can see a copy of Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture and Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, whose exterior resembles an 18th-century Danish farmhouse. But be sure to try Danish pastries at bakeries including Aebleskiver Café and Birkholm's Bakery & Cafe. St. Augustine, Florida. ©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock Spain St. Augustine, Florida As the nation’s oldest city, this former Spanish settlement is still noted through Colonial-style architecture and historic venues. Avile Street is the oldest street in the U.S. and is now an arts district with galleries and restaurants and historic venues. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, an old Spanish fortification built to protect their claim on the Atlantic trade route, is now overseen by the National Park Service. Poland New Britain, Connecticut Nicknamed “Little Poland,” this Hartford County city’s section of Broad Street continues the legacy built by Polish immigrants coming to work in factories over two centuries ago. It’s known for its annual Little Poland Festival, which holds cultural and family-friendly activities. Do some shopping in Polmart, a store with all things Polish, or for pierogis and stuffed cabbage at Roly Poly Bakery. Or order a meal at the highly recommended Staropolska Restaurant. Basque Region Boise, Idaho With the most concentrated population of Basques living in the U.S., the “Basque Block” is a downtown section along Grove Street reflecting this legacy dating back two centuries. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center tells the history behind these emigrants from this northern Spain. The Basque Market carries Txakoli, Basque and Spanish wines and is known for weekly preparing giant paellas on the street. Go pintxo hopping at Txikiteo and Bar Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery. Switzerland New Glarus, Wisconsin Referred to as “America’s Little Switzerland,” this Wisconsin village showcases its Alpine-style architecture and a Cow Parade of statues depicting these dairy-producing animals. Established in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus holds a Harvest Fest in October, where daily routines and responsibilities of the past – cheese making, blacksmithing, yarn spinning, you name it – are re-created. And at Emmi Roth Käse Cheese Factory, a Swiss-owned cheesemaker, take a self-guided tour. Helen, Georgia. ©SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images Germany New Braunfels, Texas Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels arrived in what’s now the Texas Hill Country to motivate the founding of this 19th-century German colony. His royal presence lives on in murals depicting him and other key figures in The New Braunfels Historic Outdoor Art Museum. Head to Krause’s Cafe for its Biergarten and German fare, and the Gruene Historic District is where German farmers lived but now has a hopping’ dance hall, general store, and restaurant. Every November, Wurstfest serves up a German food-focused celebration. Leavenworth, Washington In the 1960s, officials decided to make this Deadwood-looking town into a Bavarian village to attract visitors. Today, its architecture is full of beamed houses with other German features ranging from restaurants (try the Bavarian Bistro and Bar) to German named gift shops (with European ornaments at Kris Kringl). Helen, Georgia This Georgia town is tucked into the Blue Ridge mountains, and has been designed to look and feel like an Alpine village in Bavaria. You'll spend the day visiting charming shops and walking on cobblestone streets. Roadtrippers will enjoy having access to the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway that highlights the beauty of the Blue Ridge and starts in Helen. Sweden Lindsborg, Kansas Known as “Little Sweden, USA,” this city in Kansas’s Smoky Valley was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1860s and Lindsborg still celebrates its Scandinavian roots through Swedish traditions year-round. Their event calendar includes St. Lucia Festival in December; Våffeldagen, which celebrates Swedish waffles in March; and Svensk Hyllningsfest, a biennial celebration. Spot sculptures of the Swedish Dala Horse around town and purchase a hand painted one from Hemslöjd. Napa Valley. ©Michael Warwick/Shutterstock Italy Napa Valley, California Giving a Tuscan landscape vibe, this wine-producing destination boasts wineries whose architectural features make you feel like you’re in Italy or another similar European countryside. To start, the Castello di Amorosa gives off the feeling of exploring a hill town in Tuscany or Umbria, with its 13th-century-style winery. Napa Valley is also noted for producing another associated Italian export -- oil olive -- and sample the bounty produced at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company. New Orleans French Quarter. ©mixmotive/Getty Images France New Orleans While bounced between the Spanish and influenced by indigenous peoples and African Americans, New Orleans was first founded and settled by the French. Their imprint lingers within nearby Cajun country, with those speaking “Louisiana French,” and in NOLA’s French Quarter, the city’s most famous neighborhood. Here, dine on fine French and Creole cuisine at Arnaud’s, Galatoire's, and Antoine’s Restaurant. England Alexandria, Virginia Founded by Scottish merchants in 1749, this city outside of Washington, D.C. gives off a Colonial English vibe within its Old Town District. Captain’s Row is a cobblestone streetscape, while the brick-lined King Street has many shopping ops. The Old Town Farmers’ Market has been in existence since before the American Revolution; George Washington sent produce grown at nearby Mount Vernon to be sold there.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Macabre Cities to Visit for Halloween

    New Orleans, Louisiana From above ground mausoleums and tombs to haunted hotels to voodoo culture, New Orleans has a distinct culture that involves elements of the macabre. Founded in 1718 before the United States was officially founded, it has a history full of urban legends, including werewolves prowling the bayou or vampires in the French Quarter. Popular landmarks include the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in the St. Louis Cemetery, walking past the gruesome past of LaLaurie Mansion, or Blacksmith’s Shop Bar where the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte resides. Walk the cobblestone streets past brightly colored houses with iron balconies on a ghost tour on a foggy night to experience the unusual. Savannah, Georgia Savannah may ooze more than southern charm. With more than 300 years of gruesome history, the entire historic district is reportedly haunted. There’s been rumors and sightings of paranormal activity at Hamilton-Turner Inn as well as Marshall House, a haunted hotel that was a hospital three times in the past. Madison Square was the site of a bloody Civil War battle and has many haunted mansions that line the streets. Wander through Bonaventure Cemetery or Colonial Park Cemetery if you dare. Sleepy Hollow, New York This village thrives in its folklore history due to the Headless Horsemen in the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. You may experience a ghostly encounter when walking through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery or exploring the town by lantern and shining jack-o-lanterns. Wander through popular colonial era manors include Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, or Lyndhurst Mansion to learn more about local Sleepy Hollow history and haunts. Salem, Massachusetts Founded in 1626 as a Puritan fishing community, Salem is the location of the famous 1692 Salem witch trials in which Colonial America’s mass hysteria led to 19 people being hanged with more dying from other causes. Much of the town’s cultural identity revolves around this event, and many of the sites from the witch trials over 300 years ago still stand. Many historic sites are reportedly haunted, including one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, Old Burying Point Cemetery, and home of a Witch Trial Judge, The Witch House. Explore the muted colors of the town and brick-paved streets yourself to learn more about the sinister history rooted here. Tombstone, Arizona Riddled with a violent past, this historic mining ghost town is said to be home to lingering spirits of cowboys, grieving mothers, and citizens killed in large fires. OK Corral, the site of the famous Old West gunfight, is reportedly haunted by the cowboys. Boot Hill Graveyard and Bird Cage Theatre are popular destinations where unexplainable phenomena occur in Tombstone. St. Augustine, Florida Presumably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is home to centuries of history, beautiful houses, and supposedly, spirits. The masonry fortress Castillo de San Marcos is the location of many battles and invasions. Dangerous criminals in grotesque conditions were held at The Old Jail and apparitions with tragic deaths have been described at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Stroll the cobblestone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture to immerse yourself in this ancient city. San Francisco, California Among the vibrant scenery and sloping hills, some locations around San Francisco may send you chills even amidst the warm weather. Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” is a famous maximum-security military prison and haunted landmark that housed inmates including Al Capone. See if you hear voices or footsteps behind you if you visit. Take your pick of the macabre from friendly ghosts at The Queen Anne Hotel, dead army men performing their daily routine at the National Park The Presidio, or ethereal beings at the Sutro Baths. Charleston, South Carolina Known as a port city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Charleston also has some dark history from the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter to slave labor on plantations. Learn about the macabre with locations like the White Point Garden where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s, the Old City Jail which housed the state’s first female serial killer, or The Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon which held Revolutionary War soldiers. San Antonio, Texas Bursting with rich culture and modern attractions, San Antonio also has a creepy past. The Menger Hotel is reputed to have strange occurrences but is decidedly the location of The Battle of the Alamo, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders recruitment, and a devastating fire. The Southern Texas region also gives way to the Spanish urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman. Walk along the river or visit the Alamo Williamsburg, Virginia Existing as early as the 18th-century, Williamsburg has diverse Colonial America history, including part in the U.S. Civil War. Not all of its history is for the faint of heart though. Said to be cursed by the slave of the wife, the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715 and the location of at least 30 deaths. The Public Hospital was the country’s first insane asylum Other haunted locations are the Wythe House, colonial prison Public Gaol, and Fort Magruder Hotel which was the site of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.

    Road Trips

    Road trip the Southeast on a budget

    If you’re looking for a road trip that delivers some of the highest highlights of the Southeast, we’ve put together a peerless itinerary that takes you from the biggest city in North Carolina to the oldest city in America, with plenty of good eats, arts, and natural beauty along the way. Start your engine! Charlotte Your Southeast road trip begins with a taste of Charlotte, North Carolina. The largest city in the “First in Flight” State, Charlotte offers a menu of contemporary Southern cuisine like the exquisite BBQ at Midwood Smokehouse, several important art collections including the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the unique Levine Museum of the New South with its focus on events after the Civil War. A stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a must for racing enthusiasts and newbies alike. The winding Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America's best drives © Pierre Leclerc Photography / Getty Images Boone & Blowing Rock From Charlotte, you’ll head north (don’t worry, we’ll get you down to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida eventually) for about two hours on I-77 and US 421 to the scenic Boone and Blowing Rock region. The epicenter of beauty here is the stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that passes through the region on its way from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, boasting seemingly endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Don’t miss the chance to witness living history with the costumed actors at Hickory Ridge Museum, and get to know the flora of the Boone area at its namesake Daniel Boone Native Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, spend the day at Ultimate Adventure park with zip lines and other out-of-this-world pursuits. Rest your head at reliable lodging like the Inn at Crestwood, in Boone, with rooms starting well under $100/night. The shops and restaurants in Asheville's Grove Arcade is a can't-miss experience © MilesbeforeIsleep / Shutterstock Asheville The drive from Boone to Asheville, less than two hours south on US 221, takes you into the heart of one of America’s hippest small cities, brimming over with culinary delights (including a delicious and imaginative vegan scene), craft beer, and vibrant local arts. But the great outdoors will most likely dominate your Asheville stay, including canopy tours, hot air ballooning, and zip lining. After hours, we recommend an evening at Well Played, a unique “board game cafe,” and a well-earned sleep at the Residences at Biltmore, starting at under $120/night. The illuminated Falls Park Liberty Bridge in Downtown Greenville at night © Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock Greenville About an hour and 15 minutes from Asheville on I-26 East and US-25 South, Greenville, South Carolina, beckons with an exceptionally walkable downtown that boasts cool shopping, artist studios and galleries, and great food (including the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour). Start your morning with a cup of coffee at Falls Park before you traverse the Liberty Bridge, a 345ft-long span over the Reedy River. A variety of comfy motels offer rooms at well under $100/night, and for a little over $100/night you can get a room at the Hyatt Place Greenville/Haywood. Alpharetta From Greenville, head south on I-85 for about two hours and 15 minutes and discover Alpharetta, Georgia. Explore more than 750 acres of parkland, try some of the 200+ restaurants like Cabernet Steakhouse or Chiringa with its coastal cuisine. Be sure to set aside your evening for music at one of the world’s finest jazz clubs, The Velvet Note. Savannah's Forsyth Park Fountain during the early evening © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock Savannah A four-hour drive from Alpharetta on I-75 South and I-16 East brings you to the uniquely charming city of Savannah. Take your pick of activities, including strolling along Bull Street from square to square to Forsyth’s Park discovering the city’s decidedly European flavors; visit the Savannah College of Art and Design with its exceptional SCAD Museum of Art; and for more art, both classic and new, visit the Telfair Museum, in Savannah’s Historic District, and the Jepson Center. Dining options include fresh oysters and shrimp at Bernie’s. Bunk down for a night or more at the Old Harbor Inn, with rooms under $150/night and worth every penny. Spanish Renaissance architecture at Flagler College in St Augustine © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock St Augustine Once you succeed in bidding adieu to Savannah and its charms, head south on I-95 about two hours and 45 minutes to discover the oldest city in the US. St Augustine, Florida, was founded in 1565 by Spanish settlers and delivers an experience that feels a world away from the beach towns and theme parks we associate with the Sunshine State. Explore the iconic Castillo de San Marcos, spend some time getting to know local history at the city’s exceptional museums, and enjoy a diverse menu that reflects St. Augustine’s native, colonial, and immigrant cultures (try Collage Restaurant for its international menu and romantic setting in the Historic District). Book a room at the utterly charming Villa 1565, starting under $125/night.

    Inspiration

    The Best Things to Do in Texas Hill Country

    From city streets to rolling countryside, the Texas Hill Country is a geographical juxtaposition. The vast scenery ranging from hills to rivers to protected areas and long-standing sites is full of wonder, to boot. Spanning across Central Texas and correlating parts of San Antonio and Austin with small town communities, this region within the Lone Star State is not only a mix of topography but also of activity. Get exploring with these ideas for what to do in Texas Hill Country. Find German Roots Sections of Texas Hill Country have a strong German heritage, with settlers emigrating to Texas in the 19th century. The resulting German towns with names such as Boerne and Walburg preserve this heritage. In Fredericksburg, the Pioneer Museum tells of day-to-day living through dated buildings such as Sunday houses built for farmers and ranchers to stay in town on weekends while Vereins Kirche Museum in the Marktplatz replicates the city’s first public building. Named for Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels, New Braunfels’ backstory is told in part through contemporary murals telling about everything from Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels, whom the city is named for, to one depicting other important figures along the exterior of Krause’s Biergarten & Café, a revitalized German institution dating back to the 1930s. Ties to Our Nation’s History Two noteworthy figures are from Texas Hill Country – and their legacy still stands there today. In Fredericksburg, the National Museum of the Pacific War is linked to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who spent his boyhood years in Fredericksburg. Later on in life, he would command the U.S. military in the Pacific during World War II. The three-museum complex presents an extensive chronology on this battlefront through exhibit galleries with photographs, artifacts and media installations. Highlights include a gallery to Nimitz that was a hotel run by his grandfather, a Memorial Courtyard honoring all those who’ve served in the Pacific Theater and a Plaza of Presidents, acknowledging 10 commanders in chief who fought in the war. One of them was LBJ, a fellow Texan. The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site in Stonewall, encompasses the life of our 36th president. Then, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos focuses on how his formative years shaped his leadership in the Oval Office. Take in flowers During their blooming season, Texas’ wildflowers add bursts of color along roads and road stops in Texas Hill Country. Wildseed Farms has been growing these flowers and selling their seeds for over three decades, partially at their over 200-acre farm headquarters in Fredericksburg. With flowers in bloom from March through October, visitors can admire bluebonnets, red corn poppies, Black-eyed Susans and other types within both their trial and display gardens; venture along half mile walking trails, a seasonal butterfly garden and a seating area. Part of the University of Texas at Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center focuses on the conservation of native plants by cultivating them within their gardens and arboretum. Get an earful of music Perk up and get your feet ready for some moving along to the sound of live music at venues across Texas Hill Country. In San Marcos, Cheatham Street Warehouse is a honkytonk institution that’s credited with presenting George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughn in their earlier days. Within Gruene, a historic district of New Braunfels, Gruene Hall dates back to 1878 and continues to present weekly performances from Americana to rock-a-billy; acts at Texas’ oldest operating dance hall have included Strait, ZZ Top and Willie Nelson. T he Luckenbach Dance Hall near Fredericksburg has its fair share of headliners – not only Nelson but also Waylon Jennings – while the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera is hopping country music. Sip along Some Wineries Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state, having and more than 50 wineries and vineyards are located in Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg has an Urban Wineries Trail mapping out close to a dozen tasting rooms in town; stop into Becker Vineyards’ Main Street location to try their Cabernet Franc Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, and other new or limited releases. In New Braunfels, Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and Winery is on a sprawling property with Texas-made labels such as their White Black Spanish, which blends Symphony grapes with the winery’s estate Black Spanish varietal. Waterside Fun Texas heat can get brutal but Texas Hill County has natural-forming rivers and man-made attractions for cooling off. Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels has four areas compassing a mix of water rides. The Dragon’s Revenge is an uphill water coaster while Master Blaster kicks off its journey from atop a six-story tower. Wimberley’s Blue Hole Regional Park is known for its bluish swimming hole originating from an underground river; there’s is a seasonal reservation system where bookings for swimming are required. Elsewhere in New Braunfels, you can go tubing along the city’s connecting Cormal and Guadalupe rivers by renting a ring from companies locally referred to outfitters. In San Marcos, the spring-fed San Marcos River starts at Spring Lake, where glass-bottom boat tours are available at the Meadows Center. In Rio Vista Park, the San Marcos Lions Club offers tube rental during the summer. Getting Physical Outdoors Stretch your legs a bit by exploring Texas Hill Country on foot within various parks. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg is just as captivating as its name due to a massive pink granite dome that’s the park’s centerpiece. This nature site also has about 11 miles of hiking trails and rock climbing ops. Colorado Bend State Park in Bend is noted for its cascading Gorman Falls, which can be reached via a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike. At Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City, its six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail provides a hiking challenge that rewards with mountain views and a stop at a water pool while its Juniper Ridge Trail can put advanced mountain bike riders to the test.

    Inspiration

    Historic Houses of Quito, Ecuador

    This article was written by Mike Gasparovic, a freelance writer, editor, and translator. He devotes his free time to studying the history, art, and literature of the Spanish-speaking world and learning about its people. He currently lives in Lima, and wrote this article for South American Vacations, providers of tours to Ecuador and South America. Quito today has a reputation for being one of the most orderly and peaceful of South American capitals, but it hasn't always been so. In the early 1800s, the city was a hotbed of revolutionary activity, a flash point whose intellectual and political crosscurrents eventually gave rise to one of the first violent insurrections against Spanish colonial rule. Today it's still possible to visit the houses in Quito's Old Town, most of which date from the 18th century. Stepping inside their whitewashed adobe walls, travelers are able to turn back the clock to the formative years of Latin America, when the nations we know today were born. Here are two historical houses you should visit next time you're in Quito. Casa Mariscal SucreCalle Venezuela 593, Centro Histórico Antonio José de Sucre was the trusted commandant of the revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar. His name is blazoned on seemingly every street corner in Quito, principally for his role in the battle of Pichincha, which took place in 1822 on the slopes of the volcano that overlooks the city, and which effectively brought about the liberation of what would later become Ecuador. Sucre would go on to achieve an even greater victory in the battle of Ayacucho in Peru, which brought to a close the wars of independence in Latin America, before being assassinated on a dark mountain deep in the forests of Colombia. Sucre's life wasn't all heroics. In 1828, longing for peace after so many years of fighting, he married Mariana Carcelen, Marquise of Solander, and moved into this house in downtown Quito, which she had inherited from her family. The couple enjoyed a brief interval of domestic bliss, 15 short months, long enough for Mariana to give birth to a daughter. Then Sucre was called away to quell a series of political troubles in Bogotá. He never returned. Today, visitors to this lovely museum can see the living quarters, kitchen, stables, and salons where the Marshal of Ayacucho made his home. Tours are available in both English and Spanish, after which you are left free to wander. The effect is both monumental and strangely intimate: full-size mounted portraits grace the gallery upstairs, while the Mariscal's guitar still hangs on the bedroom wall. Museo Manuela SáenzCalle Junín Oe-113, Centro Histórico Manuela Sáenz, Simón Bolívar's mistress, never lived in this 18th-century house in Quito's San Marcos neighborhood. She in all likelihood never even entered it (though evidence indicates that as a child, she did board at the Santa Catalina Convent across the street). Yet this fascinating museum is a must-see, for it's here that Sáenz has found her champion, a scholar whose passion and spirit rival her own. That scholar is Ana María Álvarez, and she has dedicated herself not only to her investigations of Sáenz's life, but also to educating the public about history's most famous Quiteña. After her father, Carlos Álvarez Sáa, an industrialist and amateur historian, acquired and refurbished this house in the 1980s, Álvarez inherited from him his love for "La Libertadora del Libertador" (so-called for reportedly saving Bolívar's life during three separate assassination attempts). She thus elected to spend her days clearing away the myths surrounding her subject and claiming for Sáenz her rightful place in Latin American history. The figure that emerges, during the hour-long tour of the museum, is that of a complex, driven woman, a revolutionary conspirator, spy, and proto-feminist who loved independence as fiercely as she did the man who fought to realize it in South America. The museum houses numerous objects that once belonged to Sáenz and Bolívar: letters, portraits, furniture, firearms. Through them, we're able to follow the trajectory of La Caballeresa del Sol (Dame of the Sun), from her seduction at age 17 by a Spanish army officer, to her participation in the conspiracy against the Peruvian viceroy in 1820, to her first meeting with Bolívar in Quito, where she wove a crown of flowers for the revolutionary hero and threw it from a balcony as his cortege passed below. The tour also features a biographical video that recounts Saenz's final days, first as an exile in Jamaica and later as a destitute widow in the coastal town of Paita, Peru, where she died of diphtheria and was buried in a mass grave. What makes all of this come alive, however, is Álvarez's great gifts as a storyteller. Visiting the house, we feel that it really is hers, Manuela's—that after so many journeys, her spirit has at last found its proper home.

    ADVERTISEMENT
    ADVERTISEMENT

    More Places to go