San Marcos, TX

If you’ve only seen I-35, then you haven’t seen San Marcos.  This laid back college town deserves a day, or more, and I recommend starting with the water.  The beautiful San Marcos river pops out of the ground at the Aquarena Center and travels downstream until it merges with the Guadalupe River.  But on its journey through town, it is one of the most pristine and stunning rivers in Texas.  Take a glass-bottom boat ride and be amazed at all you can see, such as plants, fish, and the Texas River Cooter (it’s a turtle).  If you are dying to get into the water, then swimming abounds at Sewell Park (where the college kids hang out) or Rio Vista Park (where everyone hangs out).  You can rent a tube from the Lion’s Club and ride to your heart’s content.  Or if you’re looking for a more thrilling adventure, take a whitewater kayak lesson from the Olympic Outdoor Center.  This is some of the most fun you can have in Texas.

Once you dry off, you’re sure to be hungry, so head up the street to Herbert’s Taco Hut and grub on some delicious, authentic, and secret recipes.  The carne guisada plate is amazing and they’ve also been voted “Best Enchiladas” in Hays County multiple years running.  For something completely different every day and completely fresh, head to the Root Cellar Cafe and Brewery just off the square.  Everything on this chef-inspired menu is amazing.  I always just go with the special, and I’ve never gone wrong.  Finally, for desert, GO GO GO to Rhea’s Ice Cream where Rhea herself makes some of the most delicious and inventive cream you’ve ever had.  Circus animal cookie, avocado coconut, big red, the list goes on and on.

For the cultural side of town, you can walk the square and take in the sights.  You can head to Texas State University and pretend you’re still in college.  You can dive into the haunted legend of the Thompson Island Bridge.  But my favorite thing to do is visit The Wittliff Collection on Texas State’s campus on the top floor of the library.  This artist’s retreat has amazing works including a phenomenal collection of Lonesome Dove memorability, as the founder (Bill Wittliff) was the producer and screenwriter for this epic TV series.

And when it is all said and done, head to Cheatham Street Warehouse to have a cold one and hear some live music in the same place where George Straight and his band Ace in the Hole played their very first gig.  That’s pure Texas history right there.