While helping Chet write a Hill Country travel guide, I’ve gotten to explore some pretty awesome towns to do research. Just like Belton, Salado is often overlooked. But we’ve been wrong to drive past it all these years, as we trekked down I-35 in search of an escape from the hustle and bustle of Austin or Dallas. Salado’s got everything you need for a Hill Country getaway.
Upon first entering Salado, it was nothing like I’d expected. I was assuming I’d find a concreted small city with maybe an old diner and perhaps even a Walmart. Yet, as I drove down Main Street, instead I found a bubbling brook winding around downtown, shops full of handmade goodies, art galleries clustered together in old wooden buildings and trees forming shady canopies over the road. This town had an all-together quaintness like you’d find in Fredericksburg. It was as if I’d left the modern world behind once I exited off the highway and stepped back in time into an enchanted village.
My day trip started at a small coffee shop that was hidden away in one of the wooden villages. After walking down an alley between medieval-looking buildings selling artworks and clothing, I found Lively Coffee House and Bakery. Each morning they make fresh bread and bagels, which was apparent as the heavenly smell of warm bread hit me as soon as I opened the door. Sitting at one of the mismatched tables and chairs in the quiet, cozy cafe, I enjoyed my piping hot bagel and a latte. After breakfast, I moseyed on to Salado Creek, which wraps in and around town. I noticed the locals didn’t need a fancy park to enjoy its waters, they splashed right in from the banks no matter the spot – be it under the bridge across Main Street or where the creek flows behind the local shopping center. But being less brave, I went to Pace Park, which has gravel trails with a perfect mound for surveying the gently flowing creek. In the morning air, all was calm – the only sounds being the busy birds and the trickle of the water. Next, I left in search of Salado’s Sculpture Garden. Now, since I’ve started trippin’ I’ve seen many a sculpture garden (and don’t get me wrong, they’re all beautiful!) but this one was by far my favorite. This sculpture garden has some of the funkiest and most fun works of art I’ve ever seen! We’re talking a giant sock monkey, a crow made out of tires and a red moose!
My final stop in town is possibly Salado’s biggest attraction that I’d never heard of. Right next to the Central Texas Area Museum are the ruins of the 1859 Salado College, which was the first co-ed college in Texas…in fact, it’s now a park with signs explaining the history.This is a huge deal! How did I not know that Salado has a park where you can just casually explore the ruins of the college that forever changed learning for both men and women? I loved making my way through the ruins, reading the signs along the path explaining the college’s significance, and taking in the natural beauty around the site.
At the end of my time in Salado, I realized I had barely scratched the surface of all there was to do in town. There were so many amazing galleries (like a glassblowing studio where you can watch or partake in the making of a masterpiece) and cool stores (if anyone needs to find handmade pottery and fudge, I know a place you can get both) that I could have spent way more than just a day here. While I am a city girl, escaping the go, go, go of the big city is nice and necessary every once in a while — especially if that getaway means the steady flowing streams and enchanted little shops of this quaint village. Salado, I’ll definitely be back!