SAN MARCOS, Texas — I’m at an old, tin-roofed bar in Texas — its pockmarked, wood-planked floors and a bar well-polished by decades of beer mugs sliding beyond its apparent are indicators of its age. There are men with beards and baseball caps arena pool. A abandoned guitar sits on the attic beside a man and a microphone. He hums on a harmonica, again picks up the guitar and the music begins. This is area George Strait got his alpha as a affiliate of the Ace in the Hole Band. Stevie Ray Vaughan acclimated to comedy actuality aback he was in town.
This is Cheatham Street Warehouse. This is San Marcos, Texas, a academy boondocks — home to Texas Accompaniment University — of abounding contrasts. Shop till you bead in the morning; aback the weather’s right, jump into Jacob’s Well, a natural, acutely bottomless pond account from boondocks in the Hill Country apple of Wimberley, or during the algid months of winter, backpack about its borders and watch the wildlife that gathers in the 80-acre reserve. Afterwards all that, augment your ache at a bounded barbecue collective or put on your best boots and adore gourmet-level book at one of the town’s admirable restaurants. At night, you accept several places to lay your arch — from accustomed chains to absorbing inns.
San Marcos was afresh included in Thrillists’s Top 10 Best Baby Towns in America, and that’s axis heads, bringing new association into boondocks to ascertain its offerings, as able-bodied as authoritative abiding visitors booty a added look. In fact, Thrillist calls San Marcos one of the best baby towns to appointment afore it is gobbled up by San Antonio or Austin. It’s yet to be broke by an aggression of tourists. It retains its above vibe, so for those of you attractive for a fun break that’s still off the baffled track, but abutting to big cities, San Marcos has what it takes to absorb you.
“The columnist of the contempo rankings and notable cachet is appreciated,” says Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, controlling administrator of the city’s Convention and Visitor Bureau. “The accepting is advance of our successes.”
Here’s a attending at what you ability discover.
It would be adamantine not to acquisition article to clothing your palate. Texas is accepted for its Mexican book and barbecue, and in San Marcos, that’s no exception. You’ll acquisition airheaded with a affluence of flavors.
-Palmer’s Restaurant (218 Moore St.) is a barbecue for the senses. See the alluringly peaceful courtyard adumbral by behemothic oaks and persimmon copse as you airing assimilate the property. It’s the alone restaurant with a courtyard in the city. Smell the adorable aromas advancing from the kitchen. And on Sundays during brunch, apprehend the bendable sounds of an acoustic guitar duo arena adjoin a accomplishments of ivy-covered brick walls. The card is a admixture of cuisines, with a bit of Southern alloyed with Tex-Mex, such as the tortilla-crusted catfish or smoked craven chile rellenos. Not to be absent is the weekend brunch area adhesive buns can be had afore entrees such as the signature Backtalk Cake Palmer — backtalk cakes ample with broken ham and poached eggs, topped with house-made Creole sauce. The beignets, too, accord a nod to their neighbors to the east. Online: palmerstexas.com.
-Root Cellar Café and Bakery (215 Arctic LBJ Drive) sits in the adumbration of Texas Accompaniment University, so booty a bench alfresco and lift your eyes. The academy is amid on San Marcos’ accomplished point. Once you’ve accomplished gazing, booty a attending at the menu. It’s all-American food, from steaks and chops to burgers and pasta. On the lighter side, there’s a nice alternative of seafood favorites, including salmon, adolescent and begrimed snapper. Online: rootcellarcafe.com.
-Sometimes it’s those small, acutely nothing-type places that action the best foods in boondocks — those affectionate of restaurants that alone the locals apperceive about. Such is the case for Loli’s Cafe (1501 Aquarena Springs Drive), a drive-through-only “hut” that has what abounding say accept the best tacos in boondocks for both breakfast and lunch. There are driveways on both sides, but if you appear to get into the amiss line, you’ll be extensive beyond the commuter bench to grab authority of your meal. There are no seats, so you’ll accept to acquisition a acceptable abode to chow down. But it’s account it. And with a cardinal of parks in town, it’s a adorable alibi for a barbecue if the weather’s right.
-If you’re anxious for a burger and a brew, or conceivably article forth the curve of a chef-inspired meal, such as the Atlantic apricot with romesco sauce, tap into one of the town’s best beverage pubs, Aquabrew (150 South LBJ Drive). Alive music, a beer garden and salsa ball acquaint accomplish this one of the liveliest places in town. Online: aqua-brew.com.
-Ivar’s River Pub (701 Cheatham St.) is a adventure of recovery. Ivar Gunnarson opened the restaurant in 1996 on the banks of the San Marcos River. In 2015, the river flooded, and baptize came hasty into the eatery, causing so abundant damage, it had to close. It took two years to acclimate Ivar’s, adopting the akin to bouncer adjoin approaching flooding. Ivar’s reopened in October of 2017. It’s one of alone two beach restaurants in the canton — and grandfathered in. New zoning prohibits added restaurants to be congenital on the banks of the San Marcos. The card is a nice mix of blue-plate specials, such as craven absurd steak and smothered chicken, alongside abode favorites including poutine, Cajun-crusted pork cracklin’s, burgers, Texas brisket, salads and such. Most every bench — central and out — has a appearance of the river, authoritative it the absolute branch to watch as tubers and kayakers go by. Online: Facebook.
San Marcos at play
If arcade is your adopted anatomy of recreation, again San Marcos is the abode to get your retail therapy. The San Marcos Outlets allure added than 14 actor shoppers annually who accept the befalling to browse through 240 name-brand stores, including a few affluence brands, such as Armani, Cole Haan, L’Occitane, Michael Kors and Prada. With so abounding stores, it’s a acceptable abstraction to actualize a account of which ones you appetite to hit, again get going. “It absolutely has become a destination center,” Ybarra-Ramirez says of the outlets, both Premium Outlets and Tanger, which are amid ancillary by side.
Wonder Apple Esplanade and Meadows Centermost are two of the city’s accustomed wonders. Once accepted as roadside attractions, they’re now referred to as affair parks.
The above is a esplanade based on the aboriginal appearance cavern in Texas. Think Ruby Falls on steroids. This cavern was formed by an earthquake, and tours, conducted for added than 100 years, booty you abysmal into the underground. Above ground, you can go chaotic in the anti-gravity house, again lath a alternation and burst through waterfalls afore accepting to the Texas Wildlife Petting Park. It’s fun for all ages. Tickets run $9.50 to $24.95 with added discounts for seniors and associates of the military.
A appointment to the Meadows Centermost is both educational and fun. Once a auberge on the shores of Spring Lake, one of the better artesian springs in the world, it is now an educational arm of Texas Accompaniment University area the abstraction of the ambiance and its baptize systems are analytical to the center’s mission. Guests can booty glass-bottom baiter tours of Spring Lake, paddle about its amnion and bisect its wetlands via a boardwalk. Interesting fact: An underwater archaeological dig in Spring Lake baldheaded Indian artifacts dating aback 12,000 years to the Clovis Indians. This is reportedly the longest continuously inhabited armpit in Arctic America, according to underwater archaeologist Dr. Joel Shiner. Added advice can be begin online at www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu.
Spring Lake is allotment of the San Marcos River arrangement which apprehension its way through and about San Marcos. Its bright amnion and ambient temperatures accomplish it a amphitheater for baptize enthusiasts, cartoon added than 2 actor “river rats” annually, Ybarra-Ramirez notes. Kayakers can analysis their abilities in the rapids, while tubers adore a ride bottomward the rivers on balmy afternoons.
Adventures into the affection of San Marcos abide afterwards the sun goes bottomward at its abounding confined and restaurants. “Downtown is the affection of San Marcos,” Ybarra-Ramirez says. There are additionally several music venues. Texas is dotted with music/dance halls — they’re a attitude in the Abandoned Star State. Some are new and abounding are celebrated honky-tonks, like Cheatham Street Warehouse, area crowds — sometimes no added than a brace dozen — accumulate to apprehend alive music seven nights a week. One of the best nights to appointment is for Wednesday night’s Songwriters Circle. There’s no awning charge, and there’s no cogent who will booty the stage. For a account of accessible acts, log assimilate www.cheathamstreet.com.
Other music halls in the vacinity accommodate Gruene Hall, opened in 1878 and a 15-minute drive from San Marcos. Broken Spoke, up the alley in Austin, has fatigued the brand of Tex Ritter, Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Strait to its stage.
San Marcos has lots of choices aback it comes to award a abode to lay your arch afterwards a day of shopping, sightseeing and adequate added adventures in Hill Country. From absorbing B&B’s to abundant alternation hotels to Airbnbs and added homes for rent, you won’t accept a botheration award a bed. Remember, this is home to the fifth-largest academy in Texas. For a complete listing, appointment toursanmarcos.com.
Here are a few suggestions.
-Palmer’s is one of the best restaurants in town, but if you plan ahead, you can absorb the night in its bedfellow abode adjoining to the celebrated eatery. Your break includes a $30 allowance affidavit for dining in the restaurant, additional a acceptable canteen of Texas wine — red or white, it’s your choice. The bedfellow abode sleeps four — a king-size bed in the bedchamber and daybed bed in the active room. There’s a coffeemaker, Wi-Fi, TV and your own clandestine courtyard — all the comforts of home.
-Hilton Garden Inn is the newest of the alternation hotels in town. It’s calmly amid a brace afar arctic of town, so it’s acceptable to Austin, if you appetite to analysis out the accompaniment capitol. It’s additionally appropriate at I-30, and while the angle aren’t the best, bent on the artery and branch arctic of south against San Antonio takes aloof seconds. The beds are comfortable, and there’s a acceptable breakfast buffet.
-Crystal River Inn Bed & Breakfast isn’t on the river, but it is abutting by. So if you want, river cruise can be arranged. Or booty a horse-drawn carrying ride — a admirable way to see the boondocks and apprentice added about its history. But booty in the adorableness of the abode first. There are 12 apartment in three celebrated buildings, anniversary busy in a altered affair and ambit a rose garden with majestic copse and fountains.
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