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Guidebook for San Marcos

Carl&Diane

Guidebook for San Marcos

Food Scene
Mecca for friendly local hippies seeking caffiene, foodstuffs and live music. Also serves beer & wine. Wonderfully hemptastic up in there. Open early and late.
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Tantra
217 West Hopkins Street
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Mecca for friendly local hippies seeking caffiene, foodstuffs and live music. Also serves beer & wine. Wonderfully hemptastic up in there. Open early and late.
Wonderful bakery that also serves coffee & tea, right on the square downtown. The blondies are rectangular chunks of heaven. Solid people watching on Saturday mornings as downtown comes alive for the Farmer's Market.
The Coffee Bar
142 N LBJ Dr
Wonderful bakery that also serves coffee & tea, right on the square downtown. The blondies are rectangular chunks of heaven. Solid people watching on Saturday mornings as downtown comes alive for the Farmer's Market.
Plenty of San Martians make a regular morning pilgrimage here, attracted by the friendly staff, a full breakfast menu (including pancakes!) and relaxing outdoor seating area. Gigantic cookies and buttery coffee cake round out the many reasons why Jo’s is such a hit with so many. Look for our detailed review in our Tour de Pancakes write-up in the Casita.
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Jo's Cafe
319 North St
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Plenty of San Martians make a regular morning pilgrimage here, attracted by the friendly staff, a full breakfast menu (including pancakes!) and relaxing outdoor seating area. Gigantic cookies and buttery coffee cake round out the many reasons why Jo’s is such a hit with so many. Look for our detailed review in our Tour de Pancakes write-up in the Casita.
Torchy's started in Austin as a food trailer, but has since grown into a Texas Taco empire. As San Marcos taco spots go, this one feels decidedly "big city," but the inventive menu keeps folks coming back. It's also a bar, which makes it very popular with the college (and post-college) crowd. (In case you're wondering, the red and white tiles that cover the front facade are actually reflectors made for streets and highways, and we'd hurt someone to get our hands on the gorgeous Spanish Colonial encaustic tile inside.)
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Torchy's Tacos
301 North Guadalupe Street
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Torchy's started in Austin as a food trailer, but has since grown into a Texas Taco empire. As San Marcos taco spots go, this one feels decidedly "big city," but the inventive menu keeps folks coming back. It's also a bar, which makes it very popular with the college (and post-college) crowd. (In case you're wondering, the red and white tiles that cover the front facade are actually reflectors made for streets and highways, and we'd hurt someone to get our hands on the gorgeous Spanish Colonial encaustic tile inside.)
Iconic San Marcos burger spot within staggering distance of the bars on the square and the dorms on campus. It's essentially a hallway with booths and tables crammed in it, and the burgers themselves are hardly more than meat cooked on a flat diner grill, but there's something about Gil's that has ensured its survival for many a moon here in the San Marvelous. If you like sweet rolls, you can order a "world famous" Manske Roll, though we'd recommend blowing those calories on some housemade ice cream a few doors down at Rhea's.
Gil's Broiler
328 North LBJ Drive
Iconic San Marcos burger spot within staggering distance of the bars on the square and the dorms on campus. It's essentially a hallway with booths and tables crammed in it, and the burgers themselves are hardly more than meat cooked on a flat diner grill, but there's something about Gil's that has ensured its survival for many a moon here in the San Marvelous. If you like sweet rolls, you can order a "world famous" Manske Roll, though we'd recommend blowing those calories on some housemade ice cream a few doors down at Rhea's.
Homemade ice cream created by folks who bravely introduce new flavors with the gusto of an unhinged conspiracy theorist. Avocado coconut has become a staple, but you'll also find flavors like goat cheese and raspberry jam, Big Red, and -- wait for it! -- Cheetos. Between the ice cream, homemade waffle cones, and cookie sandwiches built with cookies from Root Cellar Bakery, you're bound to find something you love. (San Martian tip: The name is pronounced "rays," so now you can act all cool like you know what's up.)
Rhea's Ice Cream- SMTX
318 North LBJ Drive
Homemade ice cream created by folks who bravely introduce new flavors with the gusto of an unhinged conspiracy theorist. Avocado coconut has become a staple, but you'll also find flavors like goat cheese and raspberry jam, Big Red, and -- wait for it! -- Cheetos. Between the ice cream, homemade waffle cones, and cookie sandwiches built with cookies from Root Cellar Bakery, you're bound to find something you love. (San Martian tip: The name is pronounced "rays," so now you can act all cool like you know what's up.)
It may have moved from its original location, which reminded us of someone's grandmother's house, but this is still the same great group of friendly folks serving up terrific straight-ahead Tex-Mex. (San Martian tip: Order the quesadillas, which come as three large soft tacos filled with nothing but hot meat and cheese, and all of it delicious.)
Taqueria El Charro Tapatio
311 E Hopkins St
It may have moved from its original location, which reminded us of someone's grandmother's house, but this is still the same great group of friendly folks serving up terrific straight-ahead Tex-Mex. (San Martian tip: Order the quesadillas, which come as three large soft tacos filled with nothing but hot meat and cheese, and all of it delicious.)
Locally sourced fare in a cozy subterranean space. It can get loud when it's busy, but sidewalk cafe seating can be fun when the weather's pleasant. (San Martian tip: Root Cellar opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and they do a good job with it.) See our in-room Guest Guide for a full review of two breakfast and brunch standouts: Belgian waffle and Brazilian French toast.
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The Root Cellar Cafe
215 North LBJ Drive
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Locally sourced fare in a cozy subterranean space. It can get loud when it's busy, but sidewalk cafe seating can be fun when the weather's pleasant. (San Martian tip: Root Cellar opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and they do a good job with it.) See our in-room Guest Guide for a full review of two breakfast and brunch standouts: Belgian waffle and Brazilian French toast.
The Katz brothers, a pair of Texas State grads who became serial entrepreneurs here in town, started out with a kolache shop and moved on to pizza. The results are impressive. Tasty combinations sit atop a delicious, simple crust. All served in a light-filled space.
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Pie Society
700 N LBJ Dr
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The Katz brothers, a pair of Texas State grads who became serial entrepreneurs here in town, started out with a kolache shop and moved on to pizza. The results are impressive. Tasty combinations sit atop a delicious, simple crust. All served in a light-filled space.
Old-school Italian restaurant that never seems to disappoint. The pizza and calzone are both delicious, as are the little knots of garlic bread that come with your meal. Also, it's affordable. “What's-a not to like?” we ask in a ridiculous “Lady and the Tramp” Italian accent with exaggerated hand gestures. (San Martian tip: The newly zazzed-up patio should be very pleasant at dinnertime.)
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Italian Garden
415 North LBJ Drive
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Old-school Italian restaurant that never seems to disappoint. The pizza and calzone are both delicious, as are the little knots of garlic bread that come with your meal. Also, it's affordable. “What's-a not to like?” we ask in a ridiculous “Lady and the Tramp” Italian accent with exaggerated hand gestures. (San Martian tip: The newly zazzed-up patio should be very pleasant at dinnertime.)
Two words: Green curry. Two more words: Order it. Okay, two additional words: You're welcome. (Seriously, it's that good.) (San Martian tip: This restaurant doubles as a Thai food market so go ahead and pick up some funky Asian candy to take home for dessert.)
Prik Nam Pla Thai Cuisine
1917 Dutton Dr
Two words: Green curry. Two more words: Order it. Okay, two additional words: You're welcome. (Seriously, it's that good.) (San Martian tip: This restaurant doubles as a Thai food market so go ahead and pick up some funky Asian candy to take home for dessert.)
A Sonic drive-in listed in our guidebook? Really? Really. We've driven into more than our share of Sonic car stalls in our day. (Diane used to hang out at Sonic as a teenager in Houston, because that's what you did then. It's sad but there it is. The point is, she's been a Sonic fan from way back.) If you're going to debase yourself with fast food, Sonic's a satisfying vehicle for your downfall. Its extensive menu is well executed, and you can find many items for around a buck, including an excellent (and usually generous) vanilla ice cream cone for $1. There's even Frito chili pie (be sure to ask for onions). And don't get us started on the shakes, which are half price after 8 p.m. as part of Summer of Shakes, a onetime promotion that seems to now be a permanent thing. Yet for two reasons, this particular location strikes us as the Best Sonic in the World. The first is the staff: they're fantastic: cheerful, prompt and attentive. Whoever trains this staff should head straight to Sonic HQ and train all the franchise managers on how to build an awesome staff. Second -- and this is big -- they always seem to have the best soft-serve ice cream. Maybe they clean the soft-serve machines (which is key to getting a creamier, less icy product) more often than other locations. We have no idea. We just know this is the place. (San Martian tip: Heading to the river? This Sonic sells bags of ice.)
Sonic Drive-In
802 S Guadalupe St
A Sonic drive-in listed in our guidebook? Really? Really. We've driven into more than our share of Sonic car stalls in our day. (Diane used to hang out at Sonic as a teenager in Houston, because that's what you did then. It's sad but there it is. The point is, she's been a Sonic fan from way back.) If you're going to debase yourself with fast food, Sonic's a satisfying vehicle for your downfall. Its extensive menu is well executed, and you can find many items for around a buck, including an excellent (and usually generous) vanilla ice cream cone for $1. There's even Frito chili pie (be sure to ask for onions). And don't get us started on the shakes, which are half price after 8 p.m. as part of Summer of Shakes, a onetime promotion that seems to now be a permanent thing. Yet for two reasons, this particular location strikes us as the Best Sonic in the World. The first is the staff: they're fantastic: cheerful, prompt and attentive. Whoever trains this staff should head straight to Sonic HQ and train all the franchise managers on how to build an awesome staff. Second -- and this is big -- they always seem to have the best soft-serve ice cream. Maybe they clean the soft-serve machines (which is key to getting a creamier, less icy product) more often than other locations. We have no idea. We just know this is the place. (San Martian tip: Heading to the river? This Sonic sells bags of ice.)
Open 24 hours, Fuego is an excellent source for hefty, delicious tacos served in tortillas made on site. We go for the Dr. Pepper Cowboy featuring barbecue sauce spiked with the legendary soft drink from Waco. Dine in or drive through. (San Martian tip: Order one of the massive and yet weirdly affordable Magic Cookies, a 7-layer bar style of confection that easily is big enough to share with a friend. A good friend, though. Bad friends don't deserve half of your Magic Cookie. But you should totally eat it in front of them.)
Fuego Tortilla Grill
913 Interstate 35 Frontage Rd
Open 24 hours, Fuego is an excellent source for hefty, delicious tacos served in tortillas made on site. We go for the Dr. Pepper Cowboy featuring barbecue sauce spiked with the legendary soft drink from Waco. Dine in or drive through. (San Martian tip: Order one of the massive and yet weirdly affordable Magic Cookies, a 7-layer bar style of confection that easily is big enough to share with a friend. A good friend, though. Bad friends don't deserve half of your Magic Cookie. But you should totally eat it in front of them.)
We’ve never had a bad meal at Casa Maria. This is reliable Tex-Mex, mostly food from northern Mexico, coupled with an excellent Mexican bakery, or panderia. Be sure to finish the meal with a slice of Casa Maria’s delicious tres leches cake. (San Martian tip: Mariachis and other musicians often play here on weekends.)
Casa Maria Restaurant San Marcos
706 South Guadalupe Street
We’ve never had a bad meal at Casa Maria. This is reliable Tex-Mex, mostly food from northern Mexico, coupled with an excellent Mexican bakery, or panderia. Be sure to finish the meal with a slice of Casa Maria’s delicious tres leches cake. (San Martian tip: Mariachis and other musicians often play here on weekends.)
It’s wildly popular on weekends, though we suspect that has less to do with the food served here and more to its proximity to perennially crowded Rio Vista Park and the constantly full baseball fields nearby. While the food is fine (though incredibly enough, for years they used Velveeta instead of real cheese!), the appeal of this restaurant has always escaped us. We’ll admit, though, that there is a funky charm to this place, with its low ceilings and ads for local businesses printed on the plastic iced tea tumblers. Herbert runs a little small-town convenience store next door. Plus, the sign for the restaurant is just strange enough to be alluring, with its unflattering image of Herbert looking a little unhinged. We assume it's an image of Herbert. If it's not, then it's weirder still. (San Martian tip: Expect a wait, and possibly a long one, especially on summer weekends and any Sunday after church.)
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Herbert's Taco Hut
419 Riverside Drive
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It’s wildly popular on weekends, though we suspect that has less to do with the food served here and more to its proximity to perennially crowded Rio Vista Park and the constantly full baseball fields nearby. While the food is fine (though incredibly enough, for years they used Velveeta instead of real cheese!), the appeal of this restaurant has always escaped us. We’ll admit, though, that there is a funky charm to this place, with its low ceilings and ads for local businesses printed on the plastic iced tea tumblers. Herbert runs a little small-town convenience store next door. Plus, the sign for the restaurant is just strange enough to be alluring, with its unflattering image of Herbert looking a little unhinged. We assume it's an image of Herbert. If it's not, then it's weirder still. (San Martian tip: Expect a wait, and possibly a long one, especially on summer weekends and any Sunday after church.)
Urban lumberjack is the vibe here, with wood-clad walls, a giant bear named Doug, and dudes sporting those hefty beards that look like swarms of bees. They’re open 24 hours and the only place in town that serves both flapjacks and bison burgers. (San Martian tip: Gird yourself for “Austin prices” -- by that we mean $12 for a burger without fries, and $6 for a cinnamon roll – but the food is good, the coffee strong and the peeps friendly.) Look for our detailed review in the Tour de Pancakes write-up featured in our in-room Guest Guide.
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The Buzz Mill
194 S Guadalupe St
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Urban lumberjack is the vibe here, with wood-clad walls, a giant bear named Doug, and dudes sporting those hefty beards that look like swarms of bees. They’re open 24 hours and the only place in town that serves both flapjacks and bison burgers. (San Martian tip: Gird yourself for “Austin prices” -- by that we mean $12 for a burger without fries, and $6 for a cinnamon roll – but the food is good, the coffee strong and the peeps friendly.) Look for our detailed review in the Tour de Pancakes write-up featured in our in-room Guest Guide.
Wake the Dead is what would happen if Tim Burton opened a coffee house. A welcoming patio, friendly staff, a rotating art display and live events make this a local favorite. They also serve an array of baked goods and sammitches. (San Martian tip: Our awesome neighbor Molly is a barista here.)
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Wake the Dead Coffee House
1432 Old Ranch Road 12
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Wake the Dead is what would happen if Tim Burton opened a coffee house. A welcoming patio, friendly staff, a rotating art display and live events make this a local favorite. They also serve an array of baked goods and sammitches. (San Martian tip: Our awesome neighbor Molly is a barista here.)
This 24-hour taqueria-tucked-inside-an-Exxon-station -- known locally as "Exxon Tacos" -- has become a local phenom. Based on our visits, students and locals rave about the tacos ($2.09 with 2 toppings, $2.59 with 3 toppings), handmade tortillas and salsas. They’ll also fix you burritos, quesadillas, tortas and gorditas. On our last visit, the migas taco was outrageously good. (San Martian tip: Not much in the way of seating, so make that order to go.)
Bobcat Quickie
339 N Guadalupe St
This 24-hour taqueria-tucked-inside-an-Exxon-station -- known locally as "Exxon Tacos" -- has become a local phenom. Based on our visits, students and locals rave about the tacos ($2.09 with 2 toppings, $2.59 with 3 toppings), handmade tortillas and salsas. They’ll also fix you burritos, quesadillas, tortas and gorditas. On our last visit, the migas taco was outrageously good. (San Martian tip: Not much in the way of seating, so make that order to go.)
You’ll find this friendly and popular Tex-Mex joint just down the street from the Casita. Believe us when we say it's like taking a trip to Mexico for the low, low cost of a couple menu items. It seems half the city eats tacos for breakfast and a large percentage of those folks gets them here. But their migas rank with the best. (Take San Antonio St. toward downtown; hang and right when you have to and boom! There it is.) See our detailed write-up in the Tour de Pancakes section of our in-room Guest Guide.
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Los Vega
315 W San Antonio St
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You’ll find this friendly and popular Tex-Mex joint just down the street from the Casita. Believe us when we say it's like taking a trip to Mexico for the low, low cost of a couple menu items. It seems half the city eats tacos for breakfast and a large percentage of those folks gets them here. But their migas rank with the best. (Take San Antonio St. toward downtown; hang and right when you have to and boom! There it is.) See our detailed write-up in the Tour de Pancakes section of our in-room Guest Guide.
Meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans all will find something to love in this little local place just a few blocks from the Casita. The menu is varied and tasty, the servings are plentiful and the prices are down to earth. Service here is always pleasant; two sunny vegan waitresses have earned the nickname – from us at least – the Happy Hippies. They are a delight. (San Martian tip: Always ask if your menu item comes with Tzaztiki – yogurt – sauce, and if it doesn’t, ask for some on the side. They’re weirdly stingy with that stuff. And if you go with fries, go sweet potato. Oh, and it's BYOB, so stop by the Little HEB or the Yellow Store beforehand to equip yourself with beer or wine.)
Nostimo Mediterranean Cafe
206 W San Antonio St
Meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans all will find something to love in this little local place just a few blocks from the Casita. The menu is varied and tasty, the servings are plentiful and the prices are down to earth. Service here is always pleasant; two sunny vegan waitresses have earned the nickname – from us at least – the Happy Hippies. They are a delight. (San Martian tip: Always ask if your menu item comes with Tzaztiki – yogurt – sauce, and if it doesn’t, ask for some on the side. They’re weirdly stingy with that stuff. And if you go with fries, go sweet potato. Oh, and it's BYOB, so stop by the Little HEB or the Yellow Store beforehand to equip yourself with beer or wine.)
Brewpub and restaurant serving a full menu, with live music several nights a week. We’ve had the AB Burger and it was excellent. You can order flights to sample their brews, which have received some solid reviews.
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AquaBrew
150 S L B J Dr
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Brewpub and restaurant serving a full menu, with live music several nights a week. We’ve had the AB Burger and it was excellent. You can order flights to sample their brews, which have received some solid reviews.
Stop in before you begin your day on the river and you’ll find yourself in a cozy, friendly space full of happy regulars who know what they like and have found it here. Great coffee, tea, breakfast treats and tacos are on offer, and all are delicious. The staff could not be nicer, and we mean that in the best possible way. (San Martian trip: The delicious veggie breakfast taco will fill you up without weighing you down – a perfect start to a perfect day in the San Marvelous.)
Jo On the Go
312 University Drive
Stop in before you begin your day on the river and you’ll find yourself in a cozy, friendly space full of happy regulars who know what they like and have found it here. Great coffee, tea, breakfast treats and tacos are on offer, and all are delicious. The staff could not be nicer, and we mean that in the best possible way. (San Martian trip: The delicious veggie breakfast taco will fill you up without weighing you down – a perfect start to a perfect day in the San Marvelous.)
This labor of love started as a wee trailer that served caffeine-deprived university students and staffers dragging their weary rumps to campus. Eventually, the business found a permanent home here on LBJ Street, and it’s a must-stop for a growing community of regulars. The friendly and knowledgeable staff roasts organic, fair trade beans and will make you fancy coffee drinks, cold brew java, kombucha, tea, hot chocolate, you name it. They also serve treats prepared by the talented crew from Jo’s Coffee House. (San Martian tip: Take a bag of freshly roasted beans home to whoever is sitting your kids, pets or plants. They’ll love you for it.)
Redbud Roasters
169 S L B J Dr
This labor of love started as a wee trailer that served caffeine-deprived university students and staffers dragging their weary rumps to campus. Eventually, the business found a permanent home here on LBJ Street, and it’s a must-stop for a growing community of regulars. The friendly and knowledgeable staff roasts organic, fair trade beans and will make you fancy coffee drinks, cold brew java, kombucha, tea, hot chocolate, you name it. They also serve treats prepared by the talented crew from Jo’s Coffee House. (San Martian tip: Take a bag of freshly roasted beans home to whoever is sitting your kids, pets or plants. They’ll love you for it.)
Lovely French bistro in an historic building on the Square. Friendly servers put hard-core coffee in front of you while you listen to soothing tunes sung in that language everyone loves but no one understands. Breakfast is served all day here, making this a great brunch spot no matter how rotten you are at staying on schedule. You can go short with a strawberry cream cheese or chocolate hazelnut croissant, or go long with a frittata, French crepes, Belgian waffles, blintzes….you know what? Just go there and decide for yourself. (San Martian tip: The gorgeous courtyard tucked away in back is equipped with misters that make al fresco dining doable even on sweltering Texas days.)
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Blue Dahlia Bistro
107 E Hopkins St
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Lovely French bistro in an historic building on the Square. Friendly servers put hard-core coffee in front of you while you listen to soothing tunes sung in that language everyone loves but no one understands. Breakfast is served all day here, making this a great brunch spot no matter how rotten you are at staying on schedule. You can go short with a strawberry cream cheese or chocolate hazelnut croissant, or go long with a frittata, French crepes, Belgian waffles, blintzes….you know what? Just go there and decide for yourself. (San Martian tip: The gorgeous courtyard tucked away in back is equipped with misters that make al fresco dining doable even on sweltering Texas days.)
The well-reviewed $15 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch features fruit, eggs, pastries and more. (San Martian tip: They will sell you “Endless Mimosas” for $12, but according to some reviewers, the name is misleading: apparently that $12 will get you a bottle of inexpensive champagne and OJ. And if you want another bottle, prepare to dig out another $12. Expect lounge-type seating that’s really set up for drinks and appetizers, rather than dining on hearty meals.)
Elevate Bar+Table
407 S Stagecoach Trail
The well-reviewed $15 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch features fruit, eggs, pastries and more. (San Martian tip: They will sell you “Endless Mimosas” for $12, but according to some reviewers, the name is misleading: apparently that $12 will get you a bottle of inexpensive champagne and OJ. And if you want another bottle, prepare to dig out another $12. Expect lounge-type seating that’s really set up for drinks and appetizers, rather than dining on hearty meals.)
Expect a nicely appointed dining room, an outdoor deck, a full bar, and a seasonal New American menu at this local favorite for nicer dining. Though we’ve never been, we’ve heard good things and folks seem to love them on Yelp. (San Martian tip: Closed Sundays.)
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Cody's Restaurant Bar & Patio
690 Centerpoint Rd
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Expect a nicely appointed dining room, an outdoor deck, a full bar, and a seasonal New American menu at this local favorite for nicer dining. Though we’ve never been, we’ve heard good things and folks seem to love them on Yelp. (San Martian tip: Closed Sundays.)
Essentials
Known locally as "The Little HEB," this mid-sized grocery store is within walking distance of Casita de Milagros (though if you buy ice cream in summer, you'll want to walk fast) and has virtually everything you'll need during your stay, from a decent selection of beer and wine to fresh produce, baked goods, a deli and a pharmacy. A favorite of townies, college students and river rats, this store knows its market, so don't worry -- you can probably find those hats and water shoes you forgot to pack.
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H-E-B
200 West Hopkins Street
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Known locally as "The Little HEB," this mid-sized grocery store is within walking distance of Casita de Milagros (though if you buy ice cream in summer, you'll want to walk fast) and has virtually everything you'll need during your stay, from a decent selection of beer and wine to fresh produce, baked goods, a deli and a pharmacy. A favorite of townies, college students and river rats, this store knows its market, so don't worry -- you can probably find those hats and water shoes you forgot to pack.
There's a ban on kung-fu fighting while pumping gas at this San Martian institution, just so ya know. Though we've never seen a martial arts throwdown at the pumps, what you will see is a constant stream of 20- and 30-somethings (also 40 and older) shopping for one thing: beer, and lots of it. This tiny convenience store is essentially the cooler of San Marcos, and its packed square footage holds an amazing array of beers. If you're looking for the odd craft beer and it's not at The Little HEB, try The Yellow Store. Or just head here immediately to shop for brews and snacks absorb the unqiue Yellow Store ambiance (we think that's what that smell is, at any rate).
Yellow Store
301 E Hopkins St
There's a ban on kung-fu fighting while pumping gas at this San Martian institution, just so ya know. Though we've never seen a martial arts throwdown at the pumps, what you will see is a constant stream of 20- and 30-somethings (also 40 and older) shopping for one thing: beer, and lots of it. This tiny convenience store is essentially the cooler of San Marcos, and its packed square footage holds an amazing array of beers. If you're looking for the odd craft beer and it's not at The Little HEB, try The Yellow Store. Or just head here immediately to shop for brews and snacks absorb the unqiue Yellow Store ambiance (we think that's what that smell is, at any rate).
Entertainment & Activities
12,000 years ago, people hunting mammoth arrived at this spot and never left. Take this glass-bottom boat tour at the Meadows Center (it's the last vestige of the old Aquarena Springs resort) and you'll see why. Hundreds of springs shooting crystal clear water purified in the Edwards Aquifer provide the water for Spring Lake and the pristine San Marcos River. You may never see water so clear, and that makes this place a real treasure. The tour gives you a close-up look at what makes this spot so special, and if you're lucky, you'll toodle around the lake in the oldest boat, dating back to 1945. http://www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/Education/Glass-BottomBoats.html For those more adventurous, you can sign up for sunset or moonlight tours, on kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard. Equipment rented from REI. (San Martian tip: This is not a party float. Must book in advance and must bring your own headlamp.) www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/Education/PaddlingTours.html
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The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment
201 San Marcos Springs Drive
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12,000 years ago, people hunting mammoth arrived at this spot and never left. Take this glass-bottom boat tour at the Meadows Center (it's the last vestige of the old Aquarena Springs resort) and you'll see why. Hundreds of springs shooting crystal clear water purified in the Edwards Aquifer provide the water for Spring Lake and the pristine San Marcos River. You may never see water so clear, and that makes this place a real treasure. The tour gives you a close-up look at what makes this spot so special, and if you're lucky, you'll toodle around the lake in the oldest boat, dating back to 1945. http://www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/Education/Glass-BottomBoats.html For those more adventurous, you can sign up for sunset or moonlight tours, on kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard. Equipment rented from REI. (San Martian tip: This is not a party float. Must book in advance and must bring your own headlamp.) www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/Education/PaddlingTours.html
This is Mecca for in-town river tubing. A tube rental fee of $12 a day also buys you unlimited rides on the shuttle. They’re open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Visit tubesanmarcos.com for details. (San Martian tip: The river is at its best early in the morning before the crowds arrive – and before Lions opens. Since Lions only allows single-day rentals, consider purchasing a tube for $10 or so at HEB, where you can air it up for free, and then you can tube early and beat the crowds. If you go that route, you can opt to purchase unlimited shuttle rides for $6, but we usually just walk back along the river. It’s only 20 minutes or so, and it’s free.)
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San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental
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This is Mecca for in-town river tubing. A tube rental fee of $12 a day also buys you unlimited rides on the shuttle. They’re open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Visit tubesanmarcos.com for details. (San Martian tip: The river is at its best early in the morning before the crowds arrive – and before Lions opens. Since Lions only allows single-day rentals, consider purchasing a tube for $10 or so at HEB, where you can air it up for free, and then you can tube early and beat the crowds. If you go that route, you can opt to purchase unlimited shuttle rides for $6, but we usually just walk back along the river. It’s only 20 minutes or so, and it’s free.)
Float the San Marcos River in a kayak or on a SUP. tinyurl.com/smtxolympic
Olympic Outdoor Center
602 N Interstate 35
Float the San Marcos River in a kayak or on a SUP. tinyurl.com/smtxolympic
Drinks & Nightlife
We hear good things about Harper's. It appears to be one of the nicer drinking spots downtown.
Harper's
139 E Hopkins St
We hear good things about Harper's. It appears to be one of the nicer drinking spots downtown.
Another SanMarcos institution, which is saying something in the fastest-growing city in the US. We have friends who went to school here several (okay, many) years ago, and when they can manage a night away from the kids, they'll hit The Showdown for old time's sake. The exterior was recently zazzed up with a fancy neon sign,but our friends assure us that it's the same ol' Showdown with its vintage decor and piled-high burgers. (Actually, a burger sounds pretty good right now...)
Showdown
207 E Hutchison St
Another SanMarcos institution, which is saying something in the fastest-growing city in the US. We have friends who went to school here several (okay, many) years ago, and when they can manage a night away from the kids, they'll hit The Showdown for old time's sake. The exterior was recently zazzed up with a fancy neon sign,but our friends assure us that it's the same ol' Showdown with its vintage decor and piled-high burgers. (Actually, a burger sounds pretty good right now...)
San Marcos's first LGBT bar. We've never been but we follow Stonewall on Instagram and we must say: their events look like an absolute blast.
Stonewall Warehouse
141 E Hopkins St
San Marcos's first LGBT bar. We've never been but we follow Stonewall on Instagram and we must say: their events look like an absolute blast.
Nicely executed (if cleaned-up and camera-ready) rendition of a classic Texas icehouse, a beer bar created from a gas station whose garage doors open up to let air in and out. We remember when this place was a U-haul dealership operating out of what was likely the town's westernmost filling station -- at least, that was probably the case back when it was built in the 1930s. The Katz brothers then rescued it and have done a great job breathing new life into it with top-shelf signage and atmosphere, and filling the space with adult-sized games. Popular with townies, college kids and bikers. (San Martian tip: It's just a 9-minute walk from the casita.)
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Zelicks Icehouse
336 West Hopkins Street
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Nicely executed (if cleaned-up and camera-ready) rendition of a classic Texas icehouse, a beer bar created from a gas station whose garage doors open up to let air in and out. We remember when this place was a U-haul dealership operating out of what was likely the town's westernmost filling station -- at least, that was probably the case back when it was built in the 1930s. The Katz brothers then rescued it and have done a great job breathing new life into it with top-shelf signage and atmosphere, and filling the space with adult-sized games. Popular with townies, college kids and bikers. (San Martian tip: It's just a 9-minute walk from the casita.)
One of the most legendary music venues in Texas, Cheatham Street served as the launch pad for George Strait, who started playing gigs at the club when he was an agriculture student at Texas State (then Southwest Texas). Other legends followed, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played regular Tuesday night gigs here, and other well-known musicians and songwriters such as Terri Hendrix and Todd Snider. The talent today is just as strong, and today's headliner may be tomorrow's superstar. As for atmopshere, it's a honky tonk -- precisely what you'd expect, and exactly what you're hoping for. (San Martian tip: If you're lucky you'll catch a performance by homegrown blues guitarist Adam Johnson, who's like a modern day Steve Ray Vaughn, just without the substance abuse and sorrow.)
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Cheatham Street Warehouse
119 Cheatham Street
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One of the most legendary music venues in Texas, Cheatham Street served as the launch pad for George Strait, who started playing gigs at the club when he was an agriculture student at Texas State (then Southwest Texas). Other legends followed, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played regular Tuesday night gigs here, and other well-known musicians and songwriters such as Terri Hendrix and Todd Snider. The talent today is just as strong, and today's headliner may be tomorrow's superstar. As for atmopshere, it's a honky tonk -- precisely what you'd expect, and exactly what you're hoping for. (San Martian tip: If you're lucky you'll catch a performance by homegrown blues guitarist Adam Johnson, who's like a modern day Steve Ray Vaughn, just without the substance abuse and sorrow.)
Head west on RR12 toward Wimberley, and in about 10 minutes you’ll spot this place on your right. One of our guests, a beer lover from Oregon, raved about the beers here, which are served from a tap wall with 15 varieties. They’re closed Tuesdays. (San Martian tip: You can bring your own food if you like. Brewster’s Pizza is just a couple miles further down the road, right before the turn-off to Wimberley. Excellent pizza in a sweet family-run business with a tremendous outdoor deck. And if tamales are more your thing, Milagro’s – next to Brewster’s – does them up right.)
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Middleton Brewing
101 Oakwood Loop
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Head west on RR12 toward Wimberley, and in about 10 minutes you’ll spot this place on your right. One of our guests, a beer lover from Oregon, raved about the beers here, which are served from a tap wall with 15 varieties. They’re closed Tuesdays. (San Martian tip: You can bring your own food if you like. Brewster’s Pizza is just a couple miles further down the road, right before the turn-off to Wimberley. Excellent pizza in a sweet family-run business with a tremendous outdoor deck. And if tamales are more your thing, Milagro’s – next to Brewster’s – does them up right.)
A couple local guys decided to open a brewery east of I-35, and the result is a quaint and friendly little operation where four beers are brewed and visitors, tasters and tours are welcome. They often have food trucks parked adjacent. Open to the public mostly on weekends only, but call ahead and ask: 832-217-5752
Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Company
15898 TX-123
A couple local guys decided to open a brewery east of I-35, and the result is a quaint and friendly little operation where four beers are brewed and visitors, tasters and tours are welcome. They often have food trucks parked adjacent. Open to the public mostly on weekends only, but call ahead and ask: 832-217-5752
Not officially a brewpub, The Growling nevertheless serves a staggering (get it?) array of beers on tap from strictly Texas breweries, including our own Middleton Brewing and Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Co. (San Martian tip: Enjoy these adult beverages on site or take them to go in growlers, cans or bombers.)
The Growling — Texas Craft Beer Bar
700 N LBJ Dr
Not officially a brewpub, The Growling nevertheless serves a staggering (get it?) array of beers on tap from strictly Texas breweries, including our own Middleton Brewing and Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Co. (San Martian tip: Enjoy these adult beverages on site or take them to go in growlers, cans or bombers.)
A pleasantly decked out wine bar that serves craft beers, artisanal pizzas and desserts. A night out for adults in a town geared toward twentysomethings. Folks rave about the pizzas, which we understand come free when you order a red wine flight. Just sayin.’ (San Martian tip: Patio Dolcetto is located away from the square, which can make for a quieter night out.)
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Patio Dolcetto
322 Cheatham St
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A pleasantly decked out wine bar that serves craft beers, artisanal pizzas and desserts. A night out for adults in a town geared toward twentysomethings. Folks rave about the pizzas, which we understand come free when you order a red wine flight. Just sayin.’ (San Martian tip: Patio Dolcetto is located away from the square, which can make for a quieter night out.)
Shopping
Much, much more than a mere gift shop, this hometown favorite is a must-stop for anyone looking for fun gifts, clever tchotchkes, a hilarious card or even a custom-made piece of jewelry. It's a blast just to visit, but you probably won't leave empty-handed. You'll find a super-friendly staff, too, though we've yet to see an actual bear made of paper.
Paper Bear Heartworks Co
218 N LBJ Dr
Much, much more than a mere gift shop, this hometown favorite is a must-stop for anyone looking for fun gifts, clever tchotchkes, a hilarious card or even a custom-made piece of jewelry. It's a blast just to visit, but you probably won't leave empty-handed. You'll find a super-friendly staff, too, though we've yet to see an actual bear made of paper.
You owe it to yourself to check out this remarkable collection of finds offered at surprisingly fair prices. The folks at Bower Bird obviously go to great effort to source these items, and then they present them in clever and helpful ways that make you turn to your spouse and say, "See, honey? We really can decorate our living room with old Bayer Heroin bottles."
Bower Bird Antiques & Curiosities
215 N Comanche St
You owe it to yourself to check out this remarkable collection of finds offered at surprisingly fair prices. The folks at Bower Bird obviously go to great effort to source these items, and then they present them in clever and helpful ways that make you turn to your spouse and say, "See, honey? We really can decorate our living room with old Bayer Heroin bottles."
All the cool kids go here (and San Marvelous) to outfit themselves for games, the pool, Bikini Beach, par-tays and the river. But don’t think this is just for 20-year-olds: you very well may find that perfect t-shirt, tank top, hoodie or hat to say everything about you that needs to be said.
Barefoot Campus Outfitter
300 N LBJ Dr
All the cool kids go here (and San Marvelous) to outfit themselves for games, the pool, Bikini Beach, par-tays and the river. But don’t think this is just for 20-year-olds: you very well may find that perfect t-shirt, tank top, hoodie or hat to say everything about you that needs to be said.
Head to the San Marcos Courthouse Square for the San Marcos Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, a weekly event that brings you face-to-face with the best of The San Marvelous. Stop here to pick up a treat for later or to catch a local singer doing an acoustic set.
111 E San Antonio St
111 E San Antonio St
Head to the San Marcos Courthouse Square for the San Marcos Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, a weekly event that brings you face-to-face with the best of The San Marvelous. Stop here to pick up a treat for later or to catch a local singer doing an acoustic set.
Here, good people, is something you probably thought had been killed off by Amazon five years ago. Superfly’s is a record store. Yeah, that’s right: Vinyl is back, and they sell a lot of it. They also host “in-stores” – free concerts by musicians promoting their latest releases – and attract an interesting and eclectic crowd. (San Martian tip: For a real college rewind experience, grab a sandwich next door at the quintessentially collegiate Alvin Ord’s and then hit Superfly’s for a full-on spiritual vacay back to the days when you were too poor to do anything but make mental lists of all the albums you wanted to buy once you finally got paid on Friday.)
Superfly's Lone Star Music Emporium
202 University Dr
Here, good people, is something you probably thought had been killed off by Amazon five years ago. Superfly’s is a record store. Yeah, that’s right: Vinyl is back, and they sell a lot of it. They also host “in-stores” – free concerts by musicians promoting their latest releases – and attract an interesting and eclectic crowd. (San Martian tip: For a real college rewind experience, grab a sandwich next door at the quintessentially collegiate Alvin Ord’s and then hit Superfly’s for a full-on spiritual vacay back to the days when you were too poor to do anything but make mental lists of all the albums you wanted to buy once you finally got paid on Friday.)
Welcome to one-half of the nation's largest outlet shopping center. Compared to its next-door buddy Tanger Outlet, the Premium Outlet (turn left as you enter on Centerpoint) has more upscale stores, like Nieman Marcus Last Call, Prada, Brooks Brothers, Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma and Restoration Hardware. Tanger (to your right as you arrive on Centerpoint Drive) trades in more down-to-earth brands, like Nautica, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer and Adidas. (San Martian tip: Bring food or plan to buy some there, because outlet shopping can be exhausting. It’s like visiting an amusement park. Except if you hear someone screaming at the outlets, it’s not because they’re having a good time.)
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San Marcos Premium Outlets
3939 I-35
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Welcome to one-half of the nation's largest outlet shopping center. Compared to its next-door buddy Tanger Outlet, the Premium Outlet (turn left as you enter on Centerpoint) has more upscale stores, like Nieman Marcus Last Call, Prada, Brooks Brothers, Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma and Restoration Hardware. Tanger (to your right as you arrive on Centerpoint Drive) trades in more down-to-earth brands, like Nautica, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer and Adidas. (San Martian tip: Bring food or plan to buy some there, because outlet shopping can be exhausting. It’s like visiting an amusement park. Except if you hear someone screaming at the outlets, it’s not because they’re having a good time.)
Merchandise trends toward a college-age clientele, which makes this a worthwhile spot for Texas State parents to check out for gifts and mutual hanging out. “Cute, fun and affordable” are words often used to describe their inventory.
River Rose
105 E Hopkins St
Merchandise trends toward a college-age clientele, which makes this a worthwhile spot for Texas State parents to check out for gifts and mutual hanging out. “Cute, fun and affordable” are words often used to describe their inventory.
This is one of those places you go to find the real San Marcos. Owner David Marrs has curated a kickin’ collection of vintage cowboy boots, shirts, belts and hats, though you’ll find that they’re more at home on hippies and hipsters than two-steppers. There’s plenty of other great stuff as well. Vagabond frequently hosts live music events that have helped make this place a fixture here in the San Marvelous. (San Martian tip: Prices are already fair, so don’t waste your breath trying to haggle.)
Vagabond
320 N LBJ Dr
This is one of those places you go to find the real San Marcos. Owner David Marrs has curated a kickin’ collection of vintage cowboy boots, shirts, belts and hats, though you’ll find that they’re more at home on hippies and hipsters than two-steppers. There’s plenty of other great stuff as well. Vagabond frequently hosts live music events that have helped make this place a fixture here in the San Marvelous. (San Martian tip: Prices are already fair, so don’t waste your breath trying to haggle.)
Dahlia’s got a whole lot goin’ on in her downtown space, from a spacious and well-lighted space for displaying the work of local artists to a friendly and casual wine bar to a tiny bookstore with a carefully curated selection of works by Texas authors and noir greats.
Dahlia Woods Gallery
232 N LBJ Dr
Dahlia’s got a whole lot goin’ on in her downtown space, from a spacious and well-lighted space for displaying the work of local artists to a friendly and casual wine bar to a tiny bookstore with a carefully curated selection of works by Texas authors and noir greats.
Parks & Nature
It's a mile from the casita, but a world away. Nice hiking trail through the Prospect Park greenspace. You'll start on a well-kept gravel path that gradually and easily descends into grassland surrounded by hills on either side. Once you hit about half a mile, you can take a right and follow a much more hike-like dirt path along the ridge back toward the trailhead. Just a little injection of nature to start your day. A round-trip from the casita is 3 miles, including the park segment, and you can even pass by Wonder World Park, a funky local amusement park that, amazingly, is still in operation.
Prospect Park Trail
It's a mile from the casita, but a world away. Nice hiking trail through the Prospect Park greenspace. You'll start on a well-kept gravel path that gradually and easily descends into grassland surrounded by hills on either side. Once you hit about half a mile, you can take a right and follow a much more hike-like dirt path along the ridge back toward the trailhead. Just a little injection of nature to start your day. A round-trip from the casita is 3 miles, including the park segment, and you can even pass by Wonder World Park, a funky local amusement park that, amazingly, is still in operation.
(Three trailheads @ 1715 Valencia Way, 2102 Hunter Road, or 1414 Prospect St.) Miles of interconnecting trails offer adventurous outdoorsy folk an impressive array of urban hiking experiences, complete with beautiful vistas, limestone cliffs, dry creek beds and decent elevation changes. Enter from one of three trailheads. Learn more and download trail maps at smgreenbelt.org/SMNaturalAreas.htm (San Martian tip: The Prospect Street trailhead – at Prospect Park – is closest to the casita and is an easy 1-mile walk via neighborhood streets.)
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Purgatory Creek Natural Area
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(Three trailheads @ 1715 Valencia Way, 2102 Hunter Road, or 1414 Prospect St.) Miles of interconnecting trails offer adventurous outdoorsy folk an impressive array of urban hiking experiences, complete with beautiful vistas, limestone cliffs, dry creek beds and decent elevation changes. Enter from one of three trailheads. Learn more and download trail maps at smgreenbelt.org/SMNaturalAreas.htm (San Martian tip: The Prospect Street trailhead – at Prospect Park – is closest to the casita and is an easy 1-mile walk via neighborhood streets.)
Arts & Culture
The seventh floor of Alkek Library on the Texas State campus is home to the Whittliff Collection. A rotating array of exhibits at this museum space means you might find music posters from Austin’s psychedelic era, original Ansel Adams prints, production memorabilia from the animated TV series “King of the Hill,” or Willie Nelson’s first record made in the Pacific Northwest back in 1957. The collection’s permanent display features items from the making of the beloved TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” thewhitliffcollections.txstate.edu (San Martian tip: Admission is free, but we’ve found hours of operation can be…um, flexible. It’s best to call ahead. 512-245-2313.)
Albert B. Alkek Library
601 University Dr
The seventh floor of Alkek Library on the Texas State campus is home to the Whittliff Collection. A rotating array of exhibits at this museum space means you might find music posters from Austin’s psychedelic era, original Ansel Adams prints, production memorabilia from the animated TV series “King of the Hill,” or Willie Nelson’s first record made in the Pacific Northwest back in 1957. The collection’s permanent display features items from the making of the beloved TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” thewhitliffcollections.txstate.edu (San Martian tip: Admission is free, but we’ve found hours of operation can be…um, flexible. It’s best to call ahead. 512-245-2313.)
Car lovers take note: San Marcos is home to one of the most impressive collections of vintage automobiles in the U.S., and you can see it today. Dick Burdick has been collecting autos for decades, and the results are on gleaming display at Dick’s Classic Garage. The collection focuses on American production models (cars you could actually buy) from 1901 to the late ‘50s. Still, even though many name plates will be familiar, you’re likely to see cars you’ve never seen before, such as an electric model from 1918, the last known surviving 1919 Lone Star, and a pristine Tucker Torpedo – the revolutionary 1948 sedan, of which only 51 were ever made. (San Martian tip: Dick happens to have the lowest-mileage Tucker in the world: The odometer shows it’s been driven less than half a mile.) dicksclassicgarage.com
Dick's Classic Car Museum
120 Stagecoach Trail
Car lovers take note: San Marcos is home to one of the most impressive collections of vintage automobiles in the U.S., and you can see it today. Dick Burdick has been collecting autos for decades, and the results are on gleaming display at Dick’s Classic Garage. The collection focuses on American production models (cars you could actually buy) from 1901 to the late ‘50s. Still, even though many name plates will be familiar, you’re likely to see cars you’ve never seen before, such as an electric model from 1918, the last known surviving 1919 Lone Star, and a pristine Tucker Torpedo – the revolutionary 1948 sedan, of which only 51 were ever made. (San Martian tip: Dick happens to have the lowest-mileage Tucker in the world: The odometer shows it’s been driven less than half a mile.) dicksclassicgarage.com
This cabal of talented local artists goes way, way, way beyond the bluebonnet paintings found in small town galleries. Ceramics, paintings, sculptures, found object art and more are on display and available for purchase. Definitely worth a visit when you’re downtown.
218 Co-op Gallery
218 N Guadalupe St
This cabal of talented local artists goes way, way, way beyond the bluebonnet paintings found in small town galleries. Ceramics, paintings, sculptures, found object art and more are on display and available for purchase. Definitely worth a visit when you’re downtown.