Every Texas town has its distinctive qualities and attractions—just ask the locals. Given the more than 2,000 small towns that populate this vast state, that makes for a lifetime of worthwhile country drives, courthouse square cafés, and quirky local history museums. That’s why we turned to Texas Highways readers to help identify our state’s “coolest small towns.” We had a blast fielding the nominations, which came in from all across the state. Considering the “small” stipulation, we set a population limit of about 10,000, although that meant some popular nominees weren’t included. We believe these small towns reflect the essence of Texas—from peaceful porch swings to sprawling oak trees, chicken-fried steak, and six-man football—and we invite you to join us as we explore their charms.
Llano: (pop. 3,285)
'Llano has a beautiful downtown area, lovely shops and Cooper's BBQ.' - Rene Robbins
Don't miss: Cool off in the Llano River, which runs through town and provides fishing and kayaking opportunities.
Info:Contact the Llano Chamber of Commerce, 325/247-5354.
Fredericksburg (pop. 10,705)
'Fredericksburg has everything and still maintains the small-town image! Great small-town parades, festivals, and caring for each other.' – Sandi McCready
Don’t miss: Learn about the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of World War II at the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Info: Contact the Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center, 888/997-3600.
Strawn [pop. 647]
'Great shops and restaurant, Mary’s Cafe. Best chicken-fry in Texas!' – Christine Tandy Perkins
Don’t miss: Join the townsfolk on Friday night to see the Strawn High six-man football team play for glory at Greyhound Stadium.
To see the stadium at its most frenzied, be sure to attend when the archrival Gordon Longhorns come to town.
Info: Contact the City of Strawn, 254/672-5311.
Calvert [pop. 1,212]
'Great shops, wonderful old homes to drive around and look at.' – Linda Sullins Smith
Don’t miss: Elegant handmade chocolates from CocoaModa.
Info: Contact the Calvert Chamber of Commerce, 979/364-2559.
Bandera [pop. 859]
'What I love about Bandera is that it’s right on the river. Small & quaint.' –Anna Alamia
Don’t miss: Two-step at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, a honky-tonk just off Main Street of the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
Info: Contact the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800/364-3833.
Wimberley (pop. 2,695)
'Wimberley is a great little town ... lovely people, fun little shops, Market Days... and the Leaning Pear Cafe & Eatery!' – Missy Buchanan
Don’t miss: Hike Mount Baldy for Hill Country views, then swim at Blue Hole on Cypress Creek.
Info: Contact the Wimberley Visitor Center, 512/847-2201.
Port Aransas (pop. 3,685)
'Ship-watching, and a little fishing and beach.' – Steve Henderson
Don’t miss: Take a free guided walking tour of a salt marsh at the Wetlands Education Center of the UT Marine Science Institute.
Info: Contact the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce, 800/452-6278.
Ben Wheeler (pop. 400)
'Don’t miss Ben Wheeler’s Hog Festival!' – Tamara Stokes
Don’t miss: Stroll the revitalized center of this East Texas hamlet and check out interesting retail shops such as Harrison & Son Knifesmith, Flying Fish Gallery, the Forge Bar & Grill, and Scoots n’ Scoops, a motorcycle museum/ice cream shop.
Info:Contact the Ben Wheeler Arts & Historic District Foundation, 903/833-1070.