Take a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour on Spring Lake in San Marcos. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau
San Marcos is a charming college town halfway between Austin and San Antonio known for the country’s largest outlet mall, a historic downtown square, and tons of waterways to kayak, paddleboard or float on. But you might be surprised by what else this town has to offer. Have you ever heard of unicycle football? Or seen water run uphill? San Marcos also has its share of fun and interesting activities that you may not know about.
Here are seven things that can only be found in San Marcos.
1. Take a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour
Spring Lake in San Marcos is known for its clear water, so it just makes sense to put a glass bottom on a boat to explore the vast underwater ecosystem. In 1946, Paul Rogers led the first tour of Spring Lake on a homemade glass-bottom rowboat. Today the folks at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University run educational tours that allow visitors to explore the river’s depths without getting wet. Chances are you’ll see huge bass, turtles, and the occasional snorkeler before the boat hovers over the exact spot where the aquifer bubbles up to form the lake. You probably won’t see the endangered Texas Blind Salamander (they burrow under the ground), but you can see one inside Discovery Hall. Glass-Bottom Boat Tours are offered daily and run continuously every 30 minutes.
2. Go Paddleboarding at Night
Paddle SMTX offers one of the most impressive ways to take a ride on a stand-up paddleboard, with a nighttime trip on boards that lights up the river with a rainbow of color. Each paddleboard is equipped with colorful, waterproof LED lighting. Paddlers slowly make their way down the river during the SUP Glow Night Tours of the San Marcos River leaving a stream of red, green, blue, or purple in their wake. The boards illuminate the crystal clear water showcasing the river’s aquatic plants and wildlife.
3. Visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, grew up in the Texas Hill Country. He moved to San Marcos in 1927 to attend college where he earned a history degree and teaching certificate at Southwest Texas State Teachers' College (now Texas State University). After college, he worked for a year at a poverty-stricken Mexican-American school in Cotulla. His passion for civil rights, education, and poverty elimination developed during this time. The LBJ Museum of San Marcos (not to be confused with the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin) focuses on how his experiences as a college student and school teacher impacted his landmark presidential legislation. Located on San Marcos’ historic square, the museum uses period news clippings, photographs, memorabilia, and oral histories to tell Johnson’s story. Admission is free, which is fitting for the president who declared a war on poverty during his first State of the Union address.
4. See World War II Aircraft
Housed in a 1943 vintage hanger, the Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is home to many historic warplanes. Its prized possession, however, is the That’s All, Brother, a C-47 military transport plane that led the formation dropping thousands of American paratroopers into Normandy on D-Day during World War II, paving the way for the liberation of France.
5. Stand at the Corner of LBJ and MLK
Walk a few blocks south of the LBJ Museum to see the Lyndon Baines Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. Crossroads Memorial. The sculpture is an oval gazebo with a screened roof featuring a replica of the famous photo of MLK and LBJ hunched over in the Oval Office discussing Civil Rights legislation. The sculpture sits on the crossroads of LBJ Drive and MLK Drive, the only American intersection bearing the names of both of these leaders.
6. Watch a Unicycle Football Game
What is unicycle football? It is exactly what it sounds like—an American-style football game played while you balance on a unicycle. “Pedestrian football is outdated’ is the official tagline of the Unicycle Football League. Rules for the five-on-five game are similar to flag football, but with a few variations unique to the league. Instead of a coin-flip the initial possession of the ball goes to the winner of the pre-game joust, and a player can tackle by pulling another player’s flag or by knocking them off their unicycle. Eight teams play every Sunday from August until April. The league is a brainchild of Marcus Garland who in 2008 convinced San Marcos locals to form two teams and compete against each other. Since then it has grown into a highly competitive and entertaining sport.
7. Tour an Earthquake-Formed Cave
San Marcos is known for all its water formations above ground, but there is a vast network of caves underground. The Balcones Fault Line Cave is the nation’s only true example of an earthquake-formed cave. Go deep underground during the hour-and-a-half tour to see up close the devastation of the earthquake along with fossilized prehistoric creatures. The cave resides in Wonder World Park, a one-of-a-kind theme park that features a number of unique attractions like the Topsy-Turvy World of the Anti-Gravity House where water flows uphill.
Written by Jennifer Simonson for RootsRated Media in partnership with San Marcos CVB.