Looking for the ultimate summer adventure? Look no further than San Marcos! Dive into the heart of this vibrant city and experience the best it has to offer. From splashing in the crystal-clear waters of the San Marcos River to exploring the bustling Downtown Square, there's always something to do and see in San Marcos. Join us as we take you on a journey through the 8 Ways to Experience San Marcos, where every day feels like a weekend getaway! 

 

  1. Make a Splash
  2. Experience the Heart of San Marcos
  3. Hit the Trails
  4. Murals, Mermaids, and More
  5. Super Cool Attractions
  6. San Marcos From Above
  7. Explore Historic San Marcos
  8. Shop BIG in San Marcos

A group take a glow kayak tour on the San Marcos River#1: Make a Splash

It doesn't get much better than San Marcos in the summertime! With the temperatures rising and families looking to escape into the great outdoors, we want to make sure you are prepared for a great summer adventure. From bringing all the necessities to knowing local rules and helpful tips – let us be your guide!

Lions Club Tube Rental is a great tubing outfitter for those looking to take a relaxing family-friendly float in the clear waters that run through the middle of town! We recommend getting a shuttle pass so you can float down and be ferried back as many times as your heart desires. Looking for a longer, more rustic floating experience a little outside the city limits? Check out these outfitters: Don's Fish Camp and Texas State Tubes

Hoping to get some time paddling on the San Marcos River? We recommend going early in the mornings as the river becomes more difficult to navigate safely when the leisurely tubes enter the picture. Plus, going before the crowds arrive allows for a more relaxing and peaceful experience you'll love! You can find our paddling outfitters here.

While it's always important to take what you bring and dispose of your trash responsibly, it's even more important now with our beautiful natural resources needing extra love and care. We thank you for being good stewards and showing respect for San Marcos' most beautiful feature. 

 

Helpful River Tips

  • San Marcos is full of natural beauty and we really want to keep it that way - take what you bring and dispose of trash properly
  • Remember, it's a real river! We recommend life vests for inexperienced swimmers and children
  • S-U-N-S-C-R-E-E-N, seriously
  • Stay hydrated! Bring plenty of water as fun in the sun can be quite dehydrating
  • Bring your beverages in a reusable container
  • Leave glass and styrofoam at home
  • Wear shoes that are strapped firmly to your feet - ditch the cute shoes, you'll thank us
  • Have a plan just in case you get lost from your group in the water
  • Don't bring anything to the river that you don't mind losing
  • Stick to public access points
  • The San Marcos River does not go in a circle... 
  • San Marcos parks close at 11pm 

 

Glow With the Flow

Looking for a truly one-of-a-kind San Marcos River adventure? You've got to take a glow tour! There are now three opportunities to go on a nighttime tour in clear kayaks with LED lights underneath, allowing you to see beneath the surface in a (quite literally) whole new light. You’ll be guided upriver before being allowed to explore a bit on your own. Paddle SMTX and Get Up and Go Kayaking offer tours of the San Marcos River, while The Meadows Center offers limited tours on Spring Lake!

Paddle SMTX

  • City Park
  • (512) 400-6259

Experience the San Marcos River like never before, with a guided Paddle SMTX Glow Kayak paddle adventure. Each…

Get Up and Go Kayaking

  • 170 Charles Austin Drive
  • (512) 348-6793

Experience illuminated night paddling in the pristine, crystal-clear waters of San Marcos, Texas. Glide alongside…

San Marcos, TX Downtown aerial at night#2: Experience The Heart of
San Marcos

Ah, Downtown San Marcos, where every day feels like a weekend getaway! Discover the vibrant energy that fills the streets, whether you're seeking relaxed leisure or thrilling live entertainment. Prepare to be captivated by mind-blowing music performances, browse inspiring art markets, and indulge in mouthwatering dining options at our local hotspots -- and that's just the beginning of the adventure.

 

Downtown Sounds

While "The Square" in Downtown San Marcos is literal, the vibes are anything but! San Marcos comes alive when the sun goes down and the neon lights turn on. There’s always something going on in San Marcos and you can bet you’ll find live music every night of the week. Legendary career-launching stages. Small hole-in-the-wall bars. Big two-story concert theater. Quaint coffee shops with local vibes. You never know what cool scene you'll find while exploring. You can find a lineup of upcoming live music here!

 

The Colors of Downtown

And keep an eye out for the colorful artworks tucked away in alleyways and unexpected places! Murals both mini and massive adorn the alleyways, backs of buildings, and tiny crevices. And no, you aren't crazy, you did see a few seven-foot-tall mermaids while strolling around Downtown. You'll also find art markets, vintage markets, pop-up performances, and more in the heart of San Marcos. 

 

Downtown Flavors

Pink coffee, crazy good pizza, homestyle favorites, colorful craft libations, chips with curry queso, margaritas with a view, unique burger toppings, cold beer, and so much more - Downtown San Marcos is sure to tantalize your tastebuds! Are you hungry yet? We know we sure are! 

 

Treasure Hunting in Downtown

Vintage shops, a handmade soap store, apothecaries, a toy store, trendy boutiques, record stores, and more are yours to explore in Downtown San Marcos. Walk around Downtown and see where the vibe takes you. Maybe you'll find the perfect vintage denim, a cute hat, handcrafted jewelry, a quirky gift, or the best-smelling soap of your life! 

Events

There is always something fun happening in Downtown San Marcos! Art markets, live music, gallery installations and so much more – you’re going to want to check out what cool events are…

Things To Do

Welcome to Downtown San Marcos. Where you can enjoy a leisurely brunch, dine at charming bistros or get some outrageous burgers. Shop at stylish boutiques, retro vintage stores or quirky shops, either…

Family of four uses binoculars to find birds at Schulle Creek in San Marcos, Texas

#3: Hit The Trails

From leisurely strolls on ADA-accessible trails to more challenging hikes on rugged terrain, San Marcos has trails for outdoor adventurers of all fitness levels. Bring your binoculars or man’s best friend to explore scenic parks that make you feel like you are miles from civilization but are still in the heart of town. With more than 2,100 acres of natural areas and a lot of native wildlife and migratory birds, there’s plenty of natural San Marcos for you to see and explore.

And speaking of birds... The Golden-cheeked warbler also likes to visit San Marcos during the spring and summer months! The Golden-cheeked warbler's nesting season starts in March and they leave again, with their little ones, in July. Please observe and respect any closed trail signage due to these special birds.

 

A Few of Our Favorite Spots

  • Upper Purgatory Creek has a really beautiful ADA trail that’s perfect for families, leisure walkers and, well, really anyone! The entrance is a winding, slightly sloping 2-mile-long and 8-feet-wide crushed granite pathway. The trail is also a really easy route to follow. Follow the Styx trail to Grandma’s Oak, take the loop and head on back!
  • A quick but slightly challenging journey can be had at Spring Lake Natural Area. Enter on the Lime Kiln entrance and follow the Blue Heron trail to go in a circle (stop at the dock). There is a steep and rocky hill, so this is an intermediate-level hike. Beginners will enjoy the Tonkawa trail, which starts at the Aquarena Springs entrance.
  • Of course, the San Marcos River Walkway is a Tour San Marcos favorite. The new 10-foot-wide concrete path (which is an ongoing project) currently goes from City Park to Ramon Lucio Park. There are a few small spots that may be under construction, but all are easy to navigate around. The trail offers beautiful views of the San Marcos River and runs through town, allowing a calming respite in the heart of San Marcos.

 

Helpful Tips

  • Always carry water for you or any four-legged friends you bring with you
  • Speaking of four-legged friends, keep them on leashes and pick up after them
  • Don’t listen to Robert Frost, stay on trail paths and within natural area fencing
  • Keep your phone charged in case of emergency, but also for all the photos you’ll want to take
  • Bring a map or use a GPS device
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! And maybe a hat…
  • Campfires, glass containers, motor vehicles, weapons, horses, and camping are a no-go

Father and daughter pose in front of a mural of a mermaid.#4: Murals, Mermaids, & More

One of the most important San Marcos cultural staples is the blossoming art scene. With an ever-growing collection of muralssculpturesgalleries, and more, San Marcos has created a thriving culture for art lovers and artists alike. You never know what you’ll find and new art seems to pop up in the most unexpected places. Next time you stroll around the Downtown Square we suggest taking a shortcut to look in alleyways and behind buildings to find your new favorite piece. 

 

Mermaids and More

One of San Marcos' unique attractions is the Mermaid March, a colorful collection of larger-than-life mermaid sculptures scattered throughout the city. Each mermaid represents a different facet of San Marcos' history and culture, from its local stories and popular attractions to its rich natural flora and fauna. This whimsical art installation adds a touch of magic to San Marcos, inviting visitors to embark on a mermaid-themed treasure hunt. Make sure you stop at the Art Park for more really cool sculptures, including four new pieces that will be installed this year! 

 

Colorful Glassworks 

Head to Wimberley Glassworks to see what magnificent pieces they've been hand-blowing in the hot shop. On Thursdays through Sundays from 10:30am-3pm you can even venture to the back to watch them hard at work. Make sure you look up as you enter the front door to see their incredible installation overhead. And speaking of glass, just down Ranch Road 12 the Silo Glass Gallery features more than two dozen Texas artists specializing in 3D art forms. Set next to a beautiful grotto with two relaxing waterfalls, Silo Glass is the largest purpose-built, warm glass studio in Central Texas. They also have classes and supplies for those ready to make their own glass creations. But wait, there's more! Visit River City Glassworks to see their stained glass studio gallery, buy supplies for your own pieces, or even take a hands-on class. Three glassworks studios, each with a very different craft and take on glass - we think you need to see for yourself! 

 

Ever-Changing Exhibits

The San Marcos Art Center is a classic stop for art lovers. Located on the Downtown Square, the Art Center has gallery space with rotating featured exhibits and member artists and makers art and fine crafts for sale. And, housed in an old, beautiful church just two blocks from the Art Center, the Price Center is quite the hub of activity for arts of all kinds. While it always features local art and photography throughout the space, you can also find live performances of all kinds here. they also have a tiny outdoor gallery installed in the garden that always has a unique (and miniature) display.

The Walkers' Gallery at the San Marcos Activity Center, known for its rotating exhibits, features works from artists of all backgrounds and mediums, making it a longstanding staple of the local art scene.

Overall, San Marcos offers a vibrant and ever-changing art scene that is sure to delight art lovers and enthusiasts alike. Find a list of current exhibits around town here.

Glass bottom boat tour at Spring Lake#5: Super Cool Attractions

Spring Lake Adventures

Head over to The Meadows Center for a very cool, and quintessential, San Marcos experience – the Glass-Bottom Boat Tour. The 30-minute tour of Spring Lake allows you to see the very bottom of the lake through a glass panel on the boat. You’ll see lots of flora and fauna, as well as the springs that give the lake its name. Your guides are full of facts and trivia about the history of the area and the many creatures that call Spring Lake and the San Marcos River home. A hidden gem at The Meadows Center is the Wetlands Boardwalk, where you can walk a self-guided trail over the water to see more of the local flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

 

The Meadows Center's Eco Adventures are a unique and immersive way to experience Spring Lake! Offering kayak, paddleboard, and snorkel tours, your expert guide will tell you all about one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in North America and the flora and fauna that call this area home. 

 

Cave Exploring

Head to Wonder World Park to explore the very cool (literally) earthquake-formed cave. Guides lead families deep into the Balcones Fault Line Cave for an educational and entertaining cave tour. You’ll see fossilized prehistoric life embedded in the formations and learn about the Edwards Aquifer. After the cave tour, you have to visit the park’s other quirky attractions. Visit the Anti-Gravity House where water flows uphill. And our personal favorite, go see our furry friends at the Texas Wildlife Petting Park!

 

While the natural history of the cave is incredible, its journey from a hidden treasure to a popular tourist attraction is pretty unbelievable too! Wonder Cave was discovered by Mark Bevers in 1893 when he was drilling for water and the water well drill fell 158 feet. W.S. Davis began operating the cave as a tourist attraction in 1903 and charged 10 cents for a candle and a guided tour. At that point in time, there was also a medicine show and a South American anteater. (Doesn’t sound as fun as a petting zoo in our opinion…) The cave was bought by, you guessed it, A.B. Rogers in 1916 for $50, a gray horse, and a saddle. Mr. Rogers then installed electric lighting, handrails, and ladders for slightly safer exploration. In 1958 the cave was sold to the Mostyn family, who have owned, operated, and expanded it ever since!

Tandem skydive#6: See San Marcos From Above (way above)

Adrenaline-Inducing Jumps

Soar to new heights at Skydive Spaceland San Marcos and experience the thrill of freefalling from the sky! Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced skydiver, Skydive Spaceland San Marcos offers a picturesque setting for your jump. Thanks to our ideal weather conditions, you can enjoy skydiving in San Marcos year-round. So, pack a light lunch, buckle up, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

 

Historic Flights

If you prefer to keep your feet (mostly) on the ground, take a ride in a military warbird from World War II at the Commemorative Air Force Central Texas Wing. These historic aircraft have a rich history and offer a unique and exciting way to experience San Marcos. While you won't be doing any literal spins (due to their age), flying in these warbirds promises an exhilarating and historically significant experience.
 

Helicopter Tours

For a different kind of aerial adventure, channel your inner Schwarzenegger and "get to da choppa" with a Leading Edge Helicopter tour! Choose from various flight paths, including over Texas State University, the San Marcos Outlets, the San Marcos River, and more. See San Marcos from a whole new perspective and make memories that will last a lifetime!

Boy looking up at WWII bomber#7: Explore Historic San Marcos

Military History & Air-Worthy Warbirds

Interested in historic military warbirds? You'll absolutely want to make a quick jaunt to the Commemorative Air Force Exhibit for the military museum and amazing WWII planes! Housed in a 1943 vintage wooden hangar, the CAF is home to airworthy historic military warbirds, including “That’s All, Brother,” the Douglas C-47 Skytrain that led the Allied invasion on D-Day in Normandy. Of course, you can’t miss the aircraft… But there’s also a military museum on the site that’s dedicated to aviation through all eras, but primarily focused on WWII. 
 

Music Memorabilia, Pop Culture Props, & More

History lovers with a penchant for pop culture will really enjoy a trip to the Wittliff Collections, housed on the Texas State University campus. The exhibitions tell the stories of the Southwest and Mexico, taken from the diverse collections of work by writers, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians. While the exhibitions change continually and there is always something new to discover, the Lonesome Dove collection remains on display year-round. The costumes, props, and other memorabilia used in the miniseries are a must-see for any TV buff. The Texas Music Collection is incredible with handwritten song lyrics, beloved instruments, iconic outfits, and so much more from a variety of Texas musicians. 

 

A Presidential Legacy

Did you know Texas State University (it was Southwest Texas State Teachers College at the time) is the only Texas university to graduate a future President of the United States? (It’s the only one for Vice Presidents as well, actually…) The LBJ Museum of San Marcos showcases the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, and focuses on his years spent as a student in San Marcos. See mementos up close, learn about our Presidential past and, if you’d like a good photo opportunity, hike up the hill to the Texas State University Quad for a photo with the LBJ statue on campus

 

African American History

The Calaboose African American History Museum is dedicated to African American history and culture within San Marcos and Hays County. The museum is a great place to learn about Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen, WWII, Civil Rights, Ku Klux Klan, and general San Marcos area history. They also have lots of Eddie Durham memorabilia! Eddie Durham was a renowned composer and musician who was born in San Marcos in 1906. 

Women Shopping#8: Shop BIG in San Marcos

Exceptional Outlet Shopping

Explore over 240 name-brand and luxury stores spanning 1.2 million square feet at the San Marcos Outlet Shopping Center! Fuel up with a coffee before your shopping spree—you'll need the extra energy for this retail paradise.

Be prepared to walk! Covering the entire center clocks in at four miles on your pedometer. Dress comfortably for the hot weather, and make a list of your favorite stores to prioritize your shopping experience. Check out the directories for Tanger and Premium outlets to map out your plan of attack.

Parking strategically can save you from heavy bags. Drop off your purchases at the car to lighten your load and keep shopping without the struggle. Stash your finds in the trunk for safekeeping. Rest and refuel at one of the 20 eateries and restaurants on-site, and let the little ones burn off some energy at the play areas.

We think the outlets are amazing, and we aren’t the only ones! More than 14 million annual visitors shop the San Marcos Outlets and shoppers have come from 75 countries so far. With that said, if crowds or lines aren’t your thing, make sure to plan your shopping adventure for a non-holiday weekend, on a weekday, or start earlier in the day to beat the crowds.
 

Local Treasures

Discover unique treasures in San Marcos' boutiques and shops! Explore stylish boutiques showcasing the latest trends and timeless classics. Browse through artisanal stores and galleries offering San Marcos-made ceramics, hand-blown glass, textiles, jewelry, and more. Whether you're into fashion, art, or handmade goods, you're bound to find something special to take home.

Step into San Marcos' vintage shops for a blast from the past. Unearth treasures like vintage graphic tees or classic cowboy boots. Shopping for pre-owned items not only benefits the environment but also allows for creative expression. Upcycle, tailor, and mix styles in ways you wouldn't in a traditional store, creating a truly unique personal style.

Don't miss out on San Marcos' vibrant markets! From arts and vintage to farmers' and mystical markets, there's something for everyone. Discover the creations of local artisans, savor the flavors of San Marcos from regional vendors, and uncover hidden gems you never knew you needed!