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These Are 5 Hidden Gem Destinations In Texas According To Locals


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Austin has dominated the Texas tourism spotlight for far too long.

Home to famous music festivals like SXSW and ACL, Austin has long enjoyed a reputation as Texas’ quirky hip capital and top tourist destination. Unfortunately, crime rates are soaring almost as fast as prices, while the influx of California tech workers disrupts the social fabric and soul of the city.

So where should travelers go?

From tavern-filled ghost towns to the rolling hills of Texas wine country, there are countless off-road destinations to head off on a fabulous Texas adventure.

Here are five hidden gem destinations in Texas, according to locals:

Barton Creek Austin Texas


We’ve all heard of « Keep Austin Weird. » But it’s about time the Lone Star capital made room for the next big thing in truly wacky Texas cities: Denton.

Idyllic downtown Denton square manages to embody old-school Texas charm and embrace the fresh creative energy of its two college campuses.

For a taste of the traditional, cool off with some vintage Beth Marie’s ice cream on the steps of Denon’s 19th-century courthouse before entering its museum. If the time is right, you can join the friendly locals at their monthly wine walks around the town.

When Denton’s old spell has taken you too far to leave, stay a few nights at Brownlow House, a historic 1912 Victorian converted bed-and-breakfast.

denton texas historic courthouse

Most things in Denton don’t fit perfectly in an « old » or « new » box.

Ghost-hunting retirees and curious college kids cross paths on the legendary Old Alton Bridge. At the intersection of homey and modern is Paschall Bar, a modern speakeasy with dark-wood bookcases and time-honoured classic cocktails that draws a highly eclectic crowd.

For a more youthful itinerary, enjoy a specialty coffee at Jupiter Coffee House, browse the book and record store on the corner of Locust Street, and try local vegan restaurant Spiral Diner. When the sun goes down, hang out at the Eastside or Harvest House for craft beer and food trucks, or go bar hopping on Fry Street.

Visitors don’t even have to go as far as the Denton Wall of Art and Union Art Gallery to soak up the artistic soul of this city (although they definitely should). A simple walk through the historic center offers enough Street art to give travelers a genuine sense of Denton’s unique character.

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denton texas old converted theater


Who doesn’t love a funky ghost town?

Terlingua, Texas is located just a stone’s throw from the Mexican border and Big Bend National Park. Often overlooked in favor of its more Instagrammable neighbor, Mariathis historic Lone Star town is the definition of a hidden gem.

Terlingua began as a mining town in the early 1900s, but was left in dust as its residents packed up in search of greener pastures.

Today this ghost town is getting a new lease of life thanks to creative small businesses. Some, like the trendy Starlight Theater and Holiday Hotel, have been around for decades; while others, like Basecamp Terlingua glamping, are part of a newer (dare we say hipster?) wave of tourists.

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terlingua texas old starlight theater

Visitors can enjoy hiking the Santa Elena Canyon, kayaking the Rio Grande, soaking in hot springs and stargazing in some of the lowest light pollution spots in the country.

For adventurous travelers willing to stray a bit, a double-destination economic mission awaits, so get your passport ready. The Mexican town of nozzles It awaits just across the river, with a little help from the on-site American park ranger and friendly Boquillan guides sporting « Your Journey to the Other Side » T-shirts and little rowboats.

After filling up on margaritas, stacked enchiladas, and the wonders of Maderas del Carmen Protected Natural Area state park, you can take that 30 second « ferry » back to Terlingua to continue your Lone Star adventure.

terlingua texas ghost town sign


Pronounced « green, » the Gruene Historic District is a true hidden gem with a few more tricks up its sleeve besides its spelling.

This historic town is technically part of the city of New Braunfels, an 1840s German cotton-growing settlement that is best known today for its Schlitterbahn water park.

Visitors to Gruene should explore:

  • Gruene Hall – The oldest dance hall in Texas, built in 1878 and frequented by stars like Willie Nelson.
  • Cafe Gruene Haus – The heart and soul of the city’s social life, plus good coffee.
  • The Birdhouse Fancy Chicken & Fine Wine – What more could you want?
  • Pipeline – Take a friend, a drink and an inner tube. Now you’re ready to float down the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, affectionately known to locals as « the Hill Country shoreline. »
  • Gruene Antique Company – With thousands of items in 6,500 square feet, this is more of a museum of Central Texas life than a typical antique store.
Tubing on the Guadalupe River in West Texas


Fredericksburg shares its German roots with Gruene, but stands out for its unique reputation as Texas wine country. With over 100 vineyards in the area, you can’t go wrong with any of the Fredricksburg wine tastings.

Scheduling a trip to Fredericksburg on the first Friday of every month means a special after-hours experience at the art galleries along Main Street.

Visitors can also explore the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area just minutes from the city. This pink granite monument gets its name from 19th-century legends of the Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche tribes, who believed it was imbued with mystical powers.

enchanted rock texas


To an outsider, West doesn’t look like much. With only around 3,000 residents and no major tourist attractions, why would visitors go out of their way to see it?

But ask any born and raised Texan about the city of West, and you’re sure to hear why: kolaches.

In the 1880s, a wave of Czech immigrants settled in this little corner of north-central Texas, bringing with them the delicious buttery goodness of recipes from the old land. In the 1960s, Interstate 35 put West on the map as a freeway stopover, and Lone Star commuters got their first taste of Czech gold.

Today, the czech stop It is genuinely a Texas institution. Travelers from all walks of life gather at the intersection of the freeway connecting Dallas, Waco, Austin and San Antonio for a one-of-a-kind snack. The bakery offers all kinds of Eastern European-inspired treats, including their infamous kolaches.

Welcome to Texas-Sign

Adapted from Czech cake, a puff pastry traditionally made with fruit jam or poppy seeds, the most popular kolaches today are flavored with cream cheese. With local Texas tastes leaning heavily toward the carnivorous side, jalapeño sausage klobasnek and « hot and chubby » sausage and cheese rolls are crowd favorites.

The City of West has also been recognized as the « Czech Heritage Capital of Texas » and hosts an annual event Westfest celebrating Czech culture and traditions. Visitors can learn more at the Western History Museum.

For an overnight or multi-day trip, it’s best to take an extended stop on an epic road trip or combine it with a trip to nearby Waco. This college town is home to unique historic inns, modern hotels, quirky coffee shops, and plenty of Southern comfort food.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com