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17 Amazing things to do in San Marcos Texas

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in San Marcos, Texas! This small college town is home to Texas State University and it has tons of activities for solo travelers.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking trails, parks, and opportunities for fishing and boating. Shoppers and foodies will want to check out the downtown area, which is packed with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.

And finally, no trip to San Marcos is complete without the Aquarena Springs glass-bottom boat tour!

San Marcos is a very special place to me as it is where I went to college and spent the early years of my adult life! It is where I met some amazing lifelong friends, learned about myself, and ultimately set myself up for my future!

I can’t wait to share with you all the best places to visit and the little hidden gems along the way!

San Marcos Texas overview

San Marcos Texas Things to do

Visit Texas State University

Texas State University is what makes San Marcos special. This little town has been booming with college students since it opened in 1899! Located on the San Marcos river this university is known for its beautiful campus and lively student body.

If you are visiting San Marcos during the school year make sure to catch a Bobcat’s football game and enjoy the wild tailgates the students throw!

The stadium is located right on campus and it is always a great time!

Graduation weekend is also an amazing time to visit San Marcos as the whole town celebrates the occasion and it is tradition for all graduates to jump in the river at Sewell park after the ceremony!


Join a glass-bottom boat tour at Aquarena Springs

Aquarena Springs is a spring-fed aquifer that is home to many fish, turtles, and alligators. You can take boat tours of the area on a glass-bottomed boat and even get the chance to feed the fish!

This is a great activity for families or anyone who loves animals. The tour guides are very knowledgeable about the area and its history and they always make sure to point out any interesting animals along the way!

The Aquarena Springs boat tour is one of the most popular attractions in San Marcos and they have an on-site gift shop.

The tour lasts about an hour around spring lake and gives you a unique look at the underwater world. They offer multi-day tours.

Student center san marco texas
San Marcos State University

Shopping in San Marcos Outlet Malls

Located just outside of town, the San Marcos outlets are the largest outlet shopping center in the US. It’s a great place to find deals on designer clothes and shoes at some luxury stores.

There are two main outlet malls in the area, the San Marcos Premium Outlets and the Tanger Outlets.

The San Marcos Premium Outlets are home to luxury stores like Coach, Nike, and Adidas. Recently they have added popular stores such as Lululemon and Kate Spade!

I also happened to work in the outlet mall and let’s just say weekends and holidays can get CRAZY! Best to go on a weekday when things are slower.

The Tanger Outlets are a bit cheaper and have stores like Old Navy, Gap, H&M, and my favorite the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company.

No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at the San Marcos outlet mall!


Hang out in downtown San Marcos

Downtown is the perfect place to spend a day shopping, eating, and exploring. There are tons of locally-owned shops, vintage finds, and restaurants.

Make sure to walk around and explore all the artwork that is on display! It is also home to several art galleries. My favorite is SMAC, an art gallery that features local artists.

One of my favorite things to do in San Marcos downtown is grabbing a bite to eat!

There are so many great restaurants to choose from whether you want something quick or to stay and enjoy yourself for a while.

I have included a list of my favorite places to eat at the end of the article, so stick around to make sure you are hitting all the best places;)


Wonder World Cave Park

Wonder World Park is a must-do when visiting San Marcos Tx! This park is home to the original Wonder Cave, which was discovered in the 1800s.

The earthquake-formed cave offers guided tours that take you through all the different chambers and help you learn about how it was formed.

The park also has an observation tower, earthquake simulator, a train ride, and fascinating artifacts.

Wonder World Park is a great place for anyone who wants to have a fun day and learn more about the history of San Marcos.

The park is open every day from 9 am-5 pm and tickets are only $12 for adults and $8 for kids!


San Marcos River

If you are looking for some outdoor activities then the San Marcos River is a great place to spend a day tubing, fishing, or swimming. The river runs right through the heart of San Marcos and there are plenty of places for recreational tubing, kayaking, and canoeing.

A river is also a great place for fishing. You can catch catfish, bass, and trout in the river. Be sure to check out the local fishing regulations before you head out!

Finally, the river is a great place for a picnic or just to relax and soak up some sun. There are several parks along the river that offer great views and plenty of shade.

My favorite public parks include:

Sewell Park

Sewell Park is located in the middle of campus and is one of my favorite things to do in San Marcos. I can spend the whole day here.

The park has two sand volleyball courts, wide green areas for frisbee, and a lot of trees if you like to hammock or slackline.

You will find many entrances and exits into the river making it the perfect place to cool off from the hot Texas sun. The water is a bit deep and there are no lifeguards.

Five Mile Dam Park

Five Mile Dam Park is located just a few miles from downtown and is a great place to spend the day. It has a playground, a large covered pavilion with picnic tables, barbecue pits, and of course the river!

This park is perfect if you want to spend the day fishing because it’s right on the river.

Rio Vista Park

This is a great park to go to if you are looking to get away from the flocks of college students and be with more locals.

The parking lots are a little bit of a walk from the river but the park has a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a few playgrounds.

It also has direct access to the San Marcos River and its artificial rapids on the Rio vista dam. I recommend going down with a tube but you can go down them like a slide! This is a really fun place if you enjoy being in the water.

San MArcos River
San Marcos River

Go Tubing at Texas State Tubes

If you’re looking for a fun, outdoor activity to do in San Marcos, look no further than Texas State Tubes. This is one of the most popular things to do in San Marcos.

Here you can rent tubes and float down the San Marcos River which leads into the Blanco River. The river is a great place to relax and take in the beautiful scenery.

The float takes approximately two hours, so be sure to pack some snacks and some drinks to enjoy along the way for a fun time.

You are allowed to bring alcohol and you will see many people stop at “shotgun alley” to enjoy a cold beer and sit in the sun before the float is over!

You will start at their entry point, they provide tubes for a fee or you can grab your own at the local Walmart. At the end of the float, there is a bus waiting to pick you up and take you to your car.

Make sure to drink plenty of water as the sun and alcohol can hit you harder than you intend.


Go Hiking at Purgatory Creek Natural Area

There are numerous hiking trails in the Purgatory Creek Natural Area, making it the perfect spot for a nature hike. The area is the largest dedicated natural space in San Marcos.

The trails are well-marked and range in difficulty from easy to moderate. You can expect to see a variety of wildlife along the way, as well as some beautiful scenery.

Purgatory Creek is also a great spot for bird watching. So, if you’re an avid birdwatcher, be sure to bring your binoculars!

The trails are open from sunrise to sunset, and there is no fee to hike them. Parking is available at the trailhead.

Keep track of the time as you do not want to get lost in here after dark, from personal experience it is not fun!! Make sure to bring a lot of water as there are areas without any shade.


Cheathem Street Warehouse

The Cheathem Street warehouse is famous for the many texas musicians that got their start in this music venue.

George Strait, Randy Rogers, and Stevie Ray Vaughan are just a few of the big names that have performed here.

The warehouse still hosts live music on the weekends and has pool tables and serves some of the cheapest beer in town.

So, if you’re in town and looking for some great live music, be sure to check out the Cheathem Street Warehouse!

Occasionally big names will come through and tickets will sell out so stay up to date at their events website here.


Texas Water Safari

The Texas Water Safari is an annual event that takes place in San Marcos. It is billed as the “world’s toughest canoe race” and it certainly lives up to its name. The race is 260 miles long and takes place over four days.

The race starts in San Marcos and ends in Seadrift, Texas. It is open to teams of two or three people, and each team must have at least one canoe.

If you are not a canoer, no worries, the whole town comes together to cheer on those that are participating at the start line!

If you’re looking for a challenge, then the Texas Water Safari is certainly for you!

The race takes place every year in June. For more information, check out their website.


LBJ Museum in San Marcos

The 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson is the only president to graduate from a Texas school and that school just happens to be Texas State University. In his honor, they have erected a museum on the town’s square that is free and open to the public.

The museum has exhibits that chronicle LBJ’s life and career. You can see personal items, such as his cowboy boots and Stetson hat, as well as artifacts from his time in office, such as the desk from the Oval Office.

The LBJ Museum is open Thursday – Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm.


Explore the downtown graffiti

There is a lot of graffiti downtown, and there are quite great pieces. The art ranges from simple tags to elaborate pieces that took a lot of time and effort to create.

One of my favorites is the “Keep San Marcos Beautiful” mural, it is located right downtown and features a beautiful mermaid, and encompasses all that San Marcos is with its stunning river.

The best way to explore the graffiti is to just wander around the downtown area. You’re sure to see some interesting pieces!

If you are looking for some romantic things to do in San Marcos then kissing alley is one place in particular where you’ll find some great murals and love in the air.

The alley is lit up by twinkling lights and shows a beautiful view of the Hays County Historic Courthouse.


Hays County Historic Courthouse

The Hays County Historic Courthouse is a beautiful building located in the heart of downtown San Marcos. It was built in 1893 and is one of the most photographed buildings in town.

The courthouse is open to the public and you can go on a free tour. On the tour, you will learn about the history of Hays County and some of the famous people that have walked through its doors, including Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The courthouse is open Monday- Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.


Go bar hopping around the main square

Now, I will be honest, the square is FULL of college students but there are some great bars with great vibes and rooftops to overlook the hill country! The square is located in the historic downtown and surrounds the courthouse.

If you want to start your night off with some great music, head over to Cheatham Street Warehouse. Head to Chimys for a frozen margarita or a DP shootout. Grab a drink at Zelicks on their back porch for a laidback vibe with some outdoor games like giant Jenga or horseshoes.

San Marcos is home to a variety of bars, each with its unique atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a place to dance the night away or just relax with a drink, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in downtown San Marcos.


Day trips from San Marcos

Take a walk or bike ride on the river trail

If you are looking for things to do in San Marcos on your own then head to the river trail. The San Marcos River is a beautiful sight and it’s even better when you can enjoy it up close.

The river trail is a great place to walk, jog or bike ride on a self-guided tour. It’s also a great place to just sit and relax.

The trail is about 3 miles long and runs along the river. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

The river trail is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to use.


Go on a wine tour

The Texas Hill Country is home to a variety of wineries and vineyards. Many of these are located close to San Marcos, making it the perfect place to go on a wine tour.

There are a few different companies that offer guided tours in the area. Some of these include Vineyard Tours & Transportation, Texas Hill Country Winery Tours, and Austin Wine Tours. These tours typically last around 4 hours and include transportation to and from the wineries, as well as a tour of the vineyards and wine tastings.

One of my favorite wineries is Three Dudes Winery in Dripping Springs which is one of the 17 most charming towns in the Hill country!


Take a day trip to Austin

Austin Texas Capitol
Austin Texas Capitol

Austin is only about 30 minutes away from San Marcos and it’s worth a visit. There is so much to do in Austin, you could easily spend a whole day there and still not see everything.

Some of my favorites things to do in Austin are visit the State Capitol, wander around South Congress, or spend the day at canyon lake.

If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, then head over to Zilker Park or go paddleboarding on lady bird lake.

While you are in Austin be sure to check out these famous landmarks in Texas.


Take a day trip to San Antonio

The river walk in San Antonio texas
Riverwalk in San Antonio

San Antonio is a little bit further away than Austin, but it’s definitely worth the trip. There is so much to see and do here, you could live there and still not see everything.

Some of my favorite things to do in San Antonio are to visit the Alamo, wander around the River Walk, and eat at some of the amazing Mexican restaurants.

If you have more than a day, try to check off these 61 things to do in San Antonio.


Must Eats in San Marcos, Texas

Breakfast/Brunch

  • Root Cellar Cafe – This is a great place to go for breakfast or brunch. Located underground in a cave cellar. They have a variety of options, including pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict, and a variety of sandwiches with bottomless mimosas! My favorite is their Migas!
  • Cafe on the Square – Another great place for breakfast or brunch. This place is always busy, but it’s definitely worth the wait. I love their coffee here, it is always strong and hot. My favorite is their French Toast with hashbrowns!

Lunch

  • Torchy’s Taco – If you’re looking for some amazing tacos, then Torchy’s is the place to go. They have a variety of tacos, including ones with shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, and veggie. This is a must for their Queso and Guacamole!
  • The Taproom – This is a great place to go for lunch if you’re looking for something a little more than tacos. They have the best burgers in town and a lot of beers on tap for that afternoon brewski!
  • Pie Society – This place is a must for pizza lovers! Grab their garlic knots for appetizers and they sell pizza by the slice so you can try a few of their fire oven bakes pizzas!

Dinner

  • Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant – This is my favorite place to eat in San Marcos. They have amazing margaritas and the best chips and salsa I’ve ever had! I enjoy the quesadillas or the tortilla soup!
  • Palmer’s restaurant bar – This is a great place for dinner if you want something a little more upscale. They have delicious steak and an amazing wine list! The service is always wonderful and the ambiance is perfect for a date night! If you like tequila make sure to get their Mexican martini!
  • Railyard Bar and Grill – This is a great place for a casual dinner. They have burgers, salads, and sandwiches. And they have a variety of beers on tap! I love their fries and the atmosphere is perfect for watching a game!

Desserts

  • Gills Broiler – Famous for their Manske roll, which is a really warm and sweet cinnamon roll. It is so good LBJ used to have them flown into the white house.
  • Rhea’s Ice Cream – This place has the best ice cream in town! They have a variety of flavors that are handmade and they are always coming out with new unique flavors such as avocado bacon, and goat cheese with raspberry jam!

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