Tour the Texas Hill Country Part 1: Bandera, Texas
Our Tour the Texas Hill Country series will guide you through some of the best destinations the hill country has to offer. The beauty of this self-guided hill country tour is that it can be a series of shorter trips or weekend getaways; or you can knock it out all at once if you have the time. It can be customized entirely to suit your preferences, timeline, and starting point.
We’ve set this trip series to begin in Bandera and end in Fredericksburg, but you can start on either side or hop in at any point. This trip guide will take you through some of the best scenery and most interesting towns in the hill country, hitting many of the highlights along the way. You’ll find more resources on what to do along the way, restaurants, and places to stay at the end of each series of the article, or you can stop by our Texas Hill Country Visitor home page to start planning the specifics of your trip.
The first leg of our suggested tour of the Texas Hill Country will take you to Bandera. If you’re coming from San Antonio, we recommend taking the scenic route and going Hwy 16 through Helotes and Pipe Creek toward Bandera, but pretty much any road that leads to Bandera is a scenic drive.
Bandera is a cool little town, and well worth the visit- especially if your trip coincides with one of Bandera’s big events like the “Celebrate Bandera” festival that take place every Labor Day weekend (though you’ll find something happening pretty much every weekend in Bandera). The “Celebrate Bandera” weekend features a parade (including a cattle drive of a herd of Texas longhorns), NPBR rodeo, live music, Native American Pow-Wow, and much more.
Bandera has long been considered “The Cowboy Capital of the World” to residents of the hill country, but didn’t officially earn the blessing of the state of Texas to make that claim until a few years ago. When you enter Bandera, it becomes apparent pretty quickly what earned it that title.
You’ll find old western style bars including the 11th St Cowboy Bar; a collection of the best dude/guest ranches in the state of Texas; and a variety of activities and attractions that will take you back to a time long past, including cowboy shootout re-enactments, rodeos, western museums, and more. It isn’t uncommon to see horses tied up outside businesses along the main drag. Drive friendly, watch out for horse manure in the street, and avoid standing within kicking distance of their hind quarters and you’ll be fine.
Bandera is also a great place to get out and enjoy nature. It is home to Hill Country State Natural Area. This is one of the least developed parks in the Texas state park system in terms of facilities and access, but has some of the best opportunities for remote camping, hiking, and horseback riding (bring your own horse or arrange for horseback riding through one of the nearby dude/guest ranches).
You could certainly make your visit to Bandera a day trip if you prefer, but we recommend staying at least a night or two (or more if you are so inclined), doing a little horseback riding, and taking in some of the other attractions. Either way, don’t forget to head downtown for a little shopping before you head out of town. Use the search bar
toward the top of the page to check out more places to stay, restaurants, and things to do in Bandera TX.