San Marcos is an inviting town nestled between San Antonio and Austin that embodies the many things that make the Texas Hill Country great. Swimming, fishing, or floating in the gorgeous San Marcos River; exploring the depths of a cave; and hunting for bargains at the largest outlet shopping mall in America are just some of the things to do in San Marcos. If you’re going to visit this delightful place, check out our list of some of the can’t-miss experiences to plan your perfect vacation to San Marcos.
Experience the San Marcos River
San Marcos’ most popular attraction may be the spectacular San Marcos River that meanders through the center of town. The pristine river is a crystal-clear spring-fed waterway that remains at a pleasant 72 degrees throughout the year, a quality that has made it a popular recreational spot for tourists and locals alike. A series of parks, such as John J Stokes San Marcos River City Park and Rio Vista Park, follow the river through town, providing a scenic environment for a wide variety of fun. Hop into the river for a refreshing swim, float its length on an inner tube or kayak, or cast a fishing line and take in the view.
There is just as much to do on land as there is in the water. Bring your hiking shoes or mountain bike and traverse the miles of scenic nature trails that follow the river, or bring out a picnic and soak up the invigorating sun. The river’s people-friendly environment is just as welcoming to the native animal life, making it a great place to go birding and wildlife watching. If you’re looking to appreciate the beauty of the Texas Hill County, and have a great time in the process, then find your way to the San Marcos River.
Discover Wonder World Park
Along with its charming towns and wineries, the Hill Country region is known for its vast cave systems that you can explore. The oldest of these caves resides within Wonder World Park in San Marcos, a one-of-a-kind theme park that features a number of unique attractions. Its cave was formed by an earthquake along the Balcones Fault Line, and the formations within stand as a testament to the devastating power of Mother Nature. During your 1.5-hour guided tour of the cave, you’ll see fossilized prehistoric creatures enrobed in extraordinary formations, the likes of which will be pointed out to you by a knowledgeable guide.
Although there’s plenty to see within the cave, Wonder World Park has much more to offer than its mesmerizing subterranean depths. Ascend a 110-foot-tall observation tower and take in a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding tree-covered countryside. Climb aboard a tram and ride through a deluging waterfall on your way to the wildlife park, where you can pet and feed deer and interact with other animals. Finally, step inside the mind-bending world of the anti-gravity house, where water runs uphill and everything is backwards.
Whether you’re looking for a cave-diving adventure or a fun day out with the family, you’ll find it at Wonder World Park, a top attraction in San Marcos.
Shop Until You Drop at San Marcos’ Outlet Malls
Do you enjoy hunting for bargains? Then San Marcos is the place for you. The town’s two outlet malls that have 260 stores and 1.2 million square feet of retail space, making it a shopper’s paradise. In fact, San Marcos’ two outlet malls, San Marcos Premium Outlets and the Tanger Outlets, combine to form the largest outlet shopping center in the United States. At San Marcos Premium Outlets, you’ll encounter luxury stores like Gucci and Giorgio Armani, while Tanger Outlets has Adidas, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and other popular brands. Most stores sell their products at a discount, so be prepared to leave with hefty shopping bags. With so many stores to browse, you’ll probably work up quite the appetite. Don’t worry; both malls have an extensive selection of fast-food and sit-down restaurants that are sure to have whatever you’re craving.
If you love cars, then Dick’s Classic Garage Car Museum is a must-visit during your time in San Marcos. The museum recounts the history of motoring from the earliest days of cars through the 1950’s with its display of dozens of cars, trucks, and motorcycles from this time period. Start your journey through time at the 1901 Oldsmobile Curved Dash, the world’s first mass-produced automobile. As you continue through the garage, you’ll encounter such iconic cars as a 1943 Ford GPW Jeep – known for its use as a military vehicle in World War II – and a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette. Under normal circumstances, these vehicles would be the stars of any car show. But instead, they’re all under one roof at Dick’s Classic Garage Car Museum.
Sample the Local Spirits
The Texas Hill Country is famous for its wineries and craft breweries, and San Marcos is no exception. This charming town has several craft brewpubs (Middleton Brewing, Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing and AquaBrew) with more opening soon, and a winery (Three Dudes Winery), all provide unique tasting experiences that are well worth having.
Fans of Texas-made wines will find a trip to Three Dudes Winery exactly what the doctor ordered. Venture to the winery’s tasting room and you’ll have your pick of six varieties of vino, including a merlot, white zinfandel, and a Port-style wine. All of these wines are crafted using grapes grown within the Lone Star State, so you can revel in your Texas pride while sipping on a savory spirit. With your glass in hand, find a place to relax in the rustically-appointed tasting room, with its wood-paneled walls and comfortable chairs, or head outside to a porch that overlooks the pristine San Marcos River.
Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or a wine aficionado, there’s no doubt you’ll find something that will make your taste buds dance in San Marcos.