With favorable weather, great food, endless family-friendly activities and a wealth of history and culture around every corner there’s plenty of fun to be had within San Antonio city limits. Still, it’s great to get away from time to time, and these day trip destinations are hidden gems for foodies, history buffs or outdoor enthusiasts.
Nestled on the banks of the beautiful Medina River is the city of Castroville. The town was founded on—and greatly celebrates—the history and tradition of the immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine who founded the town in the 1840s. During the spring, the town is dressed in brightly resplendent red, as the town is covered in Alsatian red poppies. Aside from the chance to get some great photos (and selfies, of course), a visit to Castroville is an opportunity to experience some of the best the Medina River Valley has to offer.
Interested in history? How about history you can spend the night in, because that is exactly what is offered at the Landmark Inn Historic Site and Bed and Breakfast. This quaint building was built during the 1850s and served as a store, inn, and mill and today is a bed and breakfast offering rustically luxurious stays. Also in town for history buffs is the Shooting Star Museum, preserving the heritage and history of early aviation. For outdoor enthusiasts, make sure you take time to visit Paradise Canyon, which (weather permitting) always lives up to its name as a picture-perfect spot for camping, swimming and fishing. Before you head out of town, stop at Haby's Alsatian Bakery for authentic treats and pastries.
The Texas Hill Country is a truly magnificent place. One often overlooked gem in the Hill Country is the city of Kerrville. While it is just an hour away from San Antonio, its scenery and surroundings transport you quite literally to another world. Straddled along the Guadalupe River, Kerrville is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. “Take your time in Kerrville,” said Charlie McIlvain, executive director of the Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We're a quaint community … [with] a rare blend of arts, cultural events, hunting, fishing, golf, tennis, canoeing, kayaking, festivals and special events.”
Kerrville Schreiner Park offers visitors the opportunity for hiking and biking in addition to swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing throughout the park’s 517 acres. The Riverside Nature Center blends the area’s cultural and natural histories with a chance to get up close and personal with Kerrville’s native flora and fauna. Walking paths, wildflower meadows, and butterfly gardens are just some of the highlights for visitors.
For history, visit the Capt. Charles Schreiner Mansion Historic Site and Education Center, one of the city’s landmark structures. Built in 1879 by one of the region’s “patriarchs,” the mansion tells the story of the Schreiner family and their importance to Texas. The Kerville Museum of Western Art and Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center capture the flair and drama of the city’s proud western heritage. For foodies, make it a point to visit the legendary Cowboy Steak House, one of the best restaurants in the Hill Country.
Serving as the “crossroads” of Texas—it's no more than two hours from Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio—Victoria is unofficially referred to as the hub of the state's Coastal Bend region. “Victoria is a fantastic city for a number of reasons,” said Joel Novosad, director of Explore Victoria Texas. “We have a wealth of history, fascinating stories and beautiful architecture from the turn-of-the-century, and prior.”
Also known as the birthplace of the Lone Star State, Victoria lays claim to troves of Texas history that comes to life at Museum of the Coastal Bend: The permanent displays tell the last 13,000 years of the state's history, dating back to its first inhabitants, up through the French, Spanish, and Mexican colonization.
In 1685, French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle established the first European colony in Texas in what is present day Victoria County. He made several expeditions to the region from 1685-1687; on one expedition, his flagship, La Belle, was shipwrecked in Matagorda Bay and the colony was marooned. The colony was ultimately lost to attacks by the native Karankawa Indians. The Museum of the Coastal Bend has a vast collection of artifacts salvaged from the wreck, including weapons, ammunition and a fascinating array of personal items from the ship's crew. Also on hand are artifacts from the La Belle shipwreck and displays of Fort St. Louis, the first French settlements in the area.
If the weather is obliging, visitors to Victoria have to make a stop at the Texas Zoo. Founded in 1976, the Zoo has become a one-of-a-kind blending of indigenous animals and those found in exotic locales around the world. It was also recognized by the Texas Legislature in 1984 as the “National Zoo of Texas.”
“Victoria is large enough to have great attractions, restaurants, and recreational activities … however, we are also small enough [that] travelers feel a true sense of community," said Novosad. "We often hear from our visitors that Victoria has some of the friendliest people they’ve met.”
The Nave Museum, the area’s only fine arts center, boasts a diverse permanent collection ranging from classical to modern art. When hunger strikes, PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar offers everything from fried mac and cheese and fish tacos to grilled pork chops and steak salads on the eclectic menu.
Southwest Texas rarely is brought up when talking about the most beautiful regions of the state. However, that is what it truly is and few places exemplify that beauty more than Uvalde. “[It's] a one-of-kind, rich oasis surrounded by all the adventures of Texas ... River Country, the Hill Country, state parks, hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation and more,” said Debra Stifflemire, executive director of the Uvalde Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It's the ideal place to visit for those looking to escape concrete jungles and big-city life: The Nueces, Frio, and Sabinal Rivers all come together in the area and make it a haven for all manner of outdoor lovers. Garner State Park is a particular mecca for stargazers and watersport enthusiasts. Swimming and tubing are particularly popular. During summer months, a rite of passage for many young Texans is the park’s annual Summer Dance. In town, few buildings offer more gravitas and history than the Briscoe-Garner Museum. The former home of U.S. Vice President John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, the museum tells his fascinating life story, as well as that of former Texas governor and legendary Uvalde native, Dolph Briscoe.
The Sahawe Indian Outdoor Theater is another cultural point of interest. The Sahawe Indian Dancers, wearing the colorful, cultural attire of the native people of the region, perform the sacred dances of the Indians of the Americas. Looking for a bite while you’re running around town? You can’t beat good BBQ and the Oasis Outback Bar-B-Q & Grill offers what many consider the city’s best.