Road Trip To San Marcos For An Aquatic Vibe, Plus Epic Outlet Shopping

The town that’s about 30 miles from Austin draws visitors with its historic charm and family friendly attractions.

By Alexis HigginsJune 6, 2019 11:40 am,

Keep the summer heat at bay with a trip down Interstate 35 to San Marcos. It’s a college town – President Lyndon B. Johnson went to what is now Texas State University. And it draws visitors with its historic charm and family friendly attractions.

All around the city are 7-foot mermaid statues. Each is uniquely painted to represent the culture of the city. Why mermaids? Well, the Meadows Center in San Marcos was once home to Aquarena Springs theme park. From the 1960s to the 1980s, visitors could enjoy a submarine tour, a mermaid show and swimming pigs. Now, they can take a glass-bottom boat tour on Spring Lake to learn about native wildlife like the endangered Texas blind salamander.

The San Marcos River is spring-fed and 72 degrees year-round. It’s beloved for kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and floating. One way to explore the flora and fauna of the river is on LED-light-equipped paddle boards from Glow SUP.

San Marcos invests in its local artists with downtown events such as Art Squared on the second Saturday of every month, and with San Mercado on the fourth Saturday. Each is a community market where artists and craftspeople sell paintings, jewelry, woodwork and other custom creations. Enjoy live music while savoring the culture of the city.

There’s many local restaurants where visitors can fill their bellies. Some good options include Ivar’s River Pub, Hays County BBQ, Industry and Root Cellar Cafe.

San Marcos has six local breweries; four are downtown, just a short walk from one another. Take a tour at Aquabrew while indulging in treats in its beer garden and rooftop deck.

San Marcos is also home to the nation’s largest outlet shopping center. It offers 1.2 million square feet of outlet stores. There are 240 of them, including Pandora, Jimmy Choo and Prada, and some of them can only be found there.

For accommodations, Crystal River Inn is a cozy bed and breakfast that’s close to downtown and the river. Enjoy the ambiance of its rose garden, or make new friends during the in-house breakfast. For full service, Embassy Suites offers spa and valet services right next to the outlets. The city opened eight hotels in the last three years, so there are plenty of options.