Set on the banks of the San Marcos River and running conveniently along 35—with access to San Antonio and Austin less than an hour’s drive away to the north and south—San Marcos has been listed as one of the Best Places to Raise Your Kids and one of the “10 Most Exciting Small Cities in America.”
Best known as the home to Texas State University and multiple eco-focused research facilities, this dynamic college town is heavily focused on the preservation and well-being of the environment. The San Marcos Springs—which feed the San Marcos River—are home to several endangered species. And since the city is situated on the Balcones Fault and home to two rivers, as well as multiple nearby creeks, the waterways of San Marcos serve as principal recreation and a fascinating source of education. The city’s natural beauty is what earned it the nickname “San Marvelous”—and even Hollywood agrees, with popular TV show Friday Night Lights filming scenes here.
With the clear springs of both the San Marcos and Blanco Rivers flowing through the town—as well as Cottonwood Creek, Purgatory Creek, Sink Creek, and Willow Springs Creek—the city is bursting with natural recreation. It’s what lures locals and tourists alike, since they can swim, tube, canoe, and fish almost year round in the nearly 250 days of Texas sun—especially since the San Marcos River remains at 72 degrees year round.
Sewell Park is a favorite Texas State campus hangout, with volleyball and basketball courts, and a grilling/picnic area. Rio Vista Park is located on the dam, and serves as another local favorite spot for swimming, kayaking, and tubing.
If you ever find yourself needing a river break, indulge in a shopping spree at the famous San Marcos Outlet Malls, named as one of the best places to shop in the world. Or spend a night on the historic town square, home to restaurants and bars, boutique shopping, and live music venues. This student favorite hangout is pulsing with infectious energy and good times— the perfect way to unwind after a long day on the river. Keep an eye out for the quirky graffiti murals, including the Dude from The Big Lebowski, and a smattering of mermaid statues around the town, part of a citywide installation project paying tribute to the town’s famous mermaid lore. On summer nights, round up the gang for a night of live music at the Summer in the Park concert series or the annual Hill Country Jazz Festival hosted by Texas State University. For sports fans, catch a home game at the Bobcat Ballpark or stadium, and for the curious at heart, pay a trip to Wonder World Park, to see a real earthquake-formed cave. For some cultural offerings and history, check out the museums and events with the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos and Indigenous Cultures Institute.
Texas State University is the fourth-largest university in the state, and also what San Marcos is best known for. It inspires an educated and environmentally conscious hometown, especially thanks to the affiliated Meadows Center for Water and the Environment—where you can take a glass-bottomed boat tour—as well as the Forensic Anthropology Center at TX State, the largest forensics research facility of its kind in the world. And it doesn’t stop there—San Marcos is also home to the A. E. Wood Texas Fish Hatchery, the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Aquatic Resource Center, and two Austin Community College campuses.
Whether you’re a student, researcher, fun-seeker, water-lover, young professional, or family, it’d be hard to find a better place to call home—because in San Marcos, Texas, there’s always a new adventure waiting.