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San Marcos (Texas)

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Jan 14, 2022

San Marcos is a college town in the Central Hill Country region of Texas in the United States of America, about half an hour’s drive south of the state’s capitol, Austin. It was settled in 1808 by Mexican families, and is now the home to Texas State University-San Marcos.

. . . San Marcos (Texas) . . .

San Marcos is often considered a college town, with the huge percentage of the population attending or supporting Texas State University-San Marcos. Most bars, restaurants, and attractions are centered around services to a college crowd. There is also a considerable conservationist mindset associated with the local rivers and endangered species. Several species live only in the headwaters of the San Marcos river.

San Marcos is located along interstate 35 (I-35) in between Austin and San Antonio.

From Austin, take I-35 South about 23 miles. You can take exits 206-204 to access the town. The university is on the West (right) side of I-35 coming from the direction of Austin.

From San Antonio, take I-35 North approximately 46 miles. You may take exits 204 thru 206 to access the town. Texas State University and the town square are on the West (left) side of the freeway coming from San Antonio.

Notably, San Marcos is a popular shopping destination, as it hosts large outlet malls South of the town about 5 miles, in the direction of San Antonio. You cannot miss them from I-35 (on the East side of the freeway).

To get to San Marcos from Houston, take IH-10 west to Luling (exit 632, about two hours), turn right (on to SH-80) and go through Luling. Continue on SH-80 north (the designated highway turns left, just after the railroad tracks). Beware of the speed traps in Martindale, just before San Marcos.

Map of San Marcos (Texas)

Travel in most American cities, especially outside of major metro areas, is primarily by private vehicle. Parking is almost always abundant and free. (There are a few lots close to the city square where the owners tow aggressively; be sure to watch for parking signs.) The average tourist would be well-advised to rent a car from a rental agency if they don’t already have their own vehicle. Traffic is usually light.

Take caution at some low water bridges. Never drive through a flooded low water crossing. Even a couple of inches of water can wash your car into the river. You then stand a good chance of losing your life.

Capital Area Rural Transportation System[dead link] offers limited bus service. The fare is 50 cents.

Most attractions are very close to the down town and campus areas. While the hills sometimes get steep and can present an athletic challenge, many destinations are a very short ride away.

  • San Marcos River. The river that made the city runs through town. There are many parks and restaurants along the river, and it’s pretty much impossible to see any of San Marcos without seeing a lot of the river. 
  • Blanco River. Joins the San Marcos a few miles down stream. It’s not as big or visited as the San Marcos. 
  • 29.893-97.93131 Meadows Center for Water and the Environment – Texas State University (formerly Aquarena Center), 201 San Marcos Springs Dr, +1 512-245-7570. 10AM-4PM. Nature center, springs, wetlands, glass bottomed boats on Spring Lake. Adults $9.75, Seniors $8, Children $6. (updated Feb 2018)
  • Downtown (The Square). 
  • Texas Water Safari, 921 Aquarena Springs Dr. (at Aquarena Center), +1 512-738-6607, e-mail: texaswatersafari@yahoo.com. 10AM. A marathon boat race down the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers. It begins at Aquarena Springs at 10AM the second Saturday of June and passes several local river crossings within a few hours. free. 
  • Sights And Sounds of Christmas, San Marcos Plaza Park. 6PM-11PM. An annual Christmas festival that takes place on the first weekend of December. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Lots of booths for food and local art. Also performances by local school children and dance schools. Free. 
  • Movies in the Park, +1 512-393-8400. Every other Monday in June and July, by Parks and Recreation 
  • Wonder World. A cave and theme park. With a train. 
  • 29.8787-97.93261 Rio Vista Park. When the old dam was nearing collapse, the city decided to replace it with an artificial whitewater course. The new addition to the park has made it tremendously popular with swimmers, tubers, and boaters alike. There are also rope swings, good picnic areas, and a great playground just up the river. free.  

. . . San Marcos (Texas) . . .

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. . . San Marcos (Texas) . . .