Texas is known for doing everything big, so it’s no wonder that when it comes to arts and culture, the Lone Star State delivers in a giant way.
Groups can explore a wide array of museums, historic attractions, live music and performance venues — and even a UNESCO world heritage site — all within the greater Austin-San Antonio corridor.
From a world-class military history museum and presidential homes to a famed Texas dance hall or German-inspired biergartens, there are arts and culture destinations in Texas sure to please any palate.
Groups can explore Texas’ famed Hill Country with a stop in Fredericksburg — but don’t be surprised if you feel at times like you’ve been transported to Old World Germany.
Founded in 1846 by German settlers, Fredericksburg maintains its ties to German culture via its architecture and, most especially, its food. The town boasts no fewer than seven German restaurants, and many of them, like the Altstadt Brewery or the Altdorf Restaurant and Biergarten, also serve traditional German-style beers.
Exhibits at the town’s Pioneer Museum tell the story of the area’s early German settlement, and the town’s popular walking tour offers insights into 30 of Fredericksburg’s most historically significant structures; a brochure detailing the tour is available from the local visitor’s bureau.
To fully immerse yourself in the town’s German legacy, plan to visit during the first weekend of October for Oktoberfest, a multiday, citywide festival of German food, music and culture.
“Pre-pandemic, we’d have visitors from around the world come specifically to enjoy Oktoberfest,” said Sean Doerre, communications and digital content manager for the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Beyond its German flair, Fredericksburg also draws devotees of military history, since the city is home to the esteemed National Museum of the Pacific War. Positioned there in honor of Fredericksburg’s status as the birthplace of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in WWII, the museum includes exhibits honoring Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid, Iwo Jima and more.
History fans will also want to make time to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, on the site of the LBJ Ranch, and the nearby LBJ State Park and Historic Site, which includes a living-history farm.
Groups looking to explore Hill Country’s beauty can plan a stop at any of the many area wineries or at Wildseed Farms, the nation’s largest working wildflower farm, which also boasts an on-site gift shop and deli.
“Pretty much any time of year you come, you’ll find something blooming there,” Doerre said. “But especially during the spring months, their wildflowers paint a fantastic picture around Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country in general.”
Explore the famed San Antonio Missions, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a glimpse at the lasting legacy of early Catholic settlement in the region.
Built in the 18th century, San Antonio’s missions represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America.
“The entire Mission Trail is made up of five missions — the famous Alamo and four others: Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada — which are operated by the National Park Service and are still home to active Catholic parishes,” said Stacey Carroll, marketing manager for Visit San Antonio.
Guests can start their 12-mile tour of the Mission Trail at the Mission San José Visitors Center, where a short film offers insights into the Mission movement in Texas. Ranger-led tours of Mission San José are offered daily at 10 and 11 a.m.
The Alamo itself is, of course, a must-stop on any San Antonio journey. Visitors can explore the 300-year history of the site and glean insights into the famed 1836 Battle of the Alamo through a guided tour, offered daily from the Alamo’s Welcome Center.
While your group is in San Antonio, make a point of enjoying the city’s vast array of public art. Or take in the impressive holdings at the San Antonio Museum, which boasts a rich antiquities collection, or the McNay Art Museum, home to 22,000 works from Medieval and Renaissance art through 21st-century European and American paintings.
At night on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, groups can visit the exterior of the city’s famed San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest continuously functioning religious community in Texas, to catch “The Saga,” a video-art installation that bathes the facade of the cathedral in light and music. Shows are free and begin at 9, 9:30, and 10 p.m.
Known as a food mecca and a live-music lover’s haven, Texas’s capital city delivers big on arts and culture of all stripes.
Groups can get a feel for the city’s embrace of creativity on a street art tour with Austin Detours, which offers not only a close-up glimpse of some of the city’s most-famed murals but also insights into the artists and inspiration behind them.
The contemporary art museum and outdoor sculpture garden at Austin’s Laguna Gloria, a lush, 14-acre site along Lake Austin, offers another terrific opportunity to embrace art outdoors. The grounds are home to both permanent and rotating sculptural exhibitions by renowned international artists. While there, enjoy a moment of quiet reflection in the gardens at nearby Mayfield Park and Preserve. And if you’re lucky, you may spot one of the park’s beloved peacocks, which roam the grounds freely.
Outdoor sculptures are the star attraction as well at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, a tranquil six-acre property known as one of the most picturesque spots in Austin.
Music fans in your group will be thrilled to visit the city.
“Going on a live music crawl is a great way to learn about Austin’s rich music history,” said Alison Lamell, tourism and marketing specialist with Visit Austin. “They don’t call us the Live Music Capital of the World for nothing.”
Run by local Austin musicians, live music crawls offer an insider’s look at Austin’s venerated music scene and typically include stops at several of the city’s legendary country, rock and blues venues, including the Broken Spoke, the Continental Club and Antone’s.
Roughly 40 minutes by car from San Antonio, New Braunfels is a great gateway to the lauded historic nearby town of Gruene.
On the Guadalupe River, Gruene offers groups an opportunity to stroll along quaint streets lined with unique shops, antique stores and eclectic restaurants. Founded by German farmers, the city has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is known for its charming architecture.
But Gruene really comes to life when the doors of its famed music hall open. Billed as Texas’ oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall features live music with top country and rockabilly performers seven nights a week throughout the year.
The nearby Gruene Mansion Inn, a historic mansion built in 1872, offers a comfortable place to stay and unwind. Many rooms offer private patios overlooking the river.
Back in New Braunfels, groups can catch an array of live performances at the Brauntex, the city’s restored, downtown, 1940s-era theater.
The city’s SophieNBurg Museum and Archives features local artifacts, photographs and mementos from the region’s early German settlers, offering insight into the unique history and heritage of New Braunfels and surrounding communities.