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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 capital, Austin. The site of human habitation for over 10,000 years, it was settled in 1808 by Mexican families, and is now the home to Texas State University-San Marcos. In 2020, it had a population of 58,000 people.


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.

Get in[edit]

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.

Get around[edit]

Map of San Marcos (Texas)

By car[edit]

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.

By bus[edit]

Capital Area Rural Transportation System offers limited bus service. The fare is 50 cents.

By bicycle[edit]

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.


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San Marcos River at Rio Vista Park


  • San Marcos Lions Tube Rental, 170 Charles Austin Drive (In San Marcos City Park), +1 512-396-5466. 10AM-7PM daily June through August, weekends only in May and September. Tube rental and shuttle. Get an inflated innertube, float down the river, drink, cavort, then get a ride back to the park. $7.50.
  • 1 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. Rio Vista Dam (Q7335360) on Wikidata Rio Vista Dam on Wikipedia
  • 2 Five Mile Dam Park, 4440 Old Stagecoach Rd, +1 512-393-2212. Daily 8AM-8PM. Similar to access points along the San Marcos River, this is a popular swimming and wading area as well, but on the Blanco River a few miles to the north. free.
  • Flying Armadillo Disc Golf Club, 3115 Hilliard Rd, +1 737-266-3990. Daily 7AM-10PM. For disc golf enthusiasts, this course is set in the Hill Country terrain. $5 per round (Jan 2022).
  • Purgatory Creek Natural Area, 2102 Hunter Road, +1 512-393-8400. Daily 6AM-11PM. Hiking area with scenic overlooks and limestone formations.
San Marcos River Waterfall - San Marcos, Texas (27818714562)


  • Texas Water Safari, 921 Aquarena Springs Dr. (at Aquarena Center), +1 512-738-6607, . 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
  • Hill Country Jazz Festival at Texas State University in February.
  • Eddie Durham Day Festival, September.
  • Summer in the Park. Live music in San Marcos Plaza Park every Thursday evening in June through August.




  • Herbert's Taco Hut, 419 Riverside Dr., +1 512-353-7440. Tex-mex. Local taco joint, loved by the locals. $5-15.




Downtown San Marcos is surrounded by what the locals call "The Square." There are more than enough bars next to and around each other to "bar hop" until you find an establishment that is right for you.


All the bars are open until 2AM every night now, and you are allowed to smoke cigarettes inside

  • The Tap Room, 129 E Hopkins St Suite 120, +1 512-392-9824. A wide selection of beer.
  • Showdown, Hutchinson and LBJ. Liveliest bar in town
  • Sean Patrick's Irish Pub. On the southeast corner of the downtown square. It offers a nice assortment of beers and whiskies and fine examples of Irish fare and Texas bar staple foods. Sean Patrick's also has shuffle board and billiards.
  • Cheatham Street Warehouse, 119 Cheatham St, +1 512-353-3777. An established venue where once neophyte musicians like George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughn got their start.

Local Beer[edit]

Coffee Shops[edit]




  • Wingate by Wyndham San Marcos, 108 IH 35 S, +1 512-754-6621. Outdoor pool and fitness center and big breakfast available. $68 (Jan 2022).
  • Blair House Inn, 100 West Spoke Hill Drive, +1 512-847-1111. A bed and breakfast in the village of Wimberley, Texas offering guest rooms, suites and cottages sitting on 22 acres of property.


Stay safe[edit]

San Marcos is a small city, and tends to be very safe. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, so it's not necessary to carry large amounts of cash.

Emergency services such as police, fire, and medical can be reached by calling 911.

There are many places to swim in the local rivers. Some are often crowded, some are very secluded. Regardless of where you swim, always use the buddy system, and always have a way to contact emergency services (note that cell phones often lose service in the low area immediately about the river, so check the signal at your designated "towel spot" before swimming if you will rely on your cell phone for calling emergency services).

Go next[edit]

  • Comal River, a popular tubing destination.
  • Guadalupe River, tubing and canoeing.
  • Hill Country
  • Bastrop
  • Austin
  • Luling
  • San Antonio
  • New Braunfels - Located 19 miles southwest of San Marcos, this town is best known for its German culture and heritage, not to mention the Schlitterbahn[dead link], persistent in being voted the world's best waterpark.


  • 1 Jack Glover's Cowboy Museum, 333 Wayside Dr (inside Pioneer Town), +1 512-847-3338. The museum's founder, Jack Glover, was a cowboy who died in 2015 at 97 years. His small museum displays a large collection of cowboy exhibits, story of Jack 'Barbed Wire King' Glover and stories about past life. free.
  • 2 Jacob's Well, 1699 Mt Sharp Rd. A 120-foot-deep spring, with hidden caves that attract swimmers and divers (but be careful; they can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing). Jacob's Well (Texas) (Q16892775) on Wikidata Jacob's Well (Texas) on Wikipedia
Routes through San Marcos
DallasAustin  NE  SW  San AntonioTucson
AustinKyle  N  S  New BraunfelsSan Antonio
END  W  E  BastropBryan-College Station

This city travel guide to San Marcos is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.