So pumped to have Courtney Leigh from Model Behaviors here with a guide to her favorite small town Texas getaways!
My family moved to Glen Rose when I was 12 years old, and they still live there now. The land our house is on has been in our family for over 100 years, and the town itself is full of a rich, interesting history, dating all the way back to the dinosaurs!
Even though I live in Austin now, I’ve always known my hometown to have an ineffable charm, and I’ve brought lots of out-of-town friends to visit for a fun, relaxing weekend deep in the heart of Texas. What’s more, our neighboring towns boast many points of interest as well. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country and never felt like I was lacking in entertainment, but if you’re worried about getting bored in these small towns, DON’T.
I mean, Glen Rose was voted America’s Dream Town in 2004. That’s gotta count for something, right!
In all seriousness, if you’re looking for a gorgeous, peaceful place to get away, here’s just a few of the interesting spots to visit and explore.
Click through to read the Central Texas travel guide!
GR = Glen Rose, Texas
G = Granbury, Texas
C = Cleburne, Texas
EAT + DRINK
Hammond’s BBQ (GR) – Hammond’s has the best BBQ in the whole state of Texas. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. Any of my friends who visit are required to try some, and that includes you. Even if you’re vegetarian, their loaded baked potatoes are heaven. Just remember, in Glen Rose, things close early, so make sure you check the hours before heading over.
Loco Coyote (GR) – Okay, I know I said Hammond’s has the best BBQ in the whole state of Texas, but dang, Loco Coyote is delicious too. I extra like this place because it’s literally out in the country. You have to drive out on a winding county road to get there, but once you do, you’ll be welcomed by the sound of live music and a bustle of activity. There’s a screened-in patio on one end and a bar on the other. You could easily spend a whole afternoon here.
The Green Pickle: A Texas Beer Garden (GR) – On a Friday or Saturday night, there’s live music, juicy hamburgers, delicious beer, and good people gathered out on the patio underneath string lights and the wide, Texas sky. It doesn’t get more country than this.
Pie Peddlers (GR) – Sometimes you just have a hankering for pie. When that happens, you’ll want to stop by Pie Peddlers. It’s owned by two retired elementary teachers who’ve worked together for over fifteen years. Opening a pie shop together was their dream, and you can taste how much they love baking pies in every bite you take. My personal fave is the coconut cream. Second favorite is cherry pie with a scoop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla on top.
Shoo-Fly Soda Shop (GR) – This spot connects to Pie Peddlers. There’s a row of vinyl-covered stools and a chalk menu hanging on the wall. You’ll feel like you walked right into the 1950s. Plus, they serve Blue Bell ice cream, and that’s just part of growing up in Texas.
The Coffee Grinder (G) – When I went to high school in Glen Rose, this was the only cool place you could go to get coffee. There were no major coffee chains within fifty miles. It used to be located on the Granbury square, but now it’s inside the HEB grocery store on Highway 144. They have a sweet frozen coffee treat called the Granita that you definitely want to try. It does wonders on a hot Texas day. Their lattes and plain cuppa joe are delicious as well.
Revolver Brewing (G) – If you thought Hammond’s had limited hours, Revolver takes this to the extreme! They’re only open one day out of the week—Saturday—from noon to three. The grounds are huge, and there are a ton of picnic tables, or you can bring your own lawn chair. You pay $10 to get in, and that’ll get you a collectible glass and four refills of any of their beers on draft. Throw in some live Texas music, and this is a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Chicken Express and Whataburger (all three towns) – Both Chicken Express and Whataburger were started right here in Texas. The first is affectionately referred to as Chicken E, and their claim to fame is the amazing sweet iced tea. You can buy it by the gallon! Whataburger is easily recognizable by its orange and white stripes. Go in. Grab a burger, fries, and a shake. Come out feeling like a Texan.
Dinosaur Valley State Park (GR) – All small towns in Texas have some sort of claim to fame. When I introduce myself to someone and they ask where I’m from, I say, “Glen Rose, the dinosaur capital of Texas!” I love the variety of reactions this statement elicits. Geographically speaking, the Texas coastline used to be a lot further inland. Glen Rose was right on the edge of it, and dinosaurs roamed the land there, leaving footprints in the mud. Some of those footprints petrified and now rest in the Paluxy riverbed. So when we say there’s history in Glen Rose, we seriously mean it! You can camp, hike, ride bikes, look for a geocache, or hunt footprints in this gorgeous state park.
Friday Night Lights (GR) – If you’re a fan of the movie or the TV show, you’ll want to try and make it to one of Glen Rose’s high school football games. The stands are packed at home games, so get there early to nab a good seat. If you really want to fit in, wear red and white and bring a cowbell. The marching band band will be loud and in your face. The fans will be loud and in your face. The entire experience will be loud and in your face. Enjoy every second, and scream your guts out. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. #TexasForever
PS: If you aren’t visiting during football season, there’s always basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, or track!
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center (GR) – Usually if anyone’s heard of Glen Rose, it’s because they’ve visited Fossil Rim. This is an endangered species research and conservation center just outside of town. You can either drive your own vehicle around the 10-mile loop or go on a guided tour. Giraffes will poke their head in if you leave the window down. Antelope will gallop beside you, and emus will try to peck your hands.
Big Rocks (GR) – This park is exactly what it sounds like, a bunch of big rocks next to the river. That may sound lame, but when you visit, you’ll see that they are actually very big and warrant the name. This is a free attraction, and there’s a great snow-cone stand nearby, so it’s a perfect pit stop in the spring, summer, and fall. If there’s a heavy rainfall when you’re in town, make a special trip. The water roaring and ripping through the rocks is quite a sight to behold.
Oakdale Park (GR) – Oakdale is right across the street from Big Rocks. This is a city-owned campground. The public pool is there, too, along with RV spots and cabins to rent. The fun thing about Oakdale is there’s always some kind of event going on, whether it’s a weekend of wood-carving workshops, a bluegrass festival, or a Fall Harvest get-together. Not all of their events are listed on their website, so I’d give them a call if you’re heading into town.
Glen Rose Historical Museum (GR) – The volunteers who work here really know their stuff, and they will chat with you for hours if you want. There are odd collections of barbed wire and arrowheads, and all sorts of interesting curios. This is a great way to spend an hour or two, just poking around and learning about the town.
Squaw Valley Golf Course (GR) – I’m not a big golfer, but I do know that our local golf course is held in pretty high regard. It received a 4 ½ star rating from Golf Digest Magazine, and the morning fog gives it a unique, haunting atmosphere.
Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant (GR) – This may not immediately strike you as a fun place to visit, but I wanted to include it because nuclear power plants are strange and terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. It’s part of the landscape that’s hard to ignore, and it doesn’t hurt to learn more about where a good portion of Texas energy comes from. The plant generates enough power to supply 1.15 million homes in normal conditions and 560,000 in peak demand. Whoa.
Barking Rocks Winery (G) – If you’re in the mood for something a little fancier, I suggest the Barking Rocks Winery. The first Friday of every month, they host a community potluck and wine tasting. They’re also open to the general public on Saturdays from noon ‘til five.
Granbury Dollhouse Museum (G) – Here’s a great place to visit if you’re into the slightly bizarre. They boast everything from classic American celebrities like Marilyn Monroe to the American Dolls collection. If you want to go the extra mile and you’re really into dolls, you can take a doll-making class.
City Beach (G) – Once you take your first step onto City Beach, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re not near an ocean. People lounge about in the sand and go for a dip to cool off in Lake Granbury. This is such a great place for a picnic or even just for a long afternoon of relaxation.
Cleburne State Park (C) – I’m such a big fan of state parks. I love hiking and spending time in nature. Cleburne’s state park is seriously gorgeous. The drive out the campsites, especially in the fall, is breathtaking. They have fantastic hiking trails and it’s conveniently located between Glen Rose and Cleburne.
Plaza Theatre Co (C) – Disclaimer: I have been in a few Plaza Theatre Co productions, BUT I’m a huge fan of everything they do. Located right off the Cleburne square, they have very limited seating, and the word has definitely spread on how high quality each of their productions are, so book your tickets as soon as possible. It’s theatre in the round, but I 100% guarantee you will be blown away by whatever’s showing at the moment. Go to see a show. I mean it!
The Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum (C) – This place is so neat. It’s essentially a ghost town near the lake, but you can learn all about the historic Chisholm Trail and Cleburne’s role in it. There’s also the Big Bear Native American Museum that opened a year ago, which has several Native American artifacts and discusses the history of Native Americans in the area.
Texas Treasures (GR) – This is a cute shop and coffee bar right on the square in Glen Rose. It’s a little more on the high end, but if you’re looking for a fancy pair of cowboy boots or some unique jewelry, this is your place.
Spare Time (GR) – I love going into Spare Time and just poking around. They’ve got everything from Kitschy coffee mugs to make-your-own mum supplies to arts and crafts supplies. You never know what fun thing you’ll find when you go for a visit.
Discount Drug (GR) – Discount Drug is more than just a pharmacy. They also have the cutest little odds and ends. I always find adorable picture frames, fun dishes, or unique things to use as decorations in my house. This is another great one to just poke around in and see what you’ll find.
Hot Mess Art Studio (GR) – This cute little spot on the square is owned by a GR native. She books group events or individuals. You can paint on canvas or paint pottery while the owner guides you through everything to make sure you end up with something truly beautiful.
Glen Rose Square (GR) – There were too many cute, interesting shops to list in this section. Besides, it’s fun to go to the square without an agenda and just mosey around, popping into a shop, chitchatting with the owner, and browsing through all the fun things each place has to offer. A few of the shops even offer complimentary drinks and goodies while you shop.
Granbury Square (G) – Same as above. You can’t go wrong wandering around either of these squares. They’ve got unique personalities of their own.
Ft. Worth – If you’re not from around here, you might think Ft. Worth and Dallas are practically the same, but NEVER say that to anyone who’s from around here. They have two very different personalities. Ft. Worth has a lot of great art stuff going on. Their downtown area is super fun, and if you don’t want to drive quite as far, it’s only about an hour away.
Austin – This one’s the furthest from Glen Rose at about two and a half hours, but how could I not put it on here?! The Austin Hidden Gems guide hit the nail on the head. The only thing I would add is definitely check out a local show at either Cheer Up Charlie’s, The Mohawk, or The Blackheart.
Courtney Leigh reads books and writes things. She also makes music with The Villettes. She blogs at Model Behaviors about music, travel, and social justice issues. Her drink of choice is Vihno Verde (the cheap kind), and her favorite food is chips and salsa of course! If she’s not banging away on her keyboard, working on the next great American YA novel (lolz), you can find her marathoning either all of the Harry Potter movies or Nashville.