Sticking around San Marcos? There's a lot to do

April 7, 2014

A view of San Marcos Airport, which will host AOPA's first regional fly-in on April 26.

If you’re planning to spend some time in San Marcos, Texas, before or after you join us at AOPA’s first 2014 regional fly-in, these suggestions may inspire you to get to know the city a little better. The fly-in will take place Saturday, April 26, at San Marcos Municipal Airport. Admission is free, and every AOPA member will receive a free lunch. Don’t forget to RSVP.

Out and about

San Marcos offers much to do in the great outdoors. Keeping our fingers crossed for great weather, expect temperatures at the end of April to be in the 80s. That’s warm enough to experience one of the city’s main attractions: the river that flows from San Marcos Springs and shares the city’s name. Spring-fed and a constant 72 degrees, the upper river winds its way through the city as well as the campus of Texas State University, and you can swim in it or float on top via inner tube, kayak, or canoe (equipment rentals and shuttles are widely available). You might find yourself sharing the waters with Texas State students taking a break from their studies.

At the headlands of the San Marcos River, the Meadows Center offers a self-guided Wetlands Boardwalk tour, or you can escape on a glass-bottom boat or paddle a glass-bottom kayak to spy the dense turtle population in the clear waters of the 30-foot-deep springs.

If your family craves a water park rather than a sedate boat ride, Schlitterbahn in nearby New Braunfels will be open April 26 and 27, offering up tube and tunnel slides, a heated pool, surfing rides, tube chutes, and more.

If you’d rather stay dry, San Marcos has miles of hiking and biking trails as well as half-mile Americans with Disabilities Act accessible trails with information kiosks and benches.

Historical sites

Lyndon Baines Johnson, our thirty-sixth president, graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College, now Texas State University. While his presidential library is located in Austin, the LBJ Museum of San Marcos has its own collection of 150 artifacts, including hats, pens used to sign legislation, and photos.

A settler and Yale graduate, Dr. Eli Merriman was San Marcos’s first physician. The log home he built in 1846 still stands—but not where he originally constructed it. It has been moved twice and is San Marcos’s second-oldest home.

Aircraft from the Commemorative Air Force will be on display and giving rides during the AOPA Fly-In at San Marcos on April 26.Wings and wheels

If flying to San Marcos Municipal, you’ll likely spot the enormous 1943 hangar that houses the Commemorative Air Force Central Texas Wing’s aircraft collection. Make time to stop by and visit with the CAF volunteers and the airplanes they maintain, restore, and fly: the B-25 Mitchell Yellow Rose; the rare P-39Q Bell Airacobra; a BT-13 Valiant; and a U-3A Administrator. This is a flying collection, and the CAF will sell rides in the B-25 during AOPA’s fly-in.

Also on display in the hangar are a CAF replica “Kate” 310 and a Bell P-63F King Cobra, as well as aircraft privately owned by CAF members, including four AT-6 Texans, a Japanese Zero replica, a Chinese-built CJ-6A, a Beech T-34A Mentor, and a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.

Incidentally, the CAF is hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on April 26 that will be held in conjunction with a car show. Some 200 classic and newer cars will be on display at the airport.

For those who can’t get enough of the Golden Age of automotive manufacturing, Dick’s Classic Car Garage has a collection of vehicles and memorabilia from the 1930s through the 1950s. Whether you’re feeling nostalgic about your father’s Studebaker hard top coupe or just want to see a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette, they’re here.

On the town

Explore the city of San Marcos after the AOPA Fly-In on April 26.For a light bite or a larger meal, the Square in downtown San Marcos between University Drive and West San Antonio Street offers numerous dining options. While visiting San Marcos in January, AOPA photographer Mike Fizer and I lunched at The Root Cellar on North LBJ Drive, which happens to be San Marcos’s one and only brew pub. It offers four house brews, including one that is gluten free. We didn't sample the beer, but the grilled chicken with asparagus and goat cheese vanished without a trace. The Root Cellar serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

You can’t visit San Marcos without sampling some barbecue. Texans are particular about what they like and don’t like, and it wasn’t easy to find a place that got more than one vote of confidence. But we struck gold with Hays Co. Bar-B-Que on South Interstate 35, where brisket, chicken, ribs, pork chops, and turkey are dry rubbed and cooked in wood-burning pits, and the sausage is made in house. The restaurant is no-frills even by barbecue joint standards, but the food speaks for itself.

Yes, nearby Austin is generally acknowledged as the home of live music venues in Texas. But you needn’t travel 30 miles to the bigger city to hear homegrown singers and songwriters. Cheatham Street Warehouse prides itself on nurturing local talent, hosting a Songwriters Circle every Wednesday night in addition to weekend acts. Rising stars George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan played at the venue, which opened in 1974.

Chow down on barbecue during the AOPA Fly-In at San Marcos on April 26.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman | AOPA Technical Editor, AOPA

AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.