San Marcos - More Than A Shopping City

                 Published by the La Vernia News on November 29, 2013

    San Marcos - More Than A Shopping City

      San Marcos has long been known for its outlet shopping malls, Prime and Tanger, but there is so much more to this old city other than shopping. It has a rich history, great entertainment and educational venues for the entire family, and a wide array of water activities centered on the beautiful San Marcos River. San Marcos is located just 55 miles from LaVernia.


        Beginning in the late 1680s, a Spanish expedition from Mexico was charged with the exploration of the area that is now present-day Texas and to establish missions in the region. This expedition blazed the El Camino Real (the King’s Highway), later known as the Old San Antonio Road that stretched from the Rio Grande River to Nacogdoches. 

       On St. Mark’s Day, April 25, 1689, Spanish soldiers came upon a river and sighted the underground springs that were the source of what is now known as the San Marcos River. Settlements began to emerge along its banks and in 1877 the town of San Marcos was incorporated. 

     The International-Great Northern Railroad arrived in 1881 and San Marcos became a center for commerce and transportation. In the 1940s the demands of World War II changed the focus to manufacturing and light industry. The San Marcos Army Airfield was built to train flight personnel. In 1947 it was renamed Gary Air Force Base and is now the San Marcos Municipal Airport.


    Old Town Square is in historic downtown San Marcos, anchored by the Hays County Courthouse, with beautifully detailed old buildings housing unique eateries, hot nightspots, shops and small businesses. Most of the buildings on the Square date back to the 1800s.

      San Marcos River: The crystal clear spring-fed San Marcos River flows through the area and, with its constant 72-degree water temperature and gentle currents, is popular for swimming, kayaking, canoeing and snorkeling. The city park at the Rio Vista Dam is one of the more popular places for swimming - the water chute provides a thrilling ride. You can bring your own tube or rent one from the Lion’s Club at the park ($7). Average time for the tube ride down the river is 1 to 1½ hours. Included in your tube rental is shuttle service back to your starting point.

  Aquarena Center: The old Aquarena Springs that we remember from years ago, with the submarine theatre and the swimming pig, is long gone. The glass-bottom boat tours, that have been around since 1946, survived the changes and are now used as an educational tool by the Texas State University, that now owes and operates the Aquarena Center. From these boats, you can view some of the 200 springs that feed the San Marcos River and some of the native residents that inhabit it including Bluegill Sunfish, Channel Catfish, and Soft Shell turtles. Tours last 30 minutes; adults $9, seniors $7.50, children 4-15 $6, and children 3 and under are free.

         But the boats are not the only way to see these sights; you can also take a glass-bottom kayak guided tour. Reservations are required 72 hours in advance and pricing begins at $20. Check the Aquarena Center website for more information.

         The Texas Rivers Center Exhibit Hall occupies the old Aquarena Springs landmark hotel that many may remember; it now houses the Endangered Species Exhibit where you can see fish and reptiles that make this part of the river a federally declared critical habitat. The University preserved the open deck on the third floor of this once magnificent hotel that is open to the public and provides a spectacular view of the surrounding river. Admission is free. The Aquarena Center is located off I-35 (Exit 206).


     Wonder World & Wildlife Park: Over 30 million years ago when a prehistoric ocean covered central Texas, an enormous earthquake created Wonder Cave. It is the most visited cave in Texas, reaching more than 160 feet beneath the earth’s surface. Cave tours are available daily lasting 45 minutes. It is located just minutes off of I-35 (Exit 202). In addition to the cave tour, you can take a ride on the Express Train through Mystery Mountain to the Wildlife Petting Park; climb to the top of the Tejas Observation Tower for a magnificent view of the surrounding area; and visit the Anti-Gravity House. Check their website for a discount coupon for admission.

      And, let’s not forget the shopping. At last count, there are over 270 separate brand name outlet stores between the two malls. If you can’t find it here - you can’t find it anywhere!




                          Unique Restaurants in San Marcos

  • Cool Mint Café, Ranked #1 on TripAdvisor  Their mantra: Be spoiled - Have fun - Eat well - Relax.
  • River Pub and Grill, on the banks of the San Marcos River. Picture-perfect spot for lunch or dinner.
  • Grins Restaurant, one block from Texas State University Campus. Casual, rustic hangout.
  • Centerpoint Station across from the outlet shops. Possibly the best burgers, fries and malts in the State of Texas.

Everyday Journeys

 Harry and Linda Kaye Perez









   © Harry Perez 2012