best small towns in texas to live in

If you’re looking for one of the best small towns in Texas to live in, do look at Kerrville.

This small city of around 25,000 people — which I tend to think of as a “town,” since I’m from New York — has only two exits off of I-10. If you’re headed south, the first exit will lead you to Chick-fil-A to the west, or the James Avery store to the east and a pleasant drive on scenic Harper Road. The second exit, to the east, will lead to Fredericksburg and to the west, straight into Downtown Kerrville.

Natives like my wife, or grateful transplants like me (“I got here as fast as I could”) consider Kerrville one of the best small towns in Texas to live in.

Here are a few reasons why.

best small towns in texas to live in

Small town life with hometown stores, like Gibsons

Founded by Herbert and Belva (with a “B”) Gibson in Abilene in 1936, Gibsons Products Co. started as a wholesale novelty company.

Buy it low. Stack it high. Sell it cheap. — Herbert Gibson Sr.

The store grew through franchising.

Even Sam Walton once inquired about getting one but, according to Martin Fridson is his book, “How To Be A Billionaire” (Wiley Publishing, 2000), Gibson dismissed Walton’s request on grounds of “insufficient capital.” The American name currently synonymous with Big Box Death Star didn’t have the $100,000 that Gibson wanted to see in order to sell a franchise.

Love Your Lanes

At its peak In 1978, Gibsons had 684 stores but soon declined because of overreliance on franchisees. That year, a multi-franchisee named Pamida pulled out 74 of its stores and re-branded them. Gibsons went into decline.

Why then is having a Gibsons a feather in the cap of Kerrville, making it one of the best small towns in Texas to live in?

Because we do have one!

There are only two left, the other being in Weatherford, Texas.

And what’s so special about shopping at Gibsons? Well, for one thing, you don’t really “shop” for anything. You go there to “get” just about anything, like:

  • Snap shirts
  • plumbing supplies
  • river shoes
  • Rifles and pistols (and ammunition)
  • fishing rods
  • camping equipment
  • toys for the kids
  • keys duplicated
  • …and that’s just on the left side of the store. The right side as you enter is, as far as I recall, mainly stuff my wife would like. Just convert all those bullet points above to “FEMALE” and you know how diverse an offering Gibsons has.

But shopping for stuff is indoors. Lots of people come here to be outdoors. To hunt nearby, or swim in the Guadalupe.

The Guadalupe River

Variously pronounced as the “gwa-duh-LOOP,” “gwa-duh-LOO-pay,” or “gwa-duh-LOO-pee,” this river is fast becoming even more of the center of town if the Kerrville 2050 Plan is carried out.

DAUGHTRY PAVILION

For a great view of the main area of the Guadalupe, and a relaxing place to have a coffee and chat, head downtown to the Daughtry Pavilion, at the corner of Earl Garrett and Water Streets.

best small towns in texas to live in
Daughtry Pavilion overlooking the Guadalupe River in Kerrville. Corner of Earl Garrett and Water Streets. But park on Earl Garrett or along Water, not in the restricted lot here.

All of what you see on the river is accessible from Louise Hays Park — great for kids to get out and run around in, even during these present days of the COVID pandemic — and the southern area, the slight rapids and pools to sit in, are accessible from the pavilion side.

FLAT ROCK PARK

best small towns in texas to live in
Flat Rock Park

There are many places to swim, canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard, but one place that’s both free and also more secluded is Flat Rock Park.

Enter by turning off Loop 534 onto Riverside Drive headed south. The park entrance is about 100 yards to your right.

There are two basic areas in which to park.

The first is a put-in ramp for boaters and jet skiers. (And, in my case, paddleboarding. The park across the river is Kerrville-Schreiner, but there is a $6 daily or $50 annual pass cost.)

The second parking area is a long stretch to the left and is more difficult for access to the river, as the drop-off is quick and the bank is muddy and lined with trees. But it’s good for fishing or simply hanging out on your tailgate and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, which is what I heard someone doing last time I was there. Before my truck broke down.

There are a basic playground and a picnic table or two.

INGRAM DAM

This, of course, is technically in Ingram, about a 10-minute drive north from the center of town. But I’d consider it a benefit of living in Kerrville.

But it’s where all the teens go to sit on the dam, swim in the river just north in the clear, deeper part, or…slide down it and inevitably, as teens are wont to do, get hurt now and then.

best small towns in texas to live in
Ingram Dam, 1968 (PHOTO: Kerrville Daily Times)

Tex-Mex food

I mean, c’MON!

Can’t be in Texas and not go out for good Tex-Mex food.

There are a number of restaurants serving Tex-Mex, some more formal than the others, but here are a few, with brief tips where helpful:

  • Rita’s Famous Tacos — Earl Garrett Street; great breakfast tacos ($3.50) and quick lunch; also a location in Ingram.
  • Mary’s Tacos — Broadway; lots of traffic early morning; be careful going in and out.
  • Mamacita’s — more on this below.
  • Taqueria Jalisco — great chips and salsa (among other things); situated along a creek and offers patio dining.
  • Francisco’s — many different standards but known for its famous chile relleno on Fridays.

    Steak fajitas. Not taken at Mamacitas (PHOTO: Paleo Newbie)

  • El Sombrero de Jalisco — has two separate dining rooms with different feels to them. I’ve had meals on both sides; my wife found the left-hand side to be unpleasant because a TV was droning loudly, and I had to agree; the right side is where to sit. Good food nonetheless.
  • Acapulco — wasn’t my favorite.
  • El Sol de Mexico — off the beaten path, but kind of funky and outdoor dining available.
  • Margarita’s City — while it’s near I-10 and not in a visually nice area, it’s got decent chips and salsa and entrees. My wife says the margaritas are just ok.
  • Tacos to Go — some swear by this place.
  • Del Norte — great homemade corn tortillas. Busy at lunch.
  • Antojitos El Palmar chico — under new management and a great value.

Mamacita’s is the go-to place for family outings to a Tex-Mex place. It has a bar area, spacious dining room, patio dining with a manmade creek running alongside, and it features its famous “green sauce.” Made with sour cream, cream cheese and LOTS of garlic in addition to avocado, this addicting complement to the salsa roja will make you feel stuffed before you get your entree. Partake in moderation!

Consider getting the fajitas for two and getting half chicken/half beef. Always a winner. That, or my favorite: chicken chimichanga with queso instead of ranchero sauce on top.

They have multiple flavors of NY cheesecake for dessert.

What else makes Kerrville one of the best small towns in Texas to live in?

More-than-honorable mentions, but here is an incomplete list:

  • Crider’s Rodeo and Dance Hall only 25 minutes north, past Hunt.
  • The Hunt Store itself, which has amazing burgers and also live music.

    best small towns to live in
    Pinnacle Grill, Comanche Trace housing development (restaurant open to public)

  • Comanche Trace and its famous Pinnacle Grill.
  • Medina Highway going west. A beautiful drive.
  • The Point Theater, Playhouse 2000, and the Cailloux Theater.
  • Tons of good churches, of all denominations.
  • 20 minutes from Fredericksburg, with its growing number of excellent wineries, and its peaches.
  • Only an hour north of San Antonio and two hours west of Austin.
  • Art galleries downtown, including Rivers Edge and Slate Gray.
  • COMING SOON: Arcadia Live, a music and live theater venue.
  • Hobby Lobby for those who like that. (I’ll stick with Gibsons myself.) Near I-10.
  • Cool coffee shops downtown: PAX, and Pint & Plow.
  • Schreiner Goods. Hip, like Marfa, without the drive or desert.
  • Tivy High School and a great football team.
best small towns in texas to live in
Tivy Antler Stadium, Fall 2019
[SOURCES: Larry Zelisko, Abilene Reporter-News, and others]

About Author

Husband, father, traveler, writer, surfer.

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