Things to See Around the Cowboy Capital
When you hear the word “cowboy” your mind probably goes to old western movies, or even a somewhat forgotten lesson from school about the old frontier. Well, here in Bandera, a.k.a., the official “Cowboy Capital of the World,” you are likely to see more than your fair share of true western culture. Stay tuned for a glimpse of what a summer trip to the beautiful Texas Hill Country is like, and make your plans to come visit us!
Weekends in Bandera are something you don’t want to miss. Take a step back in time and experience the old west cowboy lifestyle on Bandera’s Main Street, right outside the historical Bandera County Courthouse. This Renaissance Revival-style three-story building, built in 1890 by San Antonio architect B.F. Trester, also features a central clock tower made from rusticated limestone that was cut from a local quarry. Located at the corner of Main and Pecan, it serves as a central mecca for busy weekends in the Cowboy Capital.
Catch the Cowboys On Main as they reenact gunfights and duels, transporting you back to the 1800s with that first blast of gunpowder. This group of rapscallions have been performing in Bandera for years, leaving a lasting impression on everyone who visits Bandera. Stroll down Main Street to see the timeless history that encapsulates this quaint little town.
After gazing upon the gunfighters in all their glory, you can make your way over to the courthouse lawn for Market Days, the first Saturday of every month. Vendors from all over the Hill Country come and share their passions, whether it be tasty treats, mind-bending metal work, or a hobby that has turned into a dream. Homemade soaps, clothing, jewelry…and everything in-between!
You can also find Wes Hatch and his Texas Longhorn, Oreo, parked in front of the courthouse almost every weekend. Stop by the chuckwagon and say “Howdy!” as they serve up some western culture and campfire stories for the whole family. Make sure and get your camera ready for all your memorabilia needs. Climb up onto Oreo and sink into the saddle, feeling your cowboy soul come to life.
What would a trip to the Cowboy Capital be without a night at the rodeo? Gear up with your cowboy hats and belt buckles to gather with the cowboy crowd at Mansfield Park. The 100-year-old outside arena plays host every Friday night to the Riding on Faith Rodeo Series as well as several Bandera Pro Rodeo Events throughout the year. Watch the hard-working cowboys and cowgirls kickin’ up dirt as they compete for cash as well as stunning one-of-a-kind handcrafted custom belt buckles from us here at Hyo Silver.
These folks put their blood, sweat, and tears into every second, and they’re not the only ones. The partners in rodeo are stock contractors and the sheer talent and power that comes with the animals they bring to the arena. Watching man and beast compete in unison is a sight you won’t soon forget, and it may just spark some inspiration for all those who are lucky enough to witness the magic.
Imagine waking up to the distant sound of horses, gleefully greeting the morning sun as it stretches across the glistening hills. The smell of sizzling bacon saturates the air as it pops and fries on the nearby chuckwagon. This can be your daily alarm when you come hunker down at one of our world-renowned dude ranches here in cowboy country.
We have miles and miles of splendid scenery that accompanies almost every dude ranch in the county, our featured one being the Mayan Dude Ranch.
Specializing in its own version of “Horsepitality,” the Mayan Dude Ranch is a favorite among local and international visitors. The Hicks family has owned and operated this rootin’ tootin’ ranch for more than a half century now, and the family grows stronger every year. The rip roarin’ family of ranch hands and hosts are definitely keeping up with the punches, creating and pursuing more and more spectacular western experiences every season.
Start your day off with a hearty meal at Cowboy Breakfast, followed by a morning trail ride along the whimsically winding Medina River, stopping to enjoy the awe-inspiring views offered up by the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Start a game of volleyball or basketball on the ranch’s courts, then take a leisurely dip in the refreshing pool that’s just steps away from the Cowboy Dome Pavilion. After dinner is when the entertainment kicks off. One night it might be a country dance, another night it could be a musical or a play. This one-of-a-kind experience will stick with you for all the years to come, and you’re sure to have many tall tales to take along with you back home. The Mayan is definitely a good place to hunker down for a weekend or a fortnight and explore and enjoy your fair share of cowboy culture.
Many of the dude ranches throughout the county have been trucking along for multiple generations, and each home on the range offers guests a variety of activities and outings. You can expect to find everything from horseback riding, ranch rodeos, swimming, delicious home-cooked meals, chuckwagon shows, and more-than-comfortable accommodations to fit any needs.
When it comes to grub, Bandera has a truly great selection of eateries, big and small. You’re sure to get a delicious delicacy wherever you decide to tie on the ole feed bag.
The oldest continuously operated restaurant in Bandera County is none other than the Old Spanish Trail. The OST has been serving up a variety of tasty dishes ranging from chicken fried steak to Tex-Mex since 1921. OST even has a salad bar set in an old-west style wagon if you’re looking for something on the lighter side. With its ranch-house, share-the-tables, at-home atmosphere, the OST has been a favorite among locals and visitors for many years. OST has even been recognized by multiple publications as one of the best places to eat in Texas. Be sure to check out the famous John Wayne Room, which features photos and memorabilia from throughout Duke’s life and cowboy career, as well as other celebrities and remnants of true western cowboy culture.
If you’re a true foodie, you know that the best food isn’t always in the biggest or flashiest establishment. That’s exactly what you get when visiting Chicken Charley’s BBQ. This handbuilt chuckwagon/food truck combo is owned and operated solely by local Banderian Art Clymer, and you truly can’t beat his home-cooked Texas-sized helpings of brisket, sausage, and chicken.
It wouldn’t be an official Bandera trip without a breakfast taco from local favorite El Jacalito. These home-cooked recipes have been in the Espinosa family for generations, which have become one of the go-to staples for grub in the Cowboy Capital. Sink your teeth into the famous Super Taco and within seconds of taking that first bite you’ll immediately realize why this is the go-to taco joint in town. You can’t forget to wash it all down with El Jacalito’s famous sweet tea, guaranteed to put a little extra boot scoot in your boogie!
When it comes to fun after sundown, Bandera is on the short-list of places to be. Whether you’re a fan of campfires and star-gazing, or you’re ready to two-step the night away to some live music, this Cowboy Capital has something for every taste.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes our dancehalls! Take a drag down historic 11th Street, previously Main Street of early Bandera, and come park your horse (or Harley!) at a local hot-spot better known as 11th Street Cowboy Bar. Known as “The Biggest Little Bar in Texas,” owners James and Stella have built up and added on everything needed to cut a rug and let loose with a cold beverage every Friday or Saturday night. Show off your grill master skills every Wednesday as well, at 11th Street’s Steak Night! Featuring live music, three Texas-sized pits for cooking your protein of choice, baked potatoes, and all your side fixins available for purchase, you can’t beat this family-friendly favorite.
Just two doors down from 11th Street is our own little piece of history, Hyo Silver Showroom. Originally Bandera’s first bank, the two-story limestone building has been renovated and brought back to its former glory to showcase our beautiful, one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces. Come by and see us today!
Another historical must-see is Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon, the oldest continually operating honky-tonk in Texas. Step through the red door and carefully make your way down the staircase, onto the infamous sawdust covered dance floor. This piece of Texas history was built in 1921 and started as The Fox Hole, then became The Silver Dollar in the 1940s. It held that name up until the venue was purchased by singer/songwriter Arkey Juenke, whose songs were key in the renaming of the dance hall. Arkey’s has been visited by countless travelers and artists over the years, including Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, Sr. This basement level hideaway is where you’ll always find true honky tonk bands, steel guitar and all.
Whether you come to visit for a day or a week, Bandera is sure to give you countless memories to reminisce over and share, and will help you recapture your frontier spirit. The Cowboy Capital reminds us of a simpler time, and lets us appreciate the things that matter that much more.
Y’all come back and see us now, ya hear!
By: Jade Konz