Wanna be a cowboy? That’s an easy order to fill in Bandera, Texas, nicknamed “The Cowboy Capital of the World.” In this community, located 50 miles northwest of San Antonio on TX 16, you can’t toss a horseshoe without hitting a dude ranch, rodeo ground, western wear store, or dance hall.
Bandera’s Western heritage is a big draw to today’s travelers but its roots date back to the founding days of Texas. Bandera Pass, located twelve miles north on TX 173, was first the site of numerous battles between the Spanish conquistadors and both Apache and Comanche Indians. According to one local legend, a flag (or bandera in Spanish) was placed here to mark the border between the forces.
Today the Wild West atmosphere lives on both in town and in the surrounding dude ranches. Whether you’d like to “cowboy up” for a few days at a dude ranch or just grab some boots and dance to Western tunes along Main Street, Bandera has plenty of opportunities to get in touch with your inner cowboy.
Dude Ranches: Bandera is well known for its many dude ranches, the perfect way for you and your family to experience life as a cowboy for a few days. Properties like the Flying L Guest Ranch, the Mayan Ranch, Dixie Dude Ranch, and Twin Elm Guest Ranch will keep you busy with horseback rides, hayrides, fishing, cookouts, and more. You don’t have to have any previous riding experience to enjoy the ranches. Typically the guest rates include three meals a day as well as Western entertainment and even supervised kids’ programs. During the peak summer months, expect a minimum stay at many ranches.
Rodeos: Bandera is also synonymous with rodeos. One favorite held every Tuesday and Friday through the summer is at the Twin Elm Guest Ranch. For professional action, check out the Cowboy Capital PRCA Rodeo, held in May.
Honky Tonks: Another city might call them nightclubs, but there’s nothing fancy about Bandera; this town proudly calls their downtown bars honky tonks. Live country music can be found most nights. One of the best known is Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar. Don’t miss the sawdust-covered floor (to encourage plenty of boot-scootin’). Also on Main Street, the Cabaret Dancehall has shook to the sounds of country music for seven decades and often hosts many big name acts.
Cowboys on Main: During the warm weather months, downtown Bandera is transformed with a Saturday event called Cowboys on Main. Scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. right on Main Street, the event features horseback riding cowboys, storytellers, trick ropers, musicians, and a lot more. The event is sponsored by the Frontier Times Museum’s Living History Project. Save some time for a sop at the Frontier Times Museum. The museum dates back to 1927 and is a good place to learn more about Bandera’s early days through cowboy paraphernalia, Native American arrowheads, and prehistoric artifacts.
For more information on vacationing in Bandera, call the Bandera Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.364.3833 or 830.796.3045.