BANDERA, TEXAS: THE COWBOY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!
Every town in the United States has its claim to fame, and there are dozens in the great American West that celebrate that truly American icon: The Cowboy. But only Bandera, Texas embodies the history and lore of the Cowboy in such a manner that truly earns it the title of The Cowboy Capital of the World.
This jewel of the Texas Hill Country was founded by Polish immigrants in the 1830s, and during the course of its early history, cultural contributions were made by not only European immigrants, but Native Americans and Mexicans, as well, creating a unique society that could only have taken place in the future Lone Star State. “Bandera” itself—named for a flag that was displayed early in the town's history—is both the Polish and Spanish word for “flag.”
Toward the latter half of the 19th century, Bandera became known throughout the country as the starting point of the Great Western Cattle Trail. This was the longest cattle drive in the world, and it helped to popularize the Texas Longhorn breed all the way up into Canada. The Great Western Cattle Trail—and the important role Bandera played in it—also established the reputation of the great American Cowboy. Bandera, as the starting point of the Great Western Cattle Trail, also became well-known for sprawling cattle ranches. When the cowboys weren't working the trail, a great many of them called Bandera home—the Cowboy Capital of the World!
With so many cowboys calling Bandera home, it came as no surprise that the area played a pivotal role in the sport of rodeo. With the expansion of railroad lines, the use of barbed-wire fences, and bitterly cold and snowy winters, among other factors, the cowboy-on-horseback cattle drives became obsolete by the turn of the 20th century. However, during this same period of time, performance and competitive rodeos grew in popularity—and many of the greatest rodeo cowboys hailed from the Bandera area. As a matter of fact, there stands a memorial on the Bandera Courthouse lawn celebrating the numerous National Rodeo Champions from Bandera.
Between Bandera's location in the gorgeous Texas Hill Country, and its genuinely American cowboy history, there's no shortage of things to do there! Backroads Reservations is proud to present this curated and linked list of the features and events the Bandera region has to offer.
First, the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains a comprehensive site that makes it easy to fill your Bandera trip calendar. From listings of dude ranches to visit to a place to grab a bite, this website provides a one-stop-shop for all things Bandera. Their “Events” tab will help inform you what's going on in the area, no matter what time of year you plan your visit.
Bandera has two outstanding museums which focus on specific aspects of the area and its history. First, the Frontier Times Museum tells the human story of the area, especially Bandera's contribution to the history of the great American cowboy. The Bandera Natural History Museum, on the other hand, presents the history of the flora and fauna of the Hill Country region, from the prehistoric ages to the present. Both museums are open year-round, Monday through Saturday.
Just behind the Bandera Convention and Visitor's Bureau, you'll find Rattlesnake Ridge, where the Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters reenact historically-accurate gunfights in Cowboys on Main. Every Saturday brings this aspect of cowboy country to life, along with rope trick performers, wagon rides, and more!
Bandera's 11th Street Cowboy Bar offers a unique cowboy twist on a classic February event with the annual Cowboy Mardi Gras! There are the traditional beads and gumbo-cooking contests, as well as a Mardi Gras parade with a unique Bandera cowboy twist. This four-day festival also features music that caters to both the cowboy and Carnivale tastes!
Bandera Historical Rides offers multiple horseback excursions and adventures, ranging from quick downtown tours to overnight cowboy-style camping. Their multiple rider packages are available year-round.
If your idea of saddling up is more of the two-wheeled variety, check out the Thunder in the Hill Country Biker Rally, held in Bandera in late March. This three-day festival features everything from bike shows to concerts to wet t-shirt contests—everything for the bike aficionado!
Speaking of bikes, early October brings the Rumble on the River bike rally to Bandera! Guided rides to the area's greatest trails are the highlight, but there's also concerts, tattoo and wet t-shirt contests, merchandise and food vendors galore!
Kick up some dust at the oldest continuously operating honky-tonk in the Lone Star State—Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar! It opened as the Fox Hole back in 1921, but whatever its name through its colorful history, it's a prime stop for those who love live country music.
The Bandera Pro Rodeo slate of events are held every Memorial Day weekend, in Bandera's historic Mansfield Park Arena. Over the weekend, there are events for the juniors, the ladies, and of course the died-in-the-wool cowboys themselves.
Speaking of the Memorial Day weekend, Bandera holds its traditional Funtier Days festival each year at this time. Bandera's cowboy heritage is honored during its Funtier Days parade, and an arts and crafts fair takes place on the courthouse lawn. Several local venues spice up the festivities with live music all weekend long.
The Medina River Company offers kayak and tube rides and rentals along the scenic Medina, which runs through Bandera. They'll shuttle you and your crew to a starting point customized to the length of ride on the river you'd like.
Bandera kicks off the opening of the hunting season every year in late October and early November, with several Hunters Weekend events. Launch the season with a wild game feed, the Opening Day Buck Fest, a turkey shoot, and numerous other dances and musical events.
Any time of the year, take some time to grab a bite at the Old Spanish Trail restaurant! It's the oldest continuously-run restaurant in Bandera County, and since 1921, it's been a tradition, offering hearty meat-and-potatoes fare that will stick to your ribs. They're open seven days a week. The OST doesn't serve alcohol, but you're more than welcome to bring your own.
As much as there is to do in Bandera, sometimes the greatest getaway involves doing nothing at all—and there's no more beautiful area in Texas than the Hill Country region in which to “unplug” and unwind. Whether you want to soak in the cowboy experience Bandera has to offer, or if you'd just like some time away to relax, Bandera fills the bill.
Take a look at these unique and beautiful rental properties in the Bandera area. Whether you're looking for a full family outing, or some simple and solitary “me time,” we've got just the place for you, handy to events and locations, with the breathtaking vistas only the Texas Hill Country can offer. At Backroads Reservations, we're proud to call Bandera our home. Pay us a visit!