An easy four-hour road trip from Houston, Marble Falls is a beacon of quaint, small-town life, nestled in the beauty of the Texas Hill Country.
Leave big city worries behind and embrace the slower pace, spectacular scenery, vibrancy and feel of community that make Marble Falls the perfect weekend getaway.
For our weekend stay, my daughter and I checked into Holiday Inn Express. We were pleased with the spacious, clean room and hospitable service. The hotel sits atop a hill overlooking the town, with the bonus amenity of a spectacular sunset view just steps away. And, as I believe most Texans would agree, Hill Country sunsets are a sight to behold; a blend of soft pastels one day and dazzling hues the next.
We began our downtown Marble Falls experience at House of Cheese, located at 209 Main Street, where we were warmly greeted by owner Savannah Gonzalez and treated to a sampling of gourmet cheeses and fruit, along with a glass of chardonnay. House of Cheese offers both indoor and outdoor seating and so we dined alfresco to enjoy the hint of early fall in the air. Gonzalez joined us for a bit to talk about the array of cheeses and wines, homemade sourdough focaccia and sandwich loaves, truffle and olive oils and other delicacies, as well as the unique kitchen accessories offered at the store, all of which are her favorites, she said. Gonzales and business partner and co-owner, Meritt Coughran, met in Austin and recently moved to Marble Falls, Coughran’s hometown. They wanted to open a place where local residents and tourists alike could sit, visit and learn about cheese and wine from as far away as Europe to as near as a farm down the road. It’s important to Gonzalez and Coughran that they buy “as local as possible and as homegrown as possible” to support family farms and vineyards in their own community and the Texas Hill Country region. Treat yourself to a slice of warm, homemade focaccia bread, a cheese of your choice and a glass of wine the next time you’re in town and learn all that you ever wanted to know about a few of the favorite things at House of Cheese. Visit them on Facebook @HouseofCheeseMarbleFalls.
After an afternoon stroll down Main Street, we stopped by local, family-owned Bear King Brewing Co., 207 Avenue G, where each beer is inspired by urban legends. They have a limited release “Hazy Hills” to embrace fall vibes, but I opted for the Monkey Bridge hefeweizen, which has a distinct banana flavor with hints of clove. This paired very well with the heaping plate of Embellished Nachos we shared. Delicious and more than reasonably-priced, it’s easy to understand why the nachos are a local favorite. The laid-back, friendly feel of Bear King made for an enjoyable experience. Visit bearkingbrewing.com or @BearKingBrewing on Facebook/Instagram.
We enjoyed breakfast tacos and coffee the following morning at Agustino’s Food Truck (1206 US-281), another family-run, local favorite. We waited in line and enjoyed listening to the familiar weekend morning banter of the regulars before being served an epic-sized breakfast taco of our choice. A scrumptious and hearty start to the day.
Located in Burnet, a scenic 20-minute drive from Marble Falls, is Longhorn Cavern State Park (6211 Park Road 4 South). Developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the park’s main feature is Longhorn Cavern, an underground natural wonder created and shaped by the power and flow of an ancient river. The CCC began this project in 1934, hauling “tons of silt, debris and guano out of the underground river-formed limestone cavern,” mapping passageways and installing more than two miles of lighting to allow public access. During our tour, we learned that people were exploring the cavern prior to this. There was even a dance hall/nightclub and restaurant there in the 1920s. A guided group tour of the cavern lasts about an hour and a half, so comfortable, closed-toe shoes (with good traction) are recommended. Underground temperatures hover around 68 degrees year-round, making this a pleasant experience for any season. An amazing work of natural art, this cavern is worth a visit.
Inks Lake State Park, located at 3630 Park Road 4 West, is one of the most visited state parks in Texas, and is right down the winding Park Road 4 from the Cavern. Campsites dot the park and, although there are more than eight miles of trails, we found it somewhat difficult to locate the trailheads. There is ample signage for the campsites, but signage for the trails was sparse which can make locating a trail an adventure in itself. We did eventually find Devil’s Backbone Trail, and the views of Inks Lake and Devil’s Waterhole, where locals love to cliff jump, were stunning and well worth our lost time. Cost is $6 per person for a day pass and reservations are highly recommended.
No Texas Hill Country experience is complete without a real Texas barbecue lunch, of course. Family-owned, local favorite Wingman’s BBQ (2407 US-281) fits the bill. Customers order at the counter and choose from an assortment of low and slow-cooked high quality, well-seasoned meats and tasty, traditional side dishes. We both ordered chopped beef sandwiches which were served with chips, pickles, onions, jalapeños and sauce, although the meat was so flavorful and tender, sauce was hardly necessary. Homemade southern dessert favorites, including peach cobbler, southern pecan pie and banana pudding, are also on the menu for those who leave room. With delicious food, a down-home feel and dedicated employees who take pride in their craft, like Edgar Rodriguez who believes “your food shows all the passion and hard work that you put into it,” Wingman’s BBQ lives up to real Texas barbecue standards. Visit them on Facebook @WingmanBrothersSmokehouse.
In the mood for a little shopping, we made our way back to downtown Marble Falls where we explored a bevy of unique and locally owned boutiques, such as Indian River, Trendy B’s and Pam’s Pearl. Another delight that caught our eye was Choccolatte’s, a cozy and quaint chocolate, coffee and gelato shop on Old Main Street. While Marble Falls may be well known for the pies at Blue Bonnet Café, one hasn’t lived until they’ve sampled the buttery, Belgium chocolaty, Texas pecan goodness that is Choccolatte’s famous Pecan English Toffee.
Curious to learn more about the Marble Falls art scene, we wandered into Marta Stafford Fine Art at 200 Main Street, a warm and inviting art gallery housed in a historic, pink granite bank building. The building, the former First State Bank of Marble Falls, was built in 1916 and has high ceilings and an abundance of windows, which allows natural light to permeate the gallery and illuminate the artwork on display. The gallery showcases work by national, regional and local artists; owner Marta Stafford knows the artists and their stories by heart. The daughter of a Texas Panhandle farmer, Stafford is a former art education teacher who ultimately decided to follow her childhood dream and work in an art gallery. She opened her own gallery about 10 years ago. Having sold art for a long while, she knew the artists she admired, and they knew her, so she didn’t have to start from scratch. Stafford is living her dream now and said “if you advocate for people whom you admire, it’s not work.” Indeed, Stafford’s gallery has the warmth and comfort of home. Stafford is a natural storyteller and the stories she tells of her selected artists add emotional depth to their work. A horse sculpture collection on display, for instance, is the work of a local, retired veterinarian. The horses are modeled and named after actual horses she cared for and treated. When a horse sculpture is “adopted,” the proceeds are donated to a horse rescue organization. Passion begets purpose. Marta Stafford Fine Art is a Marble Falls gem worthy of a visit, for the beautiful artwork as well as for the engaging conversation and lovely stories. Learn more on Facebook @MartaStaffordFineArt.
Dinner was on us, literally, at Art of the Meal (1005 Main Street), where we joined chef and owner, Ginger, her husband Dean, and a couple of their longtime friends for a hands-on cooking class. After being warmly greeted upon arrival, we took a seat and enjoyed a tricolor salad with a grapefruit vinaigrette while we visited. We then donned aprons and went to work in their spacious and beautiful “farmhouse industrial” kitchen where, under Ginger’s knowledgeable and technique-based instruction, we prepared a meal of chicken cacciatore with potato gnocchi and flourless chocolate torta (served with vanilla bean ice cream) for dessert. Dinner and dessert were delicious and the company was warm and welcoming. An enjoyable experience. Follow them on Facebook @ArtoftheMeal.
Sunday morning in Marble Falls began at local favorite, Numinous Coffee Roasters (715 Ranch Road 1431), where we treated ourselves to lattes and homemade cranberry orange scones. Located in a renovated ranch style home, Numinous has an airy, yet cozy feel, conducive to reading, listening to music or catching up with friends. Worth a stop. Visit numinouscoffee.com and learn what “numinous” means to them. I liked what they had to say.
Our last stop was Sweet Berry Farm (1801 FM1980), a family-friendly venue with free parking and admission. Tickets are available to purchase for a list of activities, from navigating corn mazes, to picking your own flowers, to hayrides. Fall is the season of pumpkins galore and Sweet Berry Farm, known as the “original Central Texas pumpkin patch,” did not disappoint. Sweet Berry Farm is open year-round, with fields of tulips and strawberries in the spring and sunflowers in the summer. While most of the fall activities are designed for kids, we did enjoy the sights and fresh air, and even picked a brilliant bouquet of zinnias for the road trip home. Find them on Facebook @sweetberryfarm.