Summer Guide 2012
Published: June 20, 2012
Luling, known to many in San Antonio as that spot off I-10 where Buc-ee's makes an appearance, defies most conventions of a tourist town. There's plenty of free parking, the food is worth what you pay for it, lines are almost non-existent. And if that alone wasn't worth leaving the big city for, start your visit at the daily farmers market that opens at nine every morning. Be warned, though: it's three parts watermelon to one part everything else. The green and pink fruit serves as a sort of unofficial mascot for the city, and Luling celebrates it every summer at their Watermelon Thump festival taking place this weekend (June 21-24). Hit the Thump or pack a melon out for an afternoon picnic at the nearby Palmetto State Park, where you can find hiking trails and access to the San Marcos River.
Though Luling City Market (633 E. Davis) has long since been discovered by the national press. Its Texas-style barbecue draws folks from literally all over and even the locals revere it. Others spoke highly of Luling Bar-B-Q (709 E. Davis), a restaurant just a rib throw away from City Market. In fact, the town is replete with quick stops. Walking main street offers a steady stream of diversions. Duck into Luling Ice House Pottery (1115 E. Davis) to meet Charley and Holly Pritchard and pick up some of their unique oven-, microwave- and dishwasher-safe dishes. Stanley Theatre Collectibles (719 E. Davis), opened in 1949 as a movie house but now repurposed as an antique and curio shop has a decent selection of vintage movie posters to peruse. Make sure to stop in at Blake's Cafe (621 E. Davis) on the main drag for a frosted mug of Shiner Bock for under two bucks. It's a great way to beat the heat for a few minutes on the way to your next stop. Some things, like the town's selection of both artistic and authentic oil pump jacks, are outdoors and do not even require a stop to take them in. The key to enjoying Luling is slowing down. Take the 90-second drive over to the recently restored Zedler Mill (1170 S. Laurel), a river-side public park peppered with period mill buildings that also serves as the take-out point for the Luling Paddling Trail, an easy-going section of the San Marcos River that you can navigate through the city.
If you have a chance to make it to the Watermelon Thump this weekend, expect to spend $10-$15 dollars per person on admission plus some for the vendors that will be in attendance.
Price of Trip
$3 Palmetto State Park entry
$1 Central Texas Oil Patch Museum admission
$10 BBQ plate
$1.75 Frosted mug of Shiner Bock
What to pack
Ice chest (gotta keep that watermelon cool)
Eye drops (restaurants still have smoking sections, plus there are plenty of barbecue pits about)
Jack Grubbs: The Dryline (all hell breaks loose in Luling in the second installment of Grubbs' Tom Seiler mystery trilogy)
Miles round trip: 120
Threat Level: 2
Don't smoke around those pump jacks and you should be fine.