Bandera, Texas is the Cowboy Capital of the World. A staging ground for cattle drives in the late 1800s, this small Texas town proudly carries on its Old West traditions. From cowboy breakfast cooked on the trail to staged gunfights and chuckwagon meals, there is plenty of old fashioned fun with these things to do in Bandera that even the youngest cowpoke can enjoy.
Bandera Texas: Cowboy Capital of the World
If you’re looking for an authentic Texas experience, staying at a dude ranch in Bandera is the way to go. There are eight dude and guest ranches to choose from, and Bandera is a quick drive from either San Antonio or Austin. Your first stop will be the historic downtown.
Downtown Bandera: On the Old Texas Ranger Trail
The town has fewer than 1,000 residents and the people of Bandera take their cowboy business seriously. With horses tethered outside the saloon and the Bandera Cattle Co. Gunfighters reenacting Old West gunfights in front of the courthouse, Bandera makes visitors feel as if they’ve been transported back in time, to pioneer days of the American Frontier.
A Dude Ranch for City Slickers
On a visit to Bandera, I dressed my boys in their cowboy best, having scooped up boots and hats at a garage sale in hopes of just such an occasion. We spent a wonderful weekend pretending to rough it at the Flying L Guest Ranch.
The Flying L became a dude ranch in 1946 when Jack Lapham purchased it from Polish settlers. His dream was to create a place “where modern people can go and find themselves in the midst of yesterday.” He succeeded.
The Flying L is a 542-acre resort that boasts Texas Hill Country views and more axis deer, white-tailed deer and blackbuck antelope than you can shake a stick at. It’s a perfect getaway for city dwellers who want to play cowboy during the day but have no desire to sleep like one.
The Flying L’s accommodations are clean and comfortable. The renovated condos are particularly nice and the amenities are seemingly endless.
Trail Rides in Bandera
My 9-year-old son and I joined an hour-long trail ride to explore Bandera. It was a beautiful way to experience the Texas Hill Country. The horses trotted easily along the rocky terrain, under a canopy of junipers, cypress, and red oak trees. Riding atop horses that did all of the work, we crossed rivers and navigated the edges of steep ravines.
There are several outlets that offer horseback riding in Bandera, but most require children to be at least 6 years old. If your children are younger, there is plenty for them to do on the ranch. My boys had a blast playing miniature golf and shooting rubber band guns at targets. They also had fun taking a wagon ride in search of the elusive chupacabra and roasting s’mores by the campfire.
The Flying L also offers a seasonal Lone Star Lagoon Water Park, pickleball, ping-pong, tennis, volleyball, basketball, playgrounds, horseshoes and shuffleboard. There are also hiking trails, an outdoor pool and catch-and-release fishing in San Julian Creek (bring your own supplies).
The ranch even boasts its very own Ghost Town, with several rustic buildings to explore, including a saloon, a bank, and a jail for naughty little brothers.
What To Know Before You Go
- Visit the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau website to plan your trip. Don’t miss the staged cowboy gunfights and rodeos.
- Check the Flying L website for seasonal specials.
- If you’d like to go horseback riding, be sure to book this in advance of your stay.