What to do & See in Salado
Salado has always been unique, nestled among the rolling green hills of Central Texas along the pristine Salado Creek. Salado, home to one of the first co-ed colleges in the United States and a stop on the historic Chisholm Trail, has always drawn new and interesting people.
At only 45 minutes north of downtown Austin, the art town of Salado makes for a day trip that’s well worth the minor highway time. This tiny Texas dot-on-the-map is an absolute joy year-round, but summer boasts some special events and – extra heat – making dips in the Salado Springs an enjoyable must. Add to that a bustling downtown with everything from the largest gumball machine most toddlers (and their parents) will ever see, to wine and beer tasting, and you’ve got your summer day trip in the bag. Don’t forget the shopping – lots and lots of shopping. Built on great history, unique shops, little cafes and glass-blowing studios, Salado stands apart from your typical chain-store pack, and delightfully so.
Tucked just off Main St. and conveniently located within toddler walking distance of bathrooms and shaved ice, is Salado Springs – Texas’ first named natural landmark. Boasting cool, clear water all year, the springs serve as an ideal place to chill out and cool down after a tour of the town. Nestled next to Salado Creek (no slouch itself – complete with rope swing and impressive stone picnic tables), no scorcher day would be complete without a dip. And any of the locals can point the way to one of Salado’s most popular sculptures, the mermaid Sirena. Legends and lore abound, but honestly children just love her regardless of history.
The Sculpture Garden
At nearly every turn in this tiny town, you’ll find outstanding artwork. But nothing can prepare you for the Salado Sculpture Garden. Created by local and national names alike, the garden offers a bevy of art, with multiple pieces for sale. It’s a nice stopping off point for a picnic and makes for a good family field trip, as many pieces appeal to a child’s whimsy.
- The Salado Sculpture Garden
- Where: 113 Salado Plaza Rd, Salado, TX
- Cost: Free
The Salado Butterflies
After hitting the garden, be sure to look out for Salado’s answer to public seating – vibrantly colored, metal butterfly-shaped benches. In a continuing effort, the town has installed some 10 butterflies so far, with hopefully more to come. While we can happily attest to their comfort, the benches even inspire from the comfort of your vehicle. There’s nothing like a makeshift version of I-spy, or a round of art-based slug-bug while driving through town. At the very least it’ll give the kids something to look forward to when forced back into the car.
- The Salado Butterflies
- Where: Various points along Main St.
- Cost: Free
The Barton House is a historic home on Main Street in Salado, Texas, built in 1866 for pioneering physician Dr. Welborn Barton and his wife Louisa Adeline Cox. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a Texas Centennial Marker on it. The original portion of The Barton House, built into a hillside, was made of quarry-faced limestone ashlar from Texas. The front door’s asymmetrical placement and exceptional stone-masonry skills were unusual for its time. The three-story house has solid 24-inch thick walls and long-leaf pine floors. The Barton House changed hands but remained a private residence until 1997, when it was converted into a restaurant.
- Barton House
- Where: 101 N Main St, Salado, TX 76571
- Phone: 254-947-0441
Created as a local effort to bring the town’s history front and center, Salado’s Tablerock Amphitheatre has boomed into a series of year-round plays and events drawing crowds from all over Texas. This summer you’ll have two chances to catch a show as part of your day trip, but be sure to book accommodations, as the area’s B&Bs fill up quickly.
- Tablerock Amphitheatre
- Where: Royal St, Salado, TX 76571
- Phone: (254) 947-9205
The Salado Art Fair
The historic Salado Art Fair celebrates its 51st year this August, showing off a collection of art from a wide variety of media. Plenty of food, live music, and the childhood musts like face painting make for an unforgettable summer weekend. With a low entrance fee of $2 (12 and under are free) and artisans from all over the country planning to be there, you’ll want to plan ahead if staying the night, as rooms in the area can book fast.
- When: August 1st & 2nd
- Where: Pace Park, Salado, Texas
Historic Stagecoach Inn
Do you know what the Stagecoach Inn is all about? The Stagecoach Inn is thought to be Salado’s oldest structure. Many historical figures, including Sam Houston, General George Custer, Robert E Lee, and even outlaw Jesse James, are said to have eaten and rested within those walls.
A stage line between Austin and Waco was established as early as 1852, with a crossing at picturesque Salado Creek. The oldest parts of the current hospitality complex date back to 1861. According to the Handbook of Texas, Sam Houston, George Custer and Jesse James stayed at the Shady Villa Hotel there.
The iconic restaurant in the wood-frame structure did not arrive until 1943, when Ruth and Dion Van Bibber bought the old Shady Villa. It changed little over the next decades. The waitstaff rattled off the prix fixe menu, which included odd selections — tomato aspic? Really? — that would have seemed like relics from a previous historical era to a young, alert Lyda.
- Where: 416 S Main St, Salado, TX 76571
- Phone: 254-947-5111
Royal Street District
Hit the shops early, being sure not to miss Sofi’s on Main Street for eclectic fun, or Mud Pies Pottery for the oddly fantastic combo of pottery and fudge (note: sadly the pottery is not made of fudge). And be sure to bring your appetite to this tiny town – because the locals cater to every taste. Grab a “sheep dog,” & a cold Texas Mary at The Shed, or hit the Lively Coffeehouse & Bistro for their open-faced peanut butter & banana on toast.
Central Texas is a fantastic vacation destination, with vibrant big cities, fascinating historical sites, stunning natural areas, and some of America’s friendliest and most down-to-earth people. Salado is a popular destination for any type of vacation in Texas. Salado is a charming village full of beautiful historic buildings, restaurants, galleries, breweries, and wineries.
Map from Austin to Salado
Salado is a 55 minutes from Austin…
- Get on I-35 N/US-290 E from E 5th St and N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd
- Follow I-35 N to S Main St in Bell County. Take exit 284 from I-35 N
- Drive to S IH 35 Service Rd N/S Stagecoach Rd in Salado