Texas is big – really big. Bigger than many nations throughout the world. Yet, there’s more to the Lone Star State than Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. With our Texas City Guides series, we’re going to explore some of the smaller and more far-flung parts of the state. We hope you come to appreciate the variety of local color you can find across Texas.
Our travels across Texas bring us to the gateway of Big Bend Country: the warm, friendly, and picturesque city of Alpine.
At almost 4,500 feet above sea level, Alpine sits beautifully framed by surrounding hills, a small sample of the landscape you’ll experience as you head further south towards Big Bend.
Alpine is home to Sul Ross State University, giving the city that “college town” vibe. And with every college town, there are plenty of eclectic options for culture and food. It also has great grocery stores like Porter’s and Blue Water Natural Foods with more than just your typical small town fare, great for filling your coolers and backpacks before heading out into the boonies. With an excellent local brewery, authentic enchiladas, and some good small town Texas culture, let’s explore Alpine!
Universities built in historic towns are brimming with little shops, streets lined with murals, and the must-have bike shop. Alpine is no exception!
A walk through the downtown avenues will find you on the doorsteps of art galleries, live musical performances and a farmer’s market. As with any town big or small, check the local calendars to sync up the date of your arrival with local happenings.
Artful color nestles beautifully among old brick walls to illustrate the culture and vibrancy of this rustic, cowboy culture. Murals painted by the artist Stylle Reed illustrate the local history, while a community art mural depicting a Mexican Art Calendar is nestled beautifully among the walls lining the older streets of the city.
If you’re looking to explore Alpine via a different pace, then head to the local bike shop, Alpine Bikeman, where you can rent a bike by the hour. For you serious bikers taking on the terrain and traveling across country, this is your bike stop for repairs and parts, as it services the other towns in the area, including Marfa and Marathon.
To learn more about the geography and history of the Big Bend area as a whole, head onto the campus of Sul Ross State University to the Museum of the Big Bend. You’ll find a number of rotating exhibitions along with permanent collections including the Retablos Collection and the Yarna and Marty Davis Map Collection.
While in Alpine, support the local restaurants!
Something about this rugged, dusty landscape makes us crave enchiladas. Look no further than La Casita, a local favorite tucked away in a small neighborhood just a few blocks from the main drag. The service is friendly, and you can’t go wrong with any of the combo plates, whether it’s breakfast or lunch.
A little bit of big city life has made its way to these parts: food trucks! The Cow Dog parks itself on Holland Avenue, one of the main arteries running through Alpine, and serves up hearty beef hot dogs. But these aren’t your basic dogs.
- Think pineapple-apricot chutney on your dog along with grilled onions and cheese!
- Try the “Hangover” for a Frito Pie type amalgamation of bacon, cheese, beef chili sauce and corn chips packed high atop your hot dog.
- Not looking for something so Texan? Then check out the “El Pastor” featuring grilled pineapple, onions, lime mayo, and cilantro pesto.
If a hot dog doesn’t strike your fancy, then head towards a Cuban vibe at The Smokin’ Cuban, where Cuban-style hamburgers are served along side fish sandwiches, cilantro slaw, and chili lime fries. Who says you need to be in the big smoke to taste creative flavors?
Venture into Big Bend National Park
If you’ve headed this far to Alpine, then chances are you’re headed to Big Bend National Park, only an hour and twenty minutes to the south of town. If this wasn’t in your plans, then carve out a day or three to make it happen!
One of the crown jewels of Texas, this expansive park runs the edge of the Rio Grande River and encompasses everything from hot springs to mountains and canyons. Mountain lions, javelinas, bears, roadrunners, and hundreds of other animals make Big Bend Country their home. In these quiet parts of the state, the largeness of Texas and its beautiful big skies wash over you like a baptism.
The border crossing at Boquillas has recently opened, so if you’re really up for an adventure, cross over for the day and have lunch in Mexico – literally!
And If You’re Thirsty…
If the landscape, the remoteness, and the spirit of adventure works up your thirst, then look no further than a fresh pint of beer from the local brewery, Big Bend Brewing Company. It’s the most remote microbrewery in the entire United States, and they’re churning out delicious beer by the gallons. They offer Saturday tours to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the brew life. Most of the local pubs and grills have Big Bend Brewing on draft, so pull up a chair and order yourself a frosty pint. You might even meet a few locals while you throw a few back. We did!
Up Next in our Texas City Guides series: South Padre!
Images courtesy of Ebony Porter.