STRETCHING FOR 120 MILES, the Medina River flows from the springs in Bandera County’s Edwards Plateau, eventually merging with the San Antonio River. While other popular tubing locations can have a party vibe, the Medina is more of a laid-back respite. “It’s a lot less crowded,” says Colby Miller, owner of the Medina River Company in Bandera. “The water is crystal-clear everywhere you are on the river.”
The setting feels straight out of a fairy tale, complete with canopies of cypress and maple trees that filter out the sun as you drift along for a relaxing float down the river. Miller’s company, which also offers kayaking and overnight camping trips, will shuttle you to different drop-in points of the river depending on how long you want to be on the water, in excursions lasting up to six hours. Alcohol is allowed; no Styrofoam or glass containers.
The Medina River Company in Bandera charges $20 per tube rental and shuttle ride; $10 if you bring your own tube.
Medina is known as the Apple Capital of Texas, so chow down on an applewood-smoked bacon cheeseburger at The Apple Store Bakery & Café, located on an actual apple orchard. Also try Gringo’s Burritos in Bandera. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera is your quintessential honky tonk. There’s plenty of beer, Wednesday steak nights, and live music perfect for two- stepping. Oh, and pay no mind to all the bras hanging from the ceiling.
The Flying L Ranch Resort in Bandera (from $129/night) is worth a trip on its own. The resort features everything from smaller suites, to bunkhouses, to lodges that sleep up to 22 guests. If the current health advisories allow it, spend your day on the golf course, playing putt-putt and horseback riding, taking wagon rides, fishing, floating the lazy river, and, come evening, roasting s’mores at the campfire.
While visiting the Cowboy Capital of the World, you know what you must do: see the Frontier Times Museum. The museum, established in 1933, offers more than 40,000 Old West artifacts, plus an array of curiosities, including an Italian birthing chair from the Middle Ages. Museum hours may change due to pandemic concerns so check before you go. $6 adults; $2 children ages 6 – 17.