Looking for the best things to do in Luling, Texas? Well, look no further! Here are my favorite Luling restaurants, stores, and events, including information about our stop at the Luling Watermelon Thump!
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An Introduction to Luling
Nicknamed “the toughest town in Texas” and “Oil City USA,” Luling is located in Caldwell County and Guadalupe County along the San Marcos River. It’s the eye-catching Zedler Mill that first made me want to come and see what Luling, Texas, is all about!
Driving through town on our way from Oklahoma City to Port Aransas, we passed the “Welcome to Luling” Mural on South Magnolia Avenue (Highway 183). Even half-hidden behind a truck, I knew a town that commissioned something so special was a place I wanted to explore further.
How to Get to Luling, Tx
The easiest way to get to Luling is to drive, which is pretty much the easiest way to get anywhere in Texas that’s not in a big city. If you don’t have a car, I have tips for renting a car in Texas below.
Luling is situated at the intersection of several important Texas highways. I-10 passes to the south, and State Highway 80, 90, and US 183 all pass through. Located near the major Texas cities of San Antonio and Austin, smaller Texas cities nearby include San Marcos, New Braunfels, Seguin, Gonzales, and Shiner.
You can see Luling as a day trip from any of these, or you can come and stay here overnight.
Austin to Luling
This is a quick trip that comes in under an hour. Take US 183 south all the way to Luling from Austin
San Antonio to Luling
Another easy drive that takes less than an hour, to get to Luling from San Antion take I-10 East to Luling.
Houston to Luling
This trip to Luling from Houston takes about two and a half hours, so it’s definitely a long day trip to undertake. However, it’s doable, especially with multiple drivers. The drive is also pretty easy since you’ll take I-10 West the entire drive.
Corpus Christi to Luling
This drive is also two-and-a-half hours. To get to Luling from Corpus Christi, take US-183 North the entire route. Several alternate routes will shave ten minutes, but this one is the simplest.
Where to Stay in Luling
Where to Stay in Luling, Texas
There are a few options for hotels in Luling, ranging from one to three stars.
If you’re looking for something a little nicer, the three-star La Quinta by Wyndham Luling includes amenities like a swimming pool, fitness center, and continental breakfast. Newly remodeled! See prices and reviews.
The Luling hotel with the best reviews, the Best Western Plus Longhorn Inn & Suites is a three-star hotel featuring updated TVs, free wifi, an outdoor pool, and a modern fitness center. There are also services here including the ability to pay for laundry if you’re on a long journey. See prices and reviews.
Best Things to Do in Luling, Texas
From beloved annual events like the Watermelon Thump to permanent Luling attractions and museums, here are the best things to do and what to see in Luling!
Visible from South Magnolia Ave, we saw this beautiful mill on our way through town twice. You really can’t miss it, since it’s right on US-183.
Located on the banks of the San Marcos River, it was erected in 1874 and included a sawmill, gristmill, and cotton gin. The mill was turned into a museum as the Zedler Mill Museum and Park and is run by the City of Luling. Visiting the museum and the mill is free, and tours can be reserved in advance by calling 512-227-1724.
Walk Around Historic Downtown Luling
I just love small towns in Texas and Oklahoma, and the city blocks that have been preserved from the early days are true treasures. Downtown Luling along East Davis Street (called Main Street on its signage), is a gem from this era.
You’ll find stores, restaurants, and businesses, some of which are listed here as their own Luling destination. However, just walking around, even if you’re only window shopping, is a real treat! I love sightseeing in small towns!
Visit the Heritage Circle and Luling Clock
Part of the Luling Main Street project, the clock is a great Luling photo spot and has the year 1874 on it, the year when Luling was founded.
Get Out on the San Marcos River
Texas Paddling Trails are a great way to get out and see more of the Texan outdoors. The San Marcos River is great for kayaking, and the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail is a great way to start your own Luling kayak adventure.
Find the Best Places to Take Pictures in Luling
While some of the most Instagrammable places in Luling are already on this list, I found there were many great photography locations in Luling that you can scope out on your own, including the Plum Creek Bridge and the old cemetery.
See the “Welcome to Luling” Mural
This stunning piece of Luling public art on Magnolia Ave is one of the more striking murals I’ve seen anywhere in the world. It was commissioned by the Luling Main Street organization and is a customer metal and paint piece by artist Joshua Ferrell.
Bring a wide-angle lens (or a smartphone with a wide-angle) if you want to get a photo of yourself in front of it. Because traffic on Magnolia Ave is heavy, you may not be able to step out into the street.
And then See the “Greetings from Luling” Mural
While less famous and in a less prominent location, don’t skip the Greetings from Luling mural! Colorful, modern, and fun, it’s also much easier to photograph (when the festival fencing is down, that is).
Find the Best Luling Street Art
If you love street art, keep going! There are more murals and fun pieces to find, like this watermelon mural.
Learn at the William Johnson Cabin
You may find that seeing a log cabin in the middle of Luling a bit odd, but it’s here for a reason. The marker out front reads:
The Rev. William Johnson (1822-89), farmer and Baptist minister who came to Texas in 1833, built this small cabin near Tenney Creek (11 mi. NE of Luling) in the 1870s. Family included five children.
His son, W. E. (Billie) became a physician in Tilmon. Since 1893 the Jeff Connolly family has owned Johnson’s land. T. B. Coopwood, M. d., used cabin as office in late 1890s. Mr. and Mrs. Jett Connolly donated structure in 1972 to be relocated here.
Get Your Adrenaline Going at Palmetto State Park
This small park is a tropical haven and offers opportunities to go swim, tube, fish, and canoe. In addition to the San Marcos River, there is a lake and a swamp, so you’re never too far away from an aquatic adventure here.
Enjoy the Texas BBQ Trail at City Market or Luling-Bar-B-Q
Consisting of five towns (Bastrop, Elgin, Lockhart, Luling, and Taylor), the Texas BBQ Trail is one of the better tourism trails in the Lone Star state (or anywhere in the world, really). You’ll find two first-rate barbeque joints here, and you can’t go wrong at either!
Here’s my full Original City Market BBQ review from our trip!
Shop for a Souvenir Texas Cow Hide
If you’ve always wanted a giant cowhide rug and wish you could get yours on the side of the road, well you are in luck in Luling!
Luling Oil Museum
Housed in the same building as the Luling Area Chamber of Commerce, the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum is an interesting overview of Texas oil history beginning with the discovery of oil by Edgar B. Davis.
Celebrate Fruit at the Watermelon Thump
Including a seed spitting contest, the crowning of Thump Queen, a market, and amusement park rides, the Watermelon Thump has been hosted the last weekend in June in Luling since the 1950s. A celebration of all things watermelon and its important role in town history.
Here’s my round-up of the best things to do at the Watermelon Thump if you’ll be in town for the festival!
See if You Can Handle the Spice at the Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown
If you love gumbo, you’ll love a weekend celebrating Cajun cuisine! The Throwdown includes the Rajun’ Cajun Gumbo Cookoff and a verified Cajun street festival complete with Zydeco music and is held in March every year. Other categories include Jambalaya, Bloody Mary, and desserts. Yummy!
Shop at the Luling Original Farmer’s Market
Marketing itself as “one in a melon,” this farmer’s market is known for selling some of the best watermelons available anywhere, along with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables right from the farm. This is a must-stop for anyone who won’t be in town during the Thump.
The first thing we wanted to do in Luling was dive into the nearest antique store. Full of everything from elegant art to Texas kitschy, come and browse even if you don’t end up buying.
If the idea of antiquing intimidates you, there are also great thrift stores in Luling as well. Come and see if there’s anything here that you absolutely need to take home with you.
Texas Art League Art Gallery
If you want something to decorate your walls and you don’t see anything at the stores above, the Texas Art League Art Gallery has exhibitions that will both inspire you and make you think.
Shop Til You Drop…For Quilts!
HollyDee Quilts on Main Street is for anyone who loves textiles, from fabric and quilt kits to finished quilts and other fun sewing projects.
Gaze Upon the Watermelon Water Tower
If you can’t get enough Luling Melons, don’t worry, they even have homages to them up in the sky!
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Some Old Fashioned Candy
KK’s Antiques doesn’t just sell antiques, they also have old-fashioned candy and soda. Their motto is that “We have a little bit of everything, to keep it interesting!” That includes a little bit of something delicious!
Find Your Favorite Pump Jack
Some of the pump jacks in Luling that no longer produce oil have been turned into amazing public art. You can follow the Pump Jack trail. While you may not be able to see all of them, at least find one or two before you go.
Shop Local at Luling Icehouse Pottery
If you’re looking for a local Luling souvenir made by real artisans, head to Luling Icehouse Pottery. They have Texas Star stoneware as well as artistic pieces. If you’re local to Luling, they also offer pottery classes.
Window Shop for Your Dream Ranch
If you’re not a country mouse, check out the listings for local ranches displayed on the windows of the local real estate office. You’ll fall in love with some of them, and you might be shocked at how much it costs to own a ranch!
Or Pick Up a Saddle at Slade Saddle Shop
Custom saddles and leatherwork are a hallmark of Texas culture. Come by and see how much work goes into these beauties for yourself.
Stroll the Davis Street Pocket Park
With a real Parks and Recreation vibe, this tiny park features an old oil rig. Located on E. Davis St, you can’t miss it when you’re walking downtown.
Experience Friday Night Lights Up Close
If you’re looking for a bit of authentic Texas, why not go to a local football or basketball game while you’re in town? High School sports are king in Texas. Luling High School Varsity Football games are typically on Fridays. You can see their schedule here.
Shop for Scents at Luling Lavender Fields
Luling Lavender Fields is a local family-owned agritourism business. You can buy homemade lavender soaps and oils, as well as visit the farm. Open year-round, seven days a week! Of course, if you’re looking for pics of lavender fields, come May through July.
Enjoy Luling Nightlife
From dive bars to nice dinners out, there are lots of great nightlife options if you’re looking for things to do in Luling at night. Just make sure to bring some cash, since a lot of places don’t take cards.
Hit the Links at the Luling Municipal Golf Course
If you are the type who wants to golf everywhere you go, you can relax because Luling has a golf course. Luling Golf Club is a 9-hole course founded in 1926 by Oil Tycoon Edgar Davis.
People come from all over to go skydiving at Skydive Lone Star. Call (512)-593-2888 to learn about jumping.
Where to Eat in Luling: Restaurants and Cafes
Many people who come to Luling are foodie tourists looking for mouth-watering barbeque or the perfect watermelon. Don’t leave town with an empty stomach!
Original City Market BBQ
Started in 1958, this restaurant has survived over sixty years because people rave about their barbeque. The experience is very small-town Texas, from the way you order in the boiling hot pit room to the general sauce minimalism vibe.
Awarded the honor of one of the “50 Best BBQ Joints in the World,” this is a must-do in Luling.
Another Luling Main Street mainstay, Blake’s is for those looking for seafood and steak instead of sausage and potato salad. A hidden gem by Texas standards, but locals know it’s a must.
Recently renovated, this is a great spot if you’re looking where to eat breakfast in Luling. A Black-owned business (and Vet-owned), you’ll be supporting a business that’s been serving delicious donuts and honeybuns in Luling for over forty years. They have next-day delivery, and you can order by calling (830) 888-0574.
While occasionally overshadowed by City Market, Luling Bar-B-Q is a destination in its own right. If you’re only coming to Luling on a day trip, no one would fault you for having barbeque at lunch and dinner.
Uncle Wiggly’s Wieners
If you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive lunch, head to Uncle Wiggly’s Wieners. Beyond hot dogs, they have great options including Frito pie, chicken salad, and watermelon pie.
A donut a day keeps the doctor away…or something like that. Head to Fresh Donuts if you want to grab a quick and delicious breakfast on the go.
Mom’s Front Porch
If you want something cute and kitschy (and delicious) head to Mom’s Front Porch! Specializing in coffee and ice cream, it’s the perfect way to experience some small-town charm.
It’s no secret that I find Buc-ee’s both overwhelming and fabulous, so much so that I wrote a guide to the best snacks and souvenirs to buy in Buc-ee’s. There are many locations across Texas, but their offerings do vary slightly according to the Texas region, so if you’re not from around these parts, head to Buc-ee’s on your way out of town.
Located at 10070 West, I-10, Luling, TX 78648
What to Pack for Texas
Lonely Planet Texas so you have a guidebook with you on your trip. It’s not easy to find guidebooks once you’re on the ground, so I suggest picking one up ahead of time. They also have Kindle editions available.
A camera so you can take photos of the special moments from your trip. Whether you bring a point-and-shoot like my Sony ZV-1 or rely on your cell phone like my iPhone 12 Pro, make sure you have at least one camera (though I always travel with two)!
Texas Travel Resources
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Heading out on the road?
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
Pin this Guide to Luling Restaurants and Activities for Your Texas Adventures!
Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After living in Eastern Europe for four years, she has moved with her family back to Oklahoma to write about her favorite places growing up: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, & Route 66!