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, & The Salado Butterflies
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.
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 Sculpture Garden
Where: 113 Salado Plaza Rd, Salado, TX
The Salado Butterflies
Where: Various points along Main St.
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.
Shakespeare on the Rock
When: June 9th & 10th
Cost: $10 Adults; $5 children 12 & under
Salado Legends, 25th Annual Performance
When: July 22nd & 29th
Cost: $20 Adults; $10 Children 12 & under
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 12th & 13th
Where: Pace Park, Salado, Texas
Our Advice: 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.
|Patrons leave notes & art on a chalkboard wall |
at the Lively Coffeehouse and Bistro.
|In Salado, even side streets and alleyways are hidden gems.|
|Kids won't mind shopping in the bevy of|
eclectic and fun shops Salado offers.