It’s so easy to get to Salado from Dallas—just south of Temple, a straight shot down I-35—that when you’re there, it hardly feels like you’re getting very far away at all. Perhaps that’s because wherever you are in the tiny, historic hamlet, you can hear the steady hum of the cars speeding by on the nearby interstate. Still, pinch your ears a bit and open your eyes. The babbling creek that carves its way through 19th-century stone buildings and a quaint collection of Victorian homes can make this sleepy town feel a world away.
This laid-back, historic charm has attracted visitors to Salado for decades, many of them drawn to the swinging Stagecoach Inn, which will reopen this year after a two-year, top-to-bottom renovation. But with new art galleries, breweries, wineries, and a fall calendar busy with music and festivals, Salado is poised for a comeback.
Perhaps the best place to take in Salado is on the porch of the Inn on the Creek, a Victorian manse that has been converted into a comfy bed and breakfast. Over a cocktail, my traveling companion and I watch a couple pose for engagement photos on a small island in the middle of the creek, while other guests pull lawn chairs and coolers up to the creek bank. Later on, after browsing a gift shop housed in a saloon that predates the Texas Revolution, we grab a beer at one of the few watering holes in town, The Shed. There, an artist in paint-splattered blue jean overalls hoists himself up to the bar after kicking off from a long day in the studio.
Salado has attempted to brand itself as something of an art destination, though you’re more likely to find a Thomas Kinkade than a Jeff Koons. You can tour a glass-blowing studio, or visit Wells Studio & Gallery with its plethora of bronzed wildlife. Things get pretty sleepy after 11 pm, but if you’re looking for quintessential Central Texas nightlife, follow the farm-to-market roads 20 minutes out into the black prairie flats, where you’ll stumble upon Bo’s Barn and Dancehall. The lively honky-tonk attracts locals as young as 18 and as old as 88, who Texas two-step every Friday and Saturday to live country music.