Cattle-drive roots and cowboy cahoots make this Hill Country town a favorite Old West destination.


The historic Bandera County Courthouse is the centerpiece of the city. The three-story Italian renaissance building was built in 1890-91 and has undergone major restoration in the last two decades. Bandera, Texas, was founded as the Bandera County Seat adjacent to the Medina River in 1856. In the 1870s it quickly became a key gathering place for cattle companies driving
their herds north on the Western Trail to Dodge City, Kansas. All Images Courtesy Bandera, TX CVB Unless Otherwise Noted.


It’s no wonder Bandera is a cowboy town. 

This is where cowboys converged for longhorn cattle drives on the Western Trail to Dodge City and beyond from 1874-94. It’s where rodeo thrives today in the town’s century-old Manchester Park arena. 

Small-town Bandera is big for its britches and proudly wears the title of the Cowboy Capital of the World. 

“First of all, we’re from Texas. We brag a lot,” said Patricia Moore, Bandera tourism office executive director. “I’m telling you this town is bold. It is just flat bold. 

“This century’s cowboys have found us in Bandera,” Moore added. “This century’s cowboys are motorcyclists” who ride into town from all over. Bandera is about an hour northwest of San Antonio. 


Cowboys on Main is a featured attraction in the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every December. Visitors can take a horse-drawn wagon ride, have their photo taken on the back of Redneck the Longhorn and learn about chuckwagon cooking.


Cowboys and cowgirls come to Bandera to enjoy the Western spirit of the town and its notable features. That includes dude ranches, bull riding, barrel racing, junior rodeo and a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo on Memorial Day weekend. 

“Rodeo is to Bandera as baseball is to everywhere else,” according to Moore.

There’s also country music, honky-tonks, a local brewery, eateries, unique shops, artisans and a Western museum in Bandera. 

The biggest whoop-de-do of the year is Cowboy Mardi Gras, with beads and boots, a parade and bands playing at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. 


Cowboy Mardi Gras is a very popular annual event in Bandera, with three days of festivities
centered around the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. The 2023 festival will be February 10-12
with the parade kicking off at 11 a.m. on Saturday the 11th. Carol Highsmith, Courtesy Library of Congress


Bandera is home to Arky Blue’s Silver Dollar, one of the oldest and best honky-tonks in Texas. The Silver Dollar is in the basement of the Bandera General Store, a 1921 building. It was called the Fox Hole in the 1940s. Singer/songwriter Arky Juenke bought the place in 1968 and has performed in the Silver Dollar ever since. Catch him on Saturday nights. 

A scene from Race With the Devil, a 1975 movie starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and Loretta Swit, was filmed in the Silver Dollar beer joint.

For local craft beer, Bandera Brewery has a lineup of creatively named beers with wry cultural references: Fat Guy in a Little Coat, Sharks with Lazer Beams and Very Shagadelic Baby, Yeah! The brewery is family- and dog-friendly. 

Wannabe cowboys can visit one of Bandera’s guest ranches. The Dixie Dude Ranch has hosted city slickers for 85 years on a ranch established in 1901 by William and Zoe Whitley. It’s been in the family ever since. They operate on a 725-acre spread nine miles west of Bandera. 


Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters perform two shows behind the Bandera County Convention & Visitors Bureau most Saturdays, but always contact the CVB for the latest schedule.


The Mayan Dude Ranch is another family outfit. The Hicks family established the ranch in 1951. Guests can ride trails on 348 acres of Hill Country.

In town, the O.S.T. (Old Spanish Trail) Cafe is starting its second century of serving hungry guests breakfast, lunch and dinner. Leave room for a slice of pie and check out the John Wayne Room, which features photos of the Duke and other cowboys and celebrities. 

Shop in Bandera at the popular Hyo Silver and the aforementioned Bandera General Store. It was a movie theater and the old Cox Dance Hall long ago. Now it carries a wide selection of cowboy boots and hats, jewelry, antiques, souvenirs and a soda fountain.


The Old Bandera County Jail was built in 1881, and it was used for 57 years. It was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1965.


Don’t miss the Spirits of Texas shop with crafts, clothing, boots, books, furniture and intoxicating spirits, including musician Kinky Friedman’s Man in Black Tequila. Ninety-five percent of the merchandise is made in Texas. 

Visitors also might want to take a photo on a saddle-broke longhorn steer, take a wagon ride around town or grab a bite to eat at a chuck wagon that posts up in Bandera. 

Finally, history buffs will want to explore Bandera’s Frontier Times Museum, a storehouse of the town’s colorful past. 

The First Bandera County Courthouse was built in 1868. It was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1979.


Where History Meets the Highway

Visitors to the Bandera General Store at 306 Main Street will discover Texas treasures and treats for the whole family.



Bandera Visitor Center

126 State Highway 16 South



Dixie Dude Ranch, open since 1937, is a 725-acre spread with Longhorn cattle, Spanish goat breeders and an abundance of equestrian trails to ride.



Newspaperman J. Marvin Hunter came to Bandera in 1921 and a dozen years later opened the Frontier Times Museum to preserve the cultural heritage of Bandera.



Eleventh Street Cowboy Bar is home to Cowboy Mardi Gras and Wednesday Steak Night. Bring your own beef and grill it while enjoying country music under the stars.



Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon is a “cavernous honky-tonk” that’s been around since the 1940s, when the basement bar was called the Fox Hole. 

308 S. Main St., 830-796-8826

Related Articles

  • San Angelo Frontier Day Calvary True West

    Experience the thundering hooves, pistol shots, jumping and slashing sabers of the old horse soldiers…

  • A down-home kind of place where you can always dance the two step.

    When you ask Genie Strickland, a fifth-generation Banderan, how a town of 957 people can…

  • West Texas book cover

    Texas Tech University Press has recently published West Texas author Joyce Gibson Roach new collection…