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Small Town Texas

Texas small towns have big opportunities for meeting planners.

Though the state is known for its size, some of its most charming destinations are outside its major cities. The following five small Texas towns offer beautiful main streets, world-class hotels and meeting venues, and plenty of fun group activities to boost attendance.


In the eastern portion of Texas, not far from the Louisiana border, Nacogdoches is the oldest town in Texas. It has also been designated the Garden Capital of Texas, with the largest azalea garden in the state, as well as flowering trails all over. Its historic downtown resembles a Hallmark movie, with brick streets and historic buildings full of family-owned shops and restaurants. The city also has a robust food truck scene and hosts several festivals, including the Blueberry Festival and the Wine Swirl, which features wines from all over Texas, as well as vendors and entertainment.

The Fredonia Hotel and Convention Center is a boutique hotel where most of the city’s conventions are held. It features more than 13,000 square feet of indoor meeting space with high-tech audiovisual equipment and on-site catering. It can host groups of up to 1,000. It has two swimming pools and shows movies poolside. It also has an outdoor space for concerts and rodeos.

The historic Mast Hall, which was built in 1908, offers 7,000 square feet of event space that can accommodate groups of up to 200. The Nacogdoches County Exposition and Civic Center features a 78,000-square-foot arena for concerts, rodeos and large events. The Civic Center has more than 20,000 square feet of event space. The downstairs room can seat 600 to 1,100, while the upstairs can host groups of up to 500.

The University Center at Stephen F. Austin State University also has multiple event spaces. For fun, groups can wander the Azalea Trail, experience the Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari, or visit Millard’s Crossing Historic Village, a reconstructed historic village of 19th century East Texas log cabins and Victorian homes.

El Paso

El Paso is known as the Sun City because it experiences 300-plus days of sunshine a year. Sitting on the western edge of Texas in the Franklin Mountains, the city predates the arrival of Spanish explorers. Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site taps into the area’s Native American past and features beautiful rock art, hiking, rock climbing, bird watching and star gazing.

El Paso is also famous for its Spanish mission churches. Meeting attendees can follow the Mission Trail to visit the oldest working missions in the region, Ysleta and Socorro, and the chapel of San Elizario, which represents more than 400 years of history.

Other must-sees while in town include Franklin Mountains State Park and the El Paso Museum of Art.

The El Paso Convention Center is the largest meeting venue, offering 133,100 square feet of event space, including three halls, 17 breakout rooms and an 80,000-square-foot column-free exhibit space. The Hotel Paso Del Norte has 350 guest rooms and more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park and Hotel Indigo both have meeting space and rooftop bars.

The El Paso Streetcar Transit System connects the convention center to downtown hotels and attractions, and meeting groups can take cooking classes at the Texas Culinary Institute or attend Broadway shows at the historic Plaza Theatre. Sports aficionados can take in an El Paso Chihuahuas Triple A baseball game or an El Paso Locomotive FC soccer game at Southwest University Park.


Grapevine is a small city of 50,000 people in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex that has a historic main street with locally owned shops and restaurants. As its name implies, Grapevine has a rich wine history. Visitors to the city can follow the Urban Wine Trail, which includes seven Texas winery tasting rooms, or attend Grape Fest, a large wine-tasting event.

The city’s charming downtown features architecture from the 1800s, as well as public art and sculptures. The area is very walkable, and complementary visitor shuttles run Wednesday through Sunday along three different routes. Visitors can enjoy a meal at Harvest Hall, a food kitchen featuring 10 different chef-inspired international cuisines, or visit Bermuda Gold and Silver, a jewelry shop in a former bank building that was once robbed by Bonnie and Clyde.

Grapevine Vintage Railroad offers chartered group experiences, and Grapevine Glassblowing Studio-Vetro Art Gallery can host groups for glassblowing lessons.

Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, on the shores of Lake Grapevine, has 1,511 hotel rooms and more than 400,000 square feet of meeting space. The largest space can hold groups of 10,000. The resort features a 10-acre water park and plenty of family friendly activities and entertainment, making it a great destination for groups. Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center just underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation. It has 397 guest rooms and 63,000 square feet of meeting space and is close to Legoland and Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium.


Galveston is an island off the coast of Texas and the fourth-busiest cruise port in the U.S. About 50 minutes from Houston, the island has 32 miles of beaches and a historic downtown district with a large concentration of Victorian and French architecture from the 1800s.

Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis Resort, with 140,000 square feet of event space, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico and can accommodate groups of all sizes. There is a 43,000-square-foot exhibit space and a 15,000-square-foot ballroom.

Moody Gardens, which is one of the top attractions in Galveston, has 160,000 square feet of event space. Hotel Lucine is perfect for small groups. The 1960s-era beach motel was recently remodeled in the mid-century style and is situated right across from the beach. It has 61 guest rooms and a variety of flexible event venues that can host business meetings, intimate dinners or poolside cocktail hours.

The Tremont House in Galveston’s downtown historic district can host up to 800 guests in its 17,000 square feet of event space.

For fun, meeting attendees can take advantage of the island’s group savings pass to get discounts on top attractions and events. Moody Gardens features a rainforest pyramid, an aquarium pyramid and a discovery museum. Groups also can enjoy a dinner cruise on the Colonel paddlewheel boat, explore the rides and amusements at Historic Pleasure Pier, cool off at Schlitterbahn water park, or take a local dolphin or ghost tour.

San Marcos

Situated along the San Marcos River, San Marcos is home to one of the largest outlet shopping centers in the country. Its downtown, anchored by the historic Hays County Courthouse, features boutique shops and eateries, and its bars and restaurants offer live music nightly.

One of the most quintessential San Marcos experiences is to take a Meadows Center glass-bottom boat tour of Spring Lake, which allows passengers to see all the way through crystal-clear waters to the bottom of the lake. There’s also a Wetlands Boardwalk where visitors can walk over the water to explore the area’s native flora and fauna.

The largest event space in town is the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Marcos and Conference Center, which has 283 suites and a 78,800-square-foot conference center. The Holiday Inn San Marcos-Convention Center Area has 108 guest rooms and 4,150 square feet of flexible function space. Hilton Garden Inn has 107 rooms and 3,000 square feet of event space for up to 180 attendees.

Texas State University has several event spaces, including the Commemorative Air Force Central Texas Wing, a historic 10,000-square-foot World War II wooden hangar that houses military aircraft. There’s also the Meadows Center and an 8,000-seat arena.

In their free time, groups can visit Wimberley Glassworks to watch artists blow colorful glass or take a private art class with a local artisan. Small groups can paddle clear kayaks equipped with LED lights along the San Marcos River at night, visit the LBJ Museum or journey down into an earthquake-formed cave at Wonder Cave and Adventure Park.