Finding The Pearls Of San Angelo, Texas

This Texas destination has reinvented itself. Here's what to do in blooming San Angelo.

Old Central Firehouse Bed & Brew exterior in San Angelo
Photo: Courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

The face of San Angelo has changed significantly over the years—in its latest iteration, it stands as a bastion of creativity in the middle of Texas.

In its earliest days, the region was home to the Jumano Indians, followed by Spanish missionaries. In the 1860s, San Angelo was a Western frontier town known for illicit activities like prostitution, saloons, and gambling. Later, sheep and cattle ranchers and cotton growers prospered until the oil boom. Located in roughly the geographical center of Texas, in the Permian Basin region, explorers first struck oil here in the 1920s, giving rise to a prosperous industry for decades to come.

Nowadays, San Angelo is known as the Visual Arts Capital of Texas, granted the designation in 2021 in recognition of the thriving arts community whose contributions enliven public parks, river walks, and museums. It's also acclaimed for its annual rodeo, the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo—one of the largest in the country. Get to know this sometimes surprising historic city next to the Concho River with a visit.

Welcome to San Angelo mural art
Courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Around Town

The amount of public art in San Angelo might shock visitors expecting little color outside of the ol' Texas tea, but dating back to at least the 1970s, when local artists at the Chicken Farm Art Center first started working hard to stake their claim here, creativity is in full effect.

Head to two free 24-hour galleries downtown: the Pop Art Museum and Paintbrush Alley to understand. These "open air museums," are both operated by the nonprofit organization Art in Uncommon Spaces. Paint Brush Alley features spray-painted murals, mosaics, and even painted Dumpsters representing the work of more than 50 artists. Likewise, vibrant colors and modern art (even the occasional oil barrel turned objet d'art) welcome visitors at the outdoor Pop Art Museum.

Though the inhabitants and landscape may have changed throughout the years, the Concho River still runs through San Angelo, giving rise to a beautiful riverwalk, dotted with tree-filled public parks. Though they are very rare to find, the river is home to Tampico pearlymussels, which produce beautiful pink and purple freshwater Concho pearls (you can shop for these at local purveyors such as Legend Jewelers).

Over at San Angelo State Park, glimpse part of the state's official herd of Texas longhorn cattle, along with American bison (the latter which was primary sustenance for the Jumano Indians) as they roam the land. You can also tour the 1867 era Fort Concho, a national historic landmark in the middle of the city with artifacts and displays focused on the postbellum period.

Pop Art Museum
Pop Art Museum. Courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Where to Eat

Eclectic dining options abound in San Angelo. For a modern fusion plus West Texas cuisine option, head to the new Urban Salt Kitchen & Bar, which opened in 2022 after a major renovation project. Start with a tapas selection of ceviche or sunflower seed hummus, and a main course of vegan sweet potato fajitas or a grilled steak. Weekend brunches are already legendary for their mimosa towers delivered to your table.

Now more "family-friendly" than "wild frontier," little remains of San Angelo's old red light district, but Miss Hattie's Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge (and Miss Hattie's Bordello Museum on the same block) is a fun G-rated stop in history, paying homage to the former bordellos that operated in this town before the Texas Rangers shut everything down. It's fun to imagine a little mischief while enjoying selections from Miss Hattie's Girls' Favorites or from the Officers' Mess, mixing in a little of everything from seafood to steaks and hamburgers.

Zero One Ale House gets rave reviews for a menu that branches out a little farther than your typical sports bar fare. For example, house specialties include Thai Red Curry, Tri-Tip Tacos, and a "Steuben" sandwich prepared with corned beef brined in house-brewed stout.

Tostones - Urban Salt
Urban Salt tostones. Courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Where to Stay

A unique choice for an overnight stay is the Old Central Firehouse Bed & Brew, an adults-only boutique accommodation situated in a 1929 firehouse, one of the first in San Angelo. Guests enjoy happy hour served every afternoon, plus a light self-serve breakfast. Be warned that you might get a four-alarm appetite smelling the pizza baking downstairs in the Old Central Firehouse Pizzeria & Taproom.

San Angelo's newest hotel is AmericInn by Wyndham San Angelo, which opened in summer 2022 eight miles from San Angelo Regional Airport. Each stay includes a complimentary breakfast, and there's also a heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and fire pit. Another great option is Inn at the Art Center, located at the spacious Chicken Farm Art Center complex, which offers simple and homelike accommodations along with a popular on-site restaurant and garden. The first Saturday of every month includes live musical guests and art demonstrations that welcome visitors and community members to get a little artsy.

Pizza and firehouse decor at Old Central Pizzeria
Old Central Pizzeria. Courtesy San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau
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