Campus Hacks: Texas State University

Learn the (Texas) state of all things university with these hacks

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

With a river running through campus and the two booming metropolises of Austin and San Antonio only a stone’s throw away, Texas State University offers students a unique backdrop for their college experience. If starting anew in one of America’s fastest growing cities seems like an intimidating task, these tips have you covered.

Campus Overview

For many, it’s love at first sight; I, however, never thought that I would end up loving Texas State half as much as I do now. If hiking up and down half a dozen hills and an Aztec pyramid’s worth of stairs every day in the sweltering Texas heat doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you might be in the same anxiety-filled boat I was in when I first arrived in San Marcos. The good news: This is a school that sure knows how to make up for any of its potential downsides. By the end of your first semester, the inevitable daily workout that is walking to class may even become enjoyable.

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

The most lively and entertaining part of campus is undoubtedly the quad. On the western edge you can find The Fighting Stallions statue, which symbolizes the free speech area. On any given day you can find people expressing their views here, and oftentimes there are full-blown protests and demonstrations taking place. Every semester there is guaranteed to be at least one pro-life vs. pro-choice showdown and a handful of incendiary preachers hyping students up to exercise their First Amendment rights. This tradition spans decades, all the way back to at least 1969 when students occupied the stallions in dissent against the Vietnam War and ten students – dubbed the San Marcos 10 – were infamously expelled from the University for doing so.

On the opposite end of the quad lies Texas State’s first structure: Old Main. It houses the College of Fine Arts and Communication and was the entirety of the university when Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the United States, attended. If you didn’t know that LBJ was an alumnus, don’t worry – we will never let you forget. We’ve named streets and buildings after him, had statues and plaques erected in his image, and will never miss a chance to tell you about the time he slept on the couch of the old Miller boarding house, which now houses the Office of Alumni Relations.

Directly next to Old Main is Lampasas Hall, home to the Honors College. Applying to be an Honors student was perhaps the best decision I made at Texas State, and something I would recommend to anyone who meets the admission requirements; however, even if you are not a part of the Honors College you can take advantage of their great study space and “free” coffee at the request of a small donation. Every semester the coffee forum hosts an art gallery curated by students, and this fall will also mark the grand opening of the student-organized multicultural lounge in the building’s second floor.

Another gallery worth visiting is The Wittliff Collections in the Alkek Library’s top floor. Not only does it have a beautiful view of campus, but it also holds some truly wonderful rotating galleries like Edward S. Curtis’ “Treasures From the North American Indian” exhibit. Admission to The Wittliff Collections is always free, and the seventh floor of Alkek is a great place for some serious studying.

For those days that are simply too beautiful to spend inside the library, there is always the famous Sewell Park, otherwise known as Bikini Hill. Sewell is perfect for swimming in the river, laying out, playing basketball or volleyball, throwing around a frisbee, or setting up a picnic. Even in the winter, you will always see people relaxing here between classes. The river water is said to stay 70°F year-round, and students definitely take advantage of it.

Eight San Marcos Spots

Although there is always something to do on campus, sometimes you just need to get away from the academic setting. Half of the fun of going to Texas State is becoming embedded in the bizarre town of San Marcos where there is never a dull moment. Here are eight spots to check out around town:

1) The Hitch

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

San Marcos’ first mobile food park is only an eight-minute walk from campus. Here you will find a variety of food trucks, including Colombian eats from El Sabor De Mi Tierra and New York-influenced Asian dishes at Wanderlust, as well as a variety of vegan options throughout the lot.

2) Buzz Mill

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

Although there are an abundance of coffee shops around town, there is only one that is open 24/7. The baristas at Buzz Mill will become your best friends when finals come around and they enable your caffeine-infused all-nighter study sessions. They often host bands and comedy in their back patio, and serve some truly delicious food.

3) Tantra Coffeehouse

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

Another classic option to fuel that caffeine addiction is Tantra Coffeehouse. It is most popular for their “Mini Minutes,” two 30-minute happy hours that occur every day from 6-6:30pm and 9-9:30pm. During this time, you can get a mini-pitcher of beer for half off. When you find yourself needing to relax and kick back with a beer or some tea, this is one of the best options close to campus. Their outdoor patio is always guaranteed to provide a great community atmosphere.

4) Comedy Open Mic Nights

Stand-up comedy is once again becoming a huge trend throughout the country, and a good laugh is an absolute necessity for sanity in today’s political climate. San Marcos comedians currently have two great open mic nights in town hosted by a pair of Texas State students: The Laughing Dead every Tuesday at 9pm at Wake the Dead Coffee House with comedian Lexi Morris, and a show at Kiva Lounge & Bar every Thursday at 8pm with Jordan Pilkenton. Local comedian James Torres is also crafting an exciting new showcase called Mugshots, which will make its debut at Buzz Mill on Aug. 31 at 8pm.

5) The Square

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

Of course, no list is complete without San Marcos’ downtown square. Filled with shops and restaurants, the square is a great place to spend the day exploring; however, nighttime is when it truly comes alive. It is an absolute rarity to see the streets of South LBJ or Guadalupe empty on a Thursday evening. When the shops close, the bars become populated with college students and locals throwing back some weekend drinks and listening to live music or the latest radio hits. Bonus: An absolute must on the square is Dirty Dogs, a late-night spot serving the best hot dogs in town.

6) Purgatory Creek

For beautiful landscapes there is nothing better than Purgatory. It is a 570-acre natural area best accessed on Wonder World Drive and Craddock Avenue. This is a great spot for trail runners and mountain bikers, as well as anyone looking to simply get in touch with nature.

7) Zelicks Icehouse

Photo by Annalise Pasztor

For those who prefer a more relaxed bar there is Zelicks Icehouse. The venue sits just off the square and attracts a diverse clientele with its long, community-fostering tables, outdoor seating area, and Texas-inspired games like washers and horseshoes.

8) San Marcos Cinema Club

This one isn’t necessarily a spot, but rather a wonderful local organization. The San Marcos Cinema Club hosts community events year-round all throughout town centered around the art of motion-picture storytelling. In the past they have organized screenings of popular feature-length films like Frida, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Boyhood, and Night of the Living Dead, but they also showcase local short films and host events like their 72-Hour Film Race.


Want more tips about life on and off the quad? Visit The Austin Chronicle’s Guide to Campus Life.

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