Luling was established in 1874 as the terminus of a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In its early years, it was a cattle center, shipping point, and the end of the freight trail from Chihuahua, Mexico. The crossroads frontier settlement was once known as "the toughest town in Texas." Oil was discovered in 1922, and today visitors will see active wells in and around the town, some on such incongruous spots as church lawns, residential back yards and city parks. Many of the bobbing pump jacks are decorated as animals and cartoon characters which makes them popular photo sites.
Luling's world famous Watermelon Thump Festival is the last weekend in June and its water tower is painted to look like a giant watermelon.