Imagine a place with endless two-lane highways that roll across enchanting vistas, crystal clear rivers, mature green trees, and tiny old towns with rich culture and unique character. Then throw in some exotic wildlife, a few cowboys, great Texan cuisine, and a limitless array of things to do. This is the Texas Hill Country!
Though there are no official borders, the general area of the Texas Hill Country spreads across the undulating Edwards Plateau, with Austin to the north and San Antonio to the south. At the center, there is Fredericksburg, a hot spot in these parts.
So what attracts people to the Texas Hill Country?
It Boasts of Some Presidential Roots
The Texas Hill Country, specifically Johnson City, is home to the country’s 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson. He is definitely the pride of the people in this area. There are a number of Johnson-related sites that shouldn’t miss on your Hill Country bucket list.
Johnson City’s Visitor Center is probably the best place to start your tour. You get to watch some awesome documentary films on the life of Lyndon Johnson and his beautiful wife, Lady Bird. Then, you can head over to LBJ’s boyhood home, where he lived until he was 26 years old. The house is restored to match its 1920s theme.
Before heading to his ranch which is about 14 miles to the west, tour the buildings of the Lyndon B. Johnson’s Settlements on the edge of the town. The ranch is well-managed with two huge barns, windmills, a dog-trot cabin, a cooler house and water tanks. There’s so much to learn from this place.
Home to World’s Largest Wildflower Farm
Originally, founded by Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Wildflower Center was created in the early 1980s intending to save the dwindling American native plants. Today, the nature preserve is used by the University of Texas as a research facility. The best time to visit is from March to May when the wildflowers are in full bloom. It’s just lovely!
Try Not to Freeze at the Barton Springs Pool
This is a popular spot in the Texas Hill Country during the hot summers when average temperatures skyrocket to triple digits. The underground spring of the Edward’s Aquifer maintain a year-round temperature of 68 degrees and feeds the Barton Springs pool. So put on your swimsuit and enjoy the water.
Ghosts Stories Abound
Are you a ghost enthusiast? Well, the Texas Hill Country is full of haunted haunts. For example, the Faust Hotel in New Braunfels and the Kerr County Courthouse are said to be visited by the original owners every now and then.
And that’s not all. The Devil’s Backbone is so haunted that it has appeared in TV shows, books, and feature films. According to legend, it’s haunted by a Native American named Drago. He is a wolf spirit who likes to make appearances on the hoods of cars driving along the Purgatory Road. Ride down to the Hill Country and see it for yourself.
If bones are your thing, then you’ll be better off at the Inner Space Cavern located just north of Austin. Here, you’ll find relics from the Ice Age including bones of Mammoths and Saber-Toothed Tigers. Speaking of caverns, the Cascade Cavern just outside San Antonio is also a great place to visit. It offers visitors a spectacular view of what lies underneath the great Hill Country.
When it Comes to Barbecue, the Texas Hill Country is Boss
In a state famous for its scrumptious barbecue, the Texas Hill Country hosts some of the best smokehouses. Lockhart is known as the barbecue capital of Texas. This town features Black’s Barbecue, Chisolm Trail, and Kreuz Market. These popular joints are constantly competing for the title of the best barbecue in town and state.
Lockhart is not the only place to find top-quality barbecue. Right in central Austin lays the world famous Franklin’s Barbecue, known for smoking the best brisket in the whole country. There is also Rudy’s Barbecue, a barbecue powerhouse with locations spread across the Texas Hill Country.
Raise a Glass
The best nightlife in the Texas Hill Country is in Fredericksburg, and the most popular spots there are on Lincoln Street Wine Market and South Lincoln Street. These places have over 300 selections of wine, pleasant, unpretentious atmosphere, live music, and friendly Texas locals.
With more than 55 wineries in the area, there a lot of wine trails to choose from. Nonetheless, the Wine Road 290 and the Guadalupe Wine Trail are probably the best ones. Ensure that your wine-tasting tour is guided. This is the best way to avoid an accident or a DUI.
And if you are a liquor person, then the Texas Hill Country is home to award-winning liquors, tequila, and rum. Stop by Dripping Springs for the recently launched Deep Eddy Vodka tasting room, or head to Garrison Brothers for some top-notch whiskey.
Dance at Gruene Hall
Established in 1878, Gruene Hall is the oldest functional dance hall in Texas and possibly the country. It continues to be a popular gathering spot for many Texans to this day. This is the best place to catch up with locals, listen to some nostalgic country music, and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Guadalupe River. The dance hall is also surrounded with many shops and restaurants making it a perfect spot to end your day.
Enjoy the Sunset from the Enchanted Rock
This huge pink “Easter Egg” sits half-buried in the hills of Fredericksburg. It is the country’s second largest granite stone after the great Stone Mountain in Georgia. Even though it is a half-mile hike to the top, the experience is worth it. You won’t forget the awesome view and the enchanting sounds of nature.
And yes, the rocks do talk! At least that is what the Tonkawa and other American Native tribes believe. Scientists, however, contended that it’s the fissures in the granite that expand at the end of a hot day. But you should get there to hear it yourself and decide.
The sunset view at the Enchanted Rock is to die for, a perfect way to end your Texas Hill Country visit.