When I started researching my drive around Texas in partnership with Marriott International, I was especially excited for my time in and around San Antonio. I had never visited and I couldn’t wait to explore the famous River Walk or to try some of the city’s famous dishes. I was also happy though that we were driving ourselves so we could explore places outside of the main city centers, like Texas Hill Country. I didn’t know a lot about this region before the trip, but spending some time in the small communities around the area I quickly understood why it’s so popular among locals and tourists alike. Whether it’s great food and wine or learning more about important historical figures, there are a lot of reasons to visit Texas Hill Country including these, my personal favorites.
Not only am I a history buff, but I particularly enjoy Presidential history, so when I found out about the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park I knew I had to visit. Administered by the National Park Service, the site protects the birthplace, home, ranch and final resting place of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. A controversial figure even now, 50 years after he left the White House, there’s no denying the importance of not only his time in office, but the role this ranch played in many of his key decisions. Dubbed the Texas White House because Johnson spent nearly 20% of his time in office here in the countryside he loved so much, while the ranch is large, I was surprised by the modesty of the house itself. Visiting the site is a process, the driving route takes guests around the ranch to see the rolling hills of the area, as well as the special breed of cattle raised on it. Johnson’s old JetStar that he used as Air Force 1 to visit the ranch is on display and tours of the house are offered, led by rangers intimate with the history of the property. Hours could be spent exploring the entire site and since it’s so close to both Austin and San Antonio, it makes for a fun day trip or part of a larger exploration of Texas Hill Country.
The Drive Itself
Before my Texas road trip, I didn’t have a lot of experience exploring Texas. My visits had been brief and focused, which is why I was so excited to jump in the car and do some wandering. Driving between San Antonio and Austin, although the drive is brief a day or so should be planned so you can leave the interstate and just experience Texas Hill Country, to see for yourself why it’s been drawing people for so very long. The area dubbed Texas Hill Country is massive and includes 25 counties in Central and South Texas. It’s a rugged terrain, but unique geology and spring-fed rivers have made it a fertile one, attracting settlers for generations. While I was at first drawn by the activities around the area, I soon discovered that the drive itself is at the heart of the experience. Zooming through tiny towns and communities, past massive farms and ranches, I was immediately reminded of my recent drive along Route 66. It has that same spirit of discovery and charm, a slice of Americana just waiting to be discovered. Although I didn’t have time for them, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy as well including tubing down a river, or enjoying a round of golf. Along the way be sure to stop off at roadside stands for the region’s famous fresh peaches or a glass of wine and enjoy the quintessential moments that define this part of Texas.
Yes, Food & Wine
If you’re new to Texas wine, then you might be surprised. Texas Hill Country has a long history of producing fine wine, thanks in large part to the European immigrants who settled the area in huge numbers. They brought with them their love of great food and wine, and reproduced as much of it here in the center of Texas as they could. Since then, the Texas wine scene has exploded, with new wineries opening all the time, each one offering a quirky take on this decades old tradition. If you only have time for a quick stop, then make it Fredericksburg. The city is at the center of the Hill Country experience, and many wineries have small tasting shops in town to expose visitors to their vintages. But for a real winery experience, stop by the new kid on the winery scene Narrow Path Winery. Still waiting for vines to mature and for their processes and distribution to be refined, they’re already producing a number of tasty wines that can be enjoyed today. Featuring a range of red and white varietals, the wine is excellent, the views are beautiful and the staff relaxed and humble – a great combination. This is the ideal spot to bring a picnic, order some wine and just enjoy being outside.
While exploring the cities of Texas on my road trip was a lot of fun, so was getting off the interstate and exploring Texas Hill Country and learning what makes it such a special place to visit.