Right in our backyard, there are several small Texas Hill Country towns that offer great shopping, delicious dining, fascinating history, and some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll ever see.
Named one of the “Top 25 Small Town Main Streets in America” by Country Living Magazine, Boerne’s Hill Country Mile (or Main Street) boasts more than 80 shops and restaurants. The colorful storefronts and limestone buildings offer truly unique shopping and dining experiences.
Spend the day exploring galleries, antique shops, and chic boutiques and break for lunch or dinner at one of the local breweries or notable restaurants. Adjacent to Main Street are beautiful meandering paths along the banks of Cibolo Creek. Or, for the full-on nature experience, take a short drive to Cibolo Nature Center and gaze at the majestic cypress trees lining the creek’s banks.
It’s difficult to experience all that Boerne has to offer in just one day. So, we suggest you consider staying overnight at the luxurious 160-year-old Kendall Inn and enjoy dining on the contemporary innovations of Southern heritage food at nearby Peggy’s on the Green.
Founded in 1854 by a group of German Freethinkers who immigrated to the area, this small historic town features almost 100 buildings constructed before 1910. As a matter of fact, much of the town is designated as a National Historic District.
Today the town features a vibrant shopping district filled with vintage and antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Prefer sipping the day away? Visit any of the three wineries that call Comfort home. Or, if you’re looking for a more adventurous day, Flat Rock Ranch offers miles of mountain biking trails. The entire family might enjoy exploring the Cave Without a Name and marvel at the cave’s stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Since we suspect you’ll want to stay a while in Comfort, we recommend you consider checking into the romantic Hill Country getaway, Hotel Giles.
Known as “Little Alsace of Texas,” Castroville and the surrounding area was settled in the 1840s by over 6,000 immigrants, mostly Alsatians from northern France. And their influence can still be felt today in architecture and culture.
For instance, the local visitor’s center, known as the Steinbach Haus, is a house built in France between 1618–1648 and imported to Castroville as a gift from the Alsatian people.
Across the street from Steinbach Haus is Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, featuring a large selection of pastries and the “not-to-be-missed” cinnamon rolls. The Landmark Inn, originally built in 1849 as a roadside tavern and store and expanded to a full hotel in the 1920s, is a state historic landmark (with daily guided tours) and during part of the week, a bed and breakfast.
And be sure to visit St. Louis Church (built between 1868 and 1870) to admire its beautiful stained-glass windows. If you’re lucky enough to visit in the spring during poppy season, drop into the Castroville Poppy House, the oldest free-standing, one-room log cabin in Castroville. The property is only open to tours when the poppies are blooming. Need a little pampering after a day of shopping and exploring? Consider staying at the Hillside Boutique Hotel where you can book a weekend of much-needed relaxation.
Known as “The Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas,” Georgetown is a favorite Hill Country destination for shopping, dining, or just hanging out for the day.
The downtown buildings are some of the state’s finest Victorian architecture. You’ll want to make sure to visit the historic Firehouse No. 1 (circa 1892), now the home of the new Georgetown Art Center, which hosts the works of nationally renowned artists and offers arts and crafts from local artisans.
Kids will love the downtown splash pad located outside the Firehouse. Or you can take the whole family to Blue Hole, the scenic lagoon on the South San Gabriel River. For entertainment, there’s live music every weekend as well as farmer’s markets. In late April, the popular Red Poppy Festival offers three days of family-friendly fun, too. And if you decide to stay over, you’ll want to consider the recently renovated Arts-and-Crafts-style mansion, the San Gabriel House Bed and Breakfast.
You might decide to visit Llano for the amazing rock formations, but we think you’ll decide to stay because of the town’s quirky and charming atmosphere.
Known as the “Deer Capital of Texas,” Llano is in the Highlands Lake area of the Hill Country. Stroll past the County Courthouse and the Red Top Jail for a proper view of the Romanesque Revival-style architecture from the late 1800s. And, since Llano is known for its ‘que, make sure you try out Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue, a dining experience considered a rite of passage for Texans.
Catch the sunset as you walk across the 1935 Roy B. Inks Bridge. Better yet, plan your visit around Llano’s Earth Art Fest (LEAF) and create your own standing rock sculptures. Want to linger in Llano? Make a reservation at the Sandstone Street Bed and Breakfast and relax on the wooden rockers lining its wraparound porch.
Are you looking for history, arts, science, wineries, and great shopping? Then welcome to the town known as the “Crossroads of the Hill Country.”
Since Johnson City was the home of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America, you’ll want to explore his boyhood home and the “Texas White House” at the LBJ Ranch in nearby Stonewall. Adjacent to the ranch is the Texas State Park’s Sauer-Beckmann Farm where visitors can experience Hill Country life as it was in the late 1800s. Continue the family fun at the Science Mill back in Johnson City, which offers interactive and technology-based exhibits, games, and programs.
Planning a Johnson City adventure sans children? Be sure to tour the 290 Wine Trail and visit the many wineries, breweries, and distilleries along that stretch of Texas roadway known as Highway 290. Better yet, find tour operators and enjoy your winery tours without the worry of driving.
There’s so much to do here that you’ll definitely want to extend your visit to Johnson City. Crossroads Inn, formerly the Chantilly Lace Hotel, is a 10-minute walk from downtown—and we think it’s the perfect place to unwind by strolling through the gardens or sitting on the front porch.
Who wouldn’t want to visit a place known as the “Pecan Capital of the World”? Nestled along the banks of the San Saba River and among acres of pecan trees, the Hill Country town of San Saba offers the best of small-town life and outdoor adventure.
Downtown specialty shops offer all sorts of unique treasures, including a variety of pecan goodies. Visit Beveridge Bridge, spanning the San Saba River, and walk across one of the last remaining suspension bridges in Texas.
The San Saba River Nature Park offers archeological sites, great fishing spots, and 122 acres of pristine Hill Country landscape. Need to unwind at the end of the day? Check out one of the two local wineries: Old Man Scary Cellars or Wedding Oak Winery. Staying at the boutique Dofflemyer Hotel is the perfect way to relax after a day of soaking in all that San Saba has to offer.
Your first must-see stop in Blanco is the majestic centerpiece of the town, the Old Blanco County Courthouse, built in 1885. Used only as a courthouse for four years, it’s now the Visitor’s Center and Community Hall.
Next, meander to the Blanco Pioneer Museum or to Cranberry’s Antiques and then pick up some great BBQ at Old 300 BBQ. Maybe you’d like to sip a little whiskey at Milam & Green’s Distillery and Tasting Room, too. Want to feel like you are on the set of a Western movie? Then stop by the Buggy Museum and explore their outdoor town.
Hands down, the most popular attraction in this area, though, is the verdant Blanco State Park. While it’s one of the state’s smallest parks, it’s also one of the few state parks with camping facilities located within a city, so you can have both an outdoor and a town experience in one visit. Market days are held at the park every third Saturday of the month. Not into camping? Then check out the cottages and guest houses in Blanco. The Blue Cottage Inn or Betty B’s City House are two wonderful options that let you imagine that you have your own little Hill Country getaway.
Mention the town of Fredericksburg to anyone in south Texas and you are sure to get a bevy of responses. “A Texas gem!” “That’s where we celebrated our anniversary!” “Too touristy!”
We wrote about the off-the-well-trodden-path visit to Fredericksburg once and we still believe that, even with its “too many tourists,” it’s a Hill Country town that shouldn’t be missed. Fredericksburg has developed to offer a little something for every kind of visitor that shows up at its doorstep.
And 2022 is especially momentous, as Fredericksburg is celebrating its 175th anniversary. So, come join the year-long party highlighting Fredericksburg’s unique German heritage. History buffs are sure to be delighted. For instance, visit the Pioneer Museum to learn about how German settlers made the rugged frontier their home. Also fascinating is the National Museum of the Pacific War located right in town. Or maybe you’d like to take a self-paced historical walking tour and learn all there is about Fredericksburg? There’s plenty to do.
And why just walk through history when you can spend the night with it in one of the historic houses available for lodging. The Metzger Sunday House and the Settlers Crossing Bed and Breakfast offer the charm and beauty of days gone by with the comfort of modern amenities. Or consider venturing out a bit and away from the hustle of the town by staying at Valentine Hill B & B, which is also a working horse farm.
Visiting Kerrville is akin to pulling on your favorite pair of jeans. Yup, welcome to the “come as you are” town that doesn’t bother with pretense. Whether it is shopping or dining, art galleries or thrift and vintage stores, Kerrville has it all—but they aren’t going to be showy about it. Plus, with all the parks and water activities provided by the beautiful Guadalupe River, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to help you feel yourself again.
The arts scene is alive and well in Kerrville. For example, there’s the Kerrville Folk Festival. And the renowned Cailloux Theater features terrific community theater productions as well as performances from the local symphony and touring music groups. Lose a few hours wandering around the Sunrise Antique Mall or visiting The Museum of Western Art.
There’s no shortage of outside activities at the Kerrville-Schreiner Park. Wander around the 517 acres alongside the Guadalupe River. (Yes, boat and bike rentals are available.)
Finally, and in keeping with that put-your-feet-up feel of Kerrville, you’ll want to check out the River View Cottages on the Guadalupe River. Choose from 22 cottages, two vintage RVs, or bring your own RV and park into one of the nine full hook-ups.
This article was written by Michelle Marroquin, a San Antonio writer, and produced in collaboration with TheTexasWildflower.com.