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Spotlight: Texas Hill Country

Ride a horse, drift on a river or go nuts in this pretty Lone Star landscape

One of Texas’ most popular destinations is the region known as Hill Country. This collection of charming and historic cities, including the capital city of Austin, embodies the character and spirit of what the world has come to think of when they hear the name “Texas.”

From Austin to Kerrville and from San Saba to Uvalde, the Hill Country is awash with Texas traditions in the form of pit-smoked barbecue joints, inner tubes drifting down rivers and late-night two-stepping in old dance halls.

Recreation and Rock ’n’ Roll

The scrubby wilderness of the Hill Country is a natural habitat for deer and game birds, which means great hunting for sportsmen. Leases and private hunting trips are offered throughout the region, along with ancillary services such as processing and taxidermy. Barksdale, Bend, Harper and Ingram are just a few towns where hunters can venture into the woods in pursuit of their next trophy.

Kenny Braun

Kenny Braun

If you find yourself in Austin in the heat of the summer, take the plunge into chilly Barton Springs. This legendary watering hole is fed by underground springs and stays between 68 and 70 degrees year-round. Take a spin on the dance floor at the Broken Spoke, which has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. For a quieter destination, the Bullock Texas State History Museum is worth spending a few hours in. Exhibits here tell the stories of people and events that shaped Texas, from a Native American tomahawk to a Kenny Rogers single.

Head west to Fredericksburg, where peach crops helped the town grow into its present-day tourist hot spot. The town’s German heritage is preserved and celebrated in the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Here, visitors learn how the sausage is made, along with the mechanics of sheep-shearing and canning.

Enjoy the natural beauty of Hill Country geology at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where you can hike, camp and climb the massive granite dome that dominates the area’s landscape. Sip on a local brew crafted at Fredericksburg Brewing Company, where ales and lagers are made on-site in the German tradition.

A short drive south, you’ll find yourself in Kerrville, which sits on the edge of the spring-fed Guadalupe River and is surrounded by opportunities to enjoy live entertainment, Western art and rich scenery. Riverside Nature Center is a home to native plants and animals and provides education and access to the Kerrville River Trail, which is suitable for walking and biking.

Small Town Charms

The Museum of Western Art celebrates works of living artists who create in the style of Remington and Russell, and the Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center showcases the craft and creativity of more than 600 member artists.

With a small-town feel and a visitor’s log that spans the globe, Boerne (pronounced Bernie) has something to please just about any guest. Adventurers should explore Cascade Caverns and Cave Without A Name, two natural living caves, or tube down the cool waters of the Guadalupe River. No matter when you’re in Boerne, you’re bound to be entertained by one of the many music festivals and art shows held throughout the year.

Take a trip over to nearby Luckenbach for live music and dancing at Luckenbach Dance Hall. This quirky little town, with an official population of three, was founded as a trading post in 1849 and more than 100 years later was a ghost town up for sale, which the aforementioned three people purchased and made into the live-entertainment destination that it is today.

Bandera, which touts itself as “the Cowboy Capital of the World,” beckons travelers to revisit the Old West. Once a staging ground for cattle drives, the town celebrates its heritage with rodeos and roping demonstrations, ranch tours and frontier history lessons. Several locations offer horseback-riding lessons, and the nearby Medina River is ideal for paddle-boating, kayaking and tubing. Medina Lake also plays host to boating and fishing.

Uvalde sits at the intersection of the country’s two longest highways, U.S. 90 and U.S. 83, but driving will be the last thing on your mind when you see the charm that brings visitors here. Horseback riding, hunting and wildflower viewing are popular outdoor activities here.

Giant oak trees dot the cityscape thanks to careful civic planning in Uvalde’s early days, and Cooks Slough Sanctuary provides a safe habitat for several bird species. Hit the links at Uvalde Memorial Golf Course, then visit Rexall Soda Fountain for retro refreshment. A driving tour of the city’s heritage homes along its tree-lined streets is a great way to while away the afternoon.

The Colorado River near Austin.

Texas Tourism

Nuts, Barbecue and History

San Saba is a town many go nuts over; after all, it is the pecan capital of the world. But this northernmost Hill Country destination is more than just pies and pralines. It’s chock-full of history and family fun. Visit the San Saba Historical County Museum at Mill Pond Park on a weekend afternoon to learn about life in the town’s early days. Cattle, cotton and sawmills helped grow San Saba from a rugged frontier town into a bustling commercial destination in the 19th century.

Colorado Bend State Park offers spectacular views of Gorman Falls, and it’s a prime destination for primitive camping, mountain biking, swimming and caving. The city hosts celebrations year-round, including rodeos, July Fourth fireworks, Christmas shows and more.

Curb your craving for authentic pit-smoked barbecue in Llano, where Cooper’s draws a crowd every day. Visit the Red Top Jail, a 19th-century jail with the hanging gallows still inside, and tour the Dabbs Hotel—it was once a rest stop for infamous criminal couple Bonnie and Clyde.

For More Information

Hill Country of Texas
Texas State Travel Guide