Texas Hill Country
Blue bonnets and cool cityscapes make this region a true Texas treat that you won't forget
The Hill Country in central Texas is known as the backyard playground for Texans that like to have fun, enjoy nature, hang out, live and retire. It includes big cities like Austin and San Antonio and smaller towns like Bandera, Fredericksburg, Gruene, Kerrville, Luckenbach, Marble Falls, New Braunfels and Utopia. The Texas Hill Country has arguably become the most popular destination spot in the U.S.
Hill Country terrain is unique, thanks to the large number of limestone or granite rocks and boulders and a thin layer of topsoil that punctuate the region. The Hill Country has hot summers, particularly in July and August, when temperatures routinely top 100.
A good place to start your discovery of the Hill Country is in Austin, the state capital, which bills itself as The "Live Music Capital of the World" for its many musicians and more than 250 music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits.
Nearly 20 million visitors come to Austin annually. The city also offers world-renowned festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits Music Festival–along with more than 250 venues featuring rock, blues, jazz, hip hop, punk or Latino shows nightly.
Austin's universal appeal extends well beyond music, however–with outstanding dining, world-class sporting events, an oasis of outdoor activities and other unique happenings only Austin can offer.
Austin features a safe and walkable downtown, with distinct entertainment districts, including Second Street and the Warehouse District. It has a vibrant, living city center nestled on the shores of Lady Bird Lake and a 10-mile hike and bike trail.
Notably, the area is home to many types of wildflowers that blossom throughout the year but especially in the spring, including the popular bluebonnets, some planted in an effort by Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former President Lyndon Johnson.
A popular point of prominence in Austin is Mount Bonnell. At about 780 feet above sea level, it is a natural limestone formation overlooking Lake Austin on the Colorado River, with an observation deck about 200 feet below its summit.
From Austin, take Interstate 35 to New Braunfels, home to The Natural Bridge Caverns/Wildlife Ranch and Schlitterbahn, the nation's most popular waterpark.
San Marcos is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited site in North America. It's home to the Aquarena Center.
Llano is the deer hunting capitol of Texas and home of Enchanted Rock, a 425-foot dome of pink granite that has awed visitors for at least 11,000 years. Mason is down the road where you can hunt for blue topaz.
Continue down U.S. 377 to Junction, the Land of the Living Waters, where hundreds of crystal-clear natural springs feed the Llano River. In Uvalde, visit the Aviation Museum at Garner Field, which features displays of World War II aircraft.
Kerrville is home to the hymn-singing Cowboy Camp Meeting, the hippie Kerrville Folk Festival and the creative Texas Arts and Crafts Fair.
The oldest Civil War monument in Texas, the Treue der Union, in Center Point, commemorates a group of Hill County Union sympathizers, mostly German immigrants, killed trying to make their way to Mexico rather than fight against their adopted homeland.
Medina sponsors an Apple Festival, Blanco holds the Lavender Festival and don't forget Willie Nelson's July 4th picnic in Luckenbach.
San Antonio is the south gate to the Texas Hill Country. The city is home to the Alamo, the cradle of Texas independence and the state's most revered and visited site.
The downtown Riverwalk, one of the nation's first restorations of an urban river, meanders through the downtown area. The area is transformed at Christmas time into a festival of lights. Also based along the River Walk is the newly restored Aztec on the River, the only surviving exotic-themed movie palace in Texas.
Other popular sights in San Antonio and nearby are the Tower of the Americas, Marriage Island, SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta theme parks and the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.
Hill Country Wine Trail
With more than 30 unique and visually stunning wineries scattered throughout the Hill Country, from Austin to Fredericksburg and Lampasas to New Braunfels, there's someplace new to explore around every bend.
Four times a year, the wineries plan special Wine Trail Events to make your visits even more rewarding. The trails are self-guided driving tours, with wineries offering special tastings of newly released wines, demonstrations and tours. Some even pair wine and food (like wine and handmade chocolates for Valentine's Day). You'll meet the winemakers and hear first-hand their enthusiasm for what they do.
The trails are also a chance to enjoy legendary Hill Country musicians, artists, chefs and entertainers of all kinds. You'll find more specific information on each trail, including dates and prices, under the "Wine Trails" tab on the trail's web site, www.texaswinetrail.com. Note that some wineries charge for tastings, must be notified of groups of eight or more and have pet restrictions (just look for those icons on individual winery pages).
More Hidden Treasures
Southern Living has identified several "hidden treasures" in the Texas Hill Country. These include scenic Highway 16 between Kerrville and Medina, Colorado Bend State Park and Gorman Falls, kayaking the Medina River, the Fredericksburg Herb Farm and the vast seas of blue bonnets that bloom in April. These can be seen throughout the region, so keep your eyes open and your camera handy as you travel.
For More Information:
Hill Country of Texas
Texas State Travel Guide