While it’s true that Texas is making great wine and its Hill Country is a hot spot for wine tasting, there is a lot more going on than wine tasting. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts love the area, too; hiking, biking, hunting, and fishing are all part of the Hill Country allure. History buffs will find a lot to love, too. You don’t have to be an athlete, either; there are lovely parks to enjoy, easy trails to wander, and wildlife to be seen from the porch of your vacation rental.
No matter the time of year, there is always a lot to do in the Texas Hill Country. Here are five great things to do in the region after you’ve tasted all of Texas Hill Country’s wine.
Note: Fredericksburg Inn and Suites hosted me for two nights. All opinions are my own.
1. National Museum Of The Pacific War, Fredericksburg
You may wonder, how did a museum about the Pacific War end up in a small town in Central Texas? Chester W. Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg and spent his early childhood years in the house that is now part of the National Museum of the Pacific War complex. He became the commander in chief of the Pacific during World War II and led the U.S. to victory in the Battle of Midway, the most important naval battle in U.S. history. The National Museum of the Pacific War honors him as their local hero but also pays homage, through exhibits, galleries, and gardens, to the many other men and women who were part of the war.
Throughout his career, Nimitz was widely regarded as a calm and reliable leader, and he was well-liked and respected by the men and women under his command. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Nimitz was sent to Hawaii as commander in chief and is credited with boosting the morale of the Pacific Fleet.
Plan at least 2 to 4 hours to see the Admiral Nimitz Gallery, the George H.W. Bush Gallery, and the Pacific Combat Zone exhibition. This museum is widely regarded as one of the best history museums in the United States.
Pro Tip: The Japanese Garden of Peace and outdoor exhibits are all free and open to the public. There’s also the Plaza of Presidents, which honors the past U.S. presidents who served in uniform during World War II.
2. Wildseed Farms, Fredericksburg
Forty varieties of wildflower seeds are produced in Texas. The seeds are sold all over the world including, Germany, France, Holland, and around the U.S.
The largest wildflower seed farm in the U.S. just happens to be in Fredericksburg on Highway 290. It is a live, working farm, with about 217 acres of planted fields. In addition to the fields of flowers, there is a nursery, gift shop, deli, and a wine bar.
The highlight of Wildseed Farms is the walking trail, a quarter-mile trail that includes a butterfly garden, water features, windmills and sculptures, and of course, wildflower fields to photograph. If you go in early October, you can enjoy the Monarch Butterfly festival. Wildseed Farms participates in a catch and release program each year, and it is an ideal place to observe these delicate and beautiful butterflies on their annual migration south.
Wildseed Farms is open seven days a week. This is a fun place for all ages.
Pro Tip: Texas is well known for the wildflowers that bloom along the highways and byways each spring from late March to mid-April (depending on the weather), thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who started the highways beautification program in 1965 when she was First Lady of the United States. Thanks to John Roberts, the founder and owner of the Wildseed Farms, those roads are now planted with seeds from his farm.
3. Becker Vineyards’ Lavender Farms, Stonewall
Becker Vineyards is one of Texas’s top winemakers, producing wine primarily from Bordeaux, Italian, and Rhone varietals, which grow well in the Hill Country. And, just like the grapes that grow in the limestone soil of the Hill Country, lavender also flourishes in the spring. If you cannot make it to the annual lavender festival the first week of May, don’t fret; bath and body products, from cuticle cream to lavender eye pillows made with their estate grown lavender, are available for sale on their website.
4. Enchanted Rock, Gillespie And Llano Counties
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one of the top attractions in the Hill Country. Located north of Fredericksburg and south of Llano, it spans both Gillespie and Llano counties. If you’re staying in Fredericksburg, it is about a 20-minute drive north.
What exactly is Enchanted Rock? It’s pink granite dome which pushes up from an underground batholith to a height of 425 feet. In Texas, we call that a granite mountain. The batholith is 62 square miles and was formed by lava, which hardened and turned into granite. There are several other domes to climb at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, but it is the highest. Obviously, it is the perfect spot for getting a sweeping overview of the surrounding countryside. People have been visiting this area for over 12,000 years.
No one knows exactly why it is called Enchanted Rock; there is no shortage of legends and stories. One true story is of Captain John Coffee Hayes, a surveyor and Texas Ranger. In 1841, Hayes and his group were attacked by Native Americans. Hayes became separated from the group, climbed the dome, and found a crevice to crawl into. From there, he fought off his attackers for three hours before help arrived. I’d say there was a bit of enchantment that saved him that day!
Enchanted Rock is on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site. There are over 400 archaeological sites within the park, which is approximately 1,650 acres.
In addition to climbing the rock, you can hike the loop trail, camp, bird watch, rock climb, and go stargazing at Enchanted Rock. The only catch is you’ll need to make a reservation. To protect this wildlife area, the number of visitors into the park is limited. You can book up to 30 days in advance. The trails close daily at sunset, except for the loop.
5. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City
This park allows visitors to have a deep look into the life of the 36th president of the United States of America, Lyndon B. Johnson. Here you can trace his family roots from his grandfather’s log cabin to his boyhood home to the house that would become known as the Texas White House. There’s also a family burial ground under a shady oak tree grove.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is divided into four sections, making it easy to discover different periods in the president’s life and history. The visitor’s center offers two short videos, one about LBJ’s life and the other about the former First Lady, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson. There’s also a permanent exhibition with artifacts from LBJ’s life. Park rangers can provide visitors tips and a map for the self-guided driving tour of the park, which I did, stopping at points of interest along the way. You can also tour the President’s former boyhood home. Tours are hourly with a guide and are free.
The site’s LBJ Settlement consists of the log cabin, outer buildings, and windmill that were the homestead of his grandparents. To tour this site, you can walk from the visitor’s center.
I loved the park’s self-guided driving tour, which allows you to stop as many times as you like. There are markers along the way that explain LBJ’s interest in the environment and cattle ranching, as well as other aspects of his life on the ranch. The Texas White House, where LBJ and Lady Bird lived, was open for tours; however, it has since been closed for renovations — check the website for updates. You can still visit the airplane hangar adjacent to the house.
The visitor’s center is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Know Before You Go
Any time is a great time to visit Texas Hill Country. Just know that summers in Texas are hot and humid. If you like the great outdoors, factor that into your travel plans.
A great place to stay with kids is the Fredericksburg Inn and Suites, which has a nice pool with a slide (a big bonus in the summer), plus a children’s pool, lots of outdoor seating, a wide grassy lawn, and is just a few minutes’ walk from Main Street. The location can’t be beat for Fredericksburg visitors who want to be able to park the car and walk. I highly recommend it for families with kids, and it’s budget-friendly compared to most everything else in town.