I'm always fielding questions from my friends and family about the best things to do and see in Texas. (There's a lot.) So, I thought, why not share some of these exchanges with you? And if you have questions (or suggestions!) of your own, please post them in the comments below!
I'm coming to Austin for a week. Would you suggest some places in the nearby Hill Country to go to see interesting towns/go antiquing/eat great BBQ?
Exhausted New York editor
Hello, Exhausted editor!
Here are a few suggestions off the top of my head. . .
Fredericksburg is the obvious answer, since it has the most bustling Main Street. I suggest Vaudeville and Carol Hicks Bolton Antiquities. (See Texas Monthly style contributor Kristie Ramirez's photos of both here.) There are a ton of wineries/tasting rooms springing up all along Highway 290 too. One of the best known is Becker Vineyards, but you can consult TexasWineTrail.com for a full list. If you're looking for a quiet spot for lunch or dinner that's not on the main drag (and not German food), I suggest the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, which not only has a restaurant (check out their peach cobbler below), but also has an herb garden you can stroll through, a gift shop with handmade lotions and soaps, a spa, and 14 small cottages.
On your way to F'burg from Austin, you'll drive through Johnson City (yes, LBJ's hometown). My coworker Courtney and I spent a couple of days rooting around there last summer; you can read her guide here. Pieces of the Past is worth the stop. They have a yard full of cool finds, like these metal letters (below) and a bunch of salvaged doors. I know Texas hotelier Liz Lambert is a regular customer. We were also more than happy to sample a flight of the craft brews at Pecan Street Brewing.
Wimberley also has a lively little square. My picks are the Leaning Pear for lunch, the Wimberley Pie Company (which I believe is cash only) for dessert, the Wild West Store for a consultation with the Boot Whisperer (she has an uncanny ability to pick out the perfect pair of vintage boots for you just by looking at your feet; looks like she may be appointment only these days though), and the Old Mill Store. Although I haven't been to either Wimberley Glassworks or the Old Oaks Ranch (an alpaca farm with ranch tours on Saturdays), I hear good things about both.
One of my favorite tiny Hill Country towns is Comfort. I like to stay at Riven Rock Ranch (which made my recent hotels feature) and spend the day antiquing at Blackbird Antiques (that's Molly and Hudson, the shop's famous pugs, below), Wilson Clements, and the 8,000-sq-ft Comfort Antique Mall. Both High's Cafe and Store (which is perfect for a simple country breakfast) and the Plaid Goat serve as de facto community centers.
Haven't been through Llano in awhile, but there are several antiques shops (Whimseys is one) on or near its historic square, as well as a couple of popular BBQ spots, Cooper's and Laird's, which is in an old house on Highway 16.
As for barbecue, I think Snow's, in Lexington, is worth the hour-and-a-half drive east of Austin, though it's only open on Saturday mornings (we named it the best BBQ in the state in our last comprehensive BBQ round-up, and I'm guessing it'll be near the top again when our new list comes out in June, though Franklin BBQ in Austin is among the top rivals.)
Hope this helps!
P.S. A few additional suggestions from a coworker:
And I'll add that a good way to proceed would be to do Jordan's trip in reverse, and take one of the prettiest drives in the state—the Devil's Backbone—west from San Marcos. It'll require 30 minutes of interstate driving to get there (head south on I-35), but it's worth it. You could stop for a beer at the Devil's Backbone Tavern, then head on to Comfort (good antiquing) and up to Fredricksburg (good antiquing, but the town itself is painfully quaint, like one great big doily). And if you don't mind car time, you could return from Fredricksburg to Austin through Blanco instead of Johnson City—the pies at the Blanco Bowling Club Café are pretty spectacular, provided you're cool with meringue.
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