The Hill Country has something to offer visitors any time of the year. There are no off-seasons here. In the winter it’s a great destination for holiday shopping in the area’s many antiques and specialty shops, visiting indoor museums (like the Cowboy Artists of America Museum in Kerrville), and dining on hearty meals perfectly suited for colder weather (try one of Fredericksburg’s many German restaurants). During the spring and summer, wildflowers are a huge draw, and there’s an abundance of parks for hiking, picnicking, and swimming. Autumn’s temperate days make it the ideal time to enjoy the area’s many attractions—both indoors and out. I’m partial to the outdoors, during the day that is. At night, give me a good mattress and crisp cotton sheets. And I prefer my al fresco dining to take place on the patio of a good restaurant rather than at a camp site, thank you very much.
If you’re beginning your Hill Country travels from Austin, I recommend checking out Pedernales Falls State Park, some 38 miles west of Austin off U.S. 290. The Pedernales River runs through the park’s five thousand acres, forming a series of small pools, springs, and cascading falls. If you’re traveling to the Hill Country from San Antonio, you can swing by the Guadalupe State Park, which is about 30 miles from the city off U.S. 281. The park offers convenient access to the Guadalupe River, which is surrounded by limestone bluffs and cypress trees. During the fall months, it’s still a good idea to bring along a pair of water shoes—the temptation to wade is too great! And I’d be remiss not to mention two of the Hill Country’s state natural areas—Enchanted Rock, a massive dome of pink granite just north of Fredericksburg, and Lost Maples, a canyon featuring bigtooth maples west of San Antonio.
I spent some down time with my feet in the waters of the Guadalupe recently. A friend had recommended the small town of Comfort, which is just ten miles from Kerrville, as a good weekend destination. While perusing the Internet for a bed-and-breakfast in the area, the name “Rockin River Inn,” popped up. I had never heard of it, but I’m adventurous and the name sold me. Fortunately, my instincts were on. It proved to be one of the most pleasant B&B stays I’ve experienced. Located in Center Point, nine miles west of Comfort, the spacious historical home was built on the banks of the Guadalupe in 1882, and has a handful of rooms tastefully decorated with antiques and just the right amount of modern touches. There are enough sitting areas throughout the home for guests to find privacy outside their own rooms, and the groovy fifties-era spring-water pool—though not that big—is a bonus. The gracious innkeepers, Ken and Betty Wardlaw, made me feel right at home. The couple bakes homemade cookies and cakes that guests can help themselves to in the kitchen, and Ken will give you a lift in his truck if you care to go tubing. The tranquil river setting, with its centuries-old cypress trees, was truly soothing. It also provided the perfect place for stargazing, and I was lucky enough to catch a summer meteor shower while reclining on the banks of the river.
The drive to Comfort was as enjoyable as the stay. I took the back roads and stumbled across the Sister Creek Vineyards, about twelve miles north of Boerne on FM 1376. I stopped in and tasted several of the barrel-aged French-style wines made in the century-old cotton gin. My favorite was a fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which I later enjoyed a full glass of while dining in Comfort at Mimi’s Cafe on High Street. The delightful little restaurant is set in a 1910 mercantile building that once served as Comfort’s post office from 1910 until 1952. Every Friday night is steak night (from six to eight-thirty), and I sat out back in the biergarten, which is surrounded by several interesting old buildings, dining on filet mignon. Much of this area of Comfort, with its many vintage structures, is on the National Register of Historic Places. By the way, I found the pace here to be a bit more laid back than some of the other popular towns in the area, and, well, somehow just more comfortable.
For a slightly more urban experience, Kerrville offers plenty of dining options and a bit of nightlife. There’s the famed Joe’s Jefferson Street Cafe for a homey yet somewhat upscale dining experience in a two-story, 111-year-old Victorian house. Or there’s Francisco’s, a Mexican-influenced bistro in a restored historical building that offers both indoor and sidewalk dining. Although Kerrville is known for its annual folk festival held every May, there’s music here year-round. Several places, like the Java Pump, provide live music and entertainment on weekends. If you’re up for the dance hall thing, you can hop over to nearby Bandera and check out Cafe Caberet, or see who’s playing at the dance hall in Luckenbach (dances are held monthly, usually on Saturday nights).
Whether you’re the sophisticated traveler or just looking for a little peace and quiet (or a little bit of both), the Hill Country offers ample accommodations and plenty of Mother Nature, making it the perfect all-seasons, all-types destination.