With its scenic beauty, quaint towns, fascinating history, and varied attractions, the central part of the Lone Star State has all the makings of a fun-filled RV getaway.
For many folks, Texas evokes thoughts of flat cotton fields, desert, the humid eastern piney woods, the Gulf Coast, big cities such as Dallas and Houston, or a state so large it seems to take forever to drive across. Yes, Texas is all of these and more.
The Texas Hill Country at approximately 31,000 square miles is the fourth-largest region in Texas. This vast, rural region of south-central Texas is conveniently close to all major cities. Its rolling hills are only an hour-long drive from Austin and San Antonio and a four-hour jaunt from Dallas and Houston.
The hills dotted with sprawling cypress and oak trees make for an idyllic road trip route that’s especially picturesque in spring and fall. Some of the lushest fields of bluebonnets bloom in spring and there’s nothing more Texan than a bluebonnet photograph.
Motorcyclists enjoy riding the hilly, curvy, and wooded byways and highways. Visitors may see deer and other wildlife as well as Texas Longhorns grazing in fields.
I will hit a few highlights of what this large, diverse region has to offer for travelers of all ages as we journey from east to west.
Let’s start our trip across the Hill Country in New Braunfels located on I-35 a short distance northeast of San Antonio. New Braunfels and the Canyon Lake area just a few miles to the north are home to various RV parks. Many RVers, especially young families, make New Braunfels a destination.
Besides being close enough for day trips to San Antonio, New Braunfels and the surrounding area offer attractions for visitors of all ages. One hot spot for cooling off is the Schlitterbahn Water Park which boasts 51 attractions including rivers, rides, chutes, and slides that draw tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Those looking for a natural water attraction might want to take a dip in the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels. At only 2.5 miles long it is one of the shortest navigable waterways in the United States. Tubing in the river is a fun way to cool off on a hot day. Another fun family destination is the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.
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New Braunfels isn’t just for kids. Settled by Germans in the mid-1800s, the Gruene Historic District within the city limits was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The renovated historic buildings now serve as bed-and-breakfast inns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and a general store. You can enjoy live entertainment at Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest continually operating dance hall. Gruene also is a popular launching place for kayaking and tubing on the Guadalupe River.
One busy tourist destination a few miles up I-35 at exit 200 in San Marcos is the location of the Premium and Tanger outlet malls. With more than 200 stores combined at the malls, shoppers will find plenty to occupy their time.
A favorite German restaurant, the Alpine Haus is in New Braunfels at 251 S. Seguin Ave. It sits back off the road in a historic house built in the mid-1800s. The period décor is attractive, the food is deliciously cooked in Bavarian style, and the service is excellent.
A block down Seguin Avenue from the Alpine Haus is the oldest continually operating bakery in Texas. Naegelin’s Bakery has been serving authentic German pastries and strudel since 1868.
Just a few miles north of New Braunfels are Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River. Several RV parks in this area will appeal to those who desire a resting place away from the city and the highway. This also is a good area for those who enjoy nature. Boating and fishing are popular on Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River attracts kayakers and tubers. Area outfitters rent tubes and provide transportation for those who glide down the gentle Guadalupe. A well-maintained nature trail awaits exploration below the Canyon Lake Dam
With approximately 50 wineries and tasting rooms in Gillespie County, this is the most-visited wine region in Texas. And if you thought wine wasn’t a thing in Texas, the state has eight recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). In fact, Texas is the fifth-highest wine-producing state and is home to the fifth-highest number of wineries, according to data from WineAmerica.org. Texas wine isn’t new but it is rapidly growing and the quality is only getting better as growers perfect the grapes that do best in the rocky Texas soil.
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But wineries aren’t the only attraction. Tourists visit Fredericksburg to browse the art galleries, leather shops, boutiques, brew pubs, and other venues in its historic downtown. Lunch and dinner breaks find visitors in one of several German restaurants on the main street.
The city is a year-round destination: Oktoberfest is a no-brainer in the fall but the holidays make Fredericksburg look like a gingerbread village.
With a long history of German influence, Otto’s German Bistro is the best place in town for a Texas German dinner. For the brunch lovers, Hill & Vine offers a unique brunch menu with black-eyed pea hummus and peachy pecan pancakes. Short on time and need a bite to go? Hye Market and Deli has delicious sandwiches, perfect for lunch in between tastings.
A visit to Fredericksburg isn’t complete without a stop at the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum holds interest for visitors of all ages. Plan to spend several hours to see it all. The facility is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission prices vary ranging up to $20 for adults.
Many Fredericksburg RV parks and campgrounds are within minutes of historic Main Street and major attractions while others are located in nearby municipal and state parks. Choose from Fredericksburg RV Park, The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Oakwood RV Resort, and Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.
After dark, nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park while the one-of-a-kind Luckenbach General Store, Bar & Dancehall hosts a nightly picker’s circle.
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In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, the 36th president was born, reared, and died. Perhaps no other president is more closely identified with one parcel of real estate including his birthplace, boyhood home, and ranch as well as his ancestors’ pioneer settlement.
Nature enthusiasts can experience the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. A billion years ago, the large pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock was part of a big pool of magma miles under the earth’s surface. It pushed into the rock above in spots, then cooled and hardened, turning into the large granite dome it is today. The dome has drawn people here for thousands of years, and today, visitors can hike, backpack, rock climb, bird, and even stargaze, as the park is designated an International Dark Sky Park.
A short drive west on Texas Highway 16 finds some visitors dreaming of their youth and days gone by. Street Dreams is an auto dealership that specializes in classic and collector cars and trucks as well as related memorabilia. The two showrooms are crowded with 30 to 35 vehicles, all ready to drive away. This mini museum is worth a visit. Yes, walking among and looking at these cars does cause one to dream.
Nearby Bandera is known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Here, you can attend rodeos, visit the Frontier Times Museum, hike in the 5,400-acre Hill Country State Natural Area or at the nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area, and listen to country music in the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. Kayaking on the Medina River and horseback riding are other favorite activities.
In addition to all I have mentioned in our drive across the Hill Country, more than a dozen state parks and natural areas offer miles of hiking trails, bird-watching (including the rare yellow-cheeked warbler) locations, kayaking spots, and the opportunity to observe thousands of bats emerge from an old tunnel.
Being rural and dotted with small towns, this area also boasts dozens of fairs, festivals, and farmers’ markets throughout the year.
Although I have highlighted just a little of what the Texas Hill Country has to offer, I hope I have sparked your interest in visiting this beautiful part of Texas which can satisfy diverse interests and promises fun for all ages.
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