In the towering shadow of Austin and San Antonio live a network of small town that make up the Texas Hill Country. Whether you are a native Texan or just passing through the area, the Texas Hill Country is bursting with unique places, ready to be explored.

The Texas Hill Country is geographically located where Central Texas, West Texas, and South Texas meet. Known for its beautiful hills of limestone and granite, with running streams, creeks, and rivers, Hill Country’s topography is a great example of the variety of landscapes that exist within the state and draws visitors year round.

Dotted along the hills, plains, and winding country roads are small towns with plenty of personality and Texas pride, ready to welcome visitors in. Texas Hill Country towns are proud of their heritage and history and love to share a piece of who they are.

Experience the gorgeous natural surroundings, hunt and fish, or find the most eclectic Hill Country merchandise. Who has the best burgers or chicken fried steak? Texas Hill Country towns are eager to put their best treasures on display.

METHODOLOGY

Hill Country culture is a unique fusion of Mexican and German influences, making each trip memorable and one-of-a-kind cultural fusion. Ready to visit? Hop in the car and start to see why Texas Hill Country is a treasure trove of small town charm and big time entertainment.

The selection process for this list of the 30 Small Town Treasures to Visit in the Texas Hill Country was based on triangulated data, controlled to exclude Austin and San Antonio (because they are not small towns), from lists and reputable travel journalism at Southern Living, Wide Open Country, Texas Monthly, Texas Hill Country.com, National Geographic, and the New York Times along the following criteria:

(1) Nostalgia factor based on folklore and history

(2) Popularity factor based on quantity of visitors

(3) Nature factor based natural scenic beauty

(4) Food and Fun factor based culinary and entertainment value.

Each rating is calculated on a 5-point Likert scale with a total Rave Meter assigned on a cumulative 20 point scale.

And don’t forget your dancing boots!

 

BEST TREASURES IN THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

1. Luckenbach Dance Hall

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Live music, cold beer, and quintessential Texas charm is amplified at the Luckenbach Dance Hall, making it the top treasure to visit in Texas Hill Country. Around since 1886, this legendary dance hall is a true destination for musicians and fans of country music. Located in tiny Luckenbach, The Post Office/General Store/Beer Joint, now commonly known as the Dance Hall, was nearly abandoned until it was bought in 1970 and slowly brought back to life by Hondo Crouch, an imaginative dreamer with a Texas sized personality. When Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ hit “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics)” became a familiar tune to any lover of country music, the Luckenbach Dance Hall became a pilgrimage spot.

Still today, the Dance Hall today has stayed true to its roots and honors its founders. No frills, the Dance Hall hosts monthly ticketed events, but on a weekday visitors can grab a cold one and listen to whoever might be pickin’ away a tune. Whether two-stepping on the dance floor or just soaking in the ambiance under the canopy of ancient oak trees, stopping at this Hill Country treasure is a must-do. After all, Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.  

The Luckenbach Dance Hall is #5 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. Luckenbach is one of the 5 Charming Texas Hill Country Towns by Texas Hill Country. It is mentioned as a stop in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times and also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 5/5
Nature – 4.5/5
Food and Fun–5 /5
Rave Meter: 19.5

 

2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

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The gorgeous pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock is a breathtaking sight in the Texas Hill Country. Located between Fredericksburg and Llano, this Texas Historic Landmark is a bucket list stop for hiking enthusiasts. Part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is the perfect place to conquer and summit, watch the spectacular sunset from, or get an unforgettable panoramic view of a Texas starry night.

Visitors come to Enchanted Rock and find a well maintained park with a range of hikes suited for every skill level. The climb to the top of Enchanted Rock and around the natural area often give visitors glimpses of deer, fox, Texas horned lizards, flora and fauna, and birds galore. Archeologists have evidence to believe human visitation at Enchanted Rock has been happening for over 11,000 years. It is believed through folklore from Comanche, Apache, and Tonkawa tribes that Enchanted Rock has spiritual and magical powers. Whatever the draw to Enchanted Rock for visitors may be, make sure to come early, as park officials only allow a certain amount of visitors to enter the natural area each day.

Enchanted Rock is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. It is #16 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is mentioed in National Geographic’s Road Trip: Hill Country, Texas and also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 5/5
Nature – 5/5
Food and Fun– 4.25/5
Rave Meter: 19.25

 

3. Main Street (Hauptstrasse)

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Visit Fredericksburg, Texas a town steeped in German heritage and yet thoroughly Texan. Don’t miss out on a walk down Main Street, also known as Hauptstrasse. Three and a half miles of historic buildings which are now bubbling retail spaces, restaurants, biergartens, or bed and breakfasts. Over 150 different businesses vie for the attention of visitors, creating a magical day to stop, sample, and savor as you shop the Hauptstrasse. This Magic Mile also contains art galleries, tasting rooms, coffee shops, and so much more.

A few notable treasures to behold are: the Old German Bakery and Restaurant. This made-from-scratch eatery features authentic German recipes and is family owned and operated. For either breakfast or lunch indulge in featured fare like the House Schnitzel or German Pancakes. Try the Hackbraten, warm German potato salad, or red cabbage. The Lincoln Street Wine Market is a sweet stop for wine, cheese plates and live music under their outdoor pergola covered in grapevines. A relaxing little nook in the busyness of the Hauptstrasse. Not to be missed is the lively Ausländer Biergarten, a Main Street institution for over two decades. Note its unparalleled beer list and food fare such as cabbage rolls and Texaschnitzel.

These Hauptstrasse hot-spots are featured in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times or National Geographic’s Road Trip: Hill Country, Texas. Wherever you stop or wander on this beloved street, you will see the Texas Hill Country’s German heritage thriving.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 5/5
Nature –4 /5
Food and Fun– 5/5
Rave Meter: 19

 

4. The Willow City Loop and Farm Road 1323

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A true Texas Hill Country treasure is taking a slow, easy drive, and breathing in the landscape’s natural beauty. Whether in a truck or a sedan, don’t forget to take it down a notch and enjoy the drive Texas style. Start off on near Johnson City on Farm Road 1323. Very soon, you will be enjoying  the Hill Country’s characteristic rock formations, bubbling creeks, and vistas. Rolling hills will surround you as you meander through the back country. Watch for turkeys, deer, plenty of cattle, and a few surprises.

Access to the Willow City Loop is near Fredericksburg. Stop at Harry’s on the Loop, a handy convenience store, to stretch your legs and fill your cup holders with drinks for the drive. Hill Country drives are perfectly lovely any time of year, but really come to full vibrancy during springtime when it is Texas bluebonnet season.Grab your camera and be ready to drive a little more slowly, as the road fills up with visitors who are eager to stop and snap a photo amongst the gorgeous blooms.

A Texas Hill Country drive is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. The Willow City drive is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour. Harry’s on the Loop is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour. Farm Road 1323 is #2 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 5/5
Nature – 4.75/5
Food and Fun– 4/5
Rave Meter: 18.75

 

5. High Street

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A drive through the Texas Hill Country simply must mean a visit to High Street in Comfort. Quaint Comfort may only boast around 2,300 residents, but its ambiance and character is mighty. The stunningly preserved downtown historic center, with High Street as its main thoroughfare, boasts charming civic buildings, eateries, shops, and accommodation. Comfort also distinguishes itself by having Texas’ sole Civil War monument to the North, the Treue der Union Monument, dedicated in 1866.

There are many treasures to highlight on High Street. Don’t miss a visit to High’s Cafe and Store, where breakfast and lunch are brimming with ‘high made’ salsas, tacos and sweets. Hot Plate Specials are served daily. Comfort Pizza has thin crust, wood fire pizza, and an outdoor patio that exudes casual, fun vibes. The Elephant Story is a unique boutique dedicated to elephant conservation initiatives. Shopping there you will find one-of-a-kid items, many from indigenous groups. Don’t want to leave? Stay at the Hotel Faust, a beautifully restored 130 year old hotel that allows you to peruse High Street at your leisure and rest and relax around Texas contemporary decor.

High’s Cafe and Store and The Elephant Story are featured in the #3 spot of 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. Comfort is noted in 5 Charming Texas Hill Country Towns by Texas Hill Country. High’s Cafe and Store, The Elephant Story, Hotel Faust and Comfort Pizza are in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times. Comfort is also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 4.5/5
Nature – 4/5
Food and Fun– 5/5
Rave Meter: 18.5

6. Fredericksburg Herb Farm

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Boasting a delicious bistro, luxe spa, charming guest accommodations, and a well-stocked store, the Fredericksburg Herb Farm might have everything you need for a slice of Hill Country heaven. Close to Fredericksburg’s lauded Main Street, but equally close to the quiet of the country, the Fredericksburg Herb Farm strikes a balanced note. Strolling through the Herb Farm grounds and seeing the stunningly scented garden is a delight.

Whether for a quick lunch or a weekend getaways, the Herb Farm has ideas to help. Check into one of the 14 Sunday Haus Cottages, adorably arranged in a small neighborhood area and appointed with lovely furnishings. Maybe stop to eat lunch at the Farm Haus Bistro, where the freshest farm ingredients create dishes like eggs Hemingway or the indulgent chicken pot pie. A mimosa flight or just a taste of the prickly pear mimosa is a true Hill Country treat. Nature’s Spa is 5,000 square feet of eco-conscious tranquility, utilizing the products created with herbs on site. Products are also available for sale at The Poet’s Haus Gift Shop. Make sure to stop though the Canning Shed and see the products being developed at the Herb Farm.

The Fredericksburg Herb Farm is #10 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. Check out its mention in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 4/5
Nature – 5/5
Food and Fun– 5/5
Rave Meter: 18

7. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

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Stopping by the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City is an experience not to be missed for history buffs and lovers of Texas culture alike. Spending time at this presidential park gives visitors new insight to the depth of who our 36th president was. Comprised of two separate visitor areas, separated by 14 miles, guest receive a car pass and travel the grounds in their vehicles. Whether you start at LBJ’s childhood home or his grandparent’s log cabin settlement from the 1860’s, the heritage this historic park carries makes it easy to spend a day exploring.

Showcasing Texas Hill Country life at its best, it is no wonder that LBJ wanted to visit the property as much as possible — even during his presidency. It was known as the ‘Texas White House’ as returns to the ranch were frequent. Welcoming well over 100,000 visitors each year, guest can see the areas of the ranch where LBJ learned (the one-room schoolhouse), worshipped (Trinity Lutheran Church), and take guided tours of the main house. The massive oak trees, stream running through the property, and cattle grazing on the still-working ranch create an idyllic feel. Although visitors are not allowed into the cemetery, the graves of LBJ and Lady Bird are part of the historical park.

The Lyndon B. Johnson Nation Historical Park is featured on National Geographic’s Road Trip: Hill Country, Texas. It is also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour and part of 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 4/5
Nature – 4.5/5
Food and Fun– 4/5
Rave Meter: 17.5

8. Colorado Bend State Park’s Gorman Falls

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Located in Bend, Texas is the Colorado Bend State Park, an oasis where you can get great views of the Colorado River and dwell in the Hill Country beauty. Whether you are at the park to explore the limestone caves, camp, canoe, or simply walk around, it is a hidden gem worth finding. Colorado Bend State Park is also home to beautiful Gorman Falls. A 70 foot, spring water fed waterfall, Gorman Falls is a moderately challenging hike downward to the falls, but worth every step once you enter the cool base and look up at the lovely travertine and majestic waterfall.

Be ready with your good gripping hiking shoes and a walking stick as the trails at Colorado Bend State Park can be challenging, but nonetheless lots of fun to explore. Whether hiking in the blazing Texas heat or on a cool winter day, the beautiful surroundings of Colorado Bend State Park are a must-do for people who are lucky enough to know about it.

Colorado Bend State Park’s Gorman Falls is #13 of the top 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. The park is also one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. Bring your water and sunglasses and enjoy a day out among a pure sample of Hill Country nature.

Nostalgia – 4.5/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 5/5
Food and Fun– 4.5/5
Rave Meter: 17

9. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

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Llano Texas’ crown jewel is Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. Judging from the lines that can wrap around the building the secret is out. Massive pits and flavorful aromas greet diners. That is where the tough decisions begin. Order by the pound or just use your hands to indicate to the pit master how much meat you want to indulge in. Smoked prime rib? Sausage? Pork Loin? Beef ribs? Brisket? Cabrito? A famed Big Chop? All juicy and tender, wrapped in white paper and taken into the building to be sliced and  for you to choose your sides. Coleslaw, potato salad, peach, or pecan cobblers are a few of the offerings available as accompaniments. Self serve stations with free melt in your mouth pinto beans, bread and sauces — this place is the real deal.

Run by the Wootan family, the pits at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que have been cured and flavored over and over, ensuring rich and succulent meats. The long tables inside make sharing meats and conversing with others who are enjoying classic bar-b-que easy. Come early on the weekends as the lines can look daunting, but efficient service makes the experience one that you will think about returning to often.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is #1 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is also referenced on 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 4.75/5
Nature – 3/5
Food and Fun– 5/5
Rave Meter: 16.75

10. Krause Springs

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Tucked away near Lake Travis is beautiful Krause Springs. With over 115 acres of raw Hill Country beauty, Krause Springs is a refreshing mix of natural and manmade pools and a bounty of stunning springs, making the property a wonder to explore. Privately owned by the Krause family and around since 1955, this Spicewood spot is on the National Registry of Historic Sites and is a huge draw for those hoping to cool off from the Hill Country heat.

Bring your tubes and swim gear and jump into one of the many water spots on the massive Krause Springs property. Take a wild leap off the cliff dive, grab ahold of the rope swing and enjoy the gorgeous grotto feel the water provides. Rock stairs lead you around to the many areas of the property. Can’t get enough? Book early and reserve one of their camping or RV sites and be the first in the spring again the next morning. Enjoy the Butterfly Gardens and peaceful oasis that Krause Springs provides. Fountains and cozy nooks surround the grounds and make Krause Springs the perfect retreat on a hot day.

Krause Springs is #4 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is also one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 3.75/5
Nature – 5/5
Food and Fun– 3.25/5
Rave Meter: 16

 

11. Lost Maples State Park

Nothing is more idyllic in autumn than seeing the fall colors. When you are in the Hill Country, those who know the best hidden gems will send you to Lost Maples State Park. Located in Vanderpool, Lost Maples State Park is a destination for fall foliage and a true small town treasure. From forest and creeks to the rugged canyon walls, visitors can get great views of the Sabinal River and explore one of the many, well-maintained trails.

While fall foliage may initially draw you into a visit at Lost Maples State Park, once you are there, you will realize it is a park worth visiting year-round. With camp sites available, ranging from standard to hike-in primitive, visitors also recognize Lost Maples State Park as a gorgeous spot to stargaze, walk the trails when they are bursting with wildflowers, or for bird lovers, see some endangered bird species amongst the trees. Whatever your reason for coming, Lost Maples State Park makes spending a day in nature and soaking in the Hill Country’s raw beauty as simple as can be.

Lost Maples State Park is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. It is also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour. For the avid hikers or those just looking to do a family hike, Lost Maples State Park is a gorgeous destination to explore.

Nostalgia – 3.75/5
Popularity – 3.75/5
Nature – 4.5/5
Food and Fun– 3.75/5
Rave Meter: 15.75

 

12. Pedernales Falls State Park

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Fox, mountain goats, cranes, lizards—a visit to Pedernales Falls State Park is plenty more than just a waterfall. This Johnson City jewel is where visitors can get into the Pedernales River as it flows over huge limestone slabs and splash, swim, tube, or even fish. Swimming in the river is a perfect respite from the Hill Country heat and a popular attraction for those who know about this small town treasure.

Hiking is at its best at this park. If you are interested in seeing the beautiful falls, take one of Pedernales Falls State Park’s well maintained hiking trails like the short Twin Falls Nature Trail and get a close look. Camping options are available from standard to hike-in primitive. The Wolf Mountain Trail is a great option for more avid hikers and along the way you experience mountains, canyons, creeks and small pools. Whether by horse, with your dog, on canoe, on foot or via inner tube, make it a point to explore Pedernales Falls State Park. Friendly, well organized staff make the trip here easy and all together enjoyable for rookies or experienced visitors of the state park system.

Pedernales Falls State Park is listed in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times and also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 3.5/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 4.25/5
Food and Fun– 4.5/5
Rave Meter: 15.25

 

13. Medina River

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Clear, tranquil, blue green water and a calm, inviting atmosphere encapsulate some of the virtues of the Medina River. Running through Bandera, the Medina River is a favorite place for locals and those in-the-know to take a leisurely float. Even better, grab a kayak and paddle away. Swimming, wading, using the rope swing, and jumping are of course other good options for a day on the the Medina. The current of the river and its small rapids make it ideal for families and for those who enjoy a slow, leisurely pace. Giant oak and cypress trees line the river back, creating a shady grotto for those enjoying the beauty of the Medina.

The Bandera City park is a great point of entry to the river. Accommodating park staff, facilities and picnic areas make the trip stress free. Kayak and tube rental is available if you didn’t bring your own gear and great views of the Medina River make it a popular spot for travellers to rest and enjoy the atmosphere.

The Medina River is #7 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. A paddle, float, or dip in the Medina is one of the Hill Country’s true treasures.

Nostalgia – 4.5/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 4.5/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 15

 

14. Gruene Hall

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They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Lucky for Gruene’s residents, Gruene Hall has been running since 1878, giving it the title of the oldest dance hall in Texas. With 6,000 feet of space, a well worn dance floor and big windows to let it the breeze on a hot night of two stepping, the atmosphere is ready for live music. And they deliver 7 nights a week. Hosting local talent and rising country stars, Gruene Hall stage has shined with big names like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, and Hal Ketchum. Whether watching from the inside or the outdoor garden area, good music is always playing.

When you come to Gruene Hall, expect classic Texas Hill Country vibes. Beer, wine and soda pop along with a basic litany of snack foods are ready for purchase. Families are welcome to soak in the ambiance for most shows and regular locals mix with those who are looking to check this off of their bucket list as a country music destination. Pull up a chair next to one of the long tables, worn and carved in with generations of initials and messages. The painted advertisements (some dating back to the early days of the hall), neon beer signs and artist memorabilia are a good reminder of the heritage of music that Gruene Hall has preserved.

Gruene is listed as one of the 5 Charming Texas Hill Country Towns by Texas Hill Country. Gruene Hall is in National Geographic’s Road Trip: Hill Country, Texas.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 3.75/5
Nature – 2.25/5
Food and Fun– 4.75/5
Rave Meter: 14.75

 

15. Garner State Park

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Raw, natural beauty that is easily accessible. The small town of Concan’s Hill Country treasure has to be Garner State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed this park, right on the banks of the Frio River beginning in 1935 by building roads, cabins, culverts and seating. They also built a combination building with an extensive dance pavilion. This is where the unique tradition of hosting weekend summer jukebox dances. For those with dancing feet, that tradition carries on even today. Get there early, as the parking lot fills up quickly!

Most people are drawn to the beautiful Frio River or Rio Frio. With its clean, clear water and enormous cypress trees lining the banks, it is an idyllic waterway. Hop on a inner tube and float the nearly three mile stretch of the Frio River, basking in the limestone cliffs and gorgeous views. Kayak, swim, or play mini golf. Geocache or hike the scenic trails, boasting some of the best views in the Hill Country. Garner State Park is one of the most popular camping destination in the state parks system. With options for screened shelters, group campsites and more, spending a night under the starry sky at Garner State Park can be a memory easily made.

Garner State Park is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 3.5/5
Nature – 4/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 14.5

16. Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area

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Are you ready for a bat show? Come to the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near Fredericksburg. An abandoned railway tunnel houses almost 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats plus around 3000 cave myotis bats from May to October. Each night during these months, visitors to this wildlife area are treated to a stunning show of the bats emerging from the cave in an upward counter clockwise spiral. Yes, all 3 million of them. Bring your binoculars, because if you are lucky, you can even see keen predators snatching the bats as they exit the cave. The popularity of this natural phenomenon has morphed into a whole bat show which visitors delight in each night. Come early to get a good free seat or choose to reserve a space in the ticketed area.

Park rangers present educational information and entertain crowds with their nightly program that accompanies the big emergence. Some primitive hiking trails are also available for visitors to explore. Due to the sensitive nature of the bat colony and Old Tunnel, visitors keep their distance from the Old Tunnel and no pets or camping is available. Seeing the bats emerge is nature at its most magnificent and truly thrilling. A show and spectacle not to be missed for bat lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 4.25/5
Nature – 4/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 14.25

17. Blanco Bowling Club Cafe

Take a step back in time when you enter the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe. It is an old fashioned, classic comfort food diner that makes you feel like you are having dinner at a favorite relative’s house. Serving meals since 1948, the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe has always been a family run cafe in the front and bowling club in the back. Making it even more unique and interesting is that it is the German style of 9 pin bowling, with different rules and live ‘pin setters.’ These are usually local kids who have the fun job of running between the lanes and resetting after a bowlers turn. Truly something to see as the Blanco Bowling Club is only one of eleven remaining German style clubs in the state.

Burgers, hot steak sandwiches, plate lunches, chicken fried steak are available in the cafe, not to mention All You Can Eat Catfish on Friday’s and a full breakfast menu. The Blanco Bowling Club Cafe is one of those well-worn in dining institutions where the waitress may just remember your name the next time you come in. Homemade donuts, cinnamon rolls, and the most indulgent meringue pies — with multiple inches of meringue on top — are what make people return again and again to the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe.

The Blanco Bowling Club Cafe is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour. It is also part of 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 4.5/5
Nature – 3/5
Food and Fun– 5/5
Rave Meter: 14

 

18. Comfort Meet Market

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Oozing warmth and laid-back Texas hospitality is the Comfort Meet Market, one of the most unique taverns in all of Hill County. Why can’t every tavern be like this place? Previously the town’s meat market, its second life as friendly gathering space has brought joy to small-town Comfort life. Owner operated, the Comfort Meet Market runs on an honor system. That’s right, you help yourself to an eclectic array of drinks in big coolers (typically imports to the left, domestics to the right) and give them your name. At the end of the night, you are tallied up and pay your tab. Locals have a knack for recognizing newcomers and instead of coldly turning the other way, pulling out a chair and starting a conversation. It is no surprise that many leave the Meet Market with new friends, met just a few hours before.

Seeing the good in everybody who walks in the door seems to be one of the Comfort Meet Market’s specialties. So is having a fantastic time with them. Open Friday and Saturday nights, the Meet Market is decorated with Beatles, VW, Elvis, and 60’s memorabilia. Classic country rock seems to be the music of choice inside, but the Meet Market also highlights local talent in their live music nights. Whether you are looking for a small town bar where you feel like a regular or need a unique place to host an event, the Meet Market is an unforgettable stop and a true Hill Country treasure.

The Comfort Meet Market is #3 on 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. Comfort is one of the 5 Charming Texas Hill Country Towns by Texas Hill Country.

Nostalgia – 4/5
Popularity – 3.75/5
Nature – 2/5
Food and Fun– 4/5
Rave Meter: 13.75

 

19. The National Museum of the Pacific War

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Complex, powerful, engaging. History buffs can’t believe the treasures this small town museum holds. Tucked in Fredericksburg, the hometown of hero Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, is the Admiral Nimitz Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War. The scale and scope of the displays of this museum is seriously impressive and can easily engage visitors for a length of time. Luckily, the admission passes are good for 48 hours, so you have extra time to view, learn, remember, and interact with military history. Over six acres, three museums, and indoor or outdoor exhibits make up the museum grounds.

Inside the museum, displays are curated for an optimal experience for visitors. Well organized and descriptive videos and stories which tell first-hand narratives and share knowledge are mixed with equipment, memorabilia, and artifacts from combat. Incredible information about the Pacific Combat Zone, Living History re-enactments and large scale pieces like a real mini sub from Pearl Harbor and a PT boat are all apart of the museum’s offerings. Step outside and see the Memorial Wall to veterans, a moving tribute.

The Admiral Nimitz Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour and in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times. A small town museum with a stunning array of displays.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity –3/5
Nature – 2.5/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 13.5

 

20. Love Creek Apple Store

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Known as the Apple Capital of Texas is Medina. When Baxter and Carol Adams moved onto a 2000 acre ranch they didn’t know they were going to be apple growers. When the planted 100 dwarf apple trees near Love Creek, they soon were overflowing with a bounty of the sweetest and best tasting apples they could have imagined. They bought a little rock house in town and started selling their bounty in the front room. Soon cars were coming from far and away to get a peck of the sweetest apples in Texas at the Love Creek Apple Store.

As the store’s popularity grew, so did the Love Creek Apple Store’s inventory. Homemade baked goods, apple products and local fare was added. Next the Patio Cafe began serving some of the tastiest sandwiches, pimento cheese, and the best burgers. Nothing can top Love Creek’s desserts. Who wouldn’t love a slice from a ‘Five Pounds of Apples in Every Pie’ delight or some of the indulgently creamy apple ice cream. And if you live too far away, make sure to bring home a dwarf apple tree for your own yard so you can enjoy a bite of out of one of the Hill Country’s delights from the Love Creek Apple Store.

The Love Creek Apple Store is #15 of 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. It is also mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia –3.25/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 3/5
Food and Fun–4/5
Rave Meter: 13.25

 

21. Welfare Cafe

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Hidden behind the unassuming old town Post Office is the Welfare Cafe. Its rustic vibe juxtaposes with a more sophisticated dining experience in the Hill Country and most definitely a Welfare small town treasure. Don’t drive too fast or you might pass right by. Whether eating in the memorabilia soaked dining room or enjoying the tranquility of a Texas night on the patio, dining at the Welfare Cafe will remind you of the town’s past, while the food’s fresh diversity will be perfect for the present moment. A huge array of wines, especially highlighting Texas wineries are available.

The menu at the Welfare Cafe will surprise and delight with its bold and innovative flavors. Seasonally changing to maximize the freshest ingredients, it really hits the mark. German influences like crispy pork schnitzel served with tangy sauerkraut or traditional German potato salad are mirrored by dishes like popular chicken Fredericksburg. Think of caramelized onions, jalapenos, garlic, and peaches in a white wine cream, sprinkled with pecans. Don’t miss their weekend brunches. Once you slow down and stop at this gem you will be dreaming about the next time you can visit.

The Welfare Cafe is part of 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times. Once you slow down and stop at this gem you will be dreaming about the next time you can visit.

Nostalgia – 3.5/5
Popularity – 3.5/5
Nature –2.5/5
Food and Fun– 3.5/5
Rave Meter: 13

 

22. Alamo Springs Café

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Way, way off the beaten path, but way, way worth it. A beautiful drive through the backroads of Fredericksburg brings you to the Alamo Springs Cafe. The restaurant is best known for its juicy, fresh burgers and crispy, fries (either regular or extra crispy batter dipped). Don’t miss the perfectly salted onion rings which have a cult following, along with the fried avocado, fried spicy green beans, and fried pickle sticks. Try one of the homemade milkshakes which are knock your socks off good. Specialty nights, like ribeye night is a feast with all the fixings. It is no wonder that this little cafe, all on its own, has throngs of visitors lining up for a bite.

Come early to get a table inside or enjoy the vast seating options outdoors. Live music happens on the weekends and the table spacing is so tight, you can’t help but get to know your neighbors. Service is efficient and speedy, delivering your taste buds what they have been craving since walking in the door. Many patrons set up their dinner to coincide with a visit to the bat caves at Old Tunnel State Park which is close by.

The Alamo Springs Cafe was #5 of 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living.  Whether you are there for a fried appetizer feast or just a Texas sized burger, small town Hill Country fare is at its best at the Alamo Springs Cafe.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 3.5/5
Nature – 3.25/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 12.75

 

23. Jacob’s Well Natural Area

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Dip, jump, hike, or just soak! Jacob’s Well Natural Area is a beautiful piece of land, totalling 81.5 acres located near Wimberley. Open for visitors to explore year round, Jacob’s Well Natural Area’s limestone cliffs, creeks, and swimming area are a nature lover’s paradise. The icy cool water is a shivering contrast to the hot Texas Hill Country heat in the summer, making it a popular place to cool down. Experienced open water divers appreciate the challenges this area presents, but for safety reason, some zones are restricted from public access.

Keep your eyes peeled for signs when you are coming to Jacob’s Well Natural Area, as it can be a bit tricky to find. When you get there, enjoy hiking one of the trails or just being a spectator to those who are daring enough to take the big plunge off the cliff. Adrenaline junkies love the jump at Jacob’s well. Jumpers get to experience the rush of the spring water bursting up from the aquifer. A reservation system is in place to control the numbers of swimmers and jumpers in the park and visitors should plan accordingly if they are planning on taking the plunge.

Jacob’s Well Natural Area is one of the 11 Hidden Gems of the Texas Hill Country by Wide Open Country. A small town, bucket-list worthy treasure.

Nostalgia –3/5
Popularity – 2.5/5
Nature – 3.5/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 12

 

24. Billy Gene’s Restaurant

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Texas Hill Country hospitality overflows at Kerrville’s popular eatery Billy Gene’s Restaurant. Billy Gene’s is situated along the banks of the gorgeous Guadalupe River, giving patrons a great view as they dig into hearty classics either inside through enormous glass windows or on their extensive patio. Reasonable prices along with efficient and friendly service make Billy Gene’s a restaurant that Kerrville locals return to and visitors will drive and make a special stop at. Open for lunch and dinner, Billy Gene’s knows how to deliver consistently good Hill Country food. Immediately upon stepping inside the restaurant, diners are well taken care of and can sit back and enjoy homemade comfort food.

Billy Gene’s is best known for the chicken fried steak. Covered in gravy, the crispy beef is their top seller. Their thick and juicy burgers, spicy enchiladas, dude ranch chicken, and creamy chicken delight salad are also always winners. Dessert is nothing to forget about at Billy Gene’s. Their cobblers come in four different flavors from pecan to blackberry, peach and cherry. Their meringue pies are fluffy decadence. To keep patrons waiting in sweet anticipation, they even have a dessert of the week special. Whether wanting a casual lunch or a nice entree for dinner, Billy Gene’s is a destination in Kerrville.

Billy Gene’s Restaurant is listed in National Geographic’s Road Trip: Hill Country, Texas.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 3.5/5
Nature – 2/5
Food and Fun– 3.25/5
Rave Meter: 11.75

 

25. Blanco Lavender Festival

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Historic and quaint, the city of Blanco’s Lavender Festival is a small town treasure to experience. Held annually in June, the Blanco Lavender Festival coincides with lavender being in full bloom, creating a rich atmosphere and unforgettable scenery. In downtown Blanco, situated around the historic courthouse built in 1885, the Lavender Market is a hub of festival happenings. With lavender displayed in various forms, from artists and vendors with diverse backgrounds, the aroma is magnificent. Whether you are looking for lavender honey, lavender soaps or salts, you can find it at the festival. A source of town pride and a highlight of the early summer season, the whole town of Blanco seems to come out and enjoy the beauty and celebration. Educational sessions, live music, and foods with lavender flair are offered.

Hop in your car and take a drive out on Lavender Weekend to one of Blanco’s lavender farms. Each farm takes a different spin to Lavender Festival Weekend.  Beyond a farm tour of the lavender fields, you might stumble upon live entertainment, children’s activities, lavender products, or crafts. Fresh lavender can be brought home right from the farm.

The Blanco Lavender Festival is #8 of 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. Don’t forget to try a popular lavender ‘Lizzie,’ a lavender infused mimosa-type drink made especially for the weekend festivities.

Nostalgia –3/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 2.5/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 11.5

 

26. Marburger Orchard

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Known for its delicious Hill Country peaches, Marburger Orchard located South of Fredericksburg is such a hidden delight, locals might not want to tell you about it in fear that you will get some of their coveted produce instead of them. The Marburger family takes great pride in their well-maintained, environmentally conscious orchard. They work hard to provide a family friendly ambiance that gives children a chance see the whole process, from plant or tree to basket. When you arrive at the orchard, depending on what is in season at the moment, you may be able to pick your own peaches, strawberries, cantaloupe, vegetables, or even Asian pears. Peaches remain their primary crop and what Marburger Orchards is legendary for.

If you are able to pick your own product, you are first given a short tutorial by Marburger Orchard’s staff on how to select the best, most prime piece. This short instruction keeps the crops growing at their optimum. In the talk you are also given a bit of the Marburger Orchard history. Pick your size container and enjoy your day in the fields, ending with a bounty of delicious fruit or veggies. Some already picked products are available for purchase in a retail shed as well.

Marburger Orchards is #9 of 16 Adventures in Texas’ Hidden Hill Country by Southern Living. Hill Country peaches are a true delight and small town treasure.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 2.25/5
Nature –3/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 11.25

27. Redbud Cafe and Brieger Pottery

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A Blanco favorite, the Redbud Cafe takes a fresh take on cafe food, offering local and organic ingredients with a bit of flair. A great place to grab lunch, the town’s historic former hardware store also stays open late for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights with local live music. Nearby Blanco breweries are featured along with a nice selection of local wine. Every item is made to order and diners seem to agree, it is worth the wait! Owner operated, the Redbud Cafe caters to locals and those visiting downtown Blanco. Try the Redbud chicken salad, bursting with pecans, apples, herbs, and purple onion. The classic reuben is a favorite, as are the classic Blanco or spicy blaze of glory burgers.

Inside the cafe, patrons will get a taste of the brilliant artistic community that exists in Blanco. Local artists are invited to display their work in a tri-monthly rotation and seamlessly transition the mix of good food and good art to the other passion of Redbud owners Jon and Jan Brieger, pottery. Adjoining the cafe is Brieger Pottery, which some might say is their first passion. Selling a variety of functional pottery, lavender products, and the work of other artists from wind chimes to jewelry. A great place to stop after a sandwich and support local artists, get fair trade items or find a unique, off-beat treat.

Redbud Cafe and Brieger Pottery are featured in 36 Hours in Texas Hill Country from the New York Times.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 1.75/5
Food and Fun– 3.25/5
Rave Meter: 11

 

28. Blanco State Park

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Created by a Civilian Conservation Corps company in 1933, Blanco State Park is a place to relax, swim, fish, or even stay overnight. The stone picnic tables, benches, and old pump house built with the labor of the CCC are still on the grounds today. Blanco State Park is a convenient stop as you travel the Hill Country and has a pleasant array of activities and offerings. The beautiful spring-fed Blanco River draws visitors with its cool, clean water and stocked river fishing. Rods and reels are available to borrow at the park office and you don’t need a license to shore fish. Geocaching, ranger talks and children’s events are also offered. Borrow a backpack from the rangers with binoculars and activities to aid in exploring the park.

Many are drawn to Blanco State Park to get a dip in the Blanco River. Tubes are available to rent or you can bring your own. Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercrafts are welcome for a leisurely day on the river. Children of all ages will especially love the shallow wading area by Falls Dam. With waterfalls all around, it is splash heaven and a great family friendly place to enjoy the water. Stay overnight in one of the many camping options and expect a clean and friendly Hill Country experience.

Blanco State Park is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia –2/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 3/5
Food and Fun– 2.75/5
Rave Meter: 10.75

 

29. Old Camp Verde General Store

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The Old Camp Verde General Store is a true hidden treasure of the Hill Country, steeped in history and still full of life. Started in 1857 and rebuilt in 1900, the store was a supplier to soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Verde. When the fort was closed, the store had become an important pillar of the surrounding community and survived. Given new life in 2003, the store now boasts an array of eclectic and quirkily curated goods and a scrumptious restaurant. Whether you are having some of Donna’s famous meatloaf, a honey nutterbutter or a hotsy totsy, the Old Camp Verde General Store’s signature spin makes each bite distinctive. Try the sweet potato tots or the tangy fried pickles.

Why all the camels? As you look around the Old Camp Verde General Store you will see a lot of camels. This is a reoccurring nod to one of the most unique times in the Camp Verde history. In the mid-nineteenth century, Camp Verde was the main headquarters for an experimental program by the army called the U.S. Camel Corps. Bringing in camels to use in military engagements as pack animals failed to be a success, but adds to the charm and story of Camp Verde.

The Old Camp Verde General Store is mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour.

Nostalgia – 3/5
Popularity – 3/5
Nature – 1.5/5
Food and Fun– 3/5
Rave Meter: 10.5

 

30. Cherry Spring Dance Hall

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Cherry Spring Dance Hall has a rich heritage and musical legacy. Built in 1889, this Cherry Spring heritage building was originally intended as a resting stop for cowboys on long cattle drives on the Pinta Trail. Gradually it became a music venue that presently has attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment. Buck Owens, Ernest Tubbs, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, and even a young unknown, Elvis Presley. Good music has always been the priority at Cherry Springs Dance Hall. Primarily country, the hall has hosted a surprisingly wide variety of artists in its long life.

The interior of the hall is adorned with well worn cedar tables and a hand carved cypress bar. A large stage and dance floor fill out the 11,000 foot space. Cherry Spring Dance Hall has suffered through recent years of decay and inconsistent upkeep, making it a priority for preservation by local dance hall organizations. The hope that Cherry Spring Dance Hall will rise and its rich heritage preserved is still alive. Although not currently functioning, Cherry Spring Dance Hall remains a Hill Country treasure, waiting for its chance at a second life.

Mentioned in Texas Monthly’s The Ultimate Hill Country Tour, take a drive past Cherry Springs Dance Hall and imagine the possibilities.

Nostalgia – 5/5
Popularity – 1/5
Nature – 3/5
Food and Fun– 1/5
Rave Meter: 10

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