Fredericksburg Texas: Day Trips
Exploring Lyndon B Johnson's Life and Presidency
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson CityJohnson City, by the way, was named after a somewhat distant relative and not after LBJ. I confess, I didn’t even know there was a Johnson City, but it exists and is quite charming. We had little time to linger, though, we were to spend the morning exploring LBJ’s life and more.
Start your everything-LBJ tour at the Visitor Center. As part of the National Park Service, everything was well thought-out. The Visitor Center has some excellent exhibits about his years in office and two 30-minute films, including one on Lady Bird.
Next we walked to the boyhood home where LBJ lived from age 5 until he married Lady Bird at age 26. The home has been restored back to the way it would have looked in the 1920s. Although modest by today’s standards, it was a very comfortable home for the time. There are also outbuildings that have been reconstructed, including LBJ’s boyhood outhouse.
LBJ Ranch DistrictOur next stop was over to the LBJ Ranch District. Drivers must check in at the Visitor Center and receive a driving permit through the Park. But you'll also pick up a map indicating the tour route and a CD containing a narrative tour of the route.
Some of the highlights are the one-room school house where Johnson learned to read. It’s a very engaging reconstruction. Although visitors are not allowed inside, peering through the window is encouraged.
We stopped by the cemetery which Johnson and Lady Bird are buried, and then, the Texas White House.
The Texas White HouseThe land for the Ranch District was donated by Johnson on two conditions -- that it remain a working ranch, and that their beloved house be brought back to its 1968 condition. As a result, there are Herford cows roaming the land. Lady Bird died in 2007 and the house has just been opened for tours. Extensive work is being done to retro-renovate the house to bring it back to its 1968 look. President Johnson's office (the west room) was opened to the public on the 100th anniversary of his birth, August 27, 2008. The living room and dining room were opened in June 2009. I highly recommend the tour. What makes the tour are the stories told about LBJ by the NPS guide. What might be called the Back Story of LBJ.
The guide points out the Telstar building which housed the satellite communication system, talks about the ancient live oak tree under which Johnson liked to hold meetings. There are the stories about LBJ’s love of speed and drinking and how he would put his hat over the speedometer of his car when passengers worried about how fast he was driving. He also apparently installed a wet bar. I would have happily listened to the stories for hours, but the tour only lasts about 20 fascinating minutes.
Enchanted Rock really is an enchanting place with huge granite domes that looks like they bubbled up from the ground. If you don’t think huge granite domes make for visual excitement, well, they do. And it makes for hikes of all kinds. The formations are uniquely beautiful, unlike anything I’ve seen. The Loop Trail circumnavigates the entire site. Although it doesn’t rise to the top for far-away views, it does enable hikers to enjoy the domes from all vantage points, as well as intriguing and unique smaller formations. Allow several hours for hiking. If you plan ahead, you can bring a picnic lunch with you. It's a fascinating and beautiful place and you'll find many spots to stop and enjoy a bit of lunch.
Wineries of Fredericksburg and Texas Hill Country
Grape Creek Winery
Grape Creek is charming Italian villa inspired winery with two tasting menus with the White Label being less expensive. The viognier was my personal favorite. It’s a little on the sweet side, which I usually don’t enjoy, but with such rich fruit flavors that it was a delicious experience. If your taste runs to dessert wines, their Muscat Canelli is a stunning dessert wine. Based on the muscat grape it has a distinctively delicious aroma and flavor.
Torre di Pietna (Tower of Stone)
Torre di Pietna (Tower of Stone)
Their Red Flirt is a sweetish red wine created to go with Texan cuisine and is available in single serving bottles. Another whimsical wine is their Texas Dirty Girl which is a chardonnay aged in steel. They also make a white port (Porto Blanco) based on the muscato grape. On Saturdays from 2 to 6 pm they feature live music.
One of Fredericksburg newest wineries, Pedernales Cellars is an oasis with views, wine, and wonderful meats and cheese available. We sat out under the trees, sampled their carefully crafted wines, and finger-food provided by Friendly Bar & Bistro in Johnson City. Yes, you can learn about wine, buy a few bottles, but you can also buy a glass of wine, some nibbles, and sit on their welcoming outside deck. I particularly enjoyed their 2007 Stonewall Viognier, and their 2008 Stonewall Muscat Canelli. With the lush fruitiness of the muscat, and is clearly a bit of golden liquid dessert.
This was our final stop and it was surely a case of saving the best for last. The wines of Becker Vineyards have a well deserved reputation for excellence. Texas hill country doesn’t offer the best growing conditions so they have farmers across the state who grow their grapes enabling Becker to tailor the grapes to the soil and weather conditions. The malbec was smooth and their chenin blanc was light and fruity with a hint of sweetness. Actually, every wine we tried was excellent. After enjoying the wine tasting, visitors are encouraged to see the three acres of lavender.
There are several other wineries on the Wine Road 290, Chisholm Trail Winery, Fredericksburg Winery (located in the town of Fredericksburg), Rancho Ponte Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard and Woodrose. Sadly I couldn’t drink our way through all of them, although I did try. You can find them on WineRoad - 290
Let There Be a Town of Music
If you love music, and setting outdoors in an informal and no-cost setting, head to Luckenbach, Texas, the place made famous by Waylon Jennings’ and Willie Nelson’s 1976 county music hit. Although once an actual town it’s now a 10 acre complex with a circa 1908 dance hall, general store and bar, and outside stage. But Luckenbach offers something few other places provide – free live music every day. Free as in no charge, for music or for parking. How do they make money? “T-shirts and beer,” says Abbey, the Event Coordinator for Luckenbach. We sat on wooden benches, at rustic tables, and as the sky darkened, enjoy our intimate outdoor concert. Folks come in, buy a beer (or two or three), listen to music.
Stop by the visitors center at 302 East Austin in downtown Fredericksburg for a wealth of pamphlets and print materials, plus advice and information.
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