Johnson City, Texas
The courthouse and town square are adorable with several artisan shops and antique shops all within walking distance.
The problem Johnson City faces is that it hasn't developed itself into a destination. Lots of people travel through it on their way to Fredericksburg. They may stop for gas...it has one of the cheapest gas pumps in central texas...but they don't stop for much else.
I find it to be more authentic and genuine than Fredericksburg. You'll find real people trying to eek out an income to support their families in this idyllic location.
A ghost town waiting to be revived
Plan to spend at least an hour or two in the town. There's a wonderful little art gallery (Debra Goldstein Fine Art). The owner/curator is very hospitable and didn't pressure us to make any purchases. She just enjoyed discussing the art and artists. Take a quick drive around the town square, one block north of hwy 290, and see if you can spot a shop to pop into.
The Hill Country Science Mill is a family destination offering a fun, interactive learning environment for all ages. Through cutting-edge technology-based exhibits, games, and programs, the Science Mill expands students' understanding and appreciation of science in their everyday lives. By igniting their curiosity and inspiring them to pursue post-secondary education, the Science Mill experience starts students on the path to a life-long career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Check out The Old Lumber Yard (209 E Main Street, (phone 830.868.2381). This shop has new and antique items. New pieces range from clothing, plates, candles and jewelry. Antiques are arranged in "stalls" with individual sellers renting space. It's much bigger inside than the exterior lets on.
During the winter holidays, Pedernales Electric lights up their offices with 1000's of lights and horse-drawn buggies carry visitors around the square and over to see the lights. I felt transported back 50 years, back to a time where a different sensibility and different values flourished.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that this was the boyhood home of President Lyndon B. Johnson. This small white house is open for visitors from 9am-5pm, 1 block south of the hwy (follow the signs).
Johnson City Restaurants
You might try lunch at the Silver K cafe. You can order sandwiches, salads, grilled sandwiches. They offer some sandwiches in 1/2 orders, but there is no kids' menu. Try the Prickly Pear Iced Tea. It was refreshing and smooth on a hot day.
Check out the cactus chandelier hanging from open trusses under the metal roof. A fresh rosemary sprig stood at attention on our table adding to the earthy feel of our surroundings.
Prices are reasonable, $4 for a 1/2 sandwich. $6-7 whole sandwich. Most lunch items ran between $6-8. Cloth napkins and courteous staff add to the elegant, yet rustic atmosphere.
Other Spots not to miss near Johnson City
Pedernales Falls is located outside of Johnson City -- this is a beautiful water spot where you can spend a whole day.
"Pedernales Falls is the park's main attraction and may be viewed from a scenic overlook at the north end of the park. In this area, the elevation of the river drops about 50 feet over a distance of 3000 feet, and the cascading falls are formed by the flow of water over the tilted, stair-step effect of layered limestone." - Texas Gov website
My family loves this park. First go take a look at the falls. It's a downhill grade to the viewing area. It's longer on the way back for some reason, especially in the summer. You can continue on down to the banks of the river although in certain areas there is no swimming or wading.
Head down river a bit and jump from boulder to boulder to explore. Dogs were in tow by several people -- or rather people were in tow behind their dogs - so I assume dogs are allowed to frolic here.
Once you've had your fill of this area, get back in your car and drive to the river parking. This is the spot where you can actually get wet. It's another hike down a loooong wooden-planked set of stairs. Again, it's much steeper and longer on the way up.
You could easily while away a day at Pedernales Falls State Park if you pack in your own water and food.
Open: 7 days a week year-round, except when wildlife management activities dictate closure of all or part of the park.