Thursday, February 21, 2019

Five Historic Towns Worth Checking Out in Texas Hill Country

5 historic towns in Texas Hill Country blog cover image

With its perfect blend of natural features and charm, it is no surprise that the Texas Hill Country attracts millions of visitors annually. Starting from its picturesque landscapes, wine vineyards, and the strong presence of antique historical landmarks dating back hundreds of years, there’s always something for everyone visiting Texas.

Even while enjoying the numerous outdoor activities, your trip could never be more complete without visiting the historical landmarks spread throughout Texas. Below are 5 historic towns that are worth checking out during your next trip to Texas Hill Country:

street view of Fredericksburg Main Street


Located east of the center of Gillespie County, Fredericksburg is one must visit-town for history enthusiasts. This town was founded in 1846, and named after Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia – a prince, general of the royal cavalry, and Division Commander.

Sometimes the town goes by the nickname ‘Fritztown’ which dates back to the old-time German residents. Fredericksburg is home to Chester Williams Nimitz, Sr., a fleet admiral of the United States Navy who was a major role player as a Commander-in-Chief and Pacific Fleet Commander in the World War II.

Fredericksburg is also well known as the home of the Texas German dialect which originates from the first generation German settlers who refused to learn English. Well, such are the features that have earned Fredericksburg a place in the National Register of Historic Places in Texas.

To get the real taste of history, head down to the Baron’s Creek at Fort Martin Scott. Founded in 1848, the site was used by the Confederate Army, US Army, and the Texas Rangers. Today, these grounds are home to the Texas Rangers Heritage Center.

What makes it livelier is that they offer live demos and hold events around the history and folklore of the Rangers.

folks outside on Bandera's Main Street during an event


It has a small population of around 900 residents (as per 2010 census) and a total area of around 3.10 square km. Don’t be fooled by its size, Bandera still holds some of the juiciest historical story-lines in Texas Hill Country.

The town which is the county seat of Bandera County lies in the Edwards Plateau. It is also well known by its nickname ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ which can be explained by its American Cowboy history dating back late in the 19th Century.

Bandera is home to the legendary Frontier Times Museum opened by author, historian, and printer John Marvin Hunter. While entering Bandera, you will see a sign street on the Main Street stating that Bandera was founded by the Roman Catholic immigrants. That also explains the St. Stanislaus Catholic church which is among the oldest buildings in all of Texas.

Bandera is also home to several music legends such as Robert Earl Keen, the Bruce & Charlie Robinson brothers, and the legendary western actor and singer Rudy Robbins. Did you know that Bandera is home of the Arkey Blue Silver Dollar honky-tonk country bar included in the 1975 horror film, Race with the Devil?

old-fashioned shops lining the main street of Llano


Llano Town started more like a frontier trading center with a few log-building housing as business establishments in the 1870s.

You will find the Llano Courthouse has a history dating back to 1893. The first Llano Courthouse was an ornate brick building completed in 1885 but later destroyed by a fire on January 22, 1892. 
There’s also the Llano County Museum located on the northern end of the Llano River. You will find exhibits on local history and collections of the 1930s world-class polo player and Llano native, Cecil Smith.

Other places in Llano listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Llano Jail, Badu Building, and the Southern Hotel.

In October of every year, Llano downtown residents set aside time for their Wild West Weekend. The event features chuck wagons, street dances, and even live music author readings. In Llano, your lesson on the value of western history and heritage is not only nourishing but also with plenty of fun activities as well.

stately buildings on Kerrville's main street


In addition to the beautiful parks lining the Guadalupe River, there’s a number of historical landmarks dating back to many decades ago. Kerrville was named after James Kerr, a doctor, politician, and a Major in the Texas Revolution.

The Museum of Western Art in Kerrville was founded in 1983 and features work of living artists who specialize in themes of the American West. It boasts of a collection with roughly 25 paintings, 150 sculptures, and a number of other artifacts.

Each year, there’s the Kerrville Folk Festival featuring folk musicians from all over the country. The event has been running annually since 1972 and goes on for 18 consecutive summer days at Quiet Valley Ranch.

Kerrville is home to the Capt. Charles Mansion which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mansion, which has its history dating back to early 1960s, is now home to the Hill Country Museum – which is operated by Schreiner University.

Enchanted Rock

Not exactly a town, but if its historical nourishment you are seeking, Enchanted Rock is definitely your place. Enchanted Rock is situated in the Llano Uplift approximately 27 km (17 miles) north of Fredericksburg and 39 km (24 miles) south of Llano.

In 1936, Enchanted Rock was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – which is awarded by Texas Historical Commission for ‘historical and architecturally significant properties in the State of Texas.'

Human habitation on Enchanted Rock has been traced back at least 10, 000 years (as per the archaeological evidence found.)

But perhaps, what makes the Rock stand out more are its popular legends dating back to as early as the 16th Century. There’s folklore of Tonkawa, Comanche, and Apache tribes ascribing spiritual and magical powers to the rock – and thus its name, ‘Enchanted Rock.’

Should you decide to take a hike, you will find a plaque with the story about Ranger John Coffee Hays, who, as the legend goes, held off an Indian raid for around three hours while waiting for help to arrive – all that time using the natural rock formations as cover.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

5 Must-Visit Music Venues in Texas Hill Country

5 best music venues in Texas Hill Country blog cover image

Each year, at least 5 million people are attracted to the magnificent wonders of Texas Hill Country. One visit to its tiny old towns with unique character and culture, combined with the cowboys and other limitless activities will leave you craving for another trip here.

To most, Texas Hill Country is home to some of the best jazz, country, rock, and rockabilly music of all time. Below is a list of the 5 must-visit music venues you should not miss on your next trip to Texas.

classic cars parked on the street outside The Continental Club

Continental Club - Austin

The Continental Club on South Congress Ave. has been a popular hub for country, rock, rockabilly, and swing music since the 1950s. It might be a small room (it has a capacity of around 300 people) but popular artists such as Joey Ely, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Kinky Friedman happen to have played on this stage.

When it was opened in the late 1950s, it started off as a BYOB private supper club which featured acts like those of Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey. The ’60s saw its transition to a burlesque club and by the 70s and 80s, it had begun booking acts like Butthole Surfers, Vaughan, and WC Clark.

In the present day, the club features local and national rock, rockabilly, and swing acts. So if you happen to be a fan of any of these genres, this might just be your perfect hub in Austin.

You can always pop in at night - regardless of the day of the week, and still, enjoy some of the best music from Texas natives such as Toni Price and James McMurtry.

man in a cowboy hat playing the violin

11th Street Cowboy Bar – Bandera

If you are looking for the Cowboy Capital of Texas, the 11th Street Cowboy Bar should be your first choice. Branded as the ‘Biggest Little Bar in Texas’, 11th Street features some of the best country swing bands and country western in the state. 

This bar is quite popular and it often attracts visitors from around the world. Cowboys and bikers mingling with locals are a common sight in this venue –which further explains its popularity.

11th Street Cowboy Bar has also been featured in numerous shows and magazines including the Texas Highways, Texas Monthly, Life Magazine, The Oprah Show, the Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Southern Living, and the San Antonio Express-News, among others.

During the 2008 Texas Presidential Primary and Texas Elections, the bar hosted ‘Live on CNN.’
Being a music venue, the 11th Street features top-notch Texas talent every week. If you are lucky enough, you might stumble across their jam sessions which are open to everyone.

the white face and water tower of the Gruene Hall

Gruene Hall – Gruene

Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas. It has a 6,000 square foot dance hall built by Heinrich D. Gruene. The original layout was maintained and it still has side flaps for open-air dancing, a bar in the front, a small lighted stage located in the back and an outdoor garden.

This venue regularly attracts some of the biggest acts in music, including George Strait, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Greg Allman, Hal Ketchum, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Loretta Lynn among other popular artists.

One interesting thing about this venue is that even when they don’t have any live music lined up, you can always stop for a cold drink and enjoy the view of signed portraits of country music legends –dating to more than 100 years ago.

Being a historic venue, the Gruene Hall has been featured in numerous books, including Pat Green’s Dancehalls & Dreamers. If you are a country music fan with a passion of history and its antiques, there’s no better spot in Texas than this.

It is advisable you check out with their official website to familiarize yourself with the upcoming events and shows. You might also consider purchasing your tickets in advance prior to your visit.

lit up rafters inside the Luckenbach Dance Hall

Luckenbach Dance Hall – Luckenbach

It is located and named after the tiny Hill Country town of Luckenbach. The history of its popularity dates way back in 1973 when Jerry Jeff Walker, alongside the Lost Gonzo Band recorded the live album Viva Terlingua in this very hall.

The hall no doubt still holds its own piece of fame from the popularity the album has generated over the years.

Since then, this venue has been a host to major acts including Jennings, Pat Green, Nelson, Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett. 

In the present day, Luckenbach Dance Hall holds dances and concerts nearly every weekend. The concerts feature some of the best artists on the Texas music scene, so it’s definitely worth your time.

You might, however, consider booking your ticket early in advance to evade the hustle of the last minute rush. Their official website displays their lined up events and also guides you on how to access the venue – including tickets.

Broken Spoke – Austin

James White drew inspiration from the old Austin venues such as the Moosehead Tavern, the Barn on North Lamar, and Dessau Hall to build the Broken Spoke. He began building it in 1964 and by December of the same year, it had opened to 300 guests.

Today, Broken Spoke still stands out with its iconic red color and an Oak tree stationed at its front.
Two years after its launch, James White booked Bob Wills – who also happened to have been one of his childhood heroes. Later, he booked other big names including Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubbs, Hank Thompson, Kitty Wells, Tex Ritter, Ray Price, and George Strait, among others.

Despite the recent condo and retail developments growing around this legendary venue, Broken Spoke still retains the Austin tradition. This venue also stands out because of the great dishes it offers. Visitors get to enjoy great lunch specials of chicken fried steak, fried chicken, and grilled chicken every Friday and Saturday.

Visitors can enjoy free shows hosted every Tuesday-Saturday night from various popular bands. You can also take part in the two-step/swing lessons offered every Wednesday-Saturday in the evening.