A Texas Hill Country, small-town charmer with scenic beauty all around meets history, hills, wine, and wildflowers — that’s Johnson City in a nutshell. Located right in the heart of wine country, this town is not to be missed when planning a visit to the hill country.
You can spend a day exploring Johnson City, but you may want to stay longer to see one of the prettiest state parks — Pedernales Falls State Park — and the Boyhood Home of Lyndon B. Johnson. Plus, I found the best coffee in town here.
While you’re there, you might want to visit Johnson City’s neighbors — Stonewall and Hye. Each has its own authentic spin on the hill country. Visiting Marble Falls is a great choice, too; it’s only about a 25-minute drive on Highway 281 in the opposite direction from Fredericksburg. Before anything, stop by Johnson City Visitor Center, pick up a visitor’s guide, and meet the friendly staff.
Many travelers think of the town Fredericksburg when planning to visit the hill country, but I suggest putting Johnson City on your list. And here’s why.
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1. Home Of Lyndon Baines Johnson, America’s 36th President
In 1913, Lyndon B. Johnson was 5 years old when his family moved from their farm in Stonewall to Johnson City — living there until his high school graduation in 1924. To this day, his boyhood home looks much the same as it did in 1937. Lyndon B. Johnson’s roots lie in Stonewall and Johnson City.
LBJ’s boyhood home and the Johnson Settlement are at 100 Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City.
LBJ State Park Historic Site Visitor Center and the LBJ Ranch are located in Stonewall (13 miles west of Johnson City). The LBJ Ranch is where he was born, lived, died, and was buried.
You can read more about his life in Texas, history, closures, and tours at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
2. Drive-Thru Johnson City Coffee Company
Not just any coffee, locally-owned Johnson City Coffee Co. has the best coffee I’ve ever had. It beats any K-cup I’ve ever tried. And, the best part: it’s $2 for a medium cup of Joe… and that price includes tax. I wished I lived closer to go by each morning for coffee. They also offer specialty coffee drinks and light, refrigerated meals. Drive-thru, sit outside, or, if time permits, pop in to see their adorable farmhouse decor, including a huge framed photo of a cow.
3. Enjoy Wine And Cheese At Farmhouse Vineyards And Marketplace
A splendid way to start your day (after the coffee), or a pleasant way to end it in town, would be to enjoy a wine tasting and a cheese board at Farmhouse Vineyards & Marketplace. They have ample seating inside and outside. Plus, the Tipsy Trailer on the property makes an adorable picture-taking opportunity. Every now and then, they have special events that involve the Tipsy Trailer opening to serve wine to visitors. If you want to try different wines, may I suggest their signature wine, The Boyfriend? When we were there, we loved the name, so we had to try it, but my favorite is a red wine called Ramble On.
4. Stay Somewhere Fancy In Johnson City
Finding and staying in quaint rentals is part of the travel experience, especially in the hill country. Katy Jane owns the Farmhouse Vineyard & Marketplace and has two home rentals in town. One is across the street within walking distance of her winery. The other is down the street from the winery.
The Vagabonds Farmhouse on Vrbo is where I recently stayed. What I love the most about her place is the eclectic decor. It’s hard to explain, but it’s well put together and professionally done. I asked Katy Jane who is her decorator, and she said it was her. She did a fabulous job, just like she has done with her winery and her other rental.
The Tasting House! A Winegrower’s Cottage
About a 3-minute drive from the winery and not far from the Johnson City Coffee Co., The Tasting House is a delightful home chock-full of Katy Jane’s eclectic style where you can rent the entire cottage on Airbnb.
New Life Farms Bed And Breakfast
Long-time residents of Johnson City, Michael and Amy Normand, love to welcome visitors to their bed and breakfast and serve their guests a delicious homemade breakfast each morning. New Life Farms BnB is available to rent on Airbnb.
5. Dine In Johnson City
When visiting small towns, eating at local restaurants is one of the highlights of traveling.
Bryans On 209
Bryans On 209 is where everybody we asked suggested we eat. On my second visit, we did walk down there to check out the menu outside for everyone to view. We were told reservations are a must, especially on weekends and when special events are in town. Since everything is within walking distance, we wanted to check it out before making reservations. We heard the steaks are good and the desserts are even better, but it was a little pricey for us, so we went across the street. I will make it here one of these days.
Proof And Cooper
Share a meal or not, the menu is complete with southern barbeque, salads, and the works. The meals were hefty both times I ate here. There’s no need to be in a hurry when dining here. Proof and Cooper is a great option for when Bryans On 209 is full. The location is 209 East Main Street and catty-corner from the Farmhouse Vineyard.
Fat Boy Burgers
And then there are good, delicious hamburgers smothered in onions on a sesame bun — complete goodness if you ask me. Fat Boy Burgers packs it on high with a side of fries or onion rings. Don’t worry, they offer chicken and salads too.
6. Science Mill
The Science Mill offers a learning environment for all ages with its interactive indoor and outdoor activities with exhibits that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, aka STEM. It’s a great place to take the grandkids.
For museum updates and admission, visit Science Mill before you go.
7. The Exotic Resort Zoo
Built from scratch, the Exotic Resort Zoo owners, Dennis and Marilyn Bacque, had a love for animals before they thought of building the zoo. Their love for all animals has grown into a family experience like no other. They now offer safari cabins to rent with a fishing pond to make it more of a family destination. You can drive through or take a guided tour of the zoo. You can even stay in safari cabins. That would be fun, especially if the kids are with you.
The zoo is open every day, and if you go by the visitor center and pick up the Johnson City magazine, there is a coupon inside for 15 percent off general admission.
8. Visit The Wineries On Highway 290
Start in Johnson City and head west on Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg for all the wineries you can imagine. I’ve lost count of how many there are just on this highway, but the wine country starts here! This winery route is the most popular route to take when visiting wineries in the Texas Hill Country, so be prepared to stop the car… a lot. My two favorite wineries on Highway 290 are Hye Meadow Winery and Ron Yates Wines. Both places served us well.
9. Pedernales Falls State Park
So much to see, so much to love. I finally got to visit. The blue-green water was so surreal, with views of the rocks, hills, and the path it took to get there and back, I could have stayed longer. I did not hike, but there are numerous trails for hiking.
To see the entire park could take a full day, especially if kids are with you. They are going to want to swim, but there is only a certain area that allows swimming. That is a question you might want to ask the park ranger at the Trading Post. Just know it’s a lot of walking and some areas have steep rocks to go down to the water. I did see benches along the way.
You don’t have to be outdoorsy to enjoy Pedernales Falls State Park. The color of the water and waterfalls is enough to want to see this popular state park in the Texas Hill Country. Don’t be surprised if the falls are not flowing. When I was there, the area hadn’t had rain in months, which affected the waterfall.
Pro Tip: It’s best to make reservations online because they only allow a certain number of visitors daily. Saturdays will sell out fast.
Pedernales Falls Trading Post
Another great place to get a burger is down the road from Pedernales Falls State Park. I stumbled on this place and I’m glad I did — the best hamburger I’ve had in years! The place was out in nowhere, and I hesitated to go inside, but I was hungry. It’s a rustic tavern with “Trading Post” on the front. Its real name is Pedernales Falls Trading Post and it’s just right of the park going towards Johnson City at 947 Ranch Road 2766.
Wildflowers In Spring
I can’t go without mentioning the beautiful wildflowers in this part of Texas. If you’re lucky to be in the area in the springtime, there are many routes to take to see the beautiful fields of flowers. While in Johnson City, travel west on Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg — you’ll see plenty of flowers. Turn and keep going on Highway 16 towards LLano to see more.
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