Johnson City might be summed up as a small gem in the Texas Hill Country where hills, history, wine, and fun all come together. This small town, which is situated smack dab in the middle of wine country, should not be overlooked while making travel plans for the hill region.
Johnson City is located on the banks of the Pedernales River, an hour west of Austin. It takes around three and a half hours to get there from Houston, about an hour to get there from San Antonio or New Braunfels, and about four hours from Dallas. Dripping Springs is around 25 minutes apart from Johnson City.
The Pedernales River is a tributary of the Colorado River that flows through Central Texas in the United States. It is about 106 miles (171 km) long.
It flows from west to east across the Texas Hill Country, draining a portion of the Edwards Plateau. First used in the middle of the 18th century, the name “Pedernales” is derived from the Spanish word for the flint rocks that are typical of the riverbed.
East of Johnson City in Blanco County, along the river, is where you’ll find Pedernales Falls State Park. Its water levels can fluctuate, like many other rivers in central Texas.
The river appears to be quite calm on a sign at the state park and is followed by a picture of a rushing wall of murky water just five minutes away. During the high-water season, whitewater rafting is a favorite activity on the lower river.
For safety concerns, it is recommended not to jump in for a swim.
We stayed at Walden Retreats this summer – a new luxury glamping property in Johnson City. This 96-acre property features 7 suites, 8 studios, an event pavilion designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, and a welcoming lobby featuring a curated general store – all in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.
We loved waking up in the tent and enjoying coffee while watching the sun rise over the Pedernales River. I also loved soaking in the bathtub at night and cozying up in bed.
10% off with code KOKO10
Valid for stay dates (Sunday-Thursday) in Studio suites ONLY
1388 Gipson Rd, Johnson City, TX, waldenretreats.com
SEE ALSO: 11 Best Spots For Glamping Near Austin
The Science Mill is located in a former field mill in the center of Johnson City’s historic district. It aims to show science in action and pique interest in science-related careers.
Children of all ages learn while having fun through interactive exhibitions and hands-on learning with a guided tour. The kid-friendly attraction features experiments with augmented and virtual reality, simulations, enormous robots, fossil digs, and 3D theaters. The Lady Bird Lane Café serves soft drinks and small foods for refreshments. You can reserve day tours, summer programs, and mobile labs. Tuesdays and Mondays are off days for the Science Mill.
A sandbox that has a projection of land and water above it is another highly entertaining display. Sand that was piled in one location may have shown water from the place from which it was taken. You can imitate rain by holding your hands above the sand, which will then trickle down the slopes of the hills into the rivers and lakes the sand pilings had formed. It will be intriguing for both young and old!
101 S Lady Bird Ln, Johnson City, TX sciencemill.org
Pedernales Falls State Park
This is a perfect place for families, and it can take you all day to explore the park. Visitors enjoy horseback riding on a ten-mile trail and hiking on a seven-mile trail. Children will want to swim, but swimming is only permitted in a specific area. Ask the park ranger at the trading post for that query. Just be aware that there will be a lot of walking and that some locations have steep rocks to descend to the river.
Pedernales Falls State Park can be enjoyed by people of all ages and interests. Many people visit this well-known state park to view the Pedernales waterfalls and experience the beautiful hue of the water.
Pedernales Falls State Park, a favorite of the TX Hill Country, is home to a particularly beautiful section of the Pedernales River, where guests can take in the (usually) calm falls as they cross the wide limestone riverbed.
2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls
Proof and Cooper at The Lumberyard
We stopped by Proof and Cooper on our way into Fredericksburg and the chicken fried steak is probably the best chicken fried steak I’ve ever had!
209 E Main St, Johnson City, TX
Texas Hill Country Wineries
For all the vineyards you can imagine, start in Johnson City and travel west on Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg. The wine country begins here!
Be prepared to stop the car a lot if on a guided tour, as it is the most popular route for visiting wineries in the Texas Hill Country. Hye Meadow Winery and Ron Yates Wines are two exceptional wineries on Highway 290.
To promote the wines and travel destinations of eight wineries, THCM was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1999. The number of members has increased to over 50, and THCM hosts signature events all year long.
Popular Texas hills vineyards include Passport Month, Wine and Wildflower, and Christmas Wine Affair. Participating members can invite guests for meals, entertainment, and tastings. There are chances to interact with the proprietors, winemakers, and chefs.
The THCM encourages activities that are held by particular members all through the year. There are regular educational events all year long on producing grapes, making wine, and other wine-related industries. The program’s revenue is invested in a scholarship fund.
PO Box 96 Johnson City, TX texaswinetrail.com/wineries
The Texas Art House
The Texas Art House is a modern art gallery that seeks to support both established and up-and-coming local Texas Hill Country artists by promoting modern visual art.
Mark Smith, Ph.D., the current owner, is a well-known academic and Texan businessman, columnist and author, curator, and judge, and he has printed and promoted limited editions for artists both domestically and internationally. There are project areas and a Main Gallery at the establishment.
Throughout the year, there are solo, group, and thematic displays. Opening hours for the Texas Art House are Friday through Sunday. New shows on various subjects are on display all year round.
Don’t miss this warm and welcoming art space in the Texas Hill Country for a glimpse into contemporary Texas culture.
105 N Nugent Ave, Johnson City, TX
Flat Creek Estate
You can reach Flat Creek Estate from Downtown Austin in about 45 minutes. Families and couples can spend the entire day at the lovely vineyards and fully functional winery. Ten thousand bottles of wine are produced each year on the estate’s twenty acres of vineyards, which total 80 acres.
The estate can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, many of which involve wine. Light meals combine well with wine tasting and excursions, but there is also the option of a three-course meal in the Wine and Food Hall that includes tastes of six different wines.
There is an 18-hole disc golf course outside with possibilities for wine and disc or dinner and disc. The Vintners Quarters provides lodging, and the Port Room is open for rentals and private events.
24912 Travis Peak Trail, Marble Falls, TX flatcreekestate.com
Pecan Street Brewing
On the town square, Johnson City’s very own Pecan Street Brewing offers wonderful drinks and meals. The (dog-friendly) Biergarten is also located in the backyard and is the ideal place to unwind on a lazy afternoon.
The Biergarten does occasionally close, so if you’re traveling with your dog as we do, you might want to phone ahead to make sure it’s open.
In case you have to wait for a table, think about walking over to the nearby longstanding jail to see if you may take a peek inside.
Avenue, 106 E Pecan Dr, Johnson City, TX pecanstreetbrewing.com
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Lyndon Baines Johnson relocated with his family from their Stonewall Alabama farm to Johnson City when he was five years old. He remained there until he graduated from high school in 1924. LBJ’s boyhood home still mostly resembles how it did in 1937.
The Johnson Settlement and LBJ’s childhood house are located at 100 Lady Bird Lane in Johnson City. Stonewall is home to the LBJ Ranch and the LBJ State Park Historic Site Visitor Center (13 miles west of Johnson City).
He was born, lived, passed away, and was buried at the LBJ Ranch. At the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, during the hiking trails, you can read more about his life in Texas, history, closures, and tours.
You will loop among historic structures and across horse and longhorn meadows on a calm, easy track. It is accessible, free to see, and should be on any list of things to do in Johnson City.
The Farm was previously owned by Johan Friedrich Sauer and his wife Christine Strackbein. They sold the farm to the Beckmann’s in 1900, who improved it further by adding a Victorian house next to the pre-existing building.
They sold off pieces of the land over the years, including 4 acres, to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1951. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department bought the remaining portion of the land in 1966.
You’ll see park rangers working on jobs that would have traditionally been done on a farm, such as tending the garden, working in the blacksmith shop, or knitting, while you take a free tour of the property. They are delighted to speak with you and share their plans and the background of the location.
After visiting the living history farm, proceed to the LBJ Ranch to see the Texas White House, the one-room school that Lyndon B. Johnson attended as a little child in 1912, the Johnson family grave, and LBJ’s birthplace. It is recommended to drive to all the Ranch’s structures because it is too large to navigate on foot.
1048 Park Road #49, Stonewall, TX nps.gov/lyjo/index.htm
Exotic Resort Zoo
The safari at the Exotic Resort Zoo is accessible via both guided and drive-through tours. Emu, wallabies, buffalo, camels, donkeys, zebras, ostriches, and antelope, to name a few, can be spotted as you drive past (and feed if you’ve purchased their food).
Weekend reservations for a day trip are advised. Adult admission is $16.95, senior admission is $15.95, and child admission is $13.95 for those aged 2 to 12. Feed sacks can be purchased separately for $6 each.
In a safari-themed environment, the Exotic Resort zoo also provides overnight accommodations. You can reserve one of eight cottages starting at $150 per night. There is an outdoor pool on the property.
235 Zoo Trail, Johnson City, TX zooexotics.com
It’s easy to see why Johnson City, TX is a popular destination for tourists. Between the Pedernales River, Exotic Resort Zoo, LBJ Ranch & Living History Farm, and independent galleries on Nugent Avenue and Main Street, there’s plenty to see and do in this small town. If you’re looking for a fun day trip or a weekend getaway, be sure to add Johnson City to your list!