The reasons I love Texas are endless: the state's great outdoors, history, Tex-Mex, sunsets, swimming holes ... the list keeps going. And when I hear of a place where I can experience most of my favorites in a single day, I hit the road––this time to the Hill Country's scenic Canyon Lake.
Seeking a change of scenery after a few days of urban sightseeing in Austin, my husband, Kenny, and I packed up our four kids and their visiting French cousin for a short road trip to Wimberley. Rather than taking a straight shot south on I-35, we hopped on US 290 West to Dripping Springs, then turned south on Ranch Road 12, a winding, two-lane highway that traverses some of the prettiest countryside in Texas.
Most weekends of the year, crowds flock to Fredericksburg to enjoy the Hill Country ambiance, shop along historic Main Street, or savor impromptu wine tastings. As they wander among the shops and galleries, many visitors may inadvertently miss one of the town’s jewels: The National Museum of the Pacific War.
For those who want pampering and relaxation in style, the Highland Lakes boast three—count ’em, three—renowned resorts.
At the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center in Kerrville, dozens of eclectic exhibits—often four running concurrently—come and go throughout the year. Handmade quilts might share the spotlight one month with handsome photographs; the next month, paintings, ceramics, collages, and sculptures might bask in the limelight. Only one objet d’art remains constant amid KACC’s revolving door of artworks: a miniature mesquite Ferris wheel displayed on a pedestal in one of the galleries.
By Rae Nadler-OlenickNestled in the shadow of Austin’s Mount Bonnell—so snugly tucked away behind stone walls that visitors to the Austin Museum of Art-Laguna Gloria next door often overlook it—lies Mayfield Park and Preserve, a 23-acre oasis of urban tranquility steeped in natural beauty and historic lore. Showy peacocks, serene lily ponds, stately trees, and bright, lovingly landscaped flower beds, set against a restored 19th-Century country cottage, all charm the eye of the beholder in this enchanted spot. Beyond the enclosed two acres of home and garden space, three miles of nature trails wend their leisurely way through oak and juniper woodlands down to Barrow Brook Cove, an inlet of Lake Austin.
I’m having my favorite flying dream again, zooming low and fast over green, rolling hills. I lean into the gentle turns and accelerate to the next sweeping bend. Only it’s no dream.
Look, sniff, swirl, taste, swish, savor. Sounds like a wine tasting, but these activities are associated with the art of olive oil tasting—just one dimension of a budding industry that awaits those venturing into Texas’ olive country. Aficionados of the noble little fruit, and connoisseurs of its oil, now find a touch of Tuscany in the rolling hills near Wimberley and in pockets south of San Antonio. In addition to orchard tours and tastings, olive oil and health and beauty products derived from the Lone Star crop are sold at several locations. And for those seeking a romantic, Old World experience, at least one gorgeous grove is available for weddings.
A ghostly breeze whispers to the bald expanse of a giant, granite dome. Sparkling like a thousand tiny mirrors in the sun, the surface of the big rock, though mostly barren, seems to blush with a glow of inner life. Rock wrens flit above massive boulders, which cling to the mountain’s margins and lie in a tumble at its base, some sculpted by erosion into strange, ethereal figures. The tangled roots of gnarled live oaks snake between deep rock crevices, while delicate ferns and wildflowers emerge from tiny fissures in the stone.