Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Hill Country

Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park

Cow in Field

Cow grazing at LBJ Ranch

Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park is located in Johnson City (Lyndon’s family founded the town) about half an hour from Fredericksburg. The park “tells the story of our 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch.” (NPS).

Log Cabin built by LBJ's grandparents

Log cabin built by LBJ’s grandparents in the Johnson Settlement section of the park

LBJ National Historic Park is made up of Johnson’s Boyhood Home, LBJ’s grandparents’ settlement, and LBJ’s Texas White House. The areas of the park are about 14 miles apart and a car is recommended for touring the park. Adjacent to the LBJ Ranch district of the park, LBJ State Park is home to the Saur-Beckmann Living History Farm, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, hiking trails, a bison herd, and a herd of Texas Longhorns.

Texas White House

LBJ’s ranch is probably the highlight of this park. Driving through the ranch and being able to see descendants of the president’s cattle (top) was a pretty unique experience. The Texas White House is one of the biggest attractions of the park. The Johnsons donated their Texas home to the Park Service while they were still alive but tours of the home were not offered until Mrs. Johnson’s death in 2007. In 2008, the President’s Texas office was opened to tours. Unfortunately, it is currently closed to visitors because of structural issues in the home. Visitors are still able to view it from behind a fence and get photos of it from an awkward angle (above).

LBJ's Presidential Plane in its Hangar

Parking at the hangar to get an up-close view of Air Force 1/2 (above) was pretty special too. Air force 1 was too large to land at the runway on the ranch so the president frequently flew a smaller JetStar to his Texas home, allowing him to continue his work away from D.C. The plane returned home to the park in 2016.

Overall, if you are in the hill country, I highly recommend a stop at LBJ National Historic Park. It will allow you to get a better picture of the 36th president (while skimming over issues regarding Vietnam) and his family history. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day and is free to visit. For more information visit NPS.gov and Texas State Parks.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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LBJ Ranch Pinterest Graphic

LBJ Ranch Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Becker Vineyards

Becker Vineyards

Wineries of the Hill Country

Wine Glass

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

One of the things the Texas Hill Country is known for is wineries. There are over 50 tasting rooms to visit all around the Hill Country but Fredericksburg is kind of the epicenter of the action. If you don’t have a car or aren’t planning on heading out of town, there are more than ten winery tasting rooms right on Main Street. That being said, I highly recommend taking the drive out of town to see the vineyards if you have the time.

Winery on the Gruene

While I frequently tout TripAdvisor for trip planning, it’s not my go-to when planning a wine trip. I find that people’s differing opinions on wine have left me disappointed by their recommendations. Instead, I turn to the professionals at Wine Traveler. They have pointed me in the direction of some spectacular wine I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Another source I used to plan this trip is a Lonely Planet guidebook, Wine Trails of the United States and Canada. All of the wineries they recommended were wonderful as well.

One thing we learned on this trip is that there is a little bit of political drama involved in Texas wine right now. Currently, a wine can be labeled a Texas Wine if at least 75% of grapes were grown in Texas. I’ve been told this is not uncommon in a new wine region. A few of the wineries are trying to change this now that Texas is growing more and more grapes. The wineries that use 100% Texas grapes are very proud of that fact and will point you to other wineries that do the same.

Because of COVID, most of the wineries were requiring reservations if you want to do a tasting. Some of them allowed you to just sit outside with a glass or bottle without a reservation, but it is important to do some research before you arrive. It would be a bummer to drive all the way out to a winery and be turned away because there’s not space for you!

Portrait in front of Wine Barrels

In the barrel room at Kuhlman Cellars

One of the most unique experiences we had was doing what they call the “Estate Experience” at Kuhlman Cellars.  We got a private tour where we got to go into the barrel room and taste wine right out of the barrel. At Lewis Wines, we had a private tasting with the winemaker. At Newsom Vineyards, we got to talk to the owner and winemaker who everyone in the Texas wine industry seems to know. We had some wonderful wines at Becker Vineyards served by some of the most attentive and friendly staff.  William Chris had some of the best wines we tasted on this trip and they had a beautiful lawn with live music that I would’ve loved to hang out in if we had a little more time. If you’re planning a wine trip the Hill Country, these are my top picks!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to read about our time exploring LBJ’s ranch. To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

Exterior of the Mission San Juan

Located just south of San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is made up of four Spanish missions built beginning in the mid 18th century to spread Christianity to the Native people of Texas. These missions are walled compounds featuring a beautiful, old, Catholic church and buildings where the priests and Native Americans lived. Altogether, the missions are the largest collection of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States and are the only UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Texas.

The missions only stretch eight miles from the city and can be accessed by River Walk’s Mission Reach, a hiking and biking trail that allows you to visit the missions without needing a vehicle. If you’re not that athletic, there are bus tours of the missions as well as a self-guided driving tour. The missions are open daily and are free to visit.

We began exploring the missions at Mission San Jose (below) which is home to the park visitor center. When we visited at the end of December, the visitor center was closed but there were rangers stations at the door with maps and to answer questions about the park. They were also stamping the National Park passport for you.

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Mission San José was founded in 1720 because Mission San Antonio de Valero (AKA The Alamo) had quickly become overcrowded with refugees when the East Texas Missions were closed. The building was built in 1768 from local limestone and still stands today. Of the four missions located within the park, this one is the biggest and most ornate. If you only have time to visit one of the missions, this is the one to see. It has the biggest grounds and you can see where the priests and the native people lived.

The second Mission on our mission tour was Mission San Juan (top). Mission San Juan Capistrano was originally built in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to San Antonio in 1731. Not to be confused with Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, the white exterior makes this mission different from the others on this tour. In 2012, a $2 million renovation project stabilized the foundation of the 300-year-old church.

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Our third mission of the day was Mission Espada. Espada was originally built in 1690 near present-day Augusta and named San Francisco de los Tejas. Just like Mission San Juan, Espada was moved to its current location on Espada road and was given its current name in 1731. Many modern churches in the area based their architecture around Espada including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas. Nearby, the Espada acequia and aqueduct are also managed by the Park Service and continue to bring water to the missions as well as nearby residents.

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Located closest to the city, Mission Concepción was our fourth stop on our Mission tour. Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña was founded in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to its current location in 1731. In 1835, the Battle of Concepción was fought on the grounds and is believed to be the first battle in the Texas Revolution. In 2009-2010 the mission underwent extensive restoration projects and is now the best-preserved of the missions.

If you are planning to visit the missions, bear in mind that these churches are still in operation and hold masses on Sunday mornings. When we visited, we were not able to go inside Mission San Jose because there was a funeral. Luckily, it was on the way back to San Antonio and by the time we were on our way back to the city, the building was open again and we were able to see the beautiful interior of the sanctuary. For more information about the missions, visit VisitSanAntonio.com or the National Park Service.

Of course, there is one more mission in San Antonio, Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as The Alamo, I will share about final stop on our Mission Tour next week. To read more about this trip, visit the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic

Texas Hill Country Road Trip

Cow at LBJ State Park

A little over a year ago we took our last getaway before everything shut down and the world changed. February 2020, we scored cheap flights for a long weekend in Austin, Texas and even though it was unseasonably cold (although not as unseasonably cold as Texas this February) we fell in love with Austin.

While we were stuck at home social distancing, we found a new love, travel shows, and one of our favorites is Samantha Brown: Places to Love. Since we had recently took a tour of Austin and the Texas Hill Country, one of the first episodes we watched was about the Texas Hill Country and we realized that the tour we took didn’t even scratch the surface of the Hill Country. When we were looking to use up our flight credit from our canceled spring break trip, we found a deal to fly back to Austin to fully explore the area.

After what may possibly have been too much research, I came up with with following itinerary:

  • December 28: Fly into Austin
  • December 29: New Braunfels, San Antonio Riverwalk, and Boat Cruise
  • December 30: San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
  • December 31: Cascade Caverns, Hill Country Wineries
  • January 1: Fredericksburg and Wineries
  • January 2: Lyndon Johnson National Historic Site and Wineries
  • January 3: Exploring the Hill Country back to Austin
  • January 4: Flight to Orlando and then connecting back to Detroit
  • January 5: Tampa and Disney Springs
  • January 6: Flying back to Michigan for real

This ended being a great trip and we have been looking back on it a lot since it has been so cold here. You might notice in my above itinerary that our connecting flight home from Orlando got canceled and the earliest flight they were able to get us on was two days later. This cancellation resulted from flight delays due to the closure of Jacksonville air traffic control due to a COVID outbreak. Needless to say, it has made us nervous to take any other flights right now.

Be sure to check back here every week as I tell the stories of our road trip around the Hill Country! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Rainy Day Tour of Austin

Our recent trip to Austin, Texas was a short one; we only had 2 days to spend in the city. And of course, our first day was chilly and rainy. We talked about doing the double-decker bus tour that day as a way to see the city, but tours were canceled because of the weather.  So we went back on TripAdvisor looking for a Plan B and we found a tour of Austin and the Hill Country from AO Tours instead.

The tour was a small group in a Mercedes Van which was much nicer than the recent bus tours we’ve taken in Belize and Beaver Island. The tour provided a pre-recorded narration of the sites with our guide peppering in her thoughts and updates as we went along.

The tour started in South Austin before heading to the Hill Country, which was not something I was planning on seeing on this trip, but absolutely blew me away. We ended up renting a car on our second day to see more of that area. We returned to the city and saw the Capital and the University of Texas campus. We also got to hear about the history and see up and coming East Austin.

Overall, this tour was a great way to see the city and pointed out places that I would not have checked out otherwise, including The Austin Public Library, and Mount Bonell. We learned some of the history of the area and it was a great way to relax and stay out of the rain. Our tour guide, Ari also gave a lot of good restaurant recommendations as well.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to hear more about our trip to Austin! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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