Just an hour west of Austin, Johnson City is a perfect day trip destination. Whether you are interested in the story of LBJ, outdoor adventures, wineries, art, or science, this area of the Texas Hill Country has a lot to offer.
The town is named after the ancestors of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. To learn about his roots, start in town at LBJ’s Boyhood Home and make sure to visit the Johnson Settlement where Johnson’s grandfather lived during the Chisholm Trail Days. Then head 14 miles west on Highway 290 to explore the LBJ Ranch. When you arrive, pick up a map and free permit for a self-guided driving tour of the ranch in your own vehicle. For even more in-depth information, you have the option to purchase an audio CD to narrate your drive.
Johnson City has several independent galleries near the courthouse square on both Nugent Avenue and Main Street. Artists and locals collectively gather at the regular Artwalk, from 4-8 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month, where galleries host artist talks, live music performances and more.
Also located near the square is the Science Mill—a family-friendly museum filled with high-tech exhibits created to engage kids with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts. Kids love regular exhibits like Cell Phone Disco, Fossil Dig, Mind Ball and other hands-on activities. The Science Mill has a café and a great gift shop so you can easily spend half a day exploring.
Looking to add some wild adventure to your trip? Check out the Exotic Resort Zoo to mingle with acres of wild animals. Drive yourself through or hop on a guided tour to experience over 45 species of free-roaming animals.
Just outside of Johnson City, on the way back to Austin, is one of the largest parks in Central Texas—Pedernales Falls State Park. With more than 5,000 acres, Pedernales includes 20 miles of trails, scenic views and camping areas. The park is great for families and offers hiking trails with different levels of difficulty.
If you’re looking to engage in some retail therapy, spend the afternoon on the square where there are several quaint boutiques and shops where you’ll find exactly what you're looking for. Old Annex Market features 20+ local vendors selling all types of unique home goods and upcycled gifts. Stop into Oak & Olive Boutique to find trendy clothing and accessories.
Where to Eat in Johnson City
Whether you just need a bite for lunch or want an evening out on the town, Johnson City offers many restaurants, wineries and breweries to find grub for your whole crew. Bryans on 290 showcases the best of Hill Country dining where Southern hospitality meets upscale local fare. Hang in the welcoming and laid back atmosphere at Pecan Street Brewing. Grab hickory smoked barbecue in an old fire station at Firehouse. Make sure to get an order of the pimento cheese dip and one of their decadent desserts. Start your morning off right with a cuppa joe and small breakfast bites from Johnson City Coffee Company. If you have a whimsical picnic in the stunning Texas Hill Country in mind, swing by Picnic’d and find all the essentials from delectable charcuterie boards to sandwiches to locally-owned Amy’s Ice Creams.
The Texas Hill Country is known for its growing wine scene. Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa features a beautiful vineyard and delicious wine. After meandering through their picturesque vines, grab a bite at their onsite restaurant. Looking to stay the night in Johnson City before heading back to Austin? Carter Creek has spacious villas for a comfortable stay.
Learn more about this day trip destination from the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce or by stopping by their Visitor Center, 100 E. Main St. Looking for other day trips? Check out our Hill Country guide for more inspiration.
Contributed by Marissa Saenz, Visit Austin Marketing Intern.