The Texas Hill Country is full of small towns that motorists can either zoom through in five minutes or choose to explore all day. Those who slow down to see the sights will be amazed at all there is to discover. I recently tripped through Blanco (pronounced “Blank-O”) and discovered that this town is anything but blank.
Contact the Blanco Chamber of Commerce at 830/833-5101.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
10:00 a.m.: I rolled into downtown to discover a bucolic collection of historic buildings surrounding the Old Blanco County Courthouse. This confused me, as the official county seat is up the road in Johnson City. I learned that this 1886 building was the original courthouse until 1890, when the government moved for political reasons. Since then, this building has served as everything from a high school to a hospital, and it even served as a set for the 2010 film True Grit.
11:30 a.m.: I exited the courthouse and noticed folks crowding the door of John and Jan Brieger’s Redbud Café. I knew instantly what I was doing for lunch. Inside this renovated hardware store, I found a restaurant that is equal parts sandwich shop, craft beer bar, and bakery. Feeling brave, I ordered the “Blaze of Glory” burger, with grilled jalapeño and serrano peppers atop a jalapeño sourdough bun. It was delicious, and luckily the café served homemade lavender lemonade to quell the fire.
12:30 p.m.: Attached to the café, I found Brieger Pottery. This small shop was full of handmade pots and crafts from across the Hill Country, including lotions, salves, and other products made of locally grown lavender. It was fitting for a town known as the “Lavender Capital of Texas.” I think I tried enough samples to smell like lavender for many day trips to come.
1:00 p.m.: Texas is experiencing a craft beer explosion, and one of its leaders is here in Blanco—Real Ale Brewing. After touring the brew house and bottling room, I visited the tasting room, where I grabbed a flight of beers, including some that have aged for months in wine barrels. I spent the next couple of hours like a true connoisseur, sniffing and swirling beers like fine wine.
3:00 p.m.: As a lover of all museums from the historic to the strange, I couldn’t pass up the Buggy Barn Museum. A cowboy-clad tour guide explained the history of the horse-drawn buggy as I admired more than 100 historic buggies. Some had even appeared in films like Gone With the Wind and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
4:00 p.m.: I was ready to slow down a bit, and the best place to do that is the Blanco River, which runs straight through Blanco State Park just a stone’s throw from the square. I never travel without my swimsuit, so I headed immediately for the sparkling Hill Country water. Ahhhhh! It was an excellent reprieve from the Texas sun.
6:30 p.m.: I realized that I was hungry, so I headed to Old 300 BBQ, which takes its name from the original 300 settlers that Stephen F. Austin brought to Texas. I ordered a little bit of everything, including some special Akaushi brisket, which is available on Saturdays only. And though I’m not usually one to sauce my meat, the homemade sweet barbecue sauce on the ribs made them over-the-top delicious, as was everything
else on my platter.
As I buried my spoon into a bowl of delicious banana pudding, I thought about the many travelers who have never stopped to explore this town. While “blanco” means “white” in Spanish, this town’s crystal-blue waters, rolling green hills, and purple lavender flowers provide a vibrant backdrop to any day trip. So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.