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As summer nears its end, you may be searching for one last adventure, which is what I set out to find in the North Texas Hill Country. With mysteries, charm, historic characters, and a whole lot of lake fun, Granbury makes for a day trip of legendary proportions.

Contact Visit Granbury at 800/950-2212.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.

9:00 a.m. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I began my journey at The Nutshell Eatery & Bakery on the downtown square. Among delicious sweets and eats, this place also serves up intriguing legends. One holds that John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln, escaped to Texas and bartended here under the alias “John St. Helen.” Whether or not that’s true, my “Jesse James Scramble” (named for another town legend) was delicious with scrambled eggs, onions, hash browns, and sausage, served with warm flour tortillas.

10:00 a.m. Even though I’d only been in Granbury for a short time, it was clear that history lurked around every corner. I walked the Historic Granbury Square, passing a restaurant that was once a gas station visited by Bonnie and Clyde. I heard the 1891 clock chime atop the Hood County Courthouse and stood in awe of the renovated 1886 Granbury Opera House. As its motto says, Granbury is truly the place “Where Texas History Lives.”

11:15 a.m. Next I drove to the Acton Cemetery to see the grave of Elizabeth Crockett, widow of Texas hero Davy Crockett, who died at the Alamo. The monument, which includes a statue of Elizabeth scanning the horizon, is a beautiful testament to the sacrifice the entire family made for Texas’ independence.

12:00 p.m. I wasn’t yet hungry for lunch, so I decided to investigate the legend of Jesse James and headed to the Granbury Cemetery, location of his purported gravesite. While many believe Jesse was killed by a member of his own gang in Missouri, others believe he escaped to Granbury and lived to the ripe old age of 103. True or not, I kept with tradition and left a penny on his grave to mark my visit.

1:00 p.m. Feeling hungry again, I stopped into Stumpy’s Lakeside Grill, home to a restaurant, marina, and water-sports shop right off Lake Granbury. It’s the perfect place to fill up on scrumptious food and buy all the supplies you’d need for a day on the water. I ordered a couple of fish tacos and enjoyed lunch on the outdoor patio by the lake. I watched in envy as boaters drifted by and knew exactly what I wanted to do next.

2:00 p.m. This town is built all around the lake and it was time to dive in, so I rented a kayak and spent some time enjoying the city from the water. And when my arms grew tired from paddling, I grabbed a towel and joined the masses at City Beach. This man-made, white-sand attraction feels purely Caribbean, yet it’s just blocks from the courthouse. Kicking back with my toes in the water was the perfect way to combat the Texas sun.

6:00 p.m. I headed back to the square and followed the polka music to Ketzler’s Schnitzel Haus and Biergarten, which serves authentic German food in its own Bavarian-style beer garden. The music was hoppin’ and the schniztel was sizzlin’, making me feel as though I’d been transported to the motherland. I couldn’t help but tap my feet as I took a bite of pork schnitzel and a sip of German beer. Prost!

7:00 p.m. I noticed a crowd gathering at the Nutt House for the Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour. Feeling brave, I decided to join the tour, and we walked the square hearing bloodcurdling tales of murderers, brothels, and ghost children. I felt like I was being followed, but I figured it was just the memory of an amazing day trip tailing me.

Spend one day in Granbury and it’s easy to see why the historic characters came, the residents love it, and the ghosts never want to leave. So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

From the August 2016 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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