A man in a small cowboy hat stands on a swinging bridge raising his hands

© Todd White Stills and Motion

Two hours northwest of Austin, you’ll find a town that has served as a Texas crossroads since 1885. Goldthwaite was established as a railroad town; now it’s a hidden gem for Hill Country travelers who want a taste of the country while en route to the state’s western climes. This is the Meat Goat Capital of America—don’t knock it till you try it, preferably after a liberal dry rub and several hours on a roasting spit. Sightseeing, shopping, and a captivating botanical garden are more reasons to visit. And remember, even though the town’s name is a tongue twister (try it: Goldth-wait), you don’t have to say it right to have fun here.

Downtown Goldthwaite

While the historic downtown district only covers a few city blocks, it boasts an eclectic mix of small businesses that makes for some great destination shopping. The Mills County General Store is a one-stop shop if you need spray paint, a cast iron skillet, a 10-gauge shotgun, or almost anything else. Go nuts inside pecans.com, the website’s retail storefront, which offers beaucoup pecan-laden options including pies, trail mix, and fudge. Nearby Switch Boutique is teeming with big-city style.

Southside Tavern

Two brothers have kept their great-grandfather’s abandoned grocery store in the family by converting it into a scratch kitchen and cocktail bar. Southside Tavern has quickly become the town’s favorite hangout with a huge yard that hosts games and live music. Choose the hand-breaded cheese curds as an appetizer, and then move to the Ladybird sandwich complete with smoked chicken thigh, goat cheese, and onion jam. Just make sure you save room for key lime pie.

Texas Botanical Gardens and Native American Interpretive Center

Covering an entire city block, the center takes visitors on a fully immersive trip to see how Native Americans lived in tandem with the land 10,000 years ago. One of the neatest sights is a reproduction of a wickiup village, where the first people in Texas built houses from timber and grass. This is a great stop for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

Regency Bridge

Take a short road trip to the mighty Colorado River, which flows 20 miles west of town. Bring a strong constitution, as you’ll traverse what’s known as the “swinging bridge,” one of the last drivable suspension bridges in Texas. It was built in 1939 and spans 400 feet. The bridge is safe, but it’s unnerving to feel your car swinging to and fro while you’re high above the riverbed.

Mary’s Tacos and Burgers

I love small town Mexican food, and this is one of my all-time favorites. The no-frills building and quaint décor let you know that the focus is all on the food. While burgers are in the name, there’s a reason tacos are listed first. Mary’s soft tacos come on a deliciously fluffy homemade flour tortilla. And the crispy tacos are even better, served on a freshly fried, thick corn tortilla. I’ve never had a simple beef taco that tasted this good.

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the Goldthwaite episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the August 2023 issue

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