Culture / Travel / Restaurants

Our Guide to Wining and Dining Across Johnson City and Dripping Springs, Two Lesser-Known Texas Hill Country Treasures

Plus, Where to Glamp Beneath the Stars

BY // 04.24.23

Sure, we all love Fredericksburg, but in the last couple of years, a lesser-known stretch of the Texas Hill Country has flourished. The 25 miles between Johnson City and Dripping Springs offer dozens of wineries, not to mention craft breweries and distilleries, chef-driven restaurants, and endless green grass dotted with hay bales and bluebonnets. For the hikers and bikers, you’ll be a stone’s throw from Pedernales State Park, and for the city lovers, these towns sit smack in between Austin and San Antonio.

For a perfect weekend getaway to the Texas Hill Country treasures of Johnson City and Dripping Springs, here’s a cheat sheet.

 

Walden Retreats texas hill country
Catch a killer Texas Hill Country sunrise from the luxurious tents at Walden Retreats.

Where to Glamp in Texas Hill Country

On 96 acres along the Pedernales River, the new Walden Retreats offers the best parts of camping — fire pits, no city sounds, bird song in the morning — without all the stuck sleeping bag zippers and peeing in the woods. Equipped with heat and air conditioning, a king-sized bed, a clawfoot bathtub, soft linen robes, and a full kitchen, each luxury tent (don’t worry; you won’t have to pitch it) is more like a cabin with roll-up tent flaps. The private porch and outdoor shower make for optimal star-gazing. When was the last time you could see Orion’s Belt?

 

johnson city coffee co
Johnson City Coffee Co. transforms into a farmers market on the weekends.

Where to Wine and Dine Johnson City 

For a day of dining and drinking, wake up and drive 15 minutes to downtown Johnson City. First grab coffee at Johnson City Coffee Co., where, on the weekends, the parking lot transforms into a little farmer’s market, vendors selling fresh milk, produce, and gluten-free dog treats. The parking lot is also home to a few food trucks.

Introducing Pêche

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For lunch, Pecan Street Brewing slings delicious craft beer and brick-oven pizza. It packs out on the weekends, so get there on the early side.

Catch a daily tour of Lyndon B. Johnson’s childhood home, located in Johnson City Texas.

History buffs should check out LBJ’s childhood home, where daily tours run every half hour. Our 36th president was famously a scotch and soda guy, but were he alive today, perhaps he’d finish up that tour and amble over to the nearby Crowson tasting room. Like so many businesses in these parts, Crowson is a family endeavor—winemaking by Henry Crowson and his father, and an adjacent café run by Henry’s wife. The Crowson method is non-intervention—wines made as naturally as possible — no additives, no manipulation. Enjoy a tasting, hang out with Henry, and listen to Bob Dylan on vinyl. These are some of the most interesting wines in the Texas Hill Country.

For dinner, walk across Main Street to Bryans on 290 (you’ll want to make a reservation), where the vibe is upscale but laidback and cozy, the service is attentive, and the grill is open-flame. You’re in the German region of Texas, so go for the veal schnitzel, and ask the bartender for wine-pairing suggestions.

 

Desert Door
Sip some rare Texas sotol at Desert Door Distillery in Dripping Springs.

Where to Wine and Dine (and Sip Sotol) in Dripping Springs

In Dripping Springs, the “wedding capital” of Texas (it has over 30 wedding venues), grab breakfast at local institution Thyme & Dough, a European bakery and café, before checking out Mercer Street. Downtown is very blink-or-you’ll-miss-it, but it’s a nice place to do a little shopping and includes cute boutiques like the new Palm Social Collection.

The winery options are many, but don’t miss Bell Springs Winery, five miles north of downtown. A winery and brewery in one, this little spot offers two tasting rooms, one for beer and another for wine, as well as an outdoor day-drinking seating area. The beer is brewed with rainwater.

Eleven miles south of downtown, Desert Door Distillery centers the liquor made from the sotol plant (similar to blue agave). Try the sotol flight, but be careful — a couple of the expressions are 100 proof.

Located on the grounds of Camp Lucy, Tillie’s offers a fine dining experience in the heart of Hill Country.

For dinner, Tillie’s boasts alpacas and fine dining from a world-class chef. (You’ll want a reservation.) Ok, the alpacas aren’t in the restaurant, but you’ll see them on the grounds of Camp Lucy as you walk there from your car. Grand turquoise farm doors give way to Moroccan tile flooring and window seating that shows off the outdoor pool. The appetizers steal the show: Don’t miss the whole-milk burrata or the bluefin tuna agua chile.

To get the most out of Johnson City and Dripping Springs, why not go while the bluebonnets are still blooming? About halfway to Walden Retreats, when the Hill Country appears in the frame of your windshield, the drive from Dallas will prove to be one of the most beautiful parts of your weekend.

 

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