Johnson City is a small Texas town of around a thousand people. It was established by the donation of 320 acres along the Pedernales River, from its namesake. James Polk Johnson was the uncle of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States.
For many years the town was a ranch trader outpost and it wasn't until the 1930s that the town had access to any utilities. Tourism is the main income generator since the establishment of historical landmarks commemorating the President's boyhood, work and passing.
1. The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
© NPS Photo
This park protects the heritage of the 36th President of the USA. It is divided into two sections, corresponding to sites associated with his earlier and later years. The area around Johnson City, named after LBJ's uncle, is where his boyhood home is situated. LBJ restored the home during his presidency and it was declared a National Historic Landmark while he was still in office. His grandparents' log cabin home and agricultural buildings are also in the park. Across the Pedernales river, about 14 miles away is his final resting place. Permits are required to enter the park for self-guided driving tours.
2. The Texas White House
© NPS Photo
The LBJ Ranch House was built in 1894 and had been in his family from 1909. LBJ spent several school vacations at the big house on the river, helping his uncle with his cattle. In 1951 he was able to buy it when his aunt decided to sell. During his presidency, it became known as the Texas White House because much of his work was conducted there. Leaders from around the world would gather there and staff had regular barbecues and meetings on the lawn. The budget was drawn up there each December. LBJ donated it to the National Parks in the year before he died.
100 Ladybird Lane, Johnson City, TX 78636, Phone: 830-868-7128
3. Exotic Resort Zoo
© Vladimir Wrangel/stock.adobe.com
Dotty, a Canadian Elk, was the catalyst for starting what has now become the Exotic Resort Zoo. Dennis and Marilyn Bacque took her on a road trip and on returning home, started collecting other creatures from home and abroad. Realizing that they needed to finance the feeding of more than 100 animals, they decided to open their ranch to the public. First, they cleared roads, put up miles of fencing and built roads and ponds. Visitors can now drive in a safari wagon feeding eager camels, llamas and antelope, before entering the petting zoo. Accommodation is available in multi-story safari cabins.
235 Zoo Trail, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 830-868-4357
4. Lyndon B. Johnson Boyhood Home
© NPS Photo
LBJ was five in 1913, when he moved to what would become his home for the next 24 years. His father was a state legislator and from the age of 10 LBJ accompanied his father on the campaign trail. His mother had a college degree which was unusual among her peers. Her passion was education and she taught elocution and debating, skills that LBJ would find useful in his chosen career. It was from the balcony of this house that he first announced that he would be running for political office. The house has been restored to reflect the 1920s, LBJ's teen years.
100 Ladybird Lane, Johnson City, TX 78636, Phone: 830-868-7128
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5. Pedernales Falls State Park
Take a trip to the river and marvel at the sight of a peaceful river amidst huge limestone slabs at the Pedernales Falls State Park. While the waters here can, at times, be rough and turbulent, for the most part, they are tranquil and provide guests with a great space to relax and simply enjoy the quiet. Come and enjoy an afternoon of bird watching or exploring the limestones. For the adventurous, camping overnight is another great option. Meanwhile, for those who are up for a challenge, there is a challenging quarter-mile hike from the park’s entrance up to the swimming area where explorers will climb steep rock stairs. The river at the end of the hike, however, offers a rewarding and cooling swim that’s perfect for rejuvenating tired bodies.
2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 512-389-8900
6. Things to Do in Johnson City, TX: Science Mill
© Science Mill
The Science Mill is situated in the old field mill in historic downtown Johnson City. It seeks to depict science in everyday life and to stimulate interest in science as a career. Through interactive learning and hands-on exhibits children of all ages are educated while playing. The family-oriented destination has augmented and virtual reality experiments, giant robots, simulations, fossil digs and 3D theater, to name a few activities. For refreshments, the Lady Bird Lane Café offers light snacks and soft beverages. Day-trips, summer camps and traveling laboratories can be booked. The Science Mill is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
101S Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City, TX 783636, Phone: 844-263-6405
7. Texas Hill Country Wineries
THCM is a non-profit organization that was established in 1999 to promote the wines and destinations of eight wineries. The membership has grown to more than 50 and there are flagship events organized by THCM throughout the year. The Wine and Wildflower, Passport Month and Christmas Wine Affair are examples. Participating members welcome visitors for tastings, meals and entertainment. There are opportunities to meet the owners, wine-makers and chefs. Throughout the year, THCM promotes events hosted by individual members. Education programs on growing grapes, wine-making and other wine-related businesses are scheduled through the year. Revenue generated from the programs goes toward a scholarship fund.
PO Box 96, Johnson City, TX 78636, Phone: 872-216-9463
8. The Texas Art House
© The Texas Art House
The aims of the Texas Art House are to promote contemporary visual art and to support the work of emerging and established local Texas Hill Country artists. It was started by a local artist, Mars Woodhill, but has recently changed hands. The current owner, Mark Smith, PhD, is a renowned academic and businessman, columnist and author, curator and judge, who has printed and marketed limited editions for artists throughout the USA and abroad. The establishment has a Main Gallery and project spaces. Solo, group and thematic exhibits are held throughout the year. The Texas Art House is open from Fridays to Sundays.
105 N. Nugent Ave., Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 512-788-2434
9. Things to Do in Johnson City, TX: Flat Creek Estate
Twenty acres of the 80 acre Flat Creek Estate are given over to vineyards and ten thousand bottles of wine are produced annually. There are several ways to enjoy the estate, all involving wine. Light meals go well with wine tasting and tours, or there is an option of a three-course meal with a taste of six different wines in the Wine and Food Hall. Outside, there is an 18-hole disc golf course with wine-and-disc or dine-and-disc options. The wine shop and the pro shop are situated in the Market Hall. The Port Room is available for private functions and the Vintners Quarters offers overnight accommodation.
24912 Singleton Bend E., Marble Falls, TX 78654, Phone: 512-267-6310
10. Texas Hills Vineyards
Nestled amidst the gentle hills of the Pedernales River Valley is Texas Hills Vineyards. A fantastic option for those who want to explore the wine scene of Texas Hill Country, Texas Hills Vineyards is known for growing quality grapes that are made perfect by the Texas sun’s intense heat and the county’s cool night air. The vineyard focuses on organic growing practices while practicing new-world wine-making styles to produce fantastic bottles that are bound to please wine enthusiasts from around the country, and the world. Participate in a tasting flight while enjoying the remarkable view of the 25-acre vineyard and learning about this fantastic 19-year-old estate.
878 Ranch Road 2766, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 830-868-2321
11. Westcave Cellars Winery and Brewery
© Westcave Cellars Winery and Brewery
The Westcave Cellars Winery and Brewery is a treasure of Johnson City! As an award-winning winery and brewery, Westcave Cellars draws visitors from near and far to sample their 100% Texas-grown wines and beers in a breezy and rustic atmosphere. Enjoy your wine tasting or beer flight from within a small indoor tasting room or at the outside seating area. When it comes to the wine, their 2022 Chenin Blank is the undisputed favorite amongst Westcave’s regular patrons, but their entire range of offerings can be explored and sampled to help guests find the glass that best suits their palettes.
683 Ranch Road 1320, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 512-431-1403
When at the Texas Hill Country, there’s nothing quite like a visit to Vinovium, a winery that promises unique wine-tasting experiences and a huge selection of wines that come straight from a tap! At this destination, visitors can enjoy a world-class wine list with a wine lounge experience. Guests who are interested in learning about wine and the wine-making process can also do so at Vinovium, which regularly hosts educational opportunities through short courses and seminars. So if you’re looking for a place to sample Texas’ best wines through an untraditional space, the Vinovium is just the place for you.
214 Edmonds Avenue, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 830-868-8010
13. 290 Wine Castle
© 290 Wine Castle
There is no shortage of amazing wine destinations in Johnson City, or the Texas Hill Country. 290 Wine Castle is one such destination as it promises spectacular views of the hill country to enjoy alongside your choice of wine and other wine-based beverages. Sample a range of wines to find your favorite, opt to indulge in a frozen sangria, or sip on a lovely hot mulled wine on a cold day. Pairing tastings are also held at 290 Wine Castle, such as their chocolate and wine pairing. Meanwhile, guests are welcome to indulge in a wood-fired pizza straight from the winery’s kitchen or to feast on an assortment of fantastic cheeses.
101 Durango, Johnson City, Texas 78636, Phone: 512-790-2654
14. Pecan Street Brewing
© Pecan Street Brewing
Live entertainment? Passionate brewers? Community and celebratory feels? All of this is waiting at Pecan Street Brewing, a Johnson City staple since 2011. Known for their hospitality and dedication to brewing the perfect beer, Pecan Street Brewing typically offers up to 11 beers on tap at any given time. Guests to the brewery can sip on their chosen draught at a table, or head on over for a seat at the bar which allows people to peer in through large glass windows where head brewers Taylor Lopour or Mark Norman are typically at work. Pecan Street Brewing also regularly invites live bands to come and keep guests entertained and encourages people to get to know each other while enjoying their chosen drinks.
106 E Pecan Drive, Johnson City, Texas 78636-2034, Phone: 830-868-2500
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15. Bryans on 290
© Bryans on 290
Helmed by Chef Bryan Gillenwater, Bryans on 290 is a charming and cozy dining establishment that specializes in cooking over a live fire. With a long and celebrated tenure of experience under the watching eyes of several James Beard awardees, Chef Bryan inspires and awes with his delicious menu offerings. Start your meal with a small bite like the Roasted Escargot or the Scallop and Blue Crab Dip. Follow it up with a main like the Veal Schnitzel, a crowd favorite, or the popular Prime Angus Rib Eye. Other mouthwatering options include the Jamaican Jerk Smoked Prime Pork Chop, the Smocked Duck Breast Tartine, as well as the Cast Iron Seared Salmon.
300 E Main Street, Johnson City, Texas, Phone: 830-868-2424
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