We say it all the time, but we do truly believe it: Austin is an amazing place to raise a family. With this in mind, we’re on a mission to go discover all the things which make our town special. To help get out more without getting overwhelmed, we came up with the Austin Bucket List project. Each year, we pick 10 things we’d like to do in Austin — with or without our kids. That sounds doable, doesn’t it? Then, we document our adventures here, with the idea of getting each of you inspired to do the same.
What’s an endeavor like this without a few friends along for the ride? We asked our blogger friends in Austin who’d like to join us on the Austin Bucket List project, and we were thrilled to have several takers. Last we heard from Lisa, she was channeling her inner 20-year-old on the East side of Austin. This time, she reports back on her mission to make it to a quaint ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Here’s what she had to say:
As a non-native Texan, I am fascinated by the history of the Lone Star State, which is why so many of my Bucket List items involve historical tours. With a tour of the LBJ Ranch still on my list, I decided that it was time to check out this Hill Country treasure. So on a beautiful November afternoon, Todd, Lucy and I ventured west on Highway 290 to Stonewall, TX to visit the LBJ Ranch.
First, let me clarify that we went to the ranch only. The LBJ National Historical Park is a different historic site, and is located in Johnson City 14 miles away from the Ranch. This is where you’ll find the Johnson Settlement and LBJ’s boyhood home. The LBJ Ranch is in Stonewall between Johnson City and Fredericksburg. The Ranch includes the Texas White House, where the President and First Lady raised their children and kept as their home until Lady Bird Johnson’s death in 2007.
The first stop on the tour is the Visitor’s Center for a map and permit. Be sure to pop into the exhibit hall by the gift shop, where you can pose with a life-sized cardboard cutout of our 36th President.
Though you’ll be driving for a good bit of the tour, it’s best to leave your car in the parking lot and do the first part on foot. The Ranch is home to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which is a quick stroll away on a nature trail. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of deer and longhorns roaming the land.
The Sauer-Beckmann Farm is still a working farm with sheep, chickens, turkeys and a garden, along with the original buildings from 1918.
After wandering around the farm, we headed back to the car for our self-guided driving tour through the rest of the ranch, towards the Texas White House. After crossing President Johnson’s beloved Pedernales River, your first stop is the Junction School, where LBJ attended school, followed by a quick drive-by of LBJ’s reconstructed birthplace.
You’ll continue your drive through what is still a working ranch, with descendants of President Johnson’s Hereford cattle roaming around. Soon you’ll notice you’re heading straight for a parked airplane. President Johnson’s Vice Presidential plane – a Lockheed C-140 JetStar for you aviation buffs (Hi, Dad!) – is parked practically in the driveway of the ranch home. Head into the hangar to purchase your tickets for the Texas White House tour – cost is $3 for adults with free admission for kids 17 and under. This is a 20-minute guided tour which sadly prohibits photography inside the home. But it’s totally worth it to see 1960s decor in all its glory. Wallpaper, heavy drapes, paneling and Formica run rampant through the Johnson residence. You even get a peek in the President and First Lady’s closets to see LBJ’s monogram obsession first-hand.
Your ranch tour ends with a peek at LBJ’s classic car collection, including his famous Lincoln Continental convertibles. He also had an Amphicar that he would use to prank people by letting it drift into Lake LBJ.
All in all, the Ranch tour took us about two hours. But it was a beautiful day and we loved being outside for most of it.
I’ll leave you with this image of President and Mrs. Johnson, which greets you as you enter the visitors center. Their clothes sum up 1971 perfectly: