Blanco is that little town in the Hill Country that you could drive through in 5 minutes, or spend a week exploring. Those that are in the know travel here to spend a day or longer diving into the history, blue water, and food. To download the episode or purchase it on DVD – CLICK HERE.
The first thing most notice when they visit Blanco is the Old Blanco County Courthouse which was built in 1886. While it looks very official, it only served as the county courthouse for 4 years, because in 1890 the authorities moved the county seat 14 miles up the road to Johnson City. Today this old building serves as a museum, a gathering place, and a movie set. If you walk upstairs into the courtroom, you can feel the presence of Rooster Cogburn (aka Jeff Bridges) from the 2010 film “True Grit.”
If you love movie history or just history in general, then you’ll want to head to the Blanco Buggy Barn Museum which showcases over 100 different buggies from around the globe. Many of the buggies have been used in films such as “Gone With the Wind,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” It’s amazing to look at how the technology progressed during the era of horse-drawn transportation. If you arrange it early, the owners will take you on a buggy ride around town.
Blanco’s biggest modern-day contribution to Texas culture is to the growing Texas craft beer scene. If you’re into craft beer, then you’ve heard of Real Ale Brewing, or at least Firemans #4, it’s most popular variety. Many don’t realize that it’s brewed down a dirt road in the heart of Blanco. They offer great tours of their facilities and brewing processes on weekends but even if you don’t take a tour, you can visit their tasting room and sample one (or more) of their dozen or so brews. I highly recommend sampling some of their barrel-aged “Mysterium” series, where they let beer sit in wine and whiskey barrels. It comes out completely different.
If you’re more into Texas wildflowers than Texas beer, then you’ll be happy to know that Blanco is the “Lavender Capital of Texas” and during the summer months, you can visit lavender fields to pick your own puffs of the purple stuff. I highly recommend Hill Country Lavender. Not only do they offer a really great picking experience, but they also sell all of their lavender products on site, so you can stock up on sleep-inducing and bug-repelling lotions, creams, and soaps.
Lastly, there’s a hill country tradition that exists ONLY in a number of small German communities across Texas. It’s 9-pin bowling, and is done in private bowling clubs. It’s different than traditional 10-pin bowling in that the pins are set up in a diamond and bowlers get extra points if they leave the middle one standing. It’s very fun but hard for an outsider to experience. UNLESS – you are in Blanco on a Saturday night, when the Blanco Bowling Club is open to the public. Make sure to call ahead and let them know you are coming, as they’ll need to make sure a pin-setter is on site. This is such a rare game that there are NO machines to do the work, so high schoolers earn extra cash setting up pins after folks knock ’em down.
No trip to Blanco would be complete without a trip to the Redbud Cafe on the square. This local favorite mixes fresh sandwiches, baked cookies, and craft beer to become the most charming cafe-bakery-bar combo in Texas. They make perhaps the best reuben sandwich I’ve ever had, and in the winter they make amazing potato chip cookies. Seriously, try them.
If you’re in the mood for Bar-B-Q, then make your way to Old 300 BBQ. This is a very Texas kind of joint smoking up brisket, sausage, ribs, pork loin, and more over live oak wood. You’ll love it. If you’re in town on a Saturday, you can sample their special “Akaushi” beef brisket made from an amazing flavorful and rare bovine breed.
The biggest outdoor attraction of Blanco is definitely the Blanco River where folks do everything from swim to paddle to fish, and just generally relax beside the calming blue water. The river flows right through the middle of town where you’ll find Blanco State Park – the best place to jump into the Blanco.