Mason is known as the “Gem of the Hill Country” as the only place in Texas where you can find Texas Topaz in nature. But if you day trip here, you’ll find that the whole town sparkles with culture, history, great people, and excellent food.
I recommend starting your trip on the Mason Square. Wander through lots of quaint shops and then find yourself soaking up the history at the Mason Square Museum which is packed with artifacts and knowledge from prehistoric times up to modern day. You’ll learn about Fort Mason, Indian kidnappings, the HooDoo War, and even see the largest Topaz in North America (found in Mason County). You’ll also learn about the local art scene and how the famed “Old Yeller” was written by Mason local Fred Gipson. And since you’ll leave inspired to learn more, you’ll want to head immediately to Fort Mason.
Fort Mason sits atop a hill with the best view in town. None of the original buildings are left, but there is an recreated officer’s quarters to give visitors an idea of how folks operated on a frontier post. You’ll also learn that Fort Mason was Robert E. Lee’s last post with the U.S. Army before he joined the Confederate Army to defend his native state of Virginia. It is quite an incredible dose of history.
If you’re more into sparkly things than old buildings, head to Country Collectibles just off the square. This is the best place in Texas to peruse or purchase Texas Topaz as it was all collected on local farms and ranches. To go on your own rock hunt, there are several ranches that are open to the public. During the episode, I went out with Frank Roberts to Emerald Hill. You can reach Frank HERE.
By this point, you’ve definitely worked up an appetite, and there are lots of great places to eat. For some country cookin’ on the square, head to Willow Creek Cafe. Don’t miss their homemade yeast rolls or pie. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm. For some Mexican food unlike any you’ll find in the Hill Country, head to Santos Taqueria. This fresh, Durango-style cooking is amazing and all whipped up by scratch from “Santos” herself in the back. Que bueno. You can even grab a bottle of wine from Sandstone Cellars next door and bring it over to enjoy with your meal. Or do it in reverse and have your meal delivered next door to the winery or wine bar.
As the day darkens and you’ve got time for an extended day trip, don’t miss the Odeon Theater the oldest continually operating theater in West Texas.