Chances are you’ve driven past this town on I-35, and while Hillsboro may be known for it’s outlet malls and truck stops, a day trip here will show you it’s so much more. If you travel past the highway and traffic to the heart of town, you’ll find yourself wandering down memory lane into an old-fashioned adventure full of history and nostalgia.
The Hillsboro Square has historic buildings that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. Among the businesses on the square you’ll find T.B. Bond Pharmacy, which was started in 1881 and is now Texas’s oldest pharmacy. And if you’re brave, stop by Bond’s Alley next door — which was once the seediest part of town full of fisticuffs and cock fights. In the center of the Square is the Hill County Courthouse, which was rebuilt with the help of Willie Nelson in 1999 after it burnt down. Willie is a Hill County boy, born down the road in Abbott, TX.
Roadside America Museum
The Roadside America Museum is exactly the kind of museum you’d hope to find next to the historic Square. This museum started as an ode to the “Grapette” soda memorabilia but has grown to include all kinds of classic ads, cars and nostalgic antiques. Time will fly as you reminisce on the “good ol’ days.” The owner may even give you a sample of Grapette, just not from the 50 year old bottles.
Hill County Cell Block Museum
Visit this museum in a jailhouse built in 1893 where legend holds Elvis spent a night after being arrested for drunk driving in town. Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde) also busted out one of his gang-members from this building. And while Willie Nelson never did time here, inside you’ll find a collection of his platinum albums and guitars among all the other collectibles telling the story of Hill County. You can also read messages written in soot on the jail cell walls left by prisoners long ago.
Texas Heritage Museum
The Texas Heritage Museum is another must-see museum while you’re in town. Located inside Hill College, its mission is to tell the story of the brave Texans who fought in wartime. The museum has artifacts and guns from both sides of the battles dating all the way back to the Texas Revolution. You can hear the stories of well-known soldiers like Milton Holland (the first Texan to receive the Medal of Honor) and see the medals of heroes like Audie Murphy (the most decorated WWII soldier).
A Tiskit - A Taskit Antiques & Soda Fountain
For a meal that’s just as classic as the town itself, head this little diner off the square that’s part soda fountain, part antique shop. Step inside and you’ll swear you’re in the 50’s as you chow down on your burger and slurp your milkshake made with homemade ice cream. And see if you can spot the antique train chugging along the track above the diner.
While in Hillsboro, make time for Taylor’s Smokehouse. Not only do they serve up tender brisket with a unique rub and custom ground sausages, they also smoke their own bacon. For a BBQ sandwich with a kick, get the “Smokin’ Gun” which has pork, brisket and spicy sausage piled together on a toasty bun and topped with jalapenos. It stings in the most delicious way!
For adventure in the beautiful outdoors, head to Lake Whitney, where you can do a special kind of climbing you’ll only find on a handful of lakes in Texas: deep water soloing. It’s a rock climb that quickly turns into a swim if you fall, so prepare to get wet. You can boat to the rock climbing walls, or set out from Soldiers Bluff park and hike to the climbs – if you’re feeling brave. Just be sure to research the area before you climb so you know the water depth and rock quality. And don’t forget a buddy!