Remember when we used to use pencil and string to try to draw the perfect circle? If we used that childhood method to draw a circle around Austin, with an hour-long drive as the radius, you’d be astonished by how much you’d find to do within that relatively small area.
For example, have you heard of Manor, TX? It’s located about 13 miles east of the I-35 exit for 290 (read: about half an hour from downtown Austin). Manor is one of those Texas towns that you can drive through without noticing, but it does have one thing going for it. If you turn off 290 and drive a few minutes closer to the middle of nowhere, you’ll find J. Lorraine Ghost Town, a semi-forsaken spot with a tantalizing history.
Ghost Whispers in J. Lorraine Ghost Town
As we strolled into J. Lorraine Ghost Town for the first time, we weren’t sure what we’d find. It only takes a minute or two to notice that this town does not date back to cowboy days. But as the story goes, there was a cowboy-era town called J. Lorraine.
“The town was a neutral territory for outlaws and lawmen alike until it was burned by outraged moral citizens from nearby.” –J. Lorraine Ghost Town Facebook page
When the current property owner started construction on the Ghost Town, he began to dig up pieces of old wood from the original J. Lorraine township. Our blogging friend Rebecca Darling has this to say about what happened next:
“The owner decided to rebuilt J. Lorraine with the wood he had uncovered and strange things began to happen once he had. Strange voices out of nowhere, noises, and the distinct smell of pipe smoke was noticed as if the townspeople had moved back in.” –RWeThereYetMom.com
Feel free to believe the ghost stories if you like. I think they’re fun. In broad daylight, J. Lorraine Ghost Town isn’t too spooky. But it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours – even if you don’t have any kids to take along with you.
Things to Do in J. Lorraine Ghost Town
Eric thought all the buildings had false fronts, until I turned a doorknob and we found ourselves in the middle of Madame Marie Fortune Teller’s establishment. It would be a lot of fun if each building was fully decorated and furnished…but they’re not. Nonetheless, they’re not empty either – some attempt is made to furnish the buildings (you’ll see). Probably my favorite building is the saloon, where I found a dilapidated piano and sat down to play a few out-of-tune ditties.
Eat a Hamburger, Drink a Beer at the Grill
It’s accurate to say that the bar and grill in J. Lorraine Ghost Town has “the best hamburgers in town.” We tried them ourselves. What can I say? I got the impression that it was like eating in a friend’s kitchen. Sometimes the food comes out great; other times the friend gets distracted by the TV and something goes awry.
The good news is that the food prices are low and the people are super friendly. I think we’d eat there again, but I definitely want to manage your expectations going in. On the day we visited, our fries were so salty that we were shaking it off in small mounds onto the table, and my hamburger was oddly juicy. Maybe we were there on a bad day?
The bar serves beer and wine, and there are a handful of other food items on the menu besides burgers (including $1 hot dogs).
Here are the hours for the bar and grill:
- 4-10 PM on Friday (bar open until midnight)
- 12-10 PM on Saturday (bar open until midnight)
- 12-6 PM on Sunday
Outside ice chests, alcohol and food are not allowed.
Play Games: Volleyball, Horseshoes…
You can really spend a few hours at the Ghost Town when you take advantage of all the games on hand. Choose from volleyball, horseshoes, darts, washers or box hockey. To my knowledge, all of the sporting goods and facilities are free to use while you’re in town.
Enjoy Live Music and Karaoke
Enjoy live music every Friday and Saturday. J. Lorraine often has a visiting band or musical artist. When they don’t, it’s karaoke time! Their brochure declares: “Good singers welcome, not so good singers loved, everyone invited!” How’s that for a cowboy welcome?
Catch a Nighttime Movie on the Outdoor Screen
With few exceptions, J. Lorraine Ghost Town shows an outdoor movie every Friday and Saturday night. The movie titles aren’t posted on their site, so feel free to call ahead to see what’s playing (phone number at the bottom of this article).
Explore the Maze
The maze was probably my favorite part of our visit to J. Lorraine Ghost Town. I expected it to be easy to navigate, but it wasn’t. It probably took us half an hour to get all the way through. The first time we found ourselves back at the entrance and had to start all over again.
After we made it through together, we tried a fun variation: I started at the end of the maze and Eric started at the beginning, and we had to find each other in the middle. He hid behind a wall and scared me half to death. I’m pretty sure the ghosts of J. Lorraine heard my blood-curdling scream. I guess I spook easily in ghost towns…
Rent the Venue: Two Performance Stages
J. Lorraine Ghost Town is available for rental and I can certainly imagine throwing a super fun party there.
For More Information
J. Lorraine Ghost Town is located at 14219 Littig Rd. Manor, TX 78653.
To plan your visit, go to J. Lorraine’s website or call 512-922-2683. To be on the safe side, I recommend that you call ahead before your visit to make sure the town isn’t closed for a private event.
Do you think J. Lorraine Ghost Town looks like fun?