While I love city life, there’s something to be said for green space and the simplicity of nature.
Just yesterday we wrote about Laguna Gloria, an outdoor paradise in the middle of Austin.
If you drive a bit further to Stonewall, TX – a little more than an hour west of Austin – you’ll find the beautiful Lyndon B. Johnson State Park. It’s a hundred percent worth the drive. No matter how old you are or who you visit with, there’s a piece of the park for you to enjoy!
State Park and National Park Combined
LBJ State Park is a strange animal because it connects seamlessly to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center for the State Park, where you can pick up a free driving permit and map. For $10, you can also purchase an audio CD that tours you through the State and National Parks from the comfort of your car (it’s bundled with a collectible DVD).
You get to decide when you want to stop, get out of your car and explore. These self-guided tours are available seven days a week, from 9 AM-4:30 PM.
Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm
The first stop is the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, which is definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole visit. This historical farm displays life before electricity with the help of real animals, a barn and house furnished from the beginning of the twentieth century, and costumed volunteers.
You’re free to wander through the farm and its buildings and, if you have an imagination like me, pretend that you really live there. You may see fresh milk sitting on the wooden table in the kitchen, with the curds thrown to the chickens and barn cats outside, or volunteers scrubbing the floor with soap made out of lye. If you’re there at the right time of year, you might even see canning and butchering. If you like that sort of thing.
The Farm is open daily from 8 AM-4:30 PM, except for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
As you get back to your audio tour in your car, get ready for my absolute favorite thing about LBJ State Park. If you know me, you know that I love Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt fought for our country’s wilderness like no president before him, and part of his passion for nature was a love for the American Bison. To make a long story much longer, bison are my favorite animal. And LBJ State Park has a herd of them that I can see and talk to every time I visit!
If you don’t take the time to stop and talk to the bison, you’ll soon enter the National Park, past the one-room schoolhouse where Lyndon B. Johnson learned how to read.
You’ll see a reconstructed replica of LBJ’s birthplace, the Johnson Family Cemetery where President Johnson and Lady Bird are buried, and the farmhouse where LBJ’s grandparents lived.
There are cattle roaming freely around the property, so drive slowly and be prepared to stop. The cattle are there due to LBJ’s wish that the park remain a working ranch, even after his death.
I loved the long loop past the Show Barn (the present-day center of ranching operations) because the narrow road was bordered on both sides by beautiful ranch land.
As we drove, we listened to 50’s and 60’s-era music on our tour CD. There were old-timey, twangy songs that talked about how awesome Texas is and even “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” which apparently was one of LBJ’s favorite songs. Pro tip: roll your window down and you can pretend that you’re galloping on a horse instead of driving in a car.
Nearing the end of the tour, you’ll suddenly see an airplane hanger holding LBJ’s private airplane. Stop there to get a ticket to tour the Texas White House, 10 AM-4:30 PM every day. $3 for adults, 17 and under free. Cash, checks and cards are all accepted. August 27th, LBJ’s birthday, is a free day every year.
I was astonished to learn that Lyndon B. Johnson spent 25% of his presidency on his ranch in Texas. Once you know that, the fact that his home was named the Texas White House becomes much more understandable!
I love LBJ State Park and the accessibility to so much history. The CD tour makes the Park easy and fun to experience and appreciate. Take an afternoon and make the one-hour drive from Austin, then let me know what you think!
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What is your favorite Texas State Park?
Airplane hanger and Texas White House photos by Michael Coghlan, via Flickr CC.