Even if you’re just passing through the Hill Country , be sure to set aside a couple hours to tour the remarkable Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (two visitors centers—100 Lady Bird Lane in Johnson City, and at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall 14 miles west of Johnson City on Hwy. 290, 830/868-7128, www.nps.gov/lyjo , 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, ranch bus tour $6 adults, $3 children 7–17 and seniors). The National Park Service partners with the State of Texas, which operates the LBJ State Park and Historic Site in Johnson City.
As most visitors soon find out, LBJ remains a larger-than-life figure that brought acclaim (and electricity) to the Hill Country . To get a full appreciation for this mythical man, start at Johnson City’s State Park and Historic Site—his boyhood home and the Johnson Settlement—which puts his formative years in the context of his environment.
Afterward, make the relatively quick 14-mile drive west to the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall. The National Park Service’s bus tour, which runs from the visitors center every 90 minutes, is an absolute must. You’ll gain fascinating insight about what made LBJ the legendary figure he became, from the one-room schoolhouse he would sneak into as a four-year-old to the sprawling “Texas White House” residence where he hosted foreign dignitaries, to the small graveyard with the modest granite blocks marking the graves of Lyndon and his beloved wife, Lady Bird.
The ranch’s interpretive center includes informative exhibits about the history of LBJ and the Hill Country , including a post office display with audio versions of letters describing the harsh environs of the region to relatives on the East Coast and in Germany.