Where is the most beautiful town square in Texas?
Drive 25 miles north of Austin and you’ll find it.
We’ve become big fans of Texas. And centre stage of the Lone Star state has been the smaller towns. They steal the limelight from their bigger siblings and for that reason when Georgetown asked us to visit their slice of America we were intrigued.
If the sprawling big cities and big highways of Texas seem daunting, you’ll prefer the small-town vibe of Georgetown. Just 30 minutes up the I-35 from Austin and we entered what felt like another world. One that has earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful town squares in the country. For very good reason.
Georgetown For History
Georgetown’s foundation dates back to 1848 and since then it’s become the first city in Texas to be named A Great American Main Street City.
It really does live up to its reputation with a beautiful town square featuring wonderfully preserved Victorian architecture. In fact, you may recognise it from films like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” or “Friday Night Lights.”
The highlight? The 1911 Williamson Country Courthouse, the crowning centrepiece in the centre of town.
Can’t get enough of historical Georgetown? We took a walking tour of the courthouse and surrounding area. Highlights include the 1881 Grace Episcopal Church, the 1888 Old Williamson County Jail, and the 1840 Southwestern University, the oldest university in Texas.
Georgetown For Present
It may have a pretty unique history, but Georgetown is also making waves today. It’s the number 1 fastest growing city in the USA and the largest city in the US to use 100% renewable energy.
Around the town square you’ll find over 40 retail shops, and along the San Gabriel River you’ll find nearly 9 miles of hike and bike trails.
Where To Stay In Georgetown
Sheraton Georgetown was the perfect location for our stay. Parking was easy with an undercover secure garage attached to the hotel. Our room was a 2 queen bed configuration, with comfortable, soft beds and modern decor.
Tip: If you get a chance, grab one of the complimentary bicycles and take a ride around.
Where To Eat In Georgetown
We started our mornings with breakfast at the Brix & Ale located on the ground floor of the Sheraton overlooking the swimming pool. Our waitress was so friendly and accommodating. She heard my sigh at the prospect of no eggs benedict on the menu and said she could make it happen. And I mean she literally made it happen. As a former cook she hopped right in the kitchen and whipped it up while the chef took care of all the other meals for our family. I was stunned. And it was delicious, cooked to perfection. But the real highpoint? Get the kale salad that comes with the frittata. I know, salad for breakfast might not be your first choice. But trust me. It was fresh, crunchy and perfectly light.
If Tex Mex gets you salivating, then El Monumento is a must. The modern-meets-homey décor hides a simple yet satisfying menu. All this leads to a rather delicious outcome.
They offer tacos, salads, burritos and more. It’s the best Tex Mex in town. And while the lunchtime plastic cutlery didn’t quite match the fine décor, the food made up for it in spades.
This classic style diner brings together organic, locally sourced ingredients in hearty traditional American dishes. I recommend the chicken fried chicken. Each day a small farmer’s market is available on-site so you can buy your own fresh produce as well.
Located within an old 120-year-old bakery, this building has been reborn as a modern pizzeria. They serve gourmet pizzas (whole or by the slice) along with several dozen craft brews amid funky decor and a lively atmosphere. 1 whole 14” pizza feeds 3-4, and my kids loved the La Jolla (Canadian bacon and pineapple). Delicious!
If you’re looking for somewhere special for lunch or dinner, this is it. Fine dining atmosphere with heartwarming Cajun and Creole dishes. You have to try the steak with crawfish - heavenly, juicy and succulent. On a funny note, our server was a spitting image of Joaquin Phoenix.
If you have a sweet tooth, make a salivating bee-line for Sweet Serendipity. Here we found tantalising hand made chocolates, ice cream, gourmet food and ornaments. But be warned, once you enter it is impossible to leave without buying something tasty.
What To Do In Georgetown
If you missed biking at the Sheraton, then you can always grab a free bicycle rental from the Georgetown Public Library and head out on the San Gabriel River hike and bike trails. Keep in mind they’re all the same size, so they might not suit young kids. Georgetown is very easy to navigate as it’s laid out in a grid fashion and there’s plenty to see and do (as you can tell by our list).
This scenic lagoon is a popular swimming hole along the south fork of the San Gabriel River. The park features space for picnics and public restrooms. We weren’t prepared with swimming gear, but that didn’t stop my kids from rolling up their shorts and wading in the cool water.
Love being outdoors? Then you will love Lake Georgetown. Popular activities around the lake include fishing, biking, horse riding, swimming, camping and more. We entered via Cedar Breaks Park (south side of lake) which required a $5 entry fee (per car), but there’s plenty of space for a BBQ or picnic overlooking the lake. If you’ve borrowed a bike from the Library, follow the path along the north fork of the (near Blue Hole) river towards the lake for a scenic, fun afternoon.
The Georgetown Art Center displays works from nationally renowned and local artists. Exhibits change every 4-6 weeks, and the centre offers an educational emphasis on art with regular free talks by artists. It’s operated by friendly volunteers and when we visited they were more than happy to chat about the artworks and other things going on around town.
Can’t get enough art? Then take a walk downtown along Main Street (between 7th and 8th Streets and at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 West 8th Street) to see multiple sculptures that form part of the Central Texas Sculpture Tour. See if you can spot the blue dogs that my kids loved the most. Print a handy free map here.
This beautiful old movie house was renovated in 2001 and re-opened as a live theatre venue. We took a behind the scenes look at the ever-growing backstage area, including the plethora of costumes, wigs, backdrops and more. If you call ahead and ask nicely, I’m sure one of the team members will be happy to show you around.
During our visit in November they were setting up for their newest musical The Little Mermaid. Caius reported he wanted to wait right in the theatre until show time. And while it would have been a long wait for him you can check the calendar online for current shows and book a ticket. It’s a beautiful theatre and I’d be delighted to see one of their live theatre productions next time we’re in town.
Williamson County Courthouse
As discussed above you really need to see inside this beautiful courthouse. The building hides history that changed lives across the entire country, including the very first successful prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members for hate crimes in the 1920s.
Also, take a drink from the 110-year-old water fountain in the rotunda. The kids assured me the water did not taste that old!
Why am I writing about a hat store? Well, this one is pretty special. Inside you will find Nathaniel, cowboy hat extraordinaire to the stars. He crafted Will Smith’s hat used in “Wild Wild West”.
We got to meet Nathaniel and he happened to know which hat would fit and match us perfectly. Did you know it takes 12 hours to make a hat? And out of all the hats in that store, I fell for the Australian crocodile design.
This is not just any toy store. These guys have a play room at the back for your little ones to enjoy… if you can get them away from all the amazing toys. Staff were super friendly as well. We could have stayed chatting all day and our kids didn’t want to leave.
Imagine this… It’s 1963 and the Texas Highway Department decide to build a highway overpass, so start drilling to make sure the ground is sturdy and stable. As they are drilling the drill bit suddenly drops 26 feet. The ground is not stable enough, in fact there’s a whole other world down there that Texas had no idea about… 7,000 square feet of it.
We love cave tours and this one has elements of adventure that you may not find in other caves. Of course, you can go with the standard “adventure tour”(which is suitable for kids as young as 4), along a well-lit pathway to see the intricate stalactites and stalagmites. Or you can go off-road with the “hidden passages” tour (suitable for kids 7 and over). Guided by Tony, we loved the chance to explore and got a little muddy along the slightly more Indiana Jones-style trail.
Georgetown is a great add-on to any Austin itinerary. A weekend there is the perfect opportunity to get out of the city and discover history, nature and that delightful small town feel. Make sure you say hi to Nathaniel for me while in town and get him to size you up for a true Texas souvenir.