On sunny days this time of year, you’ll likely notice butterflies along North Texas roadways. This is the annual Fall migration of North American Monarch butterflies on their way to warmer climes in the Oyamel fir trees in central Mexico. Unlike migrating birds, the Monarchs are not returning to a wintering ground. They are making the journey for the first and only time. Monarchs born in late summer have a life span of seven to nine months. That’s long enough to journey south, winter over, and then begin the journey back north. In early spring, this generation of Monarchs will make it as far as south Texas to lay eggs in milkweed. The Monarchs born in spring and summer continue their northward journey to Minnesota and other northern states. But unlike their parents and grandparents, the summer Monarchs live only two to eight weeks. That means the Monarchs you see next Fall will be the great-great grandchildren of the ones you see today!
Johnson City, in Texas Hill Country, is a great destination for families. Here are three family-friendly activities you’ll not want to miss during your visit.
Sauer-Beckmann Farm. Travel back in time at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, a living history farm located in the Lyndon B Johnson State Park and Historic Site. The farm gives visitors a look at Texas Hill Country life at the turn of the twentieth century. Costumed interpreters perform farm tasks like canning fruits and vegetables, milking, and soap making. A dogtrot styled farmhouse outfitted with turn of the century furnishings offers kids a glimpse into what it might have been like to live in Texas Hill Country a hundred years ago. During my family’s visit, our son shared the chores by fetching eggs from the hen coop. The Sauer-Beckmann Farm is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is no charge for touring the farm though donations are welcome. Nature trails collocated at the farm make for an easy hike, even for small children.
LBJ Ranch Tour. At the Lyndon B Johnson National Park, your family can explore recent American history by taking the LBJ Ranch Tour in your car. An audio CD narrates the tour route and highlights aspects of the Johnson presidency. The tour also examines factors that influenced him during his childhood years. Stop at the re-creation of his birthplace, and visit LBJ and Lady Bird’s gravesides. Learn about his vocation as a schoolteacher and his dedication to education, including the formation of the Head Start program. The tour highpoint is a stop at the Texas White House. Guides conduct tours inside the home from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The downstairs portion of the house has been restored to its 1960s appearance. The show barn and airplane hangar contain many of LBJ’s automobiles and his presidential plane. The driving tour is free though there is a $3 fee for the Texas White House Tour. You can obtain your driving tour pass and audio CD at the park visitor center.
Exotic Resort Zoo. Take a walk on the wild side at the Exotic Resort Zoo (235 Zoo Trail, Johnson City). The animal park boasts 60 different species and 500 animals. You’ll find the animals on the open range and in a petting zoo environment. Zoo tours are available daily. Tractors pull trailers outfitted with a canopy and seats. Zoo guides narrate the Texas Hill Country safari. Be sure to buy at least one bucket of food pellets for the hour-long tour. Bison, zebra, ostrich, antelope, llama, aoudad and emu abound. The animals converge on the safari mobile for handouts and some will even lop next to the moving vehicle for their treats. Beware the very friendly camels. Omar, the older of two camels, sometimes steals an entire food bucket from unsuspecting visitors. Cabins are available for rental on the zoo property and make an ideal spot for family reunions.
Strains of Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade softly compliment the evening’s last light as we sip cocktails on the veranda. The sun appears as a glowing orange orb resting on the hilltops as a Cessna makes its landing approach on the airfield in front of us. Now, Chattanooga Choo Choo entertains us with its upbeat melody. Closing our eyes, we travel decades into the past. Such is the mood set by a stay at the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg.
Officers’ Club. Staying at the Hangar Hotel is like stepping back in time to a Bachelor Officer Quarters from World War II. A converted hangar on the edge of Gillespie County Airport houses this elegantly simple hotel. Large ceiling fans, antique switchboard, and palm trees greet guests as they check in. Off the hotel lobby is the Officer’s Club, open weekends. Rooms are furnished in rusty reds, mossy greens and rich browns. Weathered leather chairs, vintage style dresser and armoire furnish the room. Every detail, from drapery pattern to reproduction phone, transports you back in time. The black and white tiled bathroom completes the setting. There is even a green, wool army blanket on the bed. The room television is the only concession to the 21st century.
Details. The Hangar Hotel is located at 155 Airport Road, Fredericksburg. Room rates begin at $119 (weekdays) and $179 (weekends). The hotel offers senior (over 65) and military discounts. To make a reservation, call (830) 997-9990 or visit the hotel website at hangarhotel.com.