Day Trips

Georgetown doesn't ordinarily have longhorns roaming past the county courthouse anymore, but at one time in the town's 150 years the Chisholm Trail ran past the town square and thousands of longhorns passed through town on their way to market.

The Williamson County seat will be commemorating its 150th anniversary by sponsoring special events throughout the year.

The modern-day Chisholm Trail, I-35, runs a mile west of the town square connecting the all-American town to the outside world.

Georgetown was founded in August 1848, six months after Williamson County was carved out of Milam County. At the junction of the North and South San Gabriel rivers, the town was named for George Glasscock, who owned a mill on the river.

By the early-1850s, several businesses were established to supply the needs of the ranches to the west and farms to the east of town. The oldest business in town is Southwestern University, a Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college. The university was chartered in 1875, with the merger of five other Texas colleges. The school's graduates include a diverse group of luminaries from Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie to the late Sen. John Tower.

East of downtown on University Street and surrounded by Victorian homes, the campus is worth a driving tour. Special historical exhibits will be up around campus during the year; for more information call 512/863-1487.

The railroad came to Georgetown in 1875, bringing more students and economic stability. Two years later, the county's first newspaper, The Williamson County Sun, was first published. Outlaw John Wesley Hardin once threatened to blow up the newspaper after a less-than-flattering article about him. The bi-weekly newspaper is a great source for local news and information.

From late March to late May red poppies add to the color of the wildflowers around town. The poppies were brought to Georgetown by Henry Compton after his service in World War I. The seeds thrived and spread throughout town. In 1990, the state legislature named Georgetown the "Red Poppy Capital of Texas."

The town square is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon exploring the eclectic blend of shops from the old-fashioned Gold's Department Store and the hardware store to the Hill Country Book Store and Cianfrani Coffee Shop.

The visitor center at the northeast corner of the square (512/869-5598) is a good place to start a tour of the downtown area. Stop by Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm, or Sunday, 1-5pm, and ask for the walking tour brochure that tells the history of several of the unique buildings.

Built in 1910, the three-story courthouse has a copper-covered dome capped with a statue of Justice. Inside are displays of historical photos and documents and a second-floor balcony with a bird's-eye view of the square.

North of downtown are two of Georgetown's best parks. Blue Hole Park on the south bank of the San Gabriel River west of Austin Avenue (US81) has been a popular swimming spot for generations. Improvements have made the park more scenic and safer with one-way traffic from Rock Street and a parking lot at Third Street.

San Gabriel Park is the town's multi-use recreational facility. The entrance to the 300-acre park is at the northeast corner of the Austin Avenue bridge over the San Gabriel. The park is in a pecan grove at a gentle bend in the river where Indians used to camp.

The most popular attraction in Georgetown, other than the downtown area, might be Inner Space Caverns on the southern edge of town on I-35. The cave was discovered in 1963 by the Texas Highway Department while testing to see if the land could support the rumble of I-35. An incredible 97 percent of the cave is still growing.

No matter what the weather is doing, it is always cool and comfortable 69 feet down. The cave is open daily 10am-5pm and 9am-6pm Memorial Day to Labor Day (512/863-5545).

Across from the caverns at The Candle Factory, visitors can watch satin-finish tapers take shape and artists hand-finish wax figurines. The shop is open seven days a week, 9am-5:30pm, and 10am-5:30pm on Sundays (512/863-6025).

If getting outdoors is more to your liking, Lake Georgetown is an often-overlooked recreational wonderland. About four miles west of town off FM2338, the 1,310-acre lake has four well-maintained parks. For information about the parks and a map, stop at the headquarters near the dam or call 512/863-3016 during regular business hours.

Some of the upcoming events to celebrate Georgetown's 150th birthday party are:

The History of Women at Southwestern University at Brown-Cody Hall, an exhibit that includes the Negro School of Fine Arts, now through March.

Viking Fest, a Texas Scandinavian Festival in San Gabriel Park, Apr. 24-26.

MayFair and Air Show at Georgetown airport and San Gabriel Park, May 1-3.

Downtown Model A Rally, June 4.

Founder's Day Festival in San Gabriel Park, July 4.

Community Birthday Celebration, Oct. 2-4.

Call the Visitors' Center for a complete list of upcoming events or check the town's website at http://www.georgetown.org/tourism/.

Coming up this weekend...

Williamson County Gem & Mineral Show is at the community center in Georgetown's San Gabriel Park, Feb. 21-22. 512/864-0334.

Coming up...

Whooping Cranes & Other Birds Festival in Port Aransas mixes art shows with boat tours, Feb. 26-Mar. 1. 800/452-6278.

Texas Historic Sites Atlas sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission helps you find historical markers, museums, sawmills, and National Registry sites. Illustrated with maps and photos, use the website to plan a day trip or research a project. http://www.thc.state.tx.us/atlas

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