Lampasas: Plenty of fun and history, just 65 miles from Austin – Lifestyle – Austin American-Statesman
Lampasas has more to offer than you might think.
Newbies to central Texas and long-term drivers who just didn’t make the trip can explore the history of the shooting, spring-fed pool, and outdoor artwork in the small town about 65 miles from Austin.
Visitors to Lampasas can easily fill a day trip or a weekend getaway with activities. In fact, from July 6th to 12th, the annual Spring Ho festival has a wide range of activities, from a pet parade to a craft fair, a carnival and a barbecue evening. (Check out springho.com.)
“It’s our natural spring here in town,” said Alicia Menard, director of the Lampasas County Trade and Visitors Center.
After traffic in the Austin area headed north on US 183, travelers can embark on a meandering journey greeted by horses, cows, goats, and perhaps even the occasional longhorn along the way, until they reach the town of roughly 7,000 residents.
“It’s a nice ride from any direction,” said Menard.
HISTORY: The Lampasas County’s courthouse with a beautiful bell tower anchors the center of downtown. The courthouse, built in 1884, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the third oldest operating courthouse in Texas according to the Lampasas and Vicinity Guide. It looks like it did more than a century ago, Menard said.
“It has been revived, but nothing has changed,” she said. “It’s 100 percent the way it was.”
Visitors who make it to the top floor can hear the rhythmic ticking of the clockworks housed there.
Outside, the courthouse is surrounded by historical markings recognizing Lampasas’ past. The city seems proud of its frontier history, which dates back to the 1870s, when gunfights are said to have broken out occasionally and families fought.
The inner city was designated as a historic district. There is a mix of shops and restaurants around the plaza (although some places appeared empty on a recent visit).
Not far from the square, the Lampasas County Museum (formerly known as the Keystone Square Museum) offers a glimpse into the past, including a poker table with cards, tobacco smoking, shot glasses and “an original mug from one of the parlors”. “said Carol Wright, a museum volunteer worker.” This was a very naughty town. “
Another exhibit is a replica bank area with a tumbler safe and a Colt .41 “which is kept in the cashier’s drawer for easy access,” Wright said.
An exhibition shows photos and artifacts of a devastating flood on Mother’s Day in 1957, which left a lasting mark on Lampasas’ psyche.
WATER: On the other hand, water was the elixir of life for Lampasas. The city with its local spring water has been called the “Saratoga of the South”. At this time of year, visitors may want to head to the cool, spring-fed Hancock Springs free-flow swimming area, “(b) the oldest spring-fed pool in Texas,” according to the Lampasas and Vicinity Guide. “The water is a refreshing 68 to 72 degrees, says the guide.
The Hancock Swimming Area, open in the summer, also has monthly moonlit pools where swimmers wear glow sticks “so we can see them because there are no lights,” said Darby Maceyra, maintenance manager for Lampasas Pools. The next moonlight swim will be July 4th, she said.
The Hancock Pool is one of five natural, spring-fed pools in Texas that are still in operation, Menard said.
“This is a big draw,” she said. “We’ll get calls at the end of March.”
However, she warns that visitors to the pool should not wear their best bathing suits.
“The sulfur leaves a residue,” Menard said. “You’re really swimming in a sulfur spring. They say it’s wonderful for your skin.” Fortunately, she said, “You haven’t smelled it at all lately.”
In a confusion of similar names, Hanna Springs, which once attracted visitors for its supposed “medicinal waters”, is now a fenced off area that is not a swimming pool. However, the nearby Hanna Springs swimming pool, which is not spring-fed, has a junior Olympic pool with kid-friendly slides and other features.
ART: Aside from the water fun, Lampasas has a lively arts scene with a sculpture garden and eight large murals adorning buildings around Lampasas.
The Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden (there’s that name again!) In Campbell Park serves a buffet of numerous sculptures, from a stone-sculpted sofa to a totem pole made of birds. Joe Barrington’s “Been Fish’en” is a rusty pickup truck – actual size – with a giant catfish filling the truck bed.
Pedestrians and drivers alike can check out the clever murals around town. For example, a mural shows local wildflowers on the bracts of huge packets of seeds.
According to the Vision Lampasas website, the community was involved in creating murals using the painting by number method.
The mural “The Boot Roundup” was made during an event where residents were invited to bring their cowboy boots, said resident Anne Lowe.
“They tossed them all in a pile and took a picture,” Lowe said. The image was then projected onto the side of the building wall to be painted in a colorful tribute to the local shoemakers.
The mural “Water is Life” shows the high water mark for this flood from 1957. The mural leads to a cozy pocket park with stone benches, tables and chess boards.
FOOD AND DRINK: Visitors can stop in one of the several restaurants around the square. Eve’s Café offers a mix of sandwiches and German cuisine such as schnitzel (breaded pork loin). The dessert box tempts guests with sweets, including various creamy cheesecakes. Business was good on a Tuesday. Nearby restaurants include the County Seat Restaurant and Perks Coffee Bar, where those in need of an energy boost can enjoy caffeine and goodies.
The area is also a magnet for wine lovers, with several wineries in and around Lampasas producing different types of wine.
“They all grow different types of grapes,” Menard said. “Our area is a great place to grow grapes. We tend to be a little drier than our surroundings, which is great if you’re into the viticulture.”
EVENTS / TOURS: The Lampasas area hosts events such as a home tour, golf tournament and Bloomin ‘Fest all year round.
There are also two guided tours that showcase the art, nature and history of the region. For information or to schedule a tour, contact the chamber at 512-556-5172 or check lampasaschamber.org.