With a population of about 20,000, Kerrville is larger than the other Hill Country towns detailed here. Now a popular retirement and tourist area, it was founded in the 1840s by Joshua Brown, a shingle-maker attracted by the area’s many cypress trees (and a friend of Major James Kerr, who never actually saw the town and county named after him). A rough-and-tumble camp surrounded by more civilized German towns, Kerrville soon became a ranching center for longhorn cattle and, more unusually, for Angora goats; at one time it produced the most mohair in the United States. After it was lauded in the 1920s for its healthful climate, Kerrville began to draw youth camps, sanitariums, and artists.

A Bit of Old England in the Old West

Several attractions, some endearingly offbeat, plus beautiful vistas along the Guadalupe River, warrant a detour west of Kerrville. Drive 5 miles from the center of town on Hwy. 27 W. to reach tiny Ingram. Take Hwy. 39 W. to the second traffic light downtown; after about a quarter of a mile, you’ll see a sign for the Historic Old Ingram Loop, once a cowboy cattle-droving route and now home to rows of antiques shops, crafts boutiques, and art galleries and studios. Back on Hwy. 39, continue another few blocks to the Hill Country Arts Foundation (www.hcaf.com; tel. 830/367-5121), a complex comprising a theater, an art gallery, studios where arts-and-crafts classes are held—and a replica of Stonehenge. It’s not as large as the original but, this being Texas, it’s not exactly diminutive either. A couple of reproduction Easter Island heads fill out the ancient mystery sculpture group commissioned by Al Shepherd, a wealthy eccentric who died in the mid-1990s. 

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Exploring Kerrville

Make your first stop the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2108 Sidney Baker (www.kerrvilletexascvb.com; tel. 800/221-7958), where you can get a map of the area as well as of the historic downtown district. It’s open weekdays 8:30am to 5pm, Saturday 9am to 3pm, and Sunday 10am to 3pm.

Then head to the restored downtown, flanked by the Guadalupe River and a pleasant park. Kerrville’s historic buildings, most of them concentrated on Earl Garrett and Water streets, host a variety of restaurants and shops, many selling antiques and/or country-cute knickknacks. Among the most impressive structures is the Schreiner Mansion Historic Site, 226 Earl Garrett St. (www.caillouxfoundation.org/schreiner-mansion; tel. 830/895-5222), a mansion built of native stone by Alfred Giles for pioneer rancher and banker Capt. Charles Schreiner. The house is sometimes open for tours; call ahead. The 1935 post office now hosts the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, 228 Earl Garrett St. (www.kacckerrville.com; tel. 830/895-2911), which exhibits work by local artists, in addition to hosting large annual exhibitions like the Southwest Gourd Fine Art Show and the Texas Furniture Makers Show.

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To view work by top sculptors and painters from the mid–20th century to the present, head just outside the main part of town to the Museum of Western Art, 1550 Bandera Hwy. (www.museumofwesternart.com; tel. 830/896-2553), a high-quality collection housed in a striking Southwestern structure by O’Neill Ford. It also has an interactive children’s history gallery. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy nearby Kerrville-Schreiner Park, 2385 Bandera Hwy. (www.kerrvilletx.gov/318/Kerrville-Schreiner-Park; tel. 830/257-7300), a 500-acre green space boasting 7 miles of hiking trails, swimming and boating on the Guadalupe River, campgrounds, and a variety of cabins for rent. 

Military buffs and souvenir-seekers might want to drive 12 miles south of Kerrville on scenic Hwy. 173 to see Camp Verde, the former headquarters (1856–69) of the short-lived U.S. Army camel cavalry. The quixotic attempt to introduce “ships of the desert” into dry Southwest terrain never took off, due to widespread ignorance of the animals’ habits; the onset of the Civil War dealt the program a final blow. There’s little left of the fort itself, but the Camp Verde General Store (www.campverdegeneralstore.com; tel. 830/634-7722), with its camel statue out front, is a popular tourist stop. Established in 1857 to serve the soldiers stationed nearby, the store has been revamped several times; the most recent overhaul scrapped most of the wonderfully tacky camel-related tchotchkes in favor of more tasteful gifts, and added a cheerful casual restaurant serving hearty sandwiches and sides; it’s open from 11am to 3pm. 

Where to Eat in Kerrville

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The setting—a beautifully restored 1915 depot with a lovely patio out back—is not the only thing outstanding about Rails ★★, 615 Schreiner (www.railscafe.com; tel. 830/257-3877), which serves some of the best food in the Hill Country. Everything, from the creative salads and Italian panini sandwiches to a small selection of hearty entrees, is made with fresh ingredients, many bought locally. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and prices are moderate.

The name is Italian, but the menu at Francisco’s, 201 Earl Garrett St. (tel. 830/257-2995), is eclectic, with lots of nods towards Mexico. It’s housed in the 1890s Weston building. A downtown business crowd comes for soup and salad combos at lunchtime; many return on weekend evenings for such mix-it-up entrees as cilantro lime shrimp or teriyaki chipotle chicken. Francisco’s is open for lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner Thursday through Saturday. Prices range from moderate to expensive.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.