6 Excellent Things to Do at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

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The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park preserves the home and legacy of the 36th president, a man known for having a personality as big as Texas. Located in Johnson City, nestled in the Texas Hill Country, you will quickly see why Johnson (better known as LBJ) was the last frontier president. 

The park has two units: the Johnson City District and the LBJ Ranch District. The Johnson City District has a visitor center, LBJ’s boyhood home and his grandparent’s log cabin community. The LBJ Ranch District is home to the Texas White House and ranch, where the former president felt most at home. 

The Boyhood Home at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City, TX
The LBJ Boyhood Home

The LBJ Ranch District is right next to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, which has its own in-depth exhibits on LBJ as well as a preserved farmstead from the early 1900s, when the former president was born. 

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#1: Visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park Visitor Center

An exhibit at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Bonnie reading the exhibits at the visitor center for the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Start your visit at the Visitor Center in Johnson City. Here you will find several excellent exhibits on LBJ and his wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. These exhibits follow the life of LBJ from his early years in the Hill Country to becoming a school teacher and on into politics.

One of the things that fascinated us was the list of units of the National Park Service he helped create as president, including several that either don’t exist anymore or have a different name. 

An exhibit on all of the National Parks LBJ created.
A list of NPS sites created under the Johnson Administration… including several that have different names or aren’t part of the National Park Service anymore!

The visitor center also has two films, one on the former president and one on the former first lady, each 25 minutes long.

#2: Take a Tour of the Boyhood Home

LBJ was born along the Pedernales River near Stonewall, TX but spent most of his childhood in a small home in Johnson City. The National Park Service offers free guided tours of the home, which was purchased by the former president and restored to its 1920s appearance.

Our tour was given by an excellent NPS volunteer and she took us from room to room, giving us a good look into the lives of the Johnson family. One of the things that struck us most was the sleeping porch. Since the house did not have air conditioning (still doesn’t!), the only way to cool off in the Texas summer heat was to sleep out on the porch at night. 

You can also see the bathroom, which was added on later, probably after the Johnsons added a cistern. It is a stark reminder that the president who oversaw the race to the moon grew up in a house without electricity and that indoor plumbing was added later.

#3: Explore the Johnson Settlement

After touring the Boyhood Home, be sure to either walk or drive to the Johnson Settlement. Here you will find the cabin of LBJ’s grandparents who established a cattle droving operation in Johnson City in the 1860s.

LBJ was quite close to his grandparents and would often stay with them, immersing himself in their stories of frontier life, including times when they had to hide under the floorboards from raiding Comanche Indians. 

The walking trail loops by a restored cabin and barns which emulate the ranching past of this community. Be sure to check out the Sam Ealy Johnson Sr. Cabin, which is a dogtrot cabin. Dogtrot cabins have an open breezeway through the middle of them, dividing the living area into two areas. That allowed the breeze to pass through, cooling the home.

#4: Visit the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site

Located west of Johnson City on the way to Fredericksburg, the Lyndon B. State Park and Historic Site is located on the south side of the Pedernales River from the LBJ Ranch District of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and the two parks work hand in hand. Indeed, to visit the LBJ Ranch, you need to get a permit from the state park’s visitor center. 

The state park has its own exhibits on the former president, concentrating on his life in the Hill Country. You can also find a few trails that will take you by the park’s small longhorn and bison herds. 

A bison at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site
Bison at the LBJ State Park and Historic Site

The main attraction of the state park is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. This farm is preserved as a 1918 Hill Country farm and is manned by rangers working as living historians. When we were there, rangers were cooking a period-appropriate lunch with food produced by the farm, as well as a blacksmith and seamstress.

We loved to see this historic farm actually being worked. It makes visiting it that much more authentic.

#5: Tour the LBJ Ranch District of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Just across the river from the state park is the LBJ Ranch District of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. If you haven’t already, make sure you stop at the state park visitor center to get a free permit to tour the ranch. 

After crossing the Pedernales River, you can stop at the Junction School, a one-room schoolhouse that LBJ attended when he was four years old. You will also be able to visit the LBJ Birthplace, which is where the former president was born and spent his first few years. Johnson made a point to buy this land from his aunt to build his home away from Washington, DC.

The Johnson Family Cemetery at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
The Johnson Family Cemetery, including the graves of the former president and first lady

As you head west along the river, you will come upon the Johnson Family Cemetery. Yes, this is where the president and Lady Bird Johnson are buried. Continuing west, you will come across the Sam Early Johnson, Sr. Home. This is where Johnson’s grandparents lived later on in life. 

You will then turn north, heading into the pasture area of the ranch, where LBJ had an airstrip installed so he could fly to his home when visiting from Washington, DC. The original 3,000-foot strip was grass but by the time he became president, LBJ had a 6,300-foot paved strip done so he could land Air Force One Half.

A cow and calf at the LBJ Ranch District of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
A hereford cow and calf at the Show Barn, which still maintains Johnson’s award-winning herd.

At the far end of the airstrip, you will find the Show Barn. LBJ was proud of the cattle he raised on his ranch. He stipulated in his will when he donated the ranch to the National Park Service that it would remain a working ranch. 

The Show Barn is where you can see some of the cattle raised by the ranch and learn about LBJ’s ranching operation. 

#6: See the Texas White House

The Texas White House was closed in 2018 due to safety issues. The entire complex was closed in 2024 to facilitate renovations to the property. It is expected to be reopened in late 2025.

When we first visited in 2011, we were able to tour the Texas White House, the Johnson’s home. Honestly, it was comforting. It felt like we were visiting one of our grandparents’ homes. Alas, it and the hangar visitor center were closed when visited in late 2023, in preparation for the renovations mentioned above.

Air Force One Half at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Air Force One Half, as it was jokingly referred to by Johnson, was small enough to land at the landing strip on the Johnson’s ranch.

We were still able to walk around the grounds and see Air Force One Half, the nickname for the small Lockheed JetStar the Johnsons would take since Air Force One couldn’t land at the airstrip on the ranch.

I am looking forward to the home being open again. One of the things I love about visiting the homes of presidents like Johnson is how down-to-earth the homes generally are. It reminds me we are not led by royalty but rather by everyday people.

The Texas White House at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
The Texas White House

Other Cool Things to Do Near Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is located in the Texas Hill Country which is full of interesting stuff to do. Johnston City is a pretty cool little town in its own right with some neat restaurants if you are looking for a bite. 

If you are into wine, though, all you need to do is head west on US 290 towards Fredericksburg and you will find wineries… lots of wineries. Seriously, we could not count the number of wineries (with a smattering of joined breweries and distilleries) on the 34-mile stretch between these two towns. 

I will be honest: we were shocked. We last visited this area in 2011 and we might have seen a couple of wineries. Now, it seems like there is a winery behind every blade of grass. 

Visit Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is the beating heart of the Texas Hill Country. The town has long embraced its German heritage and leveraged the rugged surrounding beauty into a weekend destination for folks from Austin and San Antonio.

Downtown Fredericksburg
Downtown Fredericksburg

Now, it has truly exploded into a destination and the crowds in town are evident. When we visited in 2011 during spring break, the town wasn’t crowded at all. When we stopped in for a late lunch following our visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in December 2023, we were shocked at the crowds. Granted, it was Friday before New Year’s Eve Weekend but it was obvious this is the new normal for this town. 

Still, this town is more than worth the visit. There are plenty of cool shops, great restaurants (like The Auslander) and plenty of places to sample Hill Country wine if you did not get your fill on the way in. 

The Auslander in Fredericksburg
The Auslander in Fredericksburg

If you are a history buff, don’t miss the National Museum of the Pacific War. Fredericksburg was the home to Admiral Chester Nimitz and the museum dedicated to his honor has transformed into an epic exhibit on the Pacific campaign of World War II. 

Drive the Willow City Loop and Hike Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

The Willow City Loop is a 13-mile scenic drive north of Fredericksburg which winds through some of the best wildflower fields in all of Texas. In the spring, you can find acres of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes surrounded by rugged hills.  

From the Willow City Loop, continue north and west to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to hike in this state park. The centerpiece of this park is a massive pink granite dome which provides excellent views of the surrounding area. 

Enchanted Rock State Recreational Area
Enchanted Rock

Combining these two makes for an excellent day trip from Fredericksburg. 

Catch a Concert at the Dance Hall in Luckenbach 

Luckenbach is a tiny “town” that consists of an old post office, which serves as the general store and saloon, and a dance hall. The dance hall, however, is one of the best live music venues in Texas. The town was made famous by Waylon Jennings’ song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” and became a bit of a frequent venue for Outlaw Country artists like Jennings and Willie Nelson. 

Now, you can find performances of either local or regional acts on a nearly daily basis. 

Luckenbach, TX
The Post Office/General Store/Saloon in Luckenbach

Where to Stay and Eat when Visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Since it was New Year’s Eve Weekend when we were visiting, most of the hotels in Fredericksburg were full and what was left was charging a lot of money. Still, staying in either Fredericksburg or Johnson City would be the easiest way to see all the things the Hill Country has to offer when visiting. 

Since all of the nearby hotels were booked, we ended up continuing our stay in San Antonio which turned out just fine. We did our visit as a day trip, turning the drive into a 144-mile loop. While it was a bit of driving, it was also broken up nicely with the various stops. 

In San Antonio, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn San Antonio at the Rim, which is located on the northwest side of town. We enjoyed the hotel and would stay there again. That said, we would have rather stayed closer to the center of town to explore San Antonio. It worked well since we also took the day trip to the Hill Country, though.

Read TripAdvisor Reviews | Book the Hotel

When it came to getting something to eat, we had to make a point to stop at The Auslander, an authentic Hill Country German restaurant in Fredericksburg. It was about 2 p.m. when we got there and there was a wait to get into the restaurant on a Friday afternoon! Still, the food was worth the wait!

We got the spicy jalapeño pimento cheese appetizer (delicious!) and a cup each of the “Old World” potato soup, which was quite good and helped take off the chill of the day. For lunch, we got the Kasewurst, a spicy smoked sausage (again, delicious!) and it truly hit the spot for a late lunch. 

Lunch at The Auslander in Fredericksburg, TX.
A feast of food at The Auslander in Fredericksburg

Back in 2011, we ate at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company where we got some local beer and some pretty good food. We would certainly go back to enjoy their biergarten again. 

Final Thoughts on Visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park serves as an excellent window into the life of our last “frontier president.” It truly helps you understand where this complicated man came from. It offers a true insight into the man behind so many of the progressive policies of the last century. 

The Birthplace Home at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
LBJ Birthplace Home

It also serves as a hook to draw you into one of my favorite places: the Texas Hill Country. Ever since I went on a road trip with my Dad through this area in high school, I have loved it. There is something truly inspiring about the rugged beauty of this land. 

All that said, I would hold off on visiting this site until the renovations for the Texas White House are completed in late 2025. You simply don’t want to miss LBJ’s respite from the pressures of Washington. 


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