Let’s Go to Luckenbach, Texas
Most Texans can sing right along with Willie Nelson’s famous song that put this tiny Texas spot on the map.
Where is it?
Though we all know the lyrics, going to Luckenbach is something most of us have never done.
Partly because we really don’t know where it is.
I mean, have you ever stopped belting out the words to this song and wondered, where IS Luckenbach, Texas?
But when we moved to Austin, some friends invited us to go, and that’s when we found out where the stuff of Willie’s song exists.
Out on a country road, in southeastern Gillespie County, under some mighty old oak trees, not far from Fredericksburg.
What is it?
Luckenbach, Texas is exactly what you think of when someone says “it’s just a little ol’ hole in the road.”
Technically, it’s not even a town. It’s an unincorporated community on about nine acres of beautiful Texas land. Unincorporated – that just means that Luckenbach is a settlement that is not governed by any municipality.
They make their own rules in Luckenbach.
They being 3.
That’s right. We can literally count the population of this famous Texas landmark on one hand.
Which adds all the more to the Texas-style draw of the place where Willie claims we need to go.
So baby, let’s sell your diamond ring
Buy some boots and faded jeans and go away
This coat and tie is choking me
In your high society you cry all day
We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones
Four car garage and we’re still building on
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love
Subscribe to the settlement’s monthly newspaper, Luckenbach Moon, here.
Luckenbach’s population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s it was almost a ghost town. A newspaper advertisement offering “town — pop. 3 — for sale” led actor Guich Koock and Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan. Hondo’s wife, Shatzi paid for the town, and Guich’s wife, Patricia, worked as the bartender and bookkeeper giving their husbands all the glory. Guich used the town’s rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit. The town has been host to many unique festivals including the Luckenbach Women’s Chili Cookoff and The 1st Luckenbach World’s Fair, where Willie Nelson made a surprise appearance.
If people ask what’s my best idea for a day trip, I’ll tell them to go to Luckenbach, Texas.
This is the best one-day excursion we’ve done since moving to Austin.
Since we went to Luckenbach, I’ve raved a little and mentioned it to lots of people. I’ve mentioned it to people who’ve lived in Austin way longer than we have. People who graduated from the University of Texas and never left. And guess what?
Many of them have never been to Luckenbach, Texas. Not with Waylon. Not with Willie. Not with the boys.
Take it from your friendly intentional adventurer, if you go to Luckenbach this weekend, it won’t be too soon, and you sure won’t be sorry.
If you need an agenda for your day, I’ve got one. This was all planned by our friends who had been many times before, and I wouldn’t change one single thing.
11:00 a.m. Wildseed Farms, Fredericksburg. You’ll need about an hour here to look at the flowers, meander through the butterfly garden and purchase something really cute at a great price from the gift shop. I bought a super cute shirt for $17.95. Woot, Woot!
12:30 p.m. Wedding Oak Winery. The actual winery is in San Saba, but Wedding Oak has a tasting room on-site at Wildseed Farms. Some of the peeps in our group did a tasting, thought it was good, and purchased a few bottles to take home.
I would really like to visit the San Saba location and see the huge oak tree from which comes their name…but that’s for another day trip.
1:00 p.m. Grape Creek Vineyards, just a little jog down the road, where you’ll share some fantastic pizza and a bottle of consistently smooth and delicious red or white wine. It’s a super-relaxing place to visit, and still our favorite winery experience in the Texas hill country.
2:30 p.m. Luckenbach, Texas! I had no idea it was only 7 minutes away from Grape Creek.
I expected a town, like with streets and buildings.
Nope – it’s a delightful find of a place, with only a post office, a dance hall, a general store, and a rustic wooden stage situated under huge oak trees, where listeners park themselves at large wooden picnic tables, getting up occasionally to mill around and take group pictures in front of the massive old oaks…
…or buy a cool hat.
And then there’s the music.
All of the music we’ve found in Austin is good. Like really good. Most of the time, we’ve never heard of the artists, but that’s just because we’re new.
It only takes once, though, to hear someone amazing and then try to find them again for more of the same. Like this slow-paced, guitar-playing, smooth-singing guy.
Mike Blakely and his band strummed and sang for two hours like it was no time at all. For a couple of songs, a guy with a harmonica appeared out of the trees and played with them, then off he went, maybe to a second gig. (We’ve also learned that these local musicians might be part of 3 or 4 bands at a time.)
I know how hard it is for these guys to get this good at what they do.
My mom and step-dad once thought it would be fun to create a musical version of the Brady Bunch out of our blended family, so they gave me piano lessons while my brother and step-brother tried to learn guitar and banjo.
She found a guy who would teach all three instruments in one after-school afternoon, at a reduced rate, and he would actually drive to our house to do it.
We literally drove the teacher to drink. Literally. He kept his flask handy while he was at our house.
It’s one of my mom’s best stories.
What was once a trading post to pioneer farmers is now described as a “Texas state of mind.”
The state of my mind improved drastically while we were there.
5:00 p.m. Alamo Springs General Store and Cafe. I’m having a hard time deciding how to describe this cafe that’s down the road about 15 minutes from Luckenbach. The decor is very biker-cafe-ish, and the menu is a pretty good conversation piece in itself.
Alamo Springs Cafe earned a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for its consistently great reviews.
From fried avocados to peach crisp, it’s the kind of menu that forces everyone around the table to take a poll of what everyone else is having before deciding for themselves. The burgers had a Texas Monthly reputation, so we all ordered up.
On her third bite, one of the friends said it was hands down the best hamburger she’d ever eaten. The rest of us agreed – with our mouths full.
Blue cheese, green chili, however you want your burger, they’ve got it – with onion rings that are perfect, I’m telling you, perfect.
9:30 pm. Back home, in your jammies, texting all the friends to be sure they made it home safely and telling them thanks a million times over for a great hill country day.
So, there you have it. The best day trip we’ve taken since moving to Austin.
Do it like we did, or spice it up with another side spot, but be sure to make Luckenbach the star of the day.
Encouraging intentional adventure and a Texas state of mind,