Llano-Living Like a Local
For a real taste of Texas, get a lick of life as a local in Llano
A river runs through it. When the rains come and the river is running, nothing beats a kayaking trip down the Llano, where one can go for miles without seeing anyone or anything but rocks, trees, turtles, and maybe a few thirsty cows.
Breathtakingly beautiful granite outcroppings and boulders fill the riverscape. They are also fun to climb and a great place to put out for a picnic!
Many take a fishing rod, others a waterproof camera. Points for putting in and out include Castell, Schneider, and Scott slabs; Robinson and Badu parks. All other land along the river is private. Bring your kayak and paddle like a local.
Badu Park, on the north side of Llano, provides easy access for swimmers and kayakers in a small lake just above the dam. There’s also a splash-pad water park for the kiddos. The park also plays host to several Llano events.
On the south side of the river, downstream of the dam, the beauty of nature is alive and well at the rugged and rocky Grenwelge Park. Granite outcroppings invite climbers, shallow pools encourage rock-skipping, and bigger pools, fishing. Home to the Llano Earth Art Fest, you’ll see some LEAF art in various stages of returning to nature and be inspired to create some of your own and… stack ’em like a local!
Robinson City Park sits on the riverbank at the west end of town, next to the city golf course. The biggest of all the parks, it has picnic tables, a playscape for the kids, a community pool, a boat ramp for kayakers, a walking path along the river, and a shiny new pickleball court — which will be ready for play by the time this heat wave is over! Home of the Crawfish Open, the pavilion by the river always packs a crowd for outdoor concerts.
A treasure trove for rockhounds and mineral panners alike, (yep you can still pan for gold in that there riverbed) the diverse geology of the Llano Uplift boasts an abundance of 241 different specimens. Here you’ll find easy access to an array of gems and minerals, including (and this is the only place you’ll find it) the distinctly blue and gray speckled llanite.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is located just 20 miles southwest of Llano. Rising 425 feet above the surrounding terrain, the pink granite batholith (the 2nd largest in the US) spans 640 acres. With eleven miles of hiking trails, and enough stamina to reach the top, you too can…. hike like a local.
A trip to the Llano hill country in springtime is a rite of passage. With prairie after prairie hillside covered in a sea of Texas Bluebonnets, the next valley in Indian Blanket, Pink Evening Primrose, Mexican Hat, Winecup, and Butterfly Weed….. it’s like driving through a Monet. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. …love it like a local.
Hear ye, Hear ye! Let it be known that April 8, 2024, a shadow will fall across the hill country as a solar eclipse makes its way across the Texas skies. Llano lies directly in the Path of Totality. At approximately 1:37pm local time, for a period of approximately 4 min. 23 seconds, Llano will experience this fantastic event in all its glory. Join us for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. RV slots and camping areas are still available.
Contact the Llano Visitors Center or check out www.llano2024eclipse.com for more information and come share the sunshine with the locals!
Life in Llano centers around the town square, on which sits the Llano County courthouse. Established as the county seat in 1853, the current (third) version of the courthouse, completed in 1893, lends a grand presence to a tiny town where a walk around the square offers both a step back in time, as one surveys historic architecture – lovingly trimmed in traditional paint palettes, and a vision for the future— just around the corner at the Tesla charging station.
An accredited Main Street city, old and new blend seamlessly as you jiggle a hundred-year-old brass door latch, give the door a little extra nudge, and enter any one of several ladies’ boutiques, all beautifully adorned in the latest in western and/or urban fashions.
Wiggle the knob on any number of original oak doors around the square and scoot your boots over the well-worn wooden floors to a table by the window for a home-style meal or a seat at the bar to whet your whistle. This is the kind of place where everybody knows your name.
A block off the square, within easy strolling distance, you’ll find a coffee house, art gallery, antique store, the psychedelically painted Shakedown Street alleyway ode to the Grateful Dead (complete with selfie-frame), and the surprising discovery of a series of irresistible lackadaisical mini staircases. You will want to play on them or photograph them, depending on your shoe size.
A few more steps will land you in jail… at the historic Red Top, circa 1895. Tours/guides are usually available; all you have to do is call the number on the sign.
A walk across the bridge offers a great view of the lazy Llano River— and even more to explore.
An extension of the historic district, the old rail yard has much to share. Various rail cars stand ready for inspection as part of the Railroad Museum within the Llano Visitors Center “depot.” On the other side of the depot, a brand new Mining Exhibit showcases vintage tools of the trade, including a hand-wrought eight-foot tall metal winch that appears to be hoisting ore from the depths below.
Next to it, a mine cart sits on an ore track that runs through the exhibit to a spoil pile outside the building, where more original machinery is on display.
This along with the nearby Llano Museum, offers a glimpse of Llano days gone by.
Across the way, the Art Guild Gallery showcases the work of more than sixty local artists. A few steps away, antique wares literally pour out of buildings onto the sidewalk, reminding us that days gone by are sometimes the most precious, and offering a little sentimental history to take home with you…. shop til you drop like a local.
Hotels & Lodging
Established in 1907, the Historic Dabbs Hotel, now completely renovated with a landscaped backyard overlooking the Llano River, is a Llano gem and a local favorite. Built at the end of the now-defunct Austin and Northwestern railroad line to house rail travelers and crew it’s also known for having hosted Bonnie and Clyde.
There are also twenty-eight B&Bs within the city limits, each with a personality all its own. From the classic antique-laden room with a view of a restored turn-of-the-century beauty, to a freestanding or backyard bungalow, to a rock ‘n’ roll themed “sugar shack” there’s one that’s just right for you.
For those who prefer a traditional hotel, two flagship hotels, The Best Western and Days Inn, remain Llano staples, always reliable, with excellent service.
When you lodge in Llano, you are living like a local!
The Llano Event Calendar has something for everyone. Like many a Texas town, Llano hosts its share of rodeos and car shows, but Llano also has several unique festivals and events it can truly call its own. You won’t find them anywhere else.
The Llano Earth Art Festival is a one-of-a-kind, you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it, Nature-As-Art extravaganza. With the rocky Llano riverbank and sandy islands as canvas, artists from around the globe conjure art from whatever Nature provides, right in front of your eyes!
Impossibly balanced stacks of rocks, giant woven willow pods, stone sculptures, and marvelous mandalas dot the rugged landscape. A competition for tallest stacks, largest arches, and most artistic creations adds excitement to the mix.
LEAF has morphed from a festival to a phenomenon, inspiring similar events abroad. Visitors are encouraged to participate– by creating their own art and by working with the visiting artists, contributing to larger art installations. Stack ’em like a local –and don’t forget your camera! (3/22-24/2024)
Merging music with tradition, the Llano Fiddle Fest celebrates both. With a hysterical Air-Fiddle Friday contest for those who only wish they could play, to the finger flyin’ all-day Saturday competition for real fiddlers of all ages, followed by a concert by a noted fiddle band, to the Sunday morning Amazing Grace service, these players fill the Llano airwaves with the music of our ancestors. Let the music seep into your skin, whisper to your soul, and tickle your bones, until you jump up with the rest of us locals and do a little jig. (3/29-31/2024)
Aside from first-run movies and local theatrical productions, the refurbished 1927 Lantex Theatre maintains another Llano music tradition- hosting the Llano Opry every second Saturday of the month. This year, the Lantex will celebrate its almost-100 year anniversary with the screening of a silent movie (piano player included) and a fittingly loud wrap party afterward.(11/11/23)
Pumpkin Float on the Llano is a visual delight. The Saturday before Halloween, children bring their carved pumpkins to the edge of the river at Badu Park. There, a crew of volunteers places the pumpkins on various set pieces just below the surface of the river, so that they appear to be floating on the water. As the sun sets the candles are lit… It is quite a sight to behold. (10/28/23)
But wait, there’s more!
That’s just the Original-to-Llano list of events. Llano’s got something goin’ every single weekend!
There’s no better place for a Jeep Jamboree than the Texas Hill Country, where drivers face some of the most challenging terrain in Texas. Held at Inks Lake Ranch, this is a must for any Jeep owner. (3/14-16/2024)
Beautifully restored turn-of-the-century Chuck Wagons circle up at Badu Park on the Llano River for the annual Chuck Wagon Cook-Off each spring. Dressed to the nine(teen hundred)’s in pioneer garb and equally outfitted with vintage cast iron pots and basic utensils, they compete in the heat to offer us the best chicken fried steak and potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and cobbler-to-die-for in all of Texas. Chow down like a local pioneer! (3/15-16/2024)
Over 25,000 lbs. of crawfish meet their doom at the Llano Crawfish Open. The yearly fund-raiser draws a huge crowd as it packs a golf tournament, a rodeo, a motorcycle fun run, a corn hole tournament, and an auction, into one wild weekend. A variety of bands keep the music going most of the day and late into the evening. (4/21-22/2024).
Rockin’ Riverfest at Badu Park is where the jet set comes to strut their stuff. The Extreme Jet Ski World Championship Freestyle Competition and live music ring in the summer, followed by a glittering All-American fireworks display over the Llano River. (7/4/2024)
The first of many, the Llano Music Festival will be held in Robinson City Park featuring Roger Creager, Shiny Ribbs, and Kin Faux. Bring your own folding chair. (9/29-30/2024)
Dickens of a Christmas on the square and Starry Starry Nights, at Badu Park round out the event calendar in Llano with a celebration of all things Dickens, a Christmas parade, and a cornucopia of magical lights along the river’s edge.
Junk in the Trunk is just what it sounds like. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Sell your wares or find that one-of-a-kind whateveritis you’ve always wanted. Set up is free every 4th Saturday, March-October, on the square, where you can join in the fun and ….. barter like a local.
For some of the Hill Country’s finest homegrown, homemade and handcrafted goods, visit Llano Farmers and Crafters Market from 9am-1pm, every 1st and 3rd Saturday on the square. Bring your own market bag and… fill it like a local!
Check out the Llano Chamber of Commerce website: www.llanochamber.org for an updated calendar of events.