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Georgetown: The Texas Town Straight Out of a Normal Rockwell Painting

September 20, 2023 Insider, Texas, Texas History, Member Spotlight

Historic Georgetown is less than an hour away from Austin, but this charming community on the San Gabriel River is worlds away from the state capital skyscrapers with one of the most beautiful town squares in Texas.

In fact, some say if you visit during the upcoming holidays, you might think you stepped right into a Norman Rockwell painting.

“One of the best Christmas towns in Texas, Georgetown truly looks like a scene from a painting during the holiday season. Between quaint shops and restaurants in the town square all decked out with light and decorations to the numerous festivities,” wrote Katie Lawrence in Only In Your State. “Christmas cheer is in no short supply here. A visit to Georgetown at Christmastime is a surefire way to have a merry and bright holiday season.”

Houstonia magazine agrees, writing: “Located 25 miles north of Austin, Georgetown combines just the right amount of small-town charm with outdoor recreation … Fill your itinerary with a stroll through the city’s historic town square, visit fascinating art galleries and boutique shops, listen to live music, and relax away from the city noise on Lake Georgetown.”

Georgetown is also known for its Victorian-era architecture, popular with film crews, and is known as the “Red Poppy” Capital of Texas with the colorful wildflowers planted around the city the inspiration behind an annual Red Poppy Festival in April.

True flower story: The poppies in Georgetown are from Europe – sent home by Henry Purl Compton (known as “Okra”), who served in the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, to his mother, who then planted them at her home (now 507 East 7th St.) and from there they spread down the river and over much of the old town.

Georgetown History: Education, Railroad Spurred Growth

Georgetown was founded in 1848 and named for George Washington Glasscock, who donated land for the town site.

“The establishment of Southwestern University in 1873 and the construction of a railroad in 1878 contributed to the town's growth and importance. A stable, healthy economy was based largely on agriculture, and a major tributary cattle trail led through the heart of Georgetown to the Western, Chisholm, Dodge City, and Shawnee Trails,” says the Texas State Historical Association.

Prior to 1900, the area saw a variety of industries from limestone quarries to cotton gins to grist mills to a mattress factory. Cotton production was king from the 1880s to the 1920s.

A devastating flood in 1921 led ultimately to the building of Lake Georgetown, which opened in 1979.

The population has boomed in recent years as Georgetown has become a popular place to live and work with less than 10,000 residents in 1980 to almost 90,000 today.

Georgetown has Several Popular Downtown Events

The three-day popular Poppy Festival is not the only annual event hosted in Georgetown as the city is a popular destination spot with the following on tap yearly:

  • Second Saturday Market Days and Concerts: Visit the Square on the second Saturday of the month from March to November and you’ll find an outdoor marketplace of jewelry, art, and clothing, delicious food and drinks, and antiques and collectibles. Guests also enjoy live music.

  • The Georgetown Swirl: One of the most exciting happenings in town, the Swirl brings downtown businesses and patrons together for award-winning Texas wine, shopping, dining, and musical entertainment around the Square.

  • Blazin’ Beer Crawl: Tickets to Georgetown’s first and only craft beer crawl event sold out quickly in 2023. Held in downtown on the first Saturday in August.

  • Ghost Tours on the Square: Costumed guides lead tours through Georgetown’s oldest buildings, recounting history through local voices of the past, details, and tickets available from the Williamson Museum.

  • The Lighting of the Square: The Lighting of the Square kicks off the official holiday festivities with traditional carolers and a mass countdown to switching on thousands of lights on rooftops and the courthouse. The annual event is a favorite for locals and visitors alike.

  • Christmas Stroll: The first weekend in December, the Square is transformed into a hotspot for the holidays with a festive marketplace, Bethlehem village, activities just for kids, and a parade with local flair.

5 Ideas When Visiting Georgetown on a Day Trip

Georgetown has no shortage of things for day trippers to enjoy.

“Miles of viridescent trails that wind between meadows of dewy grasses and thickets of impressive oaks. A glistening lake glowing in the faded light of an autumn sun. Eye-catching architectural marvels that tell the story of a bygone era” says Visit Georgetown.

The publication says that among the activities to check out are these five things:

  1. Georgetown Parks: The area has several parks to enjoy cool fall temps including the 525-acre Garey Park, with seven miles of hiking trails, Berry Springs Park and Preserve, with hiking and biking paths, and San Gabriel Park, complete with a view of the river and 200-year-old oak trees.

  2. Riverside Trails: The San Gabriel River Trail follows the north and south forks of the San Gabriel River for almost nine miles.

  3. Inner Space Cavern: This is one of the best-preserved caves in Texas. It was discovered by a Texas Highway Department core drilling team in 193 and open to the public since 1966. The cave is 72 degrees year-round (but feels like 80, thanks to Texas humidity!). Currently under renovation but open Monday to Friday (9 to 4) and weekends (10 to 5). Ticket prices range from $15.95 to $22.95.

  4. Lake Georgetown: This 1,200-acre lake offers boating, skiing, fishing, camping, and hiking. Its fishing is highly acclaimed for small and largemouth bass, white bass, flathead, and channel cat.

  5. Dine Like a Local: From farm-to-table fare to pub grub and everything in between, Georgetown has your appetite covered. Monument Café has been featured on the show “Diners, Driven-ins & Dives” for its famous King Ranch Casserole. Other establishments to check out on an empty stomach include Sweet Lemon Kitchen, 600 Degrees Pizzeria, El Monumento, Fuego Latino Gastropub, The Golden Rule, Goodfolks, District Six, Blue Corn Harvest Bar 7 Grill, and 2020 Scratch Kitchen & Bar.

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