Needing something to do on a Saturday other than be responsible by completing the formatting of my dissertation, I came up with a seemingly perfect day combining pretty much everything that I love to do – learning about history, spending time outdoors, eating good food, drinking wine, and shopping. Not wanting to stray too far from Houston, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Washington County, Texas offered all of these things. I spent the entire week leading up to my perfect Saturday eagerly planning and looking forward to "my day". The danger, of course, was that the reality would not quite live up to my admittedly high expectations...
I began the day with a bit of Texas history at Washington-On-The-Brazos State Park.
A park pass for all of the onsite attractions cost $9, or I could have purchased individual passes for $5 apiece if I had been planning to visit just one spot. The park offers frequent guided tours of the original Old Washington town site and Independence Hall. This of course includes information about the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, which established the Republic of Texas as independent from Mexico.
The original building where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed burned down sometime after the town was abandoned, but this is an exact replica built on the foundation of the building.
This cistern is the only remaining original structure of the town of Washington.
As a non-native Texan, I am not too familiar with Texas history, so I enjoyed learning more about the state I will indefinitely call home. Washington-On-The-Brazos even offers an app that provides more information about the Republic of Texas and the history of the Washington town site. After the tour, I took advantage of the sunny, but cool day to walk the onsite trails. There were even a few brave bluebonnets beginning to bloom. I was there in mid-February, but I imagine that a few weeks later the fields were covered in them.
I had obviously planned a full day, so I chose to skip the Star of the Republic Museum. I have difficulty lightly perusing a museum, so it would probably have taken me a couple of hours (at least) to do the exhibits justice.
Although I didn't have time for the museum, there was a re-enactment group camping on the grounds over that particular weekend, so it was fun (and encouraged) to walk around their tents and get a glimpse of history.
I did that on my way to the Barrington Living History Farm, which includes the home of Anson Jones. He was both a physician and the last president of the Republic of Texas.
Although walking between sites is possible (and what I chose to do), there are also parking lots at each site if you are just visiting one or if it’s 110 degrees in the middle of summer and walking seems like a bad idea. I must confess, I am a sucker for living history museums, which I realize I probably should have outgrown sometime, oh, around the mid-90’s. But I didn't, so I had a great time touring the onsite buildings and talking to the various historical interpreters about life in the early days of Texas.
There was also a special exhibit on heroic medicine, the aggressive and often ineffective medicine practiced until the mid-nineteenth century, such as would have been practiced by Anson Jones himself. I got to learn about all of the things I could have died from had I lived at the time, as well as the treatments that were often used. Yes, this means I saw leeches. And did you know that the treatment for a toothache was putting fire ants in your mouth? Gross and painful!!
Special programs like this are offered on a frequent basis, so there is always something new to learn even if you've been to Washington-On-The-Brazos before.
After a thoroughly enjoyable morning, I had worked up an appetite. My lunch spot of choice was the Southern Flyer Diner at the Brenham Municipal Airport.
If I were cooler/richer/had access to a private airplane, I could have just flown in for my lunch. As it was, I took the less exciting route and simply drove there and parked.
It was fun to people watch while I ate lunch at the 50’s style diner. Not only was the atmosphere fantastic, but the food was also really good. Definitely worth the effort to get there, whether by plane or by car.
Next up, I wanted to visit one of the many wineries in the area for a wine tasting. The only unfortunate part of being by myself was that I was also driving, so I limited my venture to only one tasting at one winery. My choice was the Windy Winery.
One of the owners was originally from Arkansas, so we got to chat about our mutual home state while I tried several delicious Texas wines. The tasting was $10 and included 6 wines. The pours were generous and my tasting may have included more than six wines.
They also offer a cheese plate and a couple of other food options to accompany the wines, but I was still quite full from lunch. My favorite, which of course I purchased, was the muscadine wine. The bubbly version of this was quite good, as well.
My last stop, after a bit of a drive in the country (in other words, I got lost and yes, I had a GPS; obviously it was defective), was downtown Brenham. I was actually surprised that it was not busier on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. I window shopped the many boutiques and antique stores and enjoyed the downtown architecture.
There was also a pocket park that included a brief history of the town. The park was on the site of one of the original cisterns that provided water to the town. It was an interesting and quick peek into some of the highlights of Brenham’s past.
So, was my day as wonderful as I expected? Most definitely! Washington County has a lot to offer as a daytrip or a weekend getaway. Although anytime of the year would be fun, to see the bluebonnets, plan a trip sometime in March or April (although the bluebonnet season varies a bit from year to year). There is literally something for everyone, whether you are looking for history, outdoor fun, romance, or are more interested in family-friendly activities. I can’t wait to go back!