For those who are new in any town, an official visitor information center is often a good place to glean information about new surroundings. The Georgetown Visitor’s Bureau goes above and beyond to keep townies and visitors abreast of timely events and local history. Learn about Georgetown’s award-winning cultural district, which has been recognized by the Texas Commission of the Arts, and visit during the annual Red Poppy Festival, hosted in the town square during the last weekend in April.
In addition to helpful staff members, the Visitor’s Bureau has four bicycles that can be rented for a 24-hour period free of charge. (Another 40 free bikes can be found at the nearby public library.) If visiting an information center in person is unappealing, consider downloading their free app, ‘Explore Georgetown, Texas,’ which includes an events calendar. The application is available on iOS and Android devices.
In a town square surrounded by Victorian storefronts, the Palace’s art deco marquee is a standout. The Palace Theatre, built during the Depression as a silent moving picture theatre, gained its iconic façade during a renovation in 1936. By the time of its closing in 1989, the Palace had been the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in the same building in Williamson County. In the 1990s, local citizens rallied around the historic theatre, determined to preserve it; and in 2001, the live theatre opened to the public. Now, the flourishing Palace boasts an impressive lineup of professional-quality live performances and educational outreach programs.
Just off of the town square, the fifty-year-old Georgetown Public Library lets patrons do more than check out books. This vibrant center for the arts has an attached art gallery, concert hall, and coffee shop open to the public. Part of the Georgetown Sculpture Tour can be found in and around the library, as well as in the town square and San Gabriel Park. For more on Georgetown’s involvement in the arts, including where to find more instances of public art, check out this website.
Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. 8th St., Georgetown, TX, USA, +1 512 930 3551
In 1963, a Texas Highway Department core drilling team discovered what may be the most well-preserved cavern in Texas. Archaeologists have since unearthed the fossils of several prehistoric fauna and flora, some of which can be seen at the Inner Space lobby and near the end of the Adventure Tour path. The popular Adventure Tour is led by friendly and knowledgeable guides who recite the fanciful names of different cavern areas and formations such as Short Man’s Revenge, Castle Balcony, and Lake of the Crescent Moon. Inner Space offers tours for the more adventurous, which are not recommended for travelers who fear dark or enclosed spaces. Visitors will also enjoy the center’s playground, gift shop, and play mining area. Comfortable walking shoes are all but required, and the caves themselves are not wheelchair accessible.
Inner Space Cavern, 4200 S. Interstate 35, Georgetown, TX, USA, +1 512 931 2283
Mel’s Lone Star Lanes finds a way to cater to every demographic. The bright family bowling area has 28 lanes and a faint scent of sugar. Characteristic arcade foods and unique culinary choices can be found at the alley’s restaurant, and kids will love the classic arcade. The connected bar has another row of twelve bowling lanes, but that is where the similarities to Mel’s end. Traditional seating is limited to Mel’s family-friendly side, while CJ’s seating features several cozy couches. Pool tables, a dance floor, and shuffleboards surround a full-service bar. CJ’s is primarily a catering company, and their fare has been voted the best in Georgetown every year since 2012. At $22-26 each hour per lane, Mel’s is a competitively priced entertainment establishment.
The Monument Café was opened in 1995 with the mission of bringing local, healthy, and natural food to Georgetown residents. While the market has an artsy farmer flair, the cute café takes after mid-century diners. When asked about the best place to eat in town, many residents will list the Monument Café’s organic selections. What the roadside diner cannot grow in their expansive garden is sourced from the local farmers who sell in the market next door.
San Gabriel Park is one of three parks in Georgetown with disc golf courses that are open to the public; the other courses are at Rivery Park and Pinnacle Park. Additionally, this charming park is one of the locations for the Georgetown Sculpture Tour. Several hiking and biking paths have entrances along the lovely San Gabriel River, and it is dotted with benches, drinking fountains, and restrooms to make the journey comfortable for people of all levels of ability. The park also features baseball diamonds, a community center, swing sets, and a sunken garden. San Gabriel Park is also the staging area for events like the annual Chisholm Trail Day in mid-October. The river empties into nearby Lake Georgetown and Russell Park, which offer more advanced and ‘in-tents’ activities.
Southwestern University recently celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding, and this major liberal arts college has come a long way since its initial chartering. The university was founded when five Methodist colleges sought a unified presence in the Southwest in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Now, the university has state-of-the-art research labs and athletic areas in addition to its liberal arts heritage. History and architecture buffs will want to stroll around the campus to appreciate its well-maintained mid-19th century stonework and the surrounding historic neighborhoods. Football fans can see the Pirates square off against competing university teams in the fall. For those who come to Georgetown for its vibrant arts community, the Sarofim School of Fine Arts is an excellent place to find art exhibitions, concerts, and theatre performances by talented Southwestern students.
Georgetown’s title, ‘Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas’, is well earned. As a result, several of the best things to do in the bucolic community are in walking distance of its centerpiece, the Williamson County Courthouse. The courthouse is more than just a landmark — the neoclassical monument anchors the central business district and houses the county’s judicial offices. While the building is generally open to the public, free guided tours are available Friday and Saturday afternoons at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 from the nearby Williamson Museum.
Near the courthouse lies charming establishments in historic storefronts like the Georgetown Antique Mall, which boasts an impressive consignment of Civil War memorabilia; Pinot’s Palette, a cozy drink-while-you-paint establishment with cheerful staff and brightly colored walls; and Cianfrani, a coffeehouse with a wide selection of drinks, snacks, and art pieces for sale. The Town Square (which bills itself as ‘anything but square’) is also home to several pieces from the Georgetown Sculpture Tour.
Residents and tourists who wish to learn more about county history are encouraged to visit the Williamson Museum, which features interactive tours and educational exhibits designed to give visitors a look at the area’s past free of charge. The museum presents many programs outside of its historic walls, offering weekly tours of the Williamson County Courthouse and taking part in monthly events like First Friday. Annual and periodic special events like the Chisholm Trail Days and Civil War cemetery tours, though held off-site, are hosted by the museum; tickets to such events can be purchased for a nominal fee from the museum.
Williamson Museum, 716 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown, TX, USA, +1 512 943 1670
By Julie Matsen
Superhero enthusiast Julie Matsen is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas and traveling in the Southwestern United States.