Bastrop offers visitors plenty of fun for everybody. From outdoor activities on the beautiful Colorado River, to shopping and dining in the historic downtown, or browsing through endless art galleries, Bastrop has it all
The Colorado River meanders lazily along tree-lined banks with giant cottonwood trees springing up and shading a Riverwalk path just below a historic and lively downtown district — it’s not San Antonio, it’s Bastrop.
Bastrop has made its place in Texas since before the Lone Star State became a republic, dating back to 1832. Residents of Bastrop died on the hallowed grounds of the Alamo, and they won independence for Texas on the coastal plains of San Jacinto. The saying around Bastrop simply states, “Bastrop’s history is Texas history.”
The tales from the city’s past are heroic episodes of frontiersmen like Josiah Wilbarger who survived an Indian ambush and scalping, but just like that river flowing through town, time moves on and so did Bastrop.
Today Bastrop is a town growing. New businesses are added almost daily as Texas Highways 21 and 71 carry people through the town and on to the capital in Austin, just 30 miles away and to other parts of the Texas Hill Country and then south toward San Antonio.
Progress can be found everywhere around Bastrop, from sprawling housing editions, luxurious resorts and vacation spots, but one of the things not to miss about this historic Texas town is its downtown area.
The historic buildings of downtown Bastrop house 18 restaurants, serving everything from perfectly prepared seafood at Paw Paw’s, to fine Italian, and other quaint dining experiences. Countless art studios surround the downtown area along with unique shops from boutiques, to culinary shops to antiques and much more, including the inviting wood frame shops of Hooverville, spread out beneath downtown Bastrop along the Colorado River.
The river, there’s just no getting around the river. The Old Iron Bridge, built more than a century ago, connected Bastrop to the regions to the west, allowing wagons and automobiles to get across the river. The bridge now serves as a walk bridge for pedestrians wanting to stand over the mighty Colorado and peer into its waters. The bridge connects a modern city with its fast-flowing traffic to the city’s past and a vibrant scene with live music venues and a chance to experience live cultural events and enjoy the work of artists across a broad spectrum of mediums, from sculptors and painters to performing artists.
For those who might like a bit more adventure, then the Colorado River is there, waiting. Businesses make canoes, kayaks, tubes and even stand up paddleboards available to those wanting to head out onto the inviting waters. If you have your own vessel, bring it and see what Bastrop looks like from the cool waters of the Colorado.
Bastrop is a bonanza for art lovers, and here’s a bit of trivia, Bastrop’s Lost Pines Art Center, which opened late last year, is the largest art center in Texas. The 12,000 square foot facility is an aesthetic dream with its glass and metal architectural features. It is open every day and has docents to help people through the center. The Lost Pines Art Center contains several different galleries, classroom space, a gift gallery and a wine and coffee shop. Children’s as well as adult art classes are offered at the center. Every first Saturday features the Artist in Action program, which showcases artist demonstrating their work, and how they work.
To learn more about the Lost Pines Art Center visit their website at www.lostpinesartcenter.org.
Most Texans remember the devastating fires that ravaged the surrounding countryside of Bastrop late in the summer of 2011. It was called the Bastrop Complex Fire, due to the joining together of several blazes. Many thousands of homes were destroyed because of the fire, but the city remained largely intact and the people of the area proved to be beyond resilient, they were fighters and were not going to let the fires stop the continued growth of their city.
The fires have long been put out, but the people of the city have not forgotten. In the years since, Bastrop has rebuilt, grown and thrived as the city continues to move forward. The art galleries, the restaurants, boutiques and entertainment venues bear witness to Bastrop’s determination to rebuild and continue on its path to being a Texas destination city.
The thing is, Bastrop is a growing city full of modern businesses, big box stores and major shopping outlets, but it has not failed to maintain the charm of a small town, and one of those charming little places is the chickens of Farm Street, located behind the sprawling theater complex of the Schulman 8 Theater, along chestnut street. Chickens can be seen roaming the street of the older homes, along with other farm animals.
The area is known as the Farm Street Chicken Sanctuary. It features chickens of all kinds, laying their eggs for local residents. The simple sight of chickens beckons memories from bygone days, and helps visitors feel there still are warm, caring, kind places in the world.
That’s Bastrop, a warm, caring, kind and slightly slower-paced area of this busy world. It has all the comforts of the big city and all the charm of a small town, full of life.
Here are some of the top things to see in Bastrop:
• Colorado River — See it from above on the Old Iron Bridge; see it from the side down the old Riverwalk sidewalk beginning at Hooverville and traveling along the river’s eastern bank; or see it from the middle on a kayak, canoe or other piece of watercraft.
• Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park — Pine trees are not just the domain of East Texas, as the lost pines around Bastrop are a major draw to an area more known for hardwoods and cedar trees. Nowhere can the trees be seen better than in and around these two state parks. Bastrop State Park features historic cabin sites, built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corp more nearly 80 years ago. Drive down Park Road 1 C that connects Bastrop State Park to Buescher State Park through the heart of the lost pines.
• The Lost Pines — This is not one specific area, but is unique to the area around Bastrop. The trees are a loblolly pine woodland forest that once was connected to the large pine forests of East Texas.
• Bastrop Opera House — The old opera house, opened in 1889, was once known as the Strand Theatre during World War II and later as the Teen Tower in the 1950s, now hosts award-winning stage performances of vaudeville, melodramas, musicals and comedies.
• Museum & Visitor Center of the Bastrop County Historical Society — this museum, located inside the Bastrop Visitors Center features several artifacts from Bastrop’s historic past. The museum also relates the deep history of Bastrop, and how it came to be and the role it played in the early life of Texas; it tells the story of how Bastrop came through the devastating fires of 2011, it’s a can’t miss stop on a visit to Bastrop.
• Texas Reptile Zoo — The reptile zoo is a place where research and fun intersect and people can come and learn about some of these amazing creatures from around the world.
• Fisherman’s Park — This Bastrop city park features a large playground with a splash pad, basketball and tennis courts, boat dock, fishing pier and benches overlooking the Colorado River. It’s a great place to come and relax on a visit to Bastrop.
• Historic Homes — Bastrop is full of historic homes dating back to the late 1800s. The homes are built in a variety of architectural styles. The city offers a historic homes tour guide, which is a must for history lovers.
• El Camino Real — This historic road once linking Spain’s holdings in Mexico through East Texas and into Louisiana, runs through Bastrop. This royal highway played a significant role in the life of Bastrop over the years. Bastrop, for much of its early life was at the edge of the Texas frontier and Indian skirmishes were common and often deadly.
• Historic Churches — Several historic churches and church buildings call Bastrop home including Calvary Episcopal Church, the oldest church building constructed in Bastrop in 1883. Other historic churches include the First United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church, Bastrop Christian Church and the Paul Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church.
To learn more about all the things to see and do in and around Bastrop, go to VisitBastrop.com; VisitLostPines.com; www.bastropdowntown.com; and www.365bastrop.com.