FLOWERS, A FORT AND A HIDDEN FORTUNE
Burnet, “The Bluebonnet Capital of Texas,” claims a colorful past and abundant natural beauty. In April, the Texas Bluebonnet Festival celebrates the state flower with a parade, food and entertainment. Leave your car at home and take the Hill Country Flyer, a restored steam train running from Cedar Park to Burnet, to shop, eat and explore, then watch the Burnet Gunfighters put on a Wild West show. For a lesson in local history, visit the 1937 Burnet County Courthouse on the town square. An etched panel on the main façade depicts scenes of the county’s heritage representing ranching; agriculture; justice; westward expansion; peace between Native Americans and Texas pioneers, and a hydroelectric dam. The adjacent History Plaza includes a pathway through a winding labyrinth of Burnet County history that begins at the plaza entry and ends at the plaza clock.
Burnet grew up around Fort Croghan, an 1849 frontier outpost that helped protect settlers from Indian raids. The Fort Croghan Museum on the site includes a blacksmith's shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a powder house and more than 1,200 artifacts from the area. Travel 11 miles southwest of Burnet to explore Longhorn Cavern State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park’s centerpiece, a two-mile river-formed limestone cavern, with lighting and twisting passageways. Tour the cavern and you’ll see a hall filled with glittering caliche crystals, spacious chambers, and formations resembling Abraham Lincoln’s profile and an eagle’s wing. Comanche Indians used the cave for shelter. Confederate soldiers made gunpowder from bat guano and stored it in the cavern’s cool recesses. Legend has it that Texas outlaw Sam Bass stashed $2 million in gold here. During Prohibition, the cavern was home to a popular nightclub on Saturday nights -- and church services on Sunday morning. Today, it hosts concerts and weddings.