These have not been easy times for the historic town of Granbury, located about 45 miles southwest of Fort Worth. In mid-May, an EF-4 category tornado ripped through the community, killing six people and destroying dozens of homes.
Just last week, two Granbury police officers were shot during an altercation that ended in a firefight near the Hood County Courthouse, located in the towns downtown square. One of the officers later died in the hospital. He was buried Tuesday. (The shooter was also killed.)
Yet if Texas history has taught us anything, its that our small towns are resilient capable of facing down the worst tragedies as a community and quietly moving forward. On a visit last weekend, with the bullet holes still visible in the windows of City Hall, you could see that resilience in action. Shops and restaurants were crowded with both tourists and locals alike. A long-planned Gallery Night carried forth, even as some people were still talking about the tragedy of the day before.
Indeed, recent tough times notwithstanding, Granbury occupies a unique place in the constellation of Texas small towns. For one thing, it obliterates all clichés about such places being sleepy. Head to Granbury on any weekend this summer, and youll likely stumble upon some sort of festival, theatrical performance or outdoor music event. This weekend, on July 4, 5 and 6, the city will again host its 4th of July Celebration, featuring fireworks, live music and dancing in the square, and numerous food and crafts vendors selling the wares. (For a full schedule, go to http://www.granburycham ber.com/4th-july-celebration)
The other thing about Granbury, which was first founded in the 1860s, is this: It might just be the most forward-looking small town in Texas a place where trendy cafes bump up against antique shops; where in a single day you can travel from a state-of-the-art microbrewery to an old-timey drive-in movie theater; and where you can go for a bike ride, swim in the lake and enjoy a few history lessons.
With a 12-hour daytrip to Granbury, youll only scratch the surface of all the things to do. But at the very least youll get to experience a town that, in the face of heartbreak and turmoil, knows how to carry forth with pride.
12:15 p.m.: The Revolver Brewery Tour
Last year, the micro-brewing beer trend arrived in Granbury, with the opening of Revolver Brewing, the brainchild of father-son team Ron and Rhett Keisler. The brewerys master brewer is Grant Wood, who has already developed three flagship beers and one specialty beer that have quickly turned up on dozens of restaurant and bar menus in North Texas.
Heres the really fun part, though: Every Saturday, Revolver opens the doors of its brewing headquarters for a three-hour tasting-and-tour event, noon-3 p.m. For $10, adults get 8-ounce tastings of each of the four beers Revolver makes as well as a souvenir glass. Around 1:30 p.m., Wood offers a brief tour and tutorial on how the beer is made. You can make an afternoon of it listening to live music and sitting at picnic tables outside, where a food vendor serves barbecue. Our best advice: 1. Be sure to taste Mothers Little Fracker, a dark, chocolately stout that was our favorite of Revolvers brews; and 2. If you go on a hot day and on an empty stomach like we did prepare for a serious beer buzz. http://www.revolverbrewing.com/
2:10 p.m.: Hood County Jail and Historical Museum
Located just off the historic town square, the Hood County Jail was built in 1885, and operated as the county jail until 1978. Judging by the cells on the second floor of the building dank, tiny and, on a hot Saturday afternoon, nearly suffocating Hood County could never be accused of going soft on criminals.
These days, the jail operates as a historical museum (adults $2, children $1): The first floor is filled with prison-related artifacts and memorabilia; you can also see the kitchen where the wardens wife would have cooked meals for the prisoners. When you climb the narrow steps to the second floor, the scene that greets you looks like something out of a Stephen King novel. Be warned: Theres a surprise waiting for you in one of those cells, and you might just walk out of this museum screaming like a little girl.
2:45 p.m.: Christinas Bistro
Having worked up an appetite, we stepped into Christinas Boutique, where at the far end of a shop that sells clothing and knickknacks, a gourmet-style bistro opened in spring 2012. The menu and the atmosphere definitely gives off a ladies-who-lunch vibe, but the portions are hearty enough to satisfy brawnier folks, too. We especially liked the fresh Mediterranean baguette, an open-faced sandwich of tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. http://christinasboutique.com/bistro/
3:30 p.m.: Shopping on the square
Regular visitors to Granbury know the familiar sight: Wife wanders through one of the dozen or so shops that frame the town square; husband sits outside on a bench holding her purse, wondering when this torture will end.
Sorry, gents: Shes going to be awhile. Thats because Granbury offers a great range of galleries, clothing stores, antique shops and knickknack emporiums. Brightly colored quilts, check (Houston Street Mercantile Fabrics and Quilting; www.houstonstmercantile.com). Designer dog collars, check (Dog Tired; https://www.facebook.com/dogtiredshop). Gourmet kitchenware yup, they have that, too; http://www.thepanhandle.com/.
So what to do if your partner loves to browse, but youd rather be elsewhere? Consider this compromise: For every hour he or she spends shopping, you get to purchase one bottle of wine at DVine Wine of Texas ( http://www.dvinewineusa.com) or a half-dozen truffles at The Art of Chocolate Shoppe ( www.TheArtofChocolateShoppe.com), and (as we can report) everyone goes home happy.
4:15 p.m. Granbury City Beach
In landlocked North Texas, we have a tendency to forget there are places where you can actually go to the beach. In 2008, Granbury officials created City Beach Park, just east of downtown. Using white sand from South Padre Island, they created a modest-sized beach (complete with thatched huts you can reserve for a small fee) and a long wooden pier where you can take a stroll and enjoy an expansive view of the 13-square-mile man-made lake, which opened in 1969.
5:30 p.m.: Paradise Bistro and Coffee Co.
On our recent visit, we rode bikes to the beach from downtown and then back perhaps not the wisest of decisions on a 100-degree day. With our energy flagging, it was thus time for a caffeine boost at Paradise Bistro and Coffee Co., another new addition to the square, which opened last year. Over cappuccinos and brownies, we recharged our batteries in a cafe that wouldnt be out of place in a much bigger city. (There is also an extensive lunch menu.) www.paradisebistro.com/
7 p.m. Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour
At the start of this historical tour of Granbury, tour guide Boots Hubbard promises you will see two ghosts during the course of an hourlong walk around downtown and he delivers, though some may decide the second ghost (which takes the form of a decorated Dum Dums lollipop) is a bit of a cheat. Still, if youre eager to learn more about this towns history, this leisurely stroll around the square is worth the time.
Along the way, youll discover that many of the shops where you spent the afternoon searching for antiques used to be saloons and brothels. Youll also see the hotel to which John Wilkes Booth purportedly escaped after shooting President Abraham Lincoln. (You will, however, need to take the tour guides theories about the Lincoln administration having planned and paid for the assassination with a grain of salt.) Tours, $10 per person, take place at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. www.granburytours.com
8:15 p.m.: Granbury State Historical Cemetery
Granbury Tours also offers a walking tour of the historic Granbury Cemetery, beginning at 10:45 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Since we have a hard-and-fast no-cemeteries-after-dark rule, we decided to visit on our own while the sun was still out. Its an easy milelong walk from downtown, and once inside youll be able to wander around and find whats said to be the grave of the notorious outlaw Jesse James. Of course, legend tells us that James was assassinated in 1892 and buried in Kearney, Mo. But others say the James assassination was a ruse designed to allow him to escape then-pursuing authorities and that he went on to live in Granbury under the name J. Frank Dalton. That man died in 1951 and is buried here. http://www.granburydepot.org/church/GranCem.htm
8:45 p.m.: Eighteen Ninety Grille and Lounge
After a day of walking, biking and shopping, we are predictably famished. Dont think, though, that just because its a small town you can stroll into any of its restaurants and expect a table. Saturday night, Eighteen Ninety Grille and Lounge an upscale steak and seafood restaurant that opened last spring had a 45-minute wait. We grabbed a couch and a drink in the lounge, and struck up a conversation with two locals, recently transplanted to Granbury from Fort Worth and Chicago. Their message to us was one wed been absorbing all day: Granbury has a lot more going on than anybody realizes.
We were glad we waited for a table, too. Our entrees seared scallops with mashed sweet potatoes and creamed spinach, and beef tenderloin medallions with grilled vegetables were excellent, as was our dessert, a towering slice of Italian cream cake served with fresh blueberries. www.eighteenninety.com/
9 p.m.: Brazos Drive-In
We didnt actually make it to the final destination on our list, the Brazos Drive-In Theatre we were still waiting for our table when Monsters University started. But in a town with so much new to offer, this 50-year-old drive-in is a wonderful throwback to a bygone era. A double-feature is screened Friday and Saturday nights, beginning at dusk. Admission is $20 per carload.
Other things to do:
The famed Granbury Opera House, opened in 1886, is being renovated, with plans to reopen in November. But the Granbury Theatre Company continues to perform; its current production of 1776 continues through Saturday night at the Hood County Courthouse. (granburytheatrecompany.org/) Barking Rocks Winery hosts tastings every Saturday afternoon. (www.barkingrockswine.com/).
Saturday Sounds on the Square Concerts is a monthly concert series that presents free music on the square; the next one is set for July 27, when Green River Ordinance plays, starting at 6 p.m.