It is billed as having the most beautiful town square in all of Texas.
Some might consider that an audacious claim, but it is actually an understatement. Without a doubt, Georgetown has one of the most beautiful town squares anywhere.
The square gives Georgetown, located just 25 miles north of Austin, a quaint, small-town vibe that contemporary urban planners and architects struggle to replicate. As a result, the city is perfect for a weekend getaway.
Impressively, the charming streetscape hasn’t been lost despite Georgetown’s population growing by 376% since 1990. The growth has been so rapid that it is consistently named one of the top five or six fastest-growing cities in the country by the U.S. Census Bureau.
At the center of the square is the Williamson County Courthouse, an early 20th century edifice designed in the then-fashionable architectural style of Beaux Arts. The stately façade with its pediments was restored in the early 2000s.
On all four sides are buildings from the late Victorian or Edwardian eras. Once home to banks, grocers and all kinds of other shops, the old buildings now house a growing number of boutiques, wineries — yes, Texas wine is a thing — and eateries. There are even two playhouses with a variety of shows.
As one might imagine, the square is the center of life in Georgetown. It is here where festivals and other community events take place, including next weekend’s 20th Annual Red Poppy Festival.
The Williamson Museum, located across from the courthouse in an old bank, is worth visiting for a glimpse into Georgetown’s past. They also offer free guided tours of the courthouse and the historic downtown.
A few blocks away is the campus of Southwestern University, a small historically Methodist liberal arts college.
Here you find the Lois Perkins Chapel, which was built after World War II in the distinctive local limestone used throughout Georgetown on the scale of a small cathedral. The exterior architecture, a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, is overly austere, but the interior features a splendid collection of stained glass windows. Thirteen of the windows depict important Protestant churchmen and leaders of Methodism, first within Anglicanism and then as a separate denomination. These include John Calvin, John Wycliffe, Roger Williams, the Wesley brothers and Francis Asbury. Sadly, there was no guidebook or leaflet for visitors.
Where to stay and eat
I stayed at the Sheraton on the outskirts of town near the big box stores. The hotel, which opened in 2016 and still has the newish smell, is home to the upscale casual restaurant Brix and Ale. Under chef Patrick Taylor it has become Georgetown’s best restaurant.
Another restaurant I recommend is Gumbo’s North on the Square. Housed in an old Masonic lodge with an eccentric onion dome reminiscent of what you see on Russian churches, the balcony extending from the upstairs bar and dining room is perfect for great people watching.
How to get there
A rental car is a must if flying into nearby Austin. Once in
Georgetown, however, you can get around using the Sheraton’s complimentary bicycles.