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Texas Hill Country blooms in the spring

In spring, Texas Hill Country is one big flower show

Texas Hill Country is known for its giant oak trees, spring-fed creeks and scenic two-lane highways. This time of year, it's also known for wildflowers, especially bluebonnets, which line the highways with blooms that stretch for miles.

Open country is a hallmark of the region, which covers about 14,000 square miles of south-central Texas. There are cities in Hill Country too: Austin and San Antonio, and scenic smaller towns such as Fredericksburg, Bandera and Kerrville.

But the region is dominated by miles of rolling hills where eye-popping flowers, such as Indian paintbrush, black-eyed Susan and bluebonnets, the state flower, blanket the hills and roadsides in the spring.

Lady Bird Johnson deserves part of the credit for the springtime show, which begins in mid-March and continues through May. The former first lady, who died in 2007, led the charge for passage of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act. She wanted people to see green countryside, not billboards and junkyards, her husband, President Lyndon B. Johnson, said when the bill was passed.

In response to that legislation, wildflowers were planted along many of the nation's roads, including the Johnsons' home state of Texas.

Visitors can learn more about where to spot wildflowers in Hill Country by checking the website at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (www.wildflower.org).

If you're in the city, visit the center to see 650 native Texas plants in gardens, meadows and nature trails across 279 acres.

Any drive through Hill Country should include a visit to the scenic Pedernales River country, site of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/lyjo), which is open to the public.

The park includes Johnson's boyhood home and visitor center in Johnson City, about 50 miles from Austin, and the LBJ Ranch, also known as the Western White House, in Stonewall, 14 miles from the visitor center. During his five years as president, Johnson spent 490 days at his ranch, about one-quarter of his time in office.

After her husband's death in 1973, Lady Bird Johnson continued to make the ranch her part-time home. Both are buried there.

Park visitors can obtain a free driving permit to tour the LBJ ranch site in Stonewall. Info: (830) 868-7128.

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If you go

THE BEST WAY TO AUSTIN AND ENVIRONS

From LAX, nonstop service to Austin is offered on American, Delta, Southwest and United, and connecting service (change of planes) is offered on American, Delta, Southwest, United, US Airways and Virgin America. Restricted round-tip fares begin at $258, including all taxes and fees.

From LAX, nonstop service to San Antonio is offered on American, Delta, Southwest and United; connecting service is offered on American, Delta, Southwest and US Airways. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $266, including all taxes and fees.

WHERE TO STAY

Travaasa Austin, 13500 Farm to Market Road 2769, Austin; (877) 261-7792, www.travaasa.com/austin. This tony resort in the Austin hills offers guided activities, culinary classes and cultural events. Doubles from $350 per night.

Hotel Havana, 1015 Navarro St., San Antonio; (210) 222-2008, www.havanasanantonio.com. Built in 1914, this Spanish Colonial-style hotel has an interesting vibe, plus Ocho, a bar and restaurant. From $165 for a queen room (no doubles).

Westin Riverwalk Hotel, 420 W. Market St., San Antonio; (866) 716-8108, www.westinriverwalksanantonio.com. High-rise hotel offers Westin's standard service. Doubles from $229 per night.

TO LEARN MORE

Texas Hill Country, (512) 763-0051, www.texashillcountry.com

Texas Department of Transportation, (800) 452-9292, www.traveltex.com

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