Not long after I planted my Texas roots in 2006, one of my dearest college friends introduced me to a special little place known as “Round Top,” or “Heaven on (Hwy) 237,” located roughly halfway between Austin and Houston. This Houstonian friend grew up going with her Mom to the famous Round Top Antiques Fair and Show nearly every Spring and Fall, and she invited me along (with a few thousand other attendees) to see the big event that put this little town on the map. I was immediately hooked and knew that Round Top would always hold a place in my Texas soul.
Resembling more of a festival, the bi-annual Round Top “show” is the largest of its kind and features miles of venues dedicated to selling antique furniture and fantastic home decor from all over the planet. You will also find loads of new treasures, including everything from designer clothing, boots, bags, jewelry, furnishings, and unique artwork, to (quite literally) the kitchen sink! The Spring show happens at the end of March and beckons shoppers through fields of bluebonnets along the way, while the Fall show takes place at the end of October when Texas is hopping with cooler temperatures, Friday night football, gigantic homecoming mums, pumpkins, and the aroma of fresh apple pie a la mode (Bluebell ice cream, of course!). This year, the fun begins on October 12th.
Not only can you go “all in” with the Round Top experience for these premier Spring and Fall meccas for dealers of fine antiques, upscale boutiques, gifted artisans, and culinary delights, you can actually visit this little central Texas gemstone any time of the year. Reward yourself with the best escape you may never have fathomed sitting deep in the heart of Texas, and discover all this town with a population of 90 has to offer 365 days of the year. Not to be confused with Round Rock (my own home city, just north of Austin), Round Top is calling. . . and you must go!
Boutique Hotel Option 1: The Wander Inn. . . Not All Who Wander are Lost
Created by Texans Amie and Jolie Sikes in 1998, along with the inspiration of their mother “Janie,” Junk Gypsy Co. originated in Round Top, built on “dreams and gasoline.” Well-known as “The Junk Gypsies” of HGTV (2012 series), designers of air stream tour buses for Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley along with backstage lounges for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Amie and Jolie were described as the “Thelma and Louise of the Design World,” according to the Today Show. These sisters claim The Wander Inn on Hwy 237 “found them,” and they have never looked back.
The sixty-five acre property’s rustically warm and wide open spaces house not only the famous Junk Gypsy store and 1980 pink Suburban easily seen from the highway, but also the most fabulous vintage-Texan inspired boutique lodging. Filled with rustic wooden farm houses with inviting porches nestled among green pastures, stock tank cowboy pools, and fire pits as big as the Texas sky. The Wander Inn welcomes you to get lost and find yourself down their dirt road, cozy up in a rocking chair, and visit the neighboring Longhorns. Two main two-story houses called The Star House and The Crown House each feature four individually designed suites filled with plush queen beds (a few kings too), private suite access to west-facing porches ideal for sunsets and long chats, rain-style corrugated metal showers, luxurious jacuzzi tubs, gas-lit fireplaces, and the most fabulous flea-market finds in Round Top and beyond.
Star House favorites in the great room include the disco ball style chandelier focal point framed by large angel wings at the entrance, the Star Motel Sign featured in Country Living Magazine and a photo shoot for native Texan and country sensation Miranda Lambert, giant American flag which flew over the Texas State Fair in 1972, and the piano repurposed into a glass-top coffee table covered with interesting books and popular board games. A collection of vintage records is available to spin on your suite’s own private turntable, while you make yourself a fresh cup of coffee in the shared Keurig and wait for freshly baked biscuit delivery to your door at 9 a.m. They had us at “biscuits!”
Other Wander Inn accommodations include The 1952 Sears Kit House known as the “Gypsy Farmhouse” and original dwelling of the property. This house sleeps 6 to 10, with a King bed downstairs, 4 queen bed upstairs, and 2.5 bathrooms with a large, fully stocked kitchen. Thelma’s Garage offers two queen beds and twin soaking cast iron tubs underneath the stars. Only the Farmhouse and Garage are pet-friendly (max of two), with a flat fee per pet.
Through 8/31/23, you can get $100 off your Wander Inn stay using the booking code SUMMER100. Rooms are easier to book on weekdays with shorter notice. Grab your besties and hit the road, before this deal falls into the rearview mirror!
Boutique Hotel Option 2: The Frenchie. . . Bienvenue!
Continue down Highway 237 toward the heart of town at Henkel Square and hang a left to discover a little piece of France called none other than The Frenchie. . . right in the middle of Petite Round Top. Of the three French-inspired primary buildings on the tree-lined property, two of the dwellings (the Main Farmhouse and Cottage) date back to the 1890s. The Art Studio (structure 3) features a more modern design with a nod to the past, marrying modern and traditional styles. With fourteen total rooms and well-appointed private baths, the property is large enough to host small groups and small enough to feel like the perfect quiet getaway.
Six suites of the Main House include gourmet kitchen access and combinations of all bed sizes throughout suites, ideal for girls’ weekends, bachelorette parties, wellness retreats, workshops, and family reunions. The entire Frenchie property can be reserved for intimate weddings made of dreams, and the pool house kitchen and dining areas seats up to forty people for special dinners. Walking into the Main House, you are greeted by soft music, a palate of color, fresh water, aromatherapy from the Frenchie’s signature Lavender air purifier (also in every suite!), and elegantly decorated rooms straight out of a magazine.
Frenchie designer Kristin Light states, “We tried to push the boundaries of what is expected in a small rural town, because we believe it’s possible to be trendsetting in the middle of tranquility.”
If you happen to stay in the Main House, you will feel a sense of community with your suitemates. The first coffee drinker to wake up in the morning makes a fresh pot. Then you can help yourself to a hot latte in a pretty cup with a fun napkin stating, “If you don’t have something nice to say, say it in French.”
Couples in search of romantic escapes will love the private king suites of the art studio, garden cottage, and poolside bungalows. The resort style pool and hot tub shaded by sixteen sunbrellas and green spaces provide much-needed respite from hectic city life, so be sure to pack your swimwear, bring a good book, and order up a hand-crafted cocktail from the poolhouse. In case you forgot something, the onsite Sissy Light boutique may have just what you need to feel made in the shade!
Other Frenchie amenities we love include the option to book a private dinner with the hotel’s own house chef, or book a restorative in-room massage with a Frenchie masseuse. Reservations for these services are recommended at the time of your room booking to ensure availability. You cannot find a better location in Round Top, with the Frenchie’s walkability (less than two minutes) from Henkel Square with a bundle of fantastic shops and restaurants you will not want to miss. Before you leave, don’t forget to get your photo with the adorable French Blue (Italian) Fiat parked in front of the property.
The Food and Shopping Network
As if you won’t have enough to keep you entertained wherever you lodge and relax in Round Top, you will definitely want to venture into town to take in their well-rounded dining and shopping scene along with the performing arts. For a more upscale dinner with Italian farm-to-table fare in what feels like a Tuscan Villa dining room, make your reservations at Lulu’s Restaurant at the Lulu Boutique Hotel on the Square. With an additional location in Houston, Lulu’s Restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days of the week and brunch on Saturday and Sunday only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
We raised a glass to our Lulu dinner, with the Lulu’s cocktail made of Deep Eddy lemon vodka and Italian soda, in addition to the Chandon Garden Spritz with bubbly from Mendoza, Valencia Oranges, and Rosemary garnish. The antipasto and bread service of focaccia with whipped honey butter and fresh olive oil is made for sharing. Excellent main dishes include the braised short rib on soft polenta with red wine jus and the fresh pappardelle bolognese with black angus beef tip, parmigiano, and fresh herbs which perfectly complement this signature dish. Save room to share the “bomboloni” dessert, an Italian fried doughnut with a side of creme anglaise that melts in your mouth while nothing short of magnifico!
If you decide to venture into town for some shopping at dozens of eclectic vintage to modern shops filled with fashion and furnishings, be sure to check out the artful creations by the talented local legend Mary Lou Marks at Southern Beasts. Stop by neighboring Sapana to purchase gorgeous Eastern textiles while supporting the She Has Hope programs to fight human trafficking on a global scale. Stroll over to see the beautiful jewelry and clothing at Wimberly, a mixture of the old and new at Modern Marla, folk art at the Humble Donkey, and a generous collection of finery at Round Top Antiques and Design Center. While many area venues are only open during Spring or Fall shows, other year-round destinations include nearby Market Hill, Bull Market, Rummel Square, Bombshell Betty Shop, and the European-styled Round Top Ranch Antiques. The Compound consists of five different barns and rental venues which are filled with vendors and activities during showtime, but check the website for year-round events and pop-ups.
After all the shopping, you might need a snack. Pop over to Royers Pie Haven on the Square for a lavender lemonade and piece of fresh junkberry pie, or duck into the locally hip Ellis Motel Bar for a cocktail. Just across the street from Henkel Square, Popi Burger serves up crispy bacon on all-beef burgers made to order in a casual atmosphere. When the weather is nicer, grab a table on the patio of the little burger joint with a big Texas hospitality and a vintage twist. Make your burger into a bowl, or try the BLT on crunchy Texas toast. Throw in a side of onion rings, tater tots, or fries, and you will be ready to keep shopping until you drop.
Round Top Brewing and Kitchen is now on the scene, chef and brewer Paul Michie and his wife Brooke are serving more than just quality and palatable house-made beer at their nano-brewery and taproom. Taking no reservations, Round Top Brewing and Kitchen invites you to order at the counter and grab a table near the bar or on the climate-controlled patio to beat the Texas heat. Don’t miss their “addictive” house-made queso with chips, four-cheese artichoke spinach dip, and house-made deviled eggs with fried onion. Taking four days to make, their duck confit makes a taco like you’ve never tried before and won’t soon forget. The savory burgers made from local Kobe beef complement your choice of cold, refreshing craft beer on tap. In the spirit of German, order up the Classic bratwurst and kraut, served with a side of Dusseldorf mustard.
Let us not forget the beer. Try the refreshing, citrus-forward Juicy Boots Hazy IPA, or try the Palomino Pilsner with floral and herbal notes. German pilsner fans will love the Kolsch Hour, honoring the German history and brewing legacy in Round Top and hitting the spot on a hot summer day. Strong, dark, and toasty, the 12 Point Doppelbock pays homage to the 12 Point Buck native to the surrounding lands. Take in some live music outdoors on most weekends underneath the trees at Round Top Brewing, where family tradition runs deep and everybody just may know your name by the time you leave.
On Sundays, get an early start and miss the wait for the wildly popular fried chicken lunch served family style at Round Top’s own original Royers Cafe. Known for their pie, Royers might become just as famous for this chicken that rivals what you remember your southern Grandma serving up on weekends. If this is the last thing you do before scooting out of town, you won’t be sorry!
The Sound of Music
While the shops may close down for dinner, you can still throw on your boots to find live music, food, beer, and wine on weekend evenings at the Stone Cellar in Round Top. Just a two-minute drive from The Frenchie, you won’t be far from your bed when the night winds down. Be sure to follow Shakespeare at Winedale, a performance art theatre and branch of the University of Texas in Austin. Performances in the century-old German hay barn-turned-Elizabethan theatre (ten-minute drive from The Frenchie) are scheduled throughout the spring and summer months with seasonal schedules and ticket links listed on their website.
Performing Arts and music lovers also need to know about the Round Top Festival Institute, nestled on 210 acres just off Highway 237 on Jaster Road and also featuring year-round performances. Established in 1971 by concert pianist and University of Texas music graduate James Dick, the Festival Institute is home to multiple conferences, retreats and meetings. Since opening in April 2007, the Festival Concert Hall is now touted as one of the finest in the entire country. The property’s impressive gardens, landscaping, unusual trees and adjoining Edythe Bates Old Chapel make it worth your detour just to see the campus, tickets or not. Mark your calendar and plan your Round Top visits around hearing the Split Second Piano Ensemble (Aug. 26), Houston Brass Band (Sept. 16), and the Nutcracker Ballet (Dec. 9).
Cover Photo Courtesy Round Top
Dana Maass is a regular TLM contributing writer and occupational therapist who lives with her husband and rescue dog Chester in Round Rock, TX. Also an AirBNB Superhost, she loves family and friends, travel, nature, weekly cycle classes, and visits to her favorite small Texas town of Round Top. Maass volunteers with Sacred Heart Community Clinic and co-facilitates the “Still Standing” amputee support group, through St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center. Follow her on Instagram at dana_maass_adventures.