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How to Spend a Day in Cleburne

Head just 50 miles outside of Dallas for a quaint town with plenty of history—and over 30 flavors of root beer.
| |Illustration by Michelle Thompson
Cleburne Texas
Michelle Thompson

Roughly 50 miles from Dallas, Cleburne is Johnson County’s third county seat. (The first, Wardville, is at the bottom of Lake Pat Cleburne.) The railroad helped the city rise to relative prominence in the late 19th century. Those days are long gone, but it maintains small-town charm with a well-preserved historic town square, museums, and plenty of shopping. Grab a selfie in front of one of the colorful murals that tell Cleburne’s history.

The Chisolm Trail Outdoor Museum

101 Chisolm Tr.

This outdoor museum offers plenty of Texas history. Explore a one-room schoolhouse, a jail with the original Wardville jail’s doors, a mule barn, and the oldest log courthouse in the state. The museum also hosts the annual Pioneer Days; this year it will be November 10 and 11.

Mainstay Farm

1004 W. Bethesda Rd.

In addition to the petting zoo, three-story treehouse, concessions, and hay and train rides, fall at the 70-acre farm promises pumpkin patches and you-pick zinnias. In December, visitors can chop down their own trees and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Layland Museum 

201 N. Caddo St.

When the Carnegie Library moved to newer digs, its former location became home to the Layland Museum, which displays artifacts and photographs from Johnson County’s past. And around the corner is the Cleburne Railroad Museum.

Central Station Toys

209 S. Main St.

Part toy store, part time machine, part neighborhood gathering spot, Central Station Toys offers something for the whole family, from board games to model kits to all manner of stuffed animals. Mom and Dad might even find themselves eyeing vintage Pee-Wee Herman or New Kids on the Block dolls. 

Red Horse Antique Mall

216 E. Henderson St.

Perched at the edge of the downtown square, Red Horse Antique Mall is a favorite thanks to its three stories of booths with everything from vintage tableware to books to auto racing memorabilia. If you’re hungry, Taqueria Torres is located on the first floor.

Trovato Street

106 E. Henderson St.

The candy and root beer bar is a welcome respite if you’ve been taking in downtown on foot. In addition to retro sweets, it offers house-made chocolates and taffy, and more than 30 flavors of root beer. Order a flight—or a float. 

Morris Neal’s Handy Hamburgers

200 S. Mill St.

Neal began his enterprise in 1932, selling hamburgers from a lean-to in a downtown alley. He moved to this slightly loftier spot in the 1950s. Ownership has since changed, but almost everything else remains the same, especially the made-to-order burgers. 

Cleburne State Park

5800 Park Rd. 21

If you’re feeling adventurous, Cleburne State Park offers more than 13 miles of hiking and bike trails, including the Spillway Trail that, if there’s been enough rain, turns into a gorgeous waterfall. 

This story originally appeared in the November issue of D Magazine with the headline “One Day in…Cleburne.” Write to [email protected].


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.