Seven fun day trips from Austin
Hit the road! There’s so much to see and do around Austin—we’re surrounded by historic towns, great food, and beautiful Hill Country scenery. So pack the car, grab your sunglasses, and take a road trip to these nearby getaways.
This is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—literally. The Texas Legislature adopted a bill that graced Lockhart with this lofty title, and for good reason. There are four legendary BBQ restaurants located in this small town: Kreuz Market, Smitty’s Market, Black’s BBQ, and Chisolm Trail Bar-B-Que. Get there early, as they close when they run out of food each day! After your meal, take a stroll around the historic courthouse square and visit one of Lockhart’s many antique and gift shops. You can also explore the Caldwell County Museum (located inside the 1909 jail building), play a round of golf at Lockhart State Park, or catch a production at the Gaslight-Baker Theatre. Lockhart is 45 minutes south of Austin on US-183.
Wimberley is a tiny Hill Country oasis nestled along the Cypress Creek and the Blanco River about an hour southwest of Austin. This charming community has several art galleries and boutique stores, several of which are clustered in and around Wimberley Square. There are also wonderful restaurants offering something for everyone, whether it is a five-course meal at Blair House Inn, French fare at Jobell Café & Bistro, or beers overlooking Cypress Creek at Ino’z Brew & Chew. The absolute jewel of Wimberley is Blue Hole, an idyllic swimming hole with emerald green water, shady cypress trees, and rope swings. If you’re seeking more adrenaline, you can take to the skies at Wimberley Zipline Adventures!
New Braunfels and Gruene
An hour south of Austin is New Braunfels, a great destination for summer fun. The city is blessed with two rivers, the Guadalupe and the spring-fed Comal, both of which are great for swimming and tubing. Right in the center of town you’ll find Schlitterbahn, an epic waterpark that consistently ranks as one of the best in the country, as well as Landa Park, which has playgrounds, trails and a huge spring-fed swimming pool. Not in the mood to swim? No problem! New Braunfels has a wonderful historic downtown with museums and restaurants to explore, and each November brings Wurstfest, a 10-day German-style sausage festival. In northeast New Braunfels is the Gruene Historic District, a quaint assemblage of shops along the Guadalupe River. Gruene Hall, a dance hall built in 1878, hosts live music every evening.
Another great getaway is Fredericksburg, located about two hours west of Austin on US-290. Fredericksburg is a historic German-Texan settlement that today has countless galleries, shops, and museums to explore. One of the most impressive attractions is the National Museum of the Pacific War, a world-class museum complex. No trip to Fredericksburg is complete without stopping for some authentic schnitzel at one of the many German restaurants—check out Der Lindenbaum for its intimate setting, or the Auslander for its huge beer garden. The farmland around Fredericksburg is famous for two things—peaches and grapes. Each May and June the region’s many peach farms set up roadside stands where you can buy bushels of the heavenly-scented fruit. The grapes of Fredericksburg get turned into wine at the area’s many wineries and vineyards.
Enchanted Rock and the Willow City Loop
Enchanted Rock is a spectacular dome of pink granite that rises 425 feet above the surrounding Hill Country. Hike up the smooth sides of the dome in time for sunrise, sunset, or stargazing. Enchanted Rock State Park is located about two hours from Austin and only 25 minutes north of Fredericksburg. The park also offers camping, hiking trails, rock climbing, and interpretive exhibits. Plan ahead as the park fills up quickly on the weekends, and dogs are not allowed on the summit trail. If you go in the spring, head to the park via Willow City, Texas and drive the renowned Willow City Loop. The spectacular scenic drive is blanketed with wildflowers during peak months.
Inks Lake and Longhorn Cavern State Parks
These parks are both located in Burnet, a little over an hour northwest of Austin. Inks Lake has a campground and cabins, but is also a great day trip destination. The park has hiking trails winding through pink granite outcroppings, two fishing piers (no permit required), a snack bar, canoe and kayak rentals, and killer swimming at Devil’s Waterhole. Spectacular Longhorn Cavern is only about six miles away from Inks Lake. Tours through the huge cave are offered daily—you can choose from the basic 1.5-hour Walking Tour that hits all of the highlights, or the Wild Cave Tour if you want to do some more serious spelunking. Bonus: the cavern is a cool 68 degrees year-round so is a great respite from the summer heat.
Everyone knows about the River Walk and the Alamo, but San Antonio has a lot more going on besides those popular attractions. For example, you can admire the San Antonio Missions, a group of five 18th century missions along the San Antonio River that were collectively named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. You can visit the Witte Museum, which houses an extensive collection dedicated to natural history, science, and South Texas heritage. Kids will love cruising through the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, a safari-type experience where you can feed zebras from the palm of your hand (from the comfort of your car). There’s also the San Antonio Zoo, the Botanical Garden, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Or you can simply relax with a michelada and ponder the puffy taco, a regional specialty that was invented in San Antonio in the 1950s. There’s some dispute as to where puffy tacos originated, but Ray’s Drive Inn is most often cited as the birthplace. Your tastebuds won’t worry about the details.