Austin, Texas is an exciting and dynamic city with almost unlimited things to do, but what if you need a break from city life? These 11 day trips have all the fun and adventure anyone could crave just a short drive away.
Located less than 2 hours West of Austin, historic Fredericksburg is a great place for anyone to spend a day. Downtown, the city has over 150 stores for one-of-a-kind shopping, breweries, and some of the best dining in Texas. Patrons can visit many art galleries and museums or spend the afternoon learning from the many historical buildings and monuments in the area.
This town has a little something for everyone. Kids can spend the day at the skatepark and lovers can get pampered at the spa or tour wineries. You can even watch up to 3 million bats emerge from their home at Old Tunnel State Park every evening during the summer months.
2. Enchanted Rock
Towering out of the flatlands, this is an impressive granite pluton batholith rising 130 meters (425 feet) above the surrounding area. It is truly a sight to be seen. It is the largest pink granite monadnock (isolated rock hill/mountain that rises from a flat plain) in the entire United States.
Learn about the rock’s fascinating history as you climb to the summit. It is dubbed “enchanted” because local Indian tribes believed the area to have magical and spiritual significance, reporting having seen ghostly fires rise from the top or hearing strange groaning sounds emerge from the rock at night. With 17.5 kilometers (11 miles) of hiking trails, you can explore this geologic phenomenon from all angles. You can also enjoy some world class star gazing at this international dark sky park.
Address: 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, 78624 Fredericksburg, TX
Website: Enchanted Rock
3. Dripping Springs
Known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country,” Dripping Springs is another quaint Texas town. There are over 20 historical houses and buildings dating back to 1881 that visitors can see on a walking tour that covers just a few blocks. Right outside of the town, you will find the home of Deep Eddy Vodka, where you can sample vodka flavors, try cocktails, and do a flight of vodka.
In addition, this area has excellent views of the Texas countryside, unbeatable stargazing, and rock bottom creeks and streams. While strolling among living history and unspoiled nature, you’ll probably witness a wedding or two. Dripping Springs was designated the “wedding capital of Texas” by the state house and senate, hosting the most wedding venues per square mile in the entire state.
Read our article on the best things to do in Dripping Springs.
Website: Dripping Springs
4. Hamilton Pool
Just 20 minutes down the road from Dripping Springs, you’ll find the beautiful and refreshing Hamilton Pool. As you walk down the gravel path, you will be greeted by a serene curving limestone formation with an 80-kilometer (50-foot) waterfall tumbling into a jade green pool. This all-natural pool was created thousands of years ago by the collapse of the dome of an underground river.
This is one of the most popular natural swimming holes in the area, so reservations are required during the summer months. Lifeguards are never on duty, but water quality is regularly monitored to ensure conditions are safe. Want to take in all the natural beauty but avoid the crowds? Hamilton Pool makes a great winter destination as well and it might still be 80 degrees outside.
Website: Hamilton Pool
5. Colorado Bend State Park
About two hours northwest of Austin, Colorado Bend State Park offers the entire family a full day of fun and adventure. Fifty-five kilometers (35 miles) of hiking and biking trails year-round allow you to get up close and personal with natural springs, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Colorado River. Swimming is allowed both in the river and Spicewood Springs, and the park offers many kayaking and boating rentals.
For a unique adventure, this state park contains over 400 caves. A few of these can be explored via cave adventure tours, which range in skill level from kid-friendly up to experienced climbers only. As for the rest of the caves, spend your time in the park wondering what lies beneath your feet.
Colorado Bend State Park
Address: 2236 Park Hill Dr, 76824 Bend, TX
Website: Colorado Bend State Park
6. San Marcos River Float
Floating the San Marcos River is a summertime must-do in the Texas heat. The water is from a spring-fed source, 10 times cleaner than EPA standards for drinking water, and stays a constant 72 degrees year round. Many local companies provide bus service to and from the river along with tubes of all kinds (don’t forget to get a solid bottom one for your dog or your drink cooler). The most popular tube path lasts about three hours depending on river conditions. There are also several “solo tube” float ideas and maps online for those that have their own equipment and want a customized experience.
San Marcos River Float
Website: San Marcos River Float
Georgetown is a slightly larger city that is home to the most beautiful town square in Texas. The town host many events, most notably the Red Poppy Festival (winning 2006 Best Promotional Event from the Texas Downtown Association), a family-friendly event featuring live music, food, parades, and of course, red poppy flowers.
Unique dining and shopping experiences can be found here. The city shows its heavy focus on art, with a city sculpture tour and many public works, as well as countless galleries and studios. For the visiting outdoor enthusiast, there are 15 kilometers (9 miles) of hiking and biking trails along the North and South Gabriel Rivers.
8. Longhorn Cavern State Park
One of the most popular caverns in the area, Long Horn Cavern State Park has something for everyone. Easy, walkable cave tours are offered multiple times daily, and off-path wild cave tours can be booked in advance. This cavern even has a Paranormal Cave Tour for the most adventurous visitors. If you’re craving a more above-ground experience, you can also enjoy a river cruise during the Vanishing Texas Tour, the premier ecological cruise of Texas, which offers kayak rentals, sunset cruises, eagle cruises, and private events.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
Address: 6211 Park Rd 4 S, 78611 Burnet, TX
Website: Longhorn Cavern State Park
9. Magnolia Market
Directly between Dallas and Austin, Waco has recently become a popular spot for tourists due to the rising popularity of the television show “Fixer Upper.” Chip and Joanna Gaines have set up the “silos,” a courtyard nestled in the heart of downtown Waco. Here you can relax in the lawn and garden, eat from local food trucks or the Silos Baking Company, and of course, purchase official Fixer Upper merchandise at the shop.
After the silos close, enjoy a show at the historic Hippodrome Theater, built in 1913 and still operational today, or take an evening stroll along the famous Suspension Bridge and surrounding parks and sculptures. Feeling thirsty? Head on over to Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits for a relaxing atmosphere and excellent coffee, liquor, and craft beer.
Address: 601 Webster Avenue, 76706 Waco, TX
Website: Magnolia Market
10. Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls is arguably the best place near Austin to experience the great outdoors. The Pedernales River flows over huge slabs of limestone, making this area a unique natural feature. You can do pretty much everything in this river – swim, wade, tube, fish, kayak, or canoe.
Hikers find a varied paradise here, with trails ranging from the easy 1-kilometer (0.5-mile) Falls Overlook, to the strenuous 10-kilometer (6-mile) Wolf Mountain Trail that winds up hills and along small canyons and offers fun exploration of natural forming pools. Exploration can also be done via mountain bike and horseback riding.
The newly constructed Juniper Ridge Trail is a 16-kilometer (10-mile) technical mountain biking trail that can provide thrilling challenges for even the most advanced rider. Another 16-kilometer (10-mile) rugged trail was built just for experienced horseback riders. This park also offers various programs and guided hikes for people of all ages and a junior ranger program just for the kids, making it a fun place to spend a day with the entire family.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Address: 2585 Park Rd 6026, 78636 Johnson City, TX
Website: Pedernales Falls State Park
11. Falls Creek Vineyards & Becker Vineyards
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
The areas surrounding Austin are also known for their world-class wine and vineyards. Falls Creek and Becker are two of the most famous. Both vineyards offer a relaxing and scenic hill country experience of sampling specialized wines and eating artisanal cheeses. Becker Vineyards even offers a special “Reserve Wine Library” tour for a behind-the-scenes look at their single vineyard Cabernet program– both in the barrel and vertical wine collection.
Falls Creek Vineyards
Address: 1820 County Rd. 222, 78672 Tow, Texas
Website: Falls Creek Vineyards
Address: 464 Becker Farms Rd, 78624 Fredericksburg, TX
Website: Becker Vineyards
Austin is for everyone!
No matter where your interests lie, you will be able to find something to do on a day trip outside of Austin. Offering family-friendly activities, the great outdoors, a day of shopping, or just relaxing or drinking, the Texas Hill Country surrounding Austin has a destination for everyone.
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