Austin, Texas, known for its vibrant music scene and lively atmosphere, offers endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. As much as the city itself has to offer, sometimes it’s nice to escape the urban hustle and delve into the natural beauty and unique attractions surrounding Austin. There is no shortage of enticing options for those looking to take a break from city life and venture out for a memorable day trip.
From picturesque parks and natural wonders to charming small towns steeped in Texas history, every traveler will find a day trip that piques their interest. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast seeking serenity in the great outdoors or someone captivated by architecture and culture, making a day trip from Austin promises a memorable experience for families, couples, and solo adventurers alike.
In this article, we will explore some of the best day trips you can take from Austin, using our insider tips and knowledge of the area to create the perfect itinerary for your next excursion. With a wide variety of destinations, there is something for everyone, promising unforgettable memories and unique experiences for those enchanted by the Lone Star State.
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Best Day Trips from Austin, Texas
San Antonio is a fantastic day trip destination from Austin, just an hour and 15 minutes away. Key highlights include exploring the famous River Walk and remembering the Alamo, a historic site that played a crucial role in Texas’ history. Take the time to visit some of the excellent Tex-Mex restaurants and vibrant markets that this bustling city offers.
Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country covers a large area near Austin, offering picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, and quaint towns perfect for a day trip. One popular destination within the Hill Country is Dripping Springs, less than an hour from Austin. Best known for the stunning Hamilton Pool Preserve, Dripping Springs also boasts numerous wineries and wedding venues in the area.
|Destination||Travel Time from Austin|
|Dripping Springs||Less than an hour|
Fredericksburg is a charming German town nestled in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Known for its wineries, unique shopping, and historical sites such as the Pioneer Museum and National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg offers a taste of German heritage in Texas. Visit Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for hiking opportunities or explore the abundance of art galleries spread throughout the town.
Wimberley, another picturesque town in the Texas Hill Country, is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Approximately an hour from Austin, Wimberley is home to beautiful natural wonders such as the Blue Hole Regional Park and Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Wander through the charming downtown area, and don’t forget to capture photos at the famous Wimberley Boot Trail.
A little over an hour from Austin, New Braunfels is a delightful town with rich German heritage. Here, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy tubing down the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, while history buffs will appreciate a visit to the restored Gruene Historic District. For family-friendly fun, consider spending a day at the popular Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Tulsa, Oklahoma: Destinations to Explore
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Enchanted Rock, located around 95 miles from Austin, offers a unique outdoor experience with its massive pink granite dome. It’s an ideal destination for hikers and rock climbers, featuring over 11 miles of hiking trails. Some popular activities include:
- Hiking to the top of Enchanted Rock for stunning views
- Exploring various rock formations and caves
- Bird-watching and stargazing opportunities
- Camping in designated areas
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool Preserve, situated about 23 miles west of Austin, is a popular swimming destination known for its majestic, 50-foot waterfall. The preserve has a few restrictions and requires reservations. Highlights include:
- Natural swimming pool beneath a scenic waterfall
- A quarter-mile hike to the pool
- Limited capacity to preserve the natural environment
Blue Hole Regional Park
Located in Wimberley, about 45 miles from Austin, Blue Hole Regional Park boasts a picturesque natural swimming hole surrounded by cypress trees. The park offers various outdoor activities:
- Swimming in the clear, spring-fed Blue Hole
- Hiking trails featuring diverse flora and fauna
- Volleyball, basketball, and soccer facilities
- Picnic areas and pavilions
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, approximately 40 miles from Austin, is a haven for nature lovers, especially bird-watchers. The refuge protects important bird habitats, and visitors can engage in numerous outdoor activities:
- Over 7 miles of hiking trails
- Wildlife and bird-watching opportunities, such as the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo
- Seasonal bluebonnet blooms
- Photography and nature study
These exciting outdoor adventures provide a variety of experiences for Austin visitors, including hiking, swimming, and enjoying the area’s natural beauty.
Barbecue in Lockhart
Lockhart, also known as the Barbecue Capital of Texas, is a haven for smoked meat lovers. A must-visit for anyone looking to experience authentic Texas barbecue, here are some famous places you can try:
- Smitty’s Market: Known for their mouthwatering brisket and sausage, Smitty’s has been serving barbecue lovers since 1948.
- Kreuz Market: Established in 1900, Kreuz Market is famous for its dry-rubbed, smoked meats, particularly its tender and juicy beef ribs.
- Black’s BBQ: With over 80 years of experience, this family-owned establishment has locations in Lockhart, Austin, and New Braunfels. They are famous for their giant beef ribs and mouthwatering brisket.
In addition to these, you may also try visiting Chisholm Trail BBQ and Salt Lick BBQ for more delectable barbecue options.
Wineries and Vineyards
The Texas Hill Country, close to Austin, is known for its scenic vistas and numerous wineries. When visiting the area, you can tour vineyards and indulge in wine tasting experiences. Some noteworthy wineries close to Austin include:
- Driftwood Estate Winery
- Duchman Family Winery
- Wimberley Valley Winery
Breweries and Distilleries
Austin’s surrounding areas are home to several breweries and distilleries, making them a great day trip option for beer, cider, and spirit enthusiasts. Some popular ones to visit are:
- Texas Hill Country Brewery: Known for their diverse beer selections, including lagers, IPAs, and stouts.
- Jester King Brewery: Set on a beautiful ranch, this brewery specializes in farmhouse ales and barrel-aged beers.
- Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery: Located in Dripping Springs, this distillery offers a tasting room and tour, where you can learn about their vodka-making process.
Austin is famous for its delicious Tex-Mex cuisine, with countless restaurants offering a variety of dishes, such as tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas. When venturing out on a day trip, consider exploring nearby towns and cities for unique Tex-Mex flavors. Some recommendations include:
- Paco’s Tacos in Georgetown: A local favorite for their delicious homemade tortillas and variety of toppings.
- Mi Madre’s in Austin: Offering popular dishes like breakfast tacos and green chile pork.
- Torchy’s Tacos in Austin and surrounding areas: Known for their creative taco menu and funky vibe.
Whether a fan of barbecue, wineries, or Tex-Mex, Austin has a lot to offer when it comes to culinary experiences. Embark on these day trips and savor the mouthwatering flavors of the region.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Boise, Idaho
Gruene Historic District
Gruene Historic District, a charming town with a rich German heritage, is an ideal day trip from Austin. It’s home to the famous Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall, where you can enjoy live music and dancing. While you’re there, make sure to explore the antique shops and unique boutiques found in the area.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is located near Johnson City, just over an hour from Austin. The park offers insight into President Lyndon B. Johnson’s life and legacy. You can visit the LBJ Ranch, as well as explore the surrounding Pedernales Falls State Park for some excellent hiking and outdoor activities.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Dallas, Texas
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is a remarkable site featuring four Spanish colonial missions, including the famous Alamo. It showcases the history, architecture, and culture of the region. Besides exploring the missions, you can also visit San Antonio’s vibrant River Walk or the La Villita historic arts village nearby.
Some attractions in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park include:
- The Alamo
- Mission Concepción
- Mission San José
- Mission San Juan Capistrano
Georgetown and Historic Downtown
Georgetown, with its beautifully preserved historic downtown, is a great day trip option from Austin. Take a leisurely stroll around the town square, visit unique shops and restaurants, and make sure to stop by the Inner Space Cavern for an underground adventure. The historic charm of Georgetown is the perfect setting for a relaxing day trip.
Austin provides several nearby historical destinations for an engaging day trip experience. Gruene Historic District, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, and Georgetown all offer a unique and captivating look into the past.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Located just over an hour from Austin, Natural Bridge Caverns offers visitors a unique underground experience. Families can explore the impressive cave system with a guided tour, showcasing stunning formations and chambers. Additionally, the site offers above-ground activities such as a rope course and zipline for the adventurous.
- Location: Near New Braunfels
- Activities: Guided cave tours, rope course, zipline
Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels is a fun-filled destination for the whole family. With numerous water slides, pools, lazy rivers, and play areas, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
- Location: New Braunfels
- Activities: Water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, play areas
The Dinosaur Park, located in Cedar Creek, offers a fun and educational outing for families. Featuring life-size dinosaur replicas, interactive displays, and nature trails, children can learn about prehistoric times while having a blast.
- Location: Cedar Creek
- Activities: Dinosaur replicas, interactive exhibits, nature trails
Central Texas is home to various wildlife experiences, perfect for a day trip from Austin. In Round Rock, the Old Settlers Park provides ample opportunities to spot local animals during a leisurely stroll on its nature trails. Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley, meanwhile, offers families a chance to swim and relax near a picturesque waterfall surrounded by stunning nature.
For more wildlife-focused outings, consider visiting College Station to explore natural habitats, where you can observe a diverse range of animals in their natural environments.
- Locations: Round Rock, Wimberley, College Station
- Activities: Nature trails, swimming, wildlife observation
Small Towns and Lakes
Bastrop is a quaint, historic town located just 30 miles southeast of Austin, known for its beautiful Main Street, packed with locally-owned shops, galleries, and restaurants. Outdoor activities abound, as the Colorado River runs through the town, and it is close to both Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park, where visitors can hike, bike, and camp.
Located about 100 miles north of Austin, Waco is another great day trip destination, featuring attractions such as the Magnolia Market at the Silos, founded by Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show ‘Fixer Upper.’ Additionally, Waco is home to the Cameron Park Zoo, the Dr. Pepper Museum, and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. The Brazos River, which runs through Waco, allows for various outdoor activities, including kayaking and tubing.
Marble Falls, situated on the shores of Lake Marble Falls, is a delightful small town that lies about an hour outside of Austin. The charming downtown area features sculptures on Main Street, local shops, and strawberry fields at Sweet Berry Farm. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy:
- Hidden Falls Adventure Park
- Longhorn Cavern State Park
Distance from Austin: about 1-hour northwest
Canyon Lake, about an hour outside of Austin, is a beautiful destination for water activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming. This reservoir on the Guadalupe River offers eight parks to visit, several campsites, marinas, and an abundance of hiking trails. The nearby Guadalupe River State Park provides additional opportunities for outdoor adventures, such as tubing and birdwatching.
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Shopping and Culture
Austin has a vibrant shopping and culture scene, with numerous boutiques, galleries, and museums to explore during your day trip.
Austin has many unique boutiques offering a diverse range of products and styles. Visitors can find clothing, accessories, home decor, and more while exploring the city’s shopping scene.
- South Congress Avenue: Known as SoCo, this bustling street is lined with a variety of boutiques, eateries, and live music venues. Some popular stops include ByGeorge, Allen’s Boots, and Uncommon Objects.
- 2nd Street District: Located downtown, this shopping district features several locally-owned boutiques such as Austin Rocks, Luxe Apothetique, and ModCloth.
- The Domain: A high-end shopping center in north Austin, boasting well-known brands like Neiman Marcus and Tiffany & Co., alongside unique boutiques like Raven + Lilly and Golden Bones.
Art enthusiasts can enjoy various galleries during their trip, showcasing local, national, and international artists.
- Austin Art Garage: This gallery focuses on local artists and offers a variety of multimedia art pieces at affordable prices.
- GRAYDUCK Gallery: Located in East Austin, this contemporary art gallery hosts rotating exhibitions, artist talks, and special events.
- Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum: This outdoor sculpture garden features the works of 20th-century American sculptor Charles Umlauf, as well as rotating exhibits of contemporary sculptors.
Austin has a rich cultural scene, with museums catering to various interests, from history and art to nature and science. Some notable museums to visit include:
- Blanton Museum of Art: Located on the University of Texas campus, this museum houses an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, European paintings, and prints.
- Texas State Capitol: A National Historic Landmark, you can take a free guided tour to learn more about the history and architecture of this impressive building.
- LBJ Presidential Library: The library showcases the life and legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson, featuring interactive exhibits, historical photographs, and documents.
While this section does not explicitly cover golf, those interested can find numerous golf courses in and around Austin, such as Lions Municipal Golf Course, Avery Ranch Golf Club, and Falconhead Golf Club.