South Central Texas is home to some of the state's liveliest attractions and cities, all within easy day trip distance from Austin. Visitors can explore the wineries along the lovely Texas Wine Trail. Unique natural features are on display at parks such as Colorado Bend State Park, which showcases secluded sinkholes and stunning karst limestone structures. The state's music legacy lives on at sites such as Luckenbach and Deep Ellum.
1. San Antonio
San Antonio is one of the America's loveliest cities, known as a major center of Spanish colonial heritage due to its preserved mission sites, including the internationally-renowned 18th-century Alamo Mission, famed for its connection to Texas' battle for independence. Several historic missions can be viewed as part of the citywide historic Missions Trail, including Mission Concepción and Mission San Jose. Downtown, the charming San Antonio River Walk spans the banks of the San Antonio River and is home to waterfront dining and attractions such as the 1968 World's Fair-connected Hemisfair Park. Three major amusement parks are located near the city, including popular Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio. Major special events hosted in the city throughout the year include the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, one of the largest rodeos in America.
Fredericksburg is one of Central Texas' liveliest cities, originally founded in 1846 and named in honor of Prussian Prince Frederick. The town is known for its unique German heritage, populated by residents who speak the Texas German dialect. Visitors can explore German heritage exhibits at the Pioneer Museum, which is home to preserved settler homesteads and artifacts from the 19th century. Its National Register of Historic Places-listed Fredericksburg Historic District is home to buildings such as the Vereins Kirche, which recreates a 19th-century German church. Military history exhibits are showcased at the National Museum of the Pacific War, including a recreated World War II-era combat zone. Many farm facilities offer pick-your-own fruit activities throughout the late summer and early autumn months, paying tribute to the area's reputation as the Peach Capital of Texas.
Georgetown is one of Central Texas' most famed small cities, featured as a filming location in many films and television series, including Friday Night Lights, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and Dazed and Confused. The city, which is located approximately half an hour north of downtown Austin, is renowned for its Williamson County Courthouse Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is home to a fully renovated and operating 1911 Courthouse. Delicious restaurants and wineries are showcased around the city's Courthouse Square, along with a wide variety of unique shopping options. Natural attractions in the area include the lovely Blue Hole Park and the vast Inner Space Cavern, which showcases hundreds of stalactites. Each April, the city hosts the lovely Red Poppy Festival, celebrating its status as Texas' unofficial red poppy capital.
Houston is one of Texas' largest metropolises, known as a major international leader in aeronautics for its Space Center Houston facility. Visitors can learn about NASA operations at the Johnson Space Center's Visitor Center, which is Houston's only Smithsonian-affiliated museum. More than seven million visitors explore the city's lovely Museum District, which is home to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Houston Zoo. As one of the few American cities with permanent professional companies in all major arts disciplines, the city is also home to the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the Alley Theater. A diverse food scene has been acclaimed as one of the nation's finest, while an extensive parks network showcases over 300 city park facilities. Annual special events include the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world's largest rodeo, and the Bayou City Art Festival, considered to be one of the nation's top five arts festivals.
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Luckenbach is a community within Texas Hill Country approximately 15 minutes from Fredericksburg, known as a popular site for country music performances throughout the year. The small community was nearly a ghost town by the 1960s before it was purchased by folklorist Hondo Crouch, actor Guich Koock, and their wives Shatzi Crouch and Patricia Koock. As governing officials of the town, the pair of couples operated its historic dance hall as a major country western music venue throughout much of the 20th century, hosting acts such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Lyle Lovett. Today, the community retains its historic ghost town feel and continues to host live music performances each weekend, including performances by local and regional celebrities.
6. Falls Creek Vineyards and Becker Vineyards
Falls Creek Vineyards and Becker Vineyards are two of the loveliest wineries in Texas Hill Country, located along the gorgeous Hill Country Wine Trail. Visitors can sample elegant Chardonnay, Chevaux Noir, and Viognier varietals at the acclaimed Becker Vineyards, which was lauded as one of the favorite wineries of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and served at the White House during her term. Fall Creek Vineyards are located on 400 gorgeous acres throughout the Lake Buchanan region in Tow, producing gourmet Mourvèdre, Grenache Rosé, Sangiovese, and Merlot varietals. Winery tastings and tours are offered at Becker Vineyards, which also frequently hosts food truck popups and chef's dinner events. Special events at Fall Creek Vineyards include food pairing events, wine and paint nights, and live music performances.
18059A FM 1826 Driftwood, Texas 78619, Phone: 512-858-4050
7. Colorado Bend State Park
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Colorado Bend State Park is a gorgeous 5,300-acre Texas state park located within the beautiful Texas Hill Country region, originally opened in 1987 and known for its unique karst limestone natural features. Visitors can explore the area's caves and sinkholes as part of guided cave tours, which are led by experienced nature guides. The Spicewood Springs Trail stretches for two miles along several of the park's lovely creeks, providing access to a number of spring-fed swimming holes. The Gorman Creek Trail leads to the spectacular Gorman Falls, which plummet 65 feet. Primitive campsites are offered throughout the park, along with a number of drive-up and walk-in tent sites.
2236 Park Hill Dr, Bend, TX 76824, Phone: 325-628-3240
Dallas is a lovely modern metropolis in northern Texas, known as one of the state's most diverse and cultural urban areas. The city's downtown Arts District is the largest arts district in the contiguous United States, home to notable museums and venues such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the AT&T Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Families can enjoy attractions such as the acclaimed Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which features six floors of science-related exhibits. Nearby in Deep Ellum, visitors can explore the region's history of 20th-cenutry jazz and blues music and retrace the steps of famed performers like Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
9. Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs is a delightful Hays County city located near Austin, known as the gateway to Texas Hill Country. In recent years, the city has become a haven for foodies, home to a plethora of gourmet cuisine options, craft microbreweries, and hip distilleries. Visitors can sample locally-produced extra-virgin olive oil at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company, which has won more awards for its oils than any other Texas company. Live bluegrass music performances are showcased at the Rusty Mule, while open dance lesson times are offered throughout the week at the Mercer Street Dancehall. Beautiful yard art is also on display at the Sol'stice Garden Expressions facility, which showcases three acres of wind and structural garden art.
10. Enchanted Rock State Park
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Enchanted Rock State Park is a gorgeous Texas state park located approximately half an hour north of the city of Fredericksburg, open to the public seven days a week throughout the year for spectacular outdoor recreational opportunities. The park is home to more than 11 miles of hiking trails, including the Summit Trail and the Loop Trail, which offer beautiful natural views. Visitors can climb the park's iconic namesake ancient pink granite dome for unparalleled views of Texas Hill Country. Day-use picnic sites are located throughout the park, along with pet-friendly trails and recreation areas. Visitors can also geocache, stargaze, and rock climb throughout the park or stay overnight at a number of designated campground sites.
16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624, Phone: 830-685-3636
Gruene is a district and former town located within the city of New Braunfels, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 for its history as a significant cotton production area. The beautiful district, which is located along the banks of the Guadalupe River, is home to many preserved historic structures dating back to its founding, including the 1872 Gruene Family home, which has been converted into the Victorian-style Gruene Mansion Inn. The 1878 Gruene Hall is known as Texas' oldest dance hall, attracting famed performers like Willie Nelson and Gregg Allman. Other historic attractions include the 1925 Gruene General Store, the lovely Grapevine wine tasting room, and restaurants like the Gruene Coffee Haus. The district is also known as a prime spot for swimming and inner tubing at a number of sites along the Guadalupe River.
12. Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a charming natural pool that was created thousands of years ago following the collapse of an underground river dome. The natural pool, which is located approximately half an hour west of the city of Austin, has been a popular natural swimming site for Austin-area residents and visitors since the mid-2oth century. In 1990, it was designated as a natural preserve by the Travis County Commissioner's Court. It spans 232 acres within a jade green pool area and is sourced by a picturesque 50-foot waterfall. Gorgeous stalactites hang from the pool's ceiling, which is home to cliff swallows and maidenhair ferns. Water levels stay fairly constant throughout the seasons and remain at a cool 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Above ground, the preserve's upland areas are home to beautiful cedar trees and the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
13. Johnson City
Johnson City is a charming ranch town in Blanco County, originally founded in 1879 by James Polk Johnson. The city is best known as the hometown of United States President Lyndon Johnson, showcasing the reconstructed century-old home of the president while he attended public school as a child. Visitors can tour the home as part of guided living history tours and see original Johnson family belongings and period-appropriate furnishings. The Johnson Settlement, which was owned by the president's great-uncle and grandfather during the 19th century, is also open to the public as a living history facility, showcasing a rustic 1856 cabin, an 1880 stone farm, and a museum center showcasing exhibits on the region's frontier heritage. Family-friendly activities include the nonprofit Science Mill, while outdoor attractions include lovely LBJ State Park.
14. Lake Travis
Lake Travis is a beautiful reservoir along the Colorado River, located within Travis and Burnet Counties near the city of Austin. The reservoir was originally constructed in 1942 following the damming of Mansfield Dam by the Lower Colorado River Authority. Today, it spans a surface area of more than 30 square miles, making it the largest lake within the Highland Lakes reservoir system. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities at the lake throughout the year, including boating, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, ziplining, and overnight camping. At Hippie Hollow Park, visitors can also enjoy swimming at Texas' only legal clothing-optional beach.
15. Longhorn Caverns State Park
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Longhorn Caverns State Park is a delightful state park in Burnet County, originally developed in 1938 and dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1971. The 645-acre Texas Hill Country park is anchored around the cave of the same name, which has been used as a shelter in the area since prehistoric times and is connected to the legend of outlaw Sam Bass' stolen fortune. It is one of the world's most unique caves due to its unusual underground stream beds, which were cut from solid limestone due to the dissolving of groundwater. Throughout the 1920s, the cavern was used as a speakeasy that hosted performing musicians. Today, the cave is used as a music venue once again as part of the Simple Sounds concert series. Visitors can hike at the park's delightful nature trails of learn about the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps throughout Texas as part of historic exhibits.
6211 Park Road 4 S, Burnet, TX 78611, Phone: 512-715-9000
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16. Magnolia Market
© Magnolia Market
Magnolia Market is a unique upscale shopping complex in downtown Waco, opened to the public in 2015 by HGTV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines. The shopping complex spans two city blocks and is anchored around two 120-foot silos that were originally constructed as part of the Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company. Visitors can shop at the market's anchor store, which showcases home goods and decor specially picked by Joanna and featured on her television series Fixer Upper. The Magnolia Seed and Supply garden shop showcases a wide variety of gardening tools and flower-growing kits, featuring an outdoor family garden space that is home to a wooden teepee and beautiful flower beds. A food truck park is home to delicious restaurant options such as Guess Family BBQ, Cheddar Box, and 900 Pizzeria.
601 Webster Ave, Waco, TX 76706
17. Marble Falls
Marble Falls is a charming city in Burnet County, located approximately 45 minutes northwest of downtown Austin. The town, which was originally founded in 1887, was named for its historic waterfall of the same name, which was fully submerged following the construction of the Lake Marble Falls reservoir on the Colorado River. It is best known as the host of one of the United States' biggest drag boat races, held each August. The city's downtown district is home to quaint art galleries and delicious restaurants, including the Blue Bonnet Cafe, known as one of Texas' top pie joints. Just outside of town, visitors can explore the Dead Man's Hole limestone cave or hit the lake for standup paddleboarding or swimming at Johnson or Lakeside Parks.
18. McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is a lovely Texas state park that is located along the confluence of Williamson and Onion Creek in Austin, originally opened to the public in 1976 and named in honor of area businessman Thomas F. McKinney. The 641-acre park, which is located along the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, is home to a wide variety of natural hiking trails, which traverse the scenic areas of Onion Creek, including its beautiful upper and lower falls. Swimming and fishing opportunities are offered throughout the park, along with opportunities for bicycling, birding, and wildlife watching. More than 80 hike-in and RV campsites are offered throughout the park, along with group shelters and a group dining hall for larger camping groups. Beautiful landmarks within the park include the Smith Rock Shelter, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744, Phone: 512-243-1643
19. New Braunfels
New Braunfels is a charming day trip destination located near the cities of Austin and San Antonio, known for its location along the gorgeous cold-spring Comal and Guadalupe Rivers, which are a popular spot for inner tubing throughout the summer months. The city is the home of the original location of the famed Schlitterbahn Water Park Resort, which is named for the German word for "slippery road" and is home to world-class water thrill rides, slides, and a massive family wave pool. Historic German buildings from the 19th century are preserved within the city's Gruene Historic District. Each year, the city is home to the delightful German-style Wurstfest sausage festival and the lovely Wassailfest Christmas celebration.
20. Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park is a beautiful state park located minutes outside of Johnson City, located along the banks of the beautiful Pedernales River near its mouth at Lake Travis. The park is located on lands that formerly belonged to the working Circle Bar Ranch, which was converted into public park property in 1971. Today, visitors can hike, bike, and horseback ride at the lovely park, which showcases trails ranging in difficulty from easy and family-friendly to moderately strenuous for experienced hikers. 10 miles of rugged horseback riding trails feature rocky, steep slopes that serve as a great challenge for experienced riders. Swimming opportunities are offered directly on the river throughout the summer months. Visitors can also camp at a number of primitive and electric hookup campsites throughout the park, including group campsites.
2585 Park Rd 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636, Phone: 830-868-7304
21. San Marcos
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San Marcos is a delightful Texas city that is located along the banks of the San Marcos and Blanco Rivers, believed to be one of America's oldest continually-inhabited sites. The city has been named as one of the country's 10 most exciting small cities by Business Insider, home to the campus of Texas State University, which features historic Victorian Gothic-style buildings. Lovely natural areas include Sewell Park, a popular spot in the area for volleyball, inner tubing, and swimming throughout the year. Visitors can explore the city's gorgeous downtown historic district, which includes the 1908 Hays County Courthouse and a number of renowned bars and music venues, including the Marc, which has hosted the Lone Star Music Awards. Public art lines the city's streets, including a famed mural depicting Jeff Bridges' character from The Big Lebowski.
Waco is a charming city in central Texas, located along the course of the Brazos River. The city is home to the renowned Cameron Park Zoo, which showcases exhibits of lions, meerkats, and otters. A number of museums throughout the city focus on unique topics, including the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, which details the state's law enforcement history, and the Dr. Pepper Museum, which pays tribute to the invention and legacy of the famed soft drink. Fossils of Columbian-era mammoths are on display at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which is overseen by the National Park Service. Other attractions include the seasonal Hawaiian Falls waterpark, the massive Grand Lodge of Texas, and Magnolia Market, a unique shopping complex overseen by HGTV stars Joanna and Chip Gaines.
Wimberley is a haven for artists in the Austin area, located approximately an hour outside of the city's downtown district. The charming Hays County city, which was originally established in 1848 as a trading post settlement, is home to a plethora of art galleries, live music venues, and performing arts institutions, including the outdoor EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens, which hosts Theater Under the Stars performances throughout the year. Texas' second-largest fully-submerged cave is preserved at Jacob's Well Natural Area, known as a popular swimming hole site during the summer months. Annual special events in the city include a Butterfly Festival, monthly downtown Market Days, and a Christmas Trail of Lights.
24. Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is a lovely community in Comal County, located within the greater San Antonio metropolitan region. The area is best known for its excellent water recreational opportunities, known as the "Jewel" of Texas Hill County for its location on the majestic Guadalupe River. Visitors can enjoy opportunities for white water rafting and river tubing along 80 miles of shoreline, which are also home to ample opportunities for camping and cabin overnight stays. The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country showcases preserved dinosaur tracks, while Whitewater Amphitheater presents live theatrical and music performances at a venue directly on the riverbanks.
What are the 25 Best Day Trips from Austin, Texas?
The 25 Best Day Trips from Austin, Texas according to local experts are: