There are a million things to do in Austin — that is no secret. But even in a city as happening as Austin, sometimes you just want to get away. Lucky for you, Central Texas offers some great options if you’re looking for a Day Trip from Austin. Here’s a roundup of some great destinations for a quick, easy getaway.
San Antonio is about an hour south of Austin on I-35, an obvious tourist spot for the Alamo and the Riverwalk. You can also spend the day at Fiesta Texas or Sea World, catch a Spurs game, and see other sights like the San Fernando Cathedral and the Tower of the Americas, San Antonio’s tallest structure at 750 feet high. Kids will also enjoy a visit to the DoSeum, San Antonio’s museum for kids. Read our review of the DoSeum here.
Waco offers so much family fun! Animal lovers will be impressed with Cameron Park Zoo, home to nearly 1,731 animals, representing 300 species, housed in natural habitats. Kids will love exploring all of the hands-on activities in the Mayborn Museum on the Baylor University Campus. Fans of HGTV’s Fixer Upper will surely enjoy a visit to Magnolia Market at the Silos. You’ll want to schedule in a tour at Waco Mammoth National Monument, home to fully preserved Columbian mammoths. And you can also check out the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, and the Dr. Pepper Museum. Click here to read about our trip to Waco.
Johnson City offers something to appeal to all ages. Check out the beautiful Pedernales Falls State Park. Get some history lessons at LBJ Ranch and the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead. Go on a safari tour at the Exotic Resort Zoo. Have a blast at the Hill Country Science Mill. Click here to read about our experience at the Science Mill.
Home to some of Texas’s best barbecue, Lockhart is commonly known as the “BBQ Capital of Texas.” The most popular spots are Black’s Barbecue, which has been run by the same family since 1932, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market. Their courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, and you can stretch your legs at Lockhart State Park and a 9-hole golf course. Lockhart is located about 30 miles south on US Highway 183.
Full of German culture and history, Fredericksburg is a great destination for music, food and beer. Visitors will find Bavarian-style architecture, hometown shopping, and fun festivals like Oktoberfest (of course) and various Food and Wine Fests. Of course, this is also a well-known spot for getting fresh peaches, too. And history buffs can also tour one of the top World War II museums in the country, the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Outdoor lovers can get in some quality hiking and rock climbing at this 1,643-acre recreation area. The centerpiece is a massive, 425-foot-tall granite dome that is estimated to be 1 billion years old. The trick is to climb to the summit of this big old rock to enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. Camp out or have a picnic. From Austin a trip to the Enchanted Rock State Recreation Area takes about 2 hours.
New Braunfels & Gruene
A quick 45-minute drive south from Austin, New Braunfels & Gruene offer quite a few destinations to visit on a day trip. The crown jewel is Schlitterbahn, arguably the best water park in the world. (Click here for our review of Schlitterbahn.) Kids will also love playing around at McKenna Children’s Museum or taking a mini-train ride in Landa Park. You can also go tubing on the river or spend a day on the beautiful Canyon Lake west of New Braunfels. Historic Gruene is also in the city limits of New Braunfels, offering great atmosphere, shops, and restaurants including The Gristmill. No trip is complete without visiting Gruene Hall, the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas.
The Salt Lick in Driftwood is an obvious destination for anyone visiting Austin. Located roughly 30 minutes from downtown Austin, the short, scenic drive to this legendary BBQ joint will take you through rolling hills and century-old oak trees to an open pit where they have been smoking meats since 1967. Even better, it’s BYOB and they have live music the patio. Another Driftwood destination is the Duchman Winery, where you can sneak in a vineyard tour and wine tasting. You can also visit Radha Madhav Dham, one of the largest Hindu temples and ashrams in the U.S. and that welcomes hundreds of visitors every day, regardless of their backgrounds, to its religious services and festivals.
The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge located in the Hill Country northwest of Austin offers a variety of activities for visitors including guided nature walks for observing endangered songbirds, and public lands hunting where you can tag a deer, feral hog, or turkey. You can also head west from here through Marble Falls, where you’ll find Inks Lake State Park and Lake Buchanan.
Listed in the Natural Registration of Historical Places, Krause Springs is surely one of the most magical places to swim. Located 30 miles outside of Austin, Krause hosts over 34 small springs, a waterfall, a man-made wallowing pool, and a natural swimming pool so there are plenty of ways to stay cool. If you are planning to stay the weekend there are plenty of camping areas and Opie’s BBQ is just around the corner.
The historic swimming pool, located just 40 minutes outside of downtown Austin in Dripping Springs, is actually a collapsed grotto which sports a 50-foot waterfall and unique rock formations that encircle the pool. Visitors can choose to swim, shade themselves in the rock shelf located behind the waterfall, or explore the numerous hiking trails located in the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. You’re required to make a reservation to visit Hamilton Pool. You can make your reservations online for a particular date and choose from the following time periods: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., or 2 – 6 p.m. You’ll pay online for your reservation fee ($10), and pay for your entrance fee ($15) with cash or check when you arrive at the preserve. For more info, click here.
Hidden in the center of Wimberley, Blue Hole is surrounded by 126 acres of forest and grasslands and sports a unique ecosystem which houses a variety of fish, reptiles, mammals and plant species. Kids are welcome to explore the bountiful wildlife and then enjoy a dip in the Blue Hole Pool, which is surrounded by beautiful cypress trees, many equipped with rope swings.
More to Explore:
- Best Camping Spots Around Austin
- Best Swimming Holes
- Family-Friendly Resorts Near Austin
- The Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek, TX
- Riding the Rails on the Austin Steam Train
- What To Do on Lake Travis
- 8 Texas Roadside Attractions Worth Stopping For