Discover the best day trips from Austin TX to explore natural wonders like Barton Springs Pool and Hamilton Pool Preserve, historical sites such as The Alamo and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, at Zilker Park and McKinney Falls State Park, cultural experiences at the Texas State Capitol and Blanton Museum of Art, and indulge in food and drink destinations like Fredericksburg Wineries and Gruene Hall in New Braunfels.
Natural Wonders near Austin TX
When it comes to near Austin, Texas, there are several breathtaking places that will leave you in awe. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, these attractions offer a perfect retreat. Let’s explore three remarkable natural wonders that are within a short drive from Austin.
Barton Springs Pool
One of the most beloved near Austin is the Barton Springs Pool. Located within Zilker Park, this three-acre pool is fed by natural springs and maintains a refreshing temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Whether you want to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters or simply relax on the grassy banks, Barton Springs Pool offers a serene oasis in the heart of the city. The pool is also home to various aquatic species, making it a popular spot for snorkeling and underwater exploration.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Just a short drive southwest of Austin lies the stunning Hamilton Pool Preserve. This natural swimming hole is nestled within a collapsed grotto, creating a picturesque scene that seems straight out of a fairytale. The turquoise waters, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and lush vegetation, make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers. To preserve the beauty of the area, access to Hamilton Pool is limited, and reservations are required. Once you arrive, you can take a refreshing swim, hike the trails around the preserve, or simply relax and soak in the breathtaking views.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
A little further from Austin, but well worth the journey, is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This massive pink granite dome rises over 400 feet above the surrounding landscape, offering panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Hiking to the summit of Enchanted Rock is a popular activity, and the park features various trails suitable for all skill levels. As you explore the area, you’ll encounter unique geological formations, beautiful wildflowers, and even the chance to spot some wildlife. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply enjoy immersing yourself in nature, Enchanted Rock is a truly enchanting destination.
(Note: The following sections will cover different categories of attractions near Austin, so please refer to the “reference” for more information on , outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and food and drink destinations near Austin.)
Historical Sites near Austin TX
The Alamo in San Antonio
The Alamo in San Antonio is one of the most iconic historical sites in Texas. Steeped in rich history, this former Spanish mission turned fortress played a crucial role in the Texas Revolution. As you step onto the grounds of the Alamo, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the events that unfolded here.
The Alamo is a symbol of bravery and resilience, as it was here that a small group of Texan defenders held off the Mexican army for 13 days in 1836. Though they ultimately lost the battle, their sacrifice and determination became a rallying cry for the Texan cause, leading to the eventual independence of Texas.
Today, the Alamo is a museum and memorial, offering visitors a chance to explore its hallowed halls and learn about the history that unfolded within its walls. You can walk through the original chapel, where the defenders made their last stand, and view artifacts from the battle. The Alamo also hosts special events and exhibits that delve deeper into the history and significance of this iconic site.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Located just a short drive from Austin, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and legacy of the 36th President of the United States. This expansive park encompasses several sites, including the LBJ Ranch, the Texas White House, and the Johnson Settlement.
At the LBJ Ranch, you can take a guided tour of the President’s home, known as the Texas White House. Step inside and see where President Johnson conducted important business and entertained world leaders. The ranch also features the Johnson family cemetery, where both President Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, are laid to rest.
The Johnson Settlement provides a glimpse into the humble beginnings of the Johnson family. Explore the historic buildings and learn about the challenges and triumphs that shaped Lyndon B. Johnson’s early years. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for bird watching, allowing visitors to connect with nature while immersing themselves in history.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to four beautifully preserved Spanish colonial missions: Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. These missions were established in the 18th century as part of Spain’s efforts to colonize the region and convert the indigenous population to Christianity.
Each mission tells a unique story and offers a glimpse into the daily life of the Native American and Spanish communities that coexisted here. Mission Concepción, with its stunning frescoes, showcases the artistry and craftsmanship of the time. Mission San José, known as the “Queen of the Missions,” is the largest and most fully restored mission, providing a comprehensive look at mission life.
Visiting the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is like stepping back in time. As you explore the grounds, you’ll see the original churches, living quarters, and gardens that sustained the mission communities. Take a guided tour or simply wander through the tranquil courtyards, imagining the echoes of the past.
Outdoor Activities near Austin TX
Zilker Park is a vibrant and expansive outdoor space located in the heart of Austin, Texas. Spanning over 350 acres, this urban oasis offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking to relax, exercise, or simply enjoy the beauty of nature, Zilker Park has something for everyone.
One of the park’s main attractions is Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming pool that stretches for three acres. The water in Barton Springs Pool is always a refreshing 68 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the perfect spot to cool off on a hot Texas day. Surrounding the pool are lush green spaces and picnic areas, where you can unwind and soak up the sun.
Zilker Park also offers a variety of recreational opportunities. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore Lady Bird Lake, which borders the park. The lake is teeming with wildlife and provides a picturesque backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. If you prefer to stay on land, you can take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the park’s numerous trails.
For those seeking a bit of adventure, Zilker Park is home to the Zilker Botanical Garden, where you can wander through beautifully manicured gardens and learn about the diverse flora of the region. The park also features a disc golf course, a miniature train for children, and a hillside theater that hosts concerts and performances throughout the year.
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake, named after former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, is a scenic reservoir located in downtown Austin. Spanning over 400 acres, this peaceful body of water offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
One of the best ways to experience Lady Bird Lake is by renting a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. As you paddle along the lake, you’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation and stunning views of the Austin skyline. Keep an eye out for the Congress Avenue Bridge, which is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. At dusk, you can witness the breathtaking sight of thousands of bats emerging from under the bridge.
If you prefer to stay on land, Lady Bird Lake has a 10-mile trail that circles the entire reservoir. This popular trail is perfect for walking, jogging, or biking. Along the way, you’ll encounter several parks and recreational areas where you can take a break and enjoy a picnic or simply relax and soak up the serene atmosphere.
For those interested in bird-watching, Lady Bird Lake is a haven for a variety of bird species. Grab your binoculars and keep an eye out for herons, egrets, and even the occasional bald eagle. The lake is also home to a diverse range of fish, making it a popular spot for anglers.
McKinney Falls State Park
Located just a short drive from Austin, McKinney Falls State Park is a natural wonderland waiting to be explored. The park is named after Thomas F. McKinney, one of the earliest settlers in the area, and encompasses over 700 acres of scenic beauty.
One of the main attractions in McKinney Falls State Park is the stunning Upper and Lower McKinney Falls. These picturesque waterfalls are formed by the convergence of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek. The falls cascade over limestone formations, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Visitors can swim in the natural pools below the falls or simply relax and enjoy the sounds of nature.
The park also offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging treks. Along the trails, you’ll encounter breathtaking vistas, ancient rock formations, and an abundance of wildlife. Keep an eye out for white-tailed deer, rabbits, and a variety of bird species.
If you’re interested in camping, McKinney Falls State Park has over 80 campsites available. Whether you prefer tent camping or RV camping, you’ll find a spot that suits your needs. Wake up to the sounds of nature, go for a morning hike, and then relax by the campfire as you gaze up at the star-filled Texas sky.
Cultural Experiences near Austin TX
The vibrant city of Austin, Texas, is not just known for its lively music scene and delicious food. It is also home to a rich cultural heritage that can be experienced through its various attractions. If you are looking to delve into the history and art of this captivating city, here are three cultural experiences that you should not miss.
Texas State Capitol
Standing tall in the heart of downtown Austin, the Texas State Capitol is an iconic landmark that showcases the state’s proud history. As you step foot onto the grounds of this magnificent building, you will be greeted by its stunning architecture and grandeur. The Capitol is not only the seat of government for the state of Texas but also a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into the state’s past.
Inside the Capitol, you can embark on a self-guided tour to explore the various exhibits and displays. Learn about the early settlers of Texas, the state’s struggle for independence, and its unique blend of cultures. Marvel at the intricate details of the Capitol’s interior, including the stunning rotunda and the House and Senate chambers.
Make sure to visit the Capitol’s Visitors Center, where you can find informative brochures, maps, and even take a guided tour led by knowledgeable staff. The tour provides fascinating insights into the history and significance of this architectural masterpiece.
Bullock Texas State History Museum
For a more comprehensive exploration of Texas’ diverse history, head to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Located just a short distance from the Capitol, this museum offers an immersive experience that takes visitors on a journey through the state’s past.
Step inside and be transported through time as you explore the museum’s captivating exhibits. From the early Native American tribes to the Spanish colonization and the era of the Wild West, the Bullock Museum covers it all. Engage with interactive displays, watch engaging films, and marvel at artifacts that bring history to life.
One of the highlights of the museum is the Texas Spirit Theater, where you can enjoy a unique cinematic experience. Sit back and watch as the story of Texas unfolds on a giant screen, surrounded by state-of-the-art sound and visuals.
Blanton Museum of Art
Art enthusiasts will find solace in the Blanton Museum of Art, located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. This world-class museum boasts an extensive collection of over 18,000 artworks spanning various periods and genres.
As you wander through the museum’s galleries, you will encounter masterpieces by renowned artists such as Diego Rivera, Thomas Gainsborough, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The Blanton Museum also features a significant collection of Latin American art, making it a unique cultural hub in the city.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions that showcase contemporary artworks and thought-provoking installations. Take your time to admire the intricate brushstrokes, analyze the symbolism, and appreciate the beauty of each artwork.
To enhance your visit, the Blanton Museum offers guided tours and educational programs that cater to all ages. Immerse yourself in the world of art as knowledgeable staff share stories and insights about the exhibited works.
With its diverse cultural offerings, Austin, Texas, is a treasure trove for those seeking enriching experiences. Whether you explore the halls of the Texas State Capitol, dive into the past at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, or immerse yourself in art at the Blanton Museum, you are sure to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of this vibrant city.
So why wait? Plan your visit to these cultural landmarks and embark on a journey of discovery that will leave you with lasting memories and a newfound appreciation for the history and arts of Austin, Texas.
Food and Drink Destinations near Austin TX
Fredericksburg, a charming town located just outside of Austin, is known for its beautiful wineries and vineyards. If you are a wine enthusiast looking for a delightful experience, visiting Fredericksburg Wineries should be at the top of your list. The region is home to numerous wineries that offer tastings, tours, and a chance to immerse yourself in the world of wine.
One of the most popular wineries in Fredericksburg is Becker Vineyards. With its picturesque setting and award-winning wines, it is a must-visit destination for wine lovers. Take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards, indulge in a tasting of their exquisite wines, and learn about the winemaking process. You can also bring a picnic and enjoy the serene surroundings while sipping on a glass of their signature wine.
Another gem in Fredericksburg is Grape Creek Vineyards. This family-owned winery boasts a Tuscan-style tasting room and offers an array of varietals to suit every palate. Whether you prefer reds, whites, or rosés, Grape Creek Vineyards has something for everyone. Don’t forget to try their acclaimed Cabernet Trois, a blend of three Cabernet varietals that is sure to impress.
If you’re looking for a unique wine experience, head to William Chris Vineyards. This winery focuses on natural winegrowing and handcrafted wines. Their commitment to sustainable practices and traditional winemaking techniques sets them apart. Enjoy a tasting of their small-lot wines and discover the distinct flavors that reflect the terroir of the Texas Hill Country.
Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood
No trip to Austin would be complete without indulging in some mouth-watering barbecue, and Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood is the perfect place to satisfy your cravings. This legendary barbecue joint has been serving up delicious smoked meats for over 50 years.
As you step onto the property, you’ll be greeted by the enticing aroma of slow-cooked meats and the sound of live music. The rustic setting adds to the charm and authenticity of the experience. Grab a seat at one of the communal tables and get ready to feast on tender brisket, juicy ribs, and flavorful sausages.
The pitmasters at Salt Lick BBQ use a traditional open pit to slow-cook their meats to perfection. The result is meat that is smoky, flavorful, and incredibly tender. Pair your barbecue with their famous homemade sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and beans for a complete and satisfying meal.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try their family-style barbecue feast. This option allows you to sample a variety of meats and sides, making it perfect for sharing with friends and family. Don’t forget to save room for their delectable cobbler or pecan pie for dessert.
Gruene Hall in New Braunfels
For a taste of Texas music history, make sure to visit Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. This iconic dance hall has been hosting live music events since 1878 and is considered the oldest continuously operating dance hall in Texas.
Step inside and you’ll be transported back in time. The rustic wooden floors, vintage decor, and intimate atmosphere create a unique and nostalgic experience. Gruene Hall has hosted legendary musicians such as Willie Nelson, George Strait, and Lyle Lovett, making it a must-visit destination for music lovers.
Catch a live performance and dance the night away to the sounds of country, blues, and Americana music. The intimate setting allows you to get up close and personal with the artists, creating an unforgettable and immersive experience.
If you’re not in the mood for dancing, you can still soak in the atmosphere by enjoying a cold beer on the outdoor patio. Gruene Hall also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including festivals, markets, and special performances.
In conclusion, Austin and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of food and drink destinations that cater to a variety of tastes. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, barbecue lover, or music enthusiast, there is something for everyone. So, grab your friends and embark on a culinary and cultural adventure in the heart of Texas.