#10 Austin: Don't Miss Out

Benjamin Smith

Last Updated: March 16th, 2021

Picture of a Riverwalk located in San Antonio, Texas

“While most know Austin as the live music capital of the world first and the capital of Texas second, there is so much more to this thriving city than just music. If you have never had authentic Texan BBQ from Opies, then I don't know what you've been doing with your time! Lake Travis is just a one-hour drive from downtown and is a great place to watch the sunset. If you are a party animal, Sixth Street is the place to be.”

— Kieran White, Photojournalist

Reasons to get out of Austin

Though Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, there are many reasons for you to take a day and get outside of the city. Within just a couple hours drive there are a number of towns and cities that you won’t want to miss. The following are some of the places that A Taste of Koko, Timeout, Austintexas.com, and Texas Hill Country recommend that you visit. 

Important Note: Drive times may differ depending on time of day, traffic, weather, etc. 

Under an Hour Drive

The Cathedral of Junk (15 minutes)

It is unlikely that you have ever heard of a religious building being made from garbage. The Cathedral of Junk has been created using scrap metal. For many, it is the perfect example of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

The Natural Gardener (24 minutes)

The Natural Gardener is a garden providing visitors with a panoramic picture of beauty complete with stunning flowers, winding trails, and thick green foliage. No matter the season, you will love what this garden has to offer. Make sure that you take some time to visit the butterfly garden found here as well.

Dripping Springs (36 minutes)

Dripping Springs is home to the Hamilton Pool Preserve swimming hole. Here you are surrounded by a beautiful oasis with numerous trees and a variety of wildlife. Other attractions that you can enjoy in Dripping Springs include the Hills of Milk and Honey farm where you can learn about bees, livestock, and land practices; Rolling in Thyme Dough where you can try some seasonal bread, croissants, or sandwiches; or the Twisted X Brewing Company where you can taste handcrafted craft beer. 

Lockhart (37 minutes)

Lockhart is considered “The Barbeque Capital of Texas.” One of the best known restaurants here is The Original Black’s Barbeque which has been run by the same family since 1932. For a taste of the culture found in this town, you can stroll through the shops, galleries, restaurants, and the historic theater located near town square. Some visitors enjoy seeing the architecture of the Caldwell County Courthouse and others prefer learning more about where outlaws used to be detained at the Caldwell County Jail Museum.

Wimberley (50 minutes)

Wimberley is home to a number of fun day activities for you to enjoy. Jacob’s Well houses one of the longest underwater caves in the state of Texas. You can enjoy wandering through a number of art galleries including Wimberley Glassworks where you can watch artists create incredible sculptures from hot glass. To purchase some freshly pressed olive oil or small batch wine, you will want to visit Bella Vista Ranch.

Gruene (51 minutes)

For those interested in history, this is the perfect small town to visit. All of Gruene is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once in the town, you will be surrounded by 19th-century brick storefronts and old shops. It is also home to the oldest dance hall in Texas: Gruene Hall. It still has old traditional wooden floors and offers a venue for up-coming music stars to perform. Big names have also been performing there since 1878. 

New Braunfels (52 minutes)

New Braunfels is known for its water coaster at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort as well as its 18 different breweries on the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy rending tubes and riding the currents of the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers that pass right through the city. 

San José Mission Old Building

1-Hour Drive

Johnson City (1 hour)

Johnson City was the childhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson. Today you can learn more about the 36th President of the United States by visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. A number of hiking trails with beautiful views can be found in Pedernales Falls State Park for those that enjoy the outdoors. For an up close and personal experience with over 700 animals you can spend some time at the Exotic Resort Zoo. This city has something to keep everyone entertained. 

San Antonio (1 hour 21 minutes)

Have you ever visited a Colonial Mission? If not, San Antonio is a great place to check out. This city is rich with history and provides visitors a number of destinations. A favorite for many travelers is to take a walk along the river walk. If you have an afternoon free, you can enjoy visiting some of the many art museums or take the kids to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld, or the San Antonio Zoo. 

Fredericksburg (1 hour 32 minutes)

This quaint small town is famous for its German heritage and wineries, which each use unique recipes. For an enjoyable afternoon you can visit the National Museum of the Pacific War,  Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, or the beautiful flower gardens at Wildseed Farms followed by a yummy meal at one of the local German restaurants. If you have never had German food, then you are in for a treat. 

Waco (1 hour 36 minutes)

Home to the world-famous Magnolia Market, Waco is a popular destination for many. The Magnolia Market was started by HGTV Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. Other attractions that you may enjoy in Waco include the Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth National Monument, The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Cameron Park Zoo. 

2-Hour Drive

Houston (2 hours 37 minutes)

Most people have heard of Houston, but why should you visit this city? To start, it is a very diverse city and sports 19 museums, galleries, and cultural museums. You also might enjoy one of the more than 300 parks that are scattered throughout the city. Some of the most popular include Memorial Park, Mercer Arboretum, and Botanic Gardens. For those with an interest in outer space, the Space Center Houston is a must. Here people of all ages enjoy learning about space exploration. 

Canoeing on a lake at sunset

3-Hour Drive

Dallas (3 hours)

If you have heard of Texas, you have likely heard of Dallas. It is home to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. There are so many things to do and see here so you will want to make sure and do your research in advance. Some popular places for shopping and food are Uptown, the Deep Ellum, the Bishop Arts District, and the Lower Greenville neighborhoods. If you are interested in history, you might enjoy the Sixth Floor Museum and the Dealey Plaza where you can learn more about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. If you decide to visit Dallas, you will be surrounded by things to do all day.

Corpus Christi (3 hours 10 minutes)

Did you know that large expanses of beautiful sandy beaches exist on the coast of Texas? Corpus Christi is one of these areas. This coastal city located right off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is a great place to escape to take a break from the city and enjoy the fresh ocean breezes. You can spend your day enjoying the sun, water, and sand, or take some time to explore the city. Situated on North Beach, you will find the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington (one of the carriers during World War II). There are also a couple of State Parks and gardens that you may enjoy visiting.

Galveston (3 hours 35 minutes)

Galveston is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. It is located on the coast with beaches and the well-known Pleasure Pier which features a number of rides, midway games, dining, and shops. Many people enjoy seeing the numerous examples of Victorian architecture found here. The perfect stop for the entire family is Moody Gardens. Here you will enjoy an aquarium, a rainforest pyramid, a 4D theater, a number of live animal experiences, and a fun ropes course. 

4+ Hour Drive

  • Krause Springs (4 hours)

Car rental services in Austin

Think you are going to need a rental car during your trip? Here is a list of the car rental services that are available in the city: 

Read recent customer reviews to ensure that you are getting the best service. 

Pleasure Pier Texas park

Attractions in Austin

Texas is known for “big” things. Austin is a big city and has a number of fun things to do while you vacation. We wanted to help you brainstorm for your trip and have compiled a list of popular attractions in the city with help from U.S. News and A Taste of Koko

Iconic Attractions

  • State Capitol
  • SoCo District
  • Sixth Street
  • LBJ Presidential Library
  • Austin Bats
  • Esther’s Follies
  • Thinkery
  • Driskill Hotel
  • Shopping on South Congress

Museums and Memorials

  • Blanton Museum of Art
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum
  • Mexic-Arte Museum

Parks and Gardens

  • Mount Bonnell
  • Zilker Metropolitan Park
  • Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Austin Nature and Science Center
  • Mayfield Park and Preserve
  • McKinney Falls State Park
  • Barton Springs Pool
  • Umlauf Sculpture Garden
  • Hamilton Pool
  • Lake Travis

Culture and the Arts

  • Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
  • The Contemporary Austin — Laguna Gloria
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Alamo Drafthouse
  • Two-Step Dancing at Broken Spoke

Kids paddle boarding on a lake

How to get around Austin

There are a number of ways to get around Austin if you do not have a car. Kerri Sholly, Director of Public Relations and Communications at Four Seasons Hotel Austin offers some suggestions to help you get to where you would like to be quickly and efficiently. 

  • Walking — Walking is best if you are going to be downtown or around South Congress.
  • Pedicabs — If you are going to be traveling a medium distance in the city, this is a great option to save your feet.
  • SUPs — If you are interested in going across the lake, you will want to hop on a SUP.
  • Swan Boats — Not only is this a great way to see the lake, but it also provides you with some exercise.
  • Willie Nelson’s Vintage Tour Bus — This is a great way to get out and tour the Hill Country wineries without having to worry about drinking and driving.
  • Boat — A number of boats are available for you to hop on to go out and see the numerous lakes in the city.
  • Bicycle — If you would like to travel around the lake, you can enjoy cruising on the bike trails that have been created in the city as well as the mountain biking trails in the greenbelts.
  • Motorcycle — If you would like to go to cruise through the countryside to see the beautiful wildflowers, a motorcycle is the way to go. 

Parking in Austin

Austin is a big city and it provides a lot of parking options to ensure that everyone can find a place. That being said, much of the parking is not free. Parkopedia is a great resource to help you locate available parking on a map. Not only can you see what parking is available (along with its specific pricing), but you can reserve a spot to make sure that it is still there by the time you arrive. 

Many resources to help you find the best parking in the city are available online. If you are planning to visit the bats on the bridge, 6th street downtown, the State Capitol, or the Austin Convention Center, you may want to check out this parking guide provided by Pauly Presley Realty. It will help you to find the perfect parking places located close to each of your destinations. 

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