Looking to get off the beaten path on your visit to Austin, Texas? Fill your itinerary with some of the best day trips from Austin. With natural beauty, history, culture, and even wineries abound, you’ll find a lot to love around Texas’s capital city.
Within a short drive from Austin, you can check out beautiful natural parks, quaint towns, historic cities or get off the grid in the Texas Hill Country. Whatever kind of vacation you’re planning, you’ll find a side excursion from Austin that’ll hit the spot.
Trying to fill up your ultimate Austin travel itinerary? Spice it up with help from this complete guide to the best Austin day trips!
Top-rated Austin side trips
Looking to explore natural wonders and enough boutiques and shops to keep everyone in your travel group happy? Add the city of San Marcos to your next Texas itinerary. Just a 35-minute drive from central Austin, San Marcos delivers a warm, Texan small-town feel only a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Texas’s capital city.
Start your day at the San Marcos Premium Outlets or at one of the many vintage stores located along San Marcos’ main drag. Or, if you’re looking for outdoor adventure, laze away the day tubing down the San Marcos River.
After a day of shopping or tubing, check out one of the many independent bars, restaurants, and craft breweries in town. Delight in some Texas BBQ at Black’s Barbecue San Marcos or international cuisine with a side of craft beer at AquaBrew.
If you’re a history fan or just love all things Germanic, head 45 minutes down the I35 to New Braunfels and enjoy a slice of Bavaria in the heart of Texas. Home to Texas’s first ever waterpark, the Comal River, and plenty of antique stores, you’ll find something to suit the entire family in this charming town.
Traveling with kiddos? Cool off at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark New Braunfels before eating all the pretzels you can find in New Braunfels’ Historic Center.
If pretzels aren’t your thing, sit on the deck of The Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, fried chicken in hand, and watch the river go by. Serving up hearty southern fare with beautiful river views, The Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar is a New Braunfels favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Heading to New Braunfels solo or as a couple? Skip the waterpark and start your day antiquing. You’ll find a whole host of intriguing antique stores dotted around the historic town—it’s practically an Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders!
After you’ve found a bargain (or five!), you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. Check out Texas’s longest operating bakery, Naeglin’s Bakery. Dating back to 1868, Naeglin’s serves up strudels, pies, and much more from their flagship shop in New Braunfels.
Ate too many sweet treats from Naeglin’s Bakery? Wander around the Gruene Historic District before hitting the historic Gruene Hall for some classic Texas two-steppin’ action.
Looking to inject some Texan history into your trip? Gather up the family and venture down to the historic and culturally significant city of San Antonio. Just 1 hour and 15 minutes from Austin, San Antonio is most well-known for The Alamo, a famous Spanish mission and battleground, where you’ll find poignant historic reminders around every turn.
Start your day in San Antonio exploring the historic sites of The Alamo and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, learning more about the Hispanic history and culture of the area. You’ll be able to find guided tours for all of these top San Antonio attractions, but be aware that they might be busy at peak times, such as during summer break.
Once you’ve filled your head with history, stroll along the San Antonio River Walk, taking in the view and stopping for a spot of lunch and a drink. You’ll find dozens of options, all with al fresco dining options, under the boardwalk’s iconic brightly colored parasols.
Finish up your day trip to San Antonio with a trip up the Tower of the Americas to enjoy panoramic views of the city before heading back to Austin.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Needing to feel some fresh air in your lungs? Maybe you’re itching for some outdoor recreation? Either way, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is an ideal spot to get out and get the blood pumping. If you love spending time climbing, hiking, and adventuring, this state park is the ideal place to spend a day.
Home to one of Texas’s top rock climbing crags, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is perfect if you want to “hit the walls” on a day trip from Austin. Located just one hour and 40 away from the city, it’s an accessible spot for a day of hiking, climbing, or scrambling.
With 11 miles of trails to explore, you can have your pick of itineraries at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Starting from the car park, you can journey up the summit trail towards the top of the namesake 425-foot pink granite dome. Need a tad more adventure? You can also opt for a slightly more vertical route and climb up the rock instead.
NOTE: If you’re planning on climbing, you need to sign in at the park headquarters and sign a a couple forms before getting onto the wall.
Looking to experience an authentic slice of Texas Hill Country life? Grab your friends and head the 40 minutes east to Dripping Springs. The Hill Country town is home, not only to gorgeous scenery but amazing wineries, distilleries, and breweries. You’d best decide on your designated driver now!
Start your day in Dripping Springs the way nearly everyone does: with a visit to Hamilton Pool Reserve. This beautiful oasis sits at the end of a small hike, shaded by the surrounding cliffs. Although you can’t swim there at the moment, it’s a beautiful spot. (NOTE: Visiting the reserve requires reservations; make sure to book before you travel!)
Worked up a thirst from all that hiking? Check out one of the many wineries, breweries, or distilleries around Dripping Springs. Pick your tipple—whether it’s vodka, wine, or beer—and head to tasting rooms like the Deep Eddy Vodka Tasting Room, Bell Springs Winery, or Twisted X Brewing Company. Learn about the process before sampling some of the local wares.
Need something to soak up the drinks before heading home? Head to Abby Jane Bakeshop. Located in the old Dripping Springs Grain Mill, the bakery only uses Texas heritage grains for making its yummy pizzas, bread, and pastries. It’s both historic and delicious!
Traveling with friends or leaving the kiddos with grandma? Plan a day trip to Driftwood in the heart of Texas Wine County. Just 30 minutes from central Austin, the town offers a tranquil escape from the city with huge expanses that seem endless.
Once you arrive in Driftwood, you have a choice to make: wine, beer, spirits—or mix em’ all! Driftwood is home to a huge number of wineries, breweries, and distilleries. And although it would be fun to try them all, we only have a day here!
Not sure where to start? Head for the Hill Country Tasting Room. They offer a bit of everything, with a selection that’s constantly updated to match the seasons.
Need some lunch before the next round of tastings? Gobble down some Texas favorites at The Salt Lick BBQ. This Texas barbecue joint has been spoken in hushed, reverent tones since before food bloggers were a thing; if you’re looking for top-notch Texas BBQ, it’s a Driftwood must-visit.
Once you’ve had your fill of scrumptious food and great wine, hail your designated driver and head back to Austin.
Want to learn more about President Lyndon B. Johnson? Grab the family and head 55 minutes outside of Austin to Johnson City. Named after the former president, Johnson City is one of the best day trips from Austin for families and history buffs.
Start your day trip at the Boyhood Home of LBJ and learn about the pivotal US leader. Once you have your fill of US history, head to the Science Mill and get inspired. This highly interactive, kid-friendly science museum will entertain and enthrall visitors of all ages.
Looking for a spot to refuel before hitting the Exotic Resort Zoo? Head to Firehouse, a hickory-smoked barbecue joint built inside an old fire station. Kids will love the unique historic surroundings, and the food is to die for. It’s the perfect dinner location for the whole family.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Already on route to or from Johnson City? Swing by Pedernales Falls State Park. Just 20 minutes west of town—or a 50-minute drive from Austin—5,212-acre Texas state park is a perfect reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Whether you want to hike, swim, fish, or mountain bike, you can do it all at Pedernales Falls State Park. Start by getting your hike on and build up a bit of a sweat on the 0.5-mile Twin Falls Nature Trail. Take in the beautiful Hill Country vistas before heading downhill toward the Pedernales River, where you can take a dip to cool off.
Relax in the water before drying off and settling down at one of the many picnicking spots around Pedernales Falls State Park. Refuel the crew for your hike or cycle back to the parking lot before heading back to the city.
Blue Hole Regional Park
Looking to have some good old-fashioned fun in the great outdoors? Bring the whole gang to Blue Hole Regional Park. Located just 45 minutes from central Austin, the park makes for the perfect side trip to escape the city heat.
Start your day at Blue Hole Regional Park by hitting the trails and exploring the lush green forests around you. Make sure to pack your bathing suit; at the end of the trail, you can cool off in the namesake Blue Hole. This popular swimming hole is surrounded by gorgeous cypress trees, giving just the right amount of shade. Take a dip or take a running start to launch off the rope swing into the crystal clear waters.
Once you’ve had your fill of splashing about in the watering hole, lay out your blanket on the pristine lawn and bring out the picnic and the cooler.
It’s worth noting that reservations are required for the Blue Hole Regional Park. They get booked up quickly, especially during the Summer months, so be sure to book well in advance.
Want to have some fun out on the water in the wide expanses of Texas Hill Country? Beeline for Canyon Lake—and remember to bring your bathing suit! Located about an hour and 10 minutes away from central Austin, Canyon Lake is known as ‘The Jewel’ of Texas Hill Country.
Begin your day trip to Canyon Lake by hiking the trail down towards the Guadalupe River. Take in the beautiful, majestic oak trees around you and keep an eye out for wildlife like deers and foxes. Once you arrive at the Guadalupe River, Canyon Lake really comes into its own. You’ll see plenty of people floating along the river on tubes, enjoying the cooling waters.
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After you’ve had some relaxation, continue to hike down the river to Canyon Lake itself. Set up camp on the beach and experience the gorgeous, glassy waters.
Whether you prefer to sunbathe, paddleboard, or just splash around in the shallows, a trip to Canyon Lake ticks all these boxes, making it the perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of Austin.