The hipster-cool capital of Texas, Austin is coming to be known as the San Francisco Bay Area of the south east.
If those super-smart techies are migrating to the place, it must have something good going for it.
The rapidly growing state capital has a whole lot of appeal for young people, families and more, for its great restaurants and bars, cool culture, and of course, its excellent day trips.
Sitting on the fringes of Texas Hill country, and being a cosmopolitan hub itself, Austin has plenty by way of theme parks, hiking and nature on offer within just a few hours’ drive.
Here are fifteen of the best day trips from Austin:
1. San Antonio
There’s so much to do in San Antonio that it would almost be a shame to try to squeeze it all into one day trip.
You’ve got options for nature lovers, history buffs, culture vultures, and of course plenty to keep the kids entertained.
San Antonio’s museums are manifold, covering everything from art to interactive play, and the Japanese tea garden is a lovely spot to spend an hour relaxing.
There are walks along the river to be explored, as well as the excellent local zoo which features tonnes of different animals.
For a small town tucked into Texas Hill country, Wimberley certainly has a lot to offer.
With two perfect swimming holes – Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole – and plenty of nature’s delights to explore, Wimberley definitely merits a spot on your day trip list.
Don’t miss the bizarre but charming “Bootiful Wimberley” boot trail – a map-guided walk to see an artistic display like no other: 48 boots decorated by local artists, spread out across the town.
If you’re visiting between March and December, it’s also worth stopping at the old Wimberley Market on the first Saturday of the month.
3. Johnson City
Like Wimberley, Johnson City has a lot going for it.
One of its more unique attractions is the Hill Country Science Mill.
A great one for the kids, the science mill aims to inspire an interest in learning, through creating interactive, fun exhibits on topics relevant to everyday life.
The place is built inside of a real life grist mill, making it an all the more fascinating trip.
There are also plenty of local breweries, distilleries and wineries if that’s more your cup of tea, or indeed you might go on a guided safari at the zoo, or walk around one of many of nature’s open spaces in the national and historic parks around.
Perhaps a strange site for a visit, Waco main attraction is an unusual one: the Dr Pepper museum.
The place is of course dedicated to the popular soda, and the site of the museum was in fact the place where the drink was bottled from 1906 until the 1960s.
You can wander through all of the exhibits, including its fun old fashioned soda fountain, and then inevitably purchase some Dr Pepper-themed memorabilia from the shop.
If Dr Pepper doesn’t float your boat, there’s also Magnolia Market nearby, which was featured on the US HGTV show Fixer Upper and has since experienced a rather large increase in popularity.
Sports fans might also enjoy paying a trip to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
5. Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs has been around a long time, but its natural beauty never fades.
First off, take a walk around the historic district downtown, for a chance to experience some beautiful architecture (as well as some excellent shopping). After that, drive north and encounter some of Hill Country’s finest attractions: its natural pools and parks.
Have a dip in Hamilton Pool and wander round Reimers Ranch Park.
Once you’ve had your fill of nature’s delights, pop down to the Texas Hill Country Olive Company for a little culinary adventure, or check out one of the many local breweries.
6. McKinney Falls State Park
Mckinney Falls, at the confluence of Onion and Williamsons Creeks, is a peaceful place to spend the day.
Covering over 700 acres of land, it’s got hiking trails and swimming spots by the bucket load, as well as plentiful local flora and fauna to encourage you to keep your eyes wide open.
The park opened in 1976, and forms part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.
It’s also conveniently located right in Austin’s backyard, making it a great option for an easy day trip.
7. Canyon Lake
Both the lake itself and the town that takes its name are worth taking a day away from Austin to visit.
The so-called ‘water recreation capital of Texas’, the nearby Guadalupe river and the lake offer plenty of water-based activities.
Formed in 1964, the reservoir has a shoreline of roughly 80 miles – providing ample opportunity for hiking, biking and horse riding too.
Activities here include swimming and boating, and there is some excellent fishing on offer too.
Though it’s a small town smack in the middle of Hill Country, Fredericksburg certainly packs a punch, what with its opportunities for shopping, fine dining and relaxing in beautiful surroundings.
Fredericksburg also plays host to lots of festivals and events as the year goes on, so it might not be as tranquil as you might expect.
Still, there’s fun to be had whatever time of year you head there.
Some of Texas’ best wine offerings come from Fredericksburg, and with more than two dozen wineries on offer you’ll certainly find something you like.
9. Lake Travis
One of the most popular lakes in Texas, Lake Travis offers plenty in the way of water-based recreation for its visitors.
It stretches for more than sixty miles across a scenic shoreline of hills and grassland.
Activities on offer include boating, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing – and that’s just scratching the surface.
Its deep, clear waters also make for appealing swimming options.
If there was ever a town that epitomised true Texan heart, it’s Luckenbach.
Tucked away in the tranquillity of the state’s Hill Country, this is the place to experience all that is truly Texan.
The tiny town with the crazy history, where ‘everybody’s somebody’ was made famous by a Willie Nelson song.
The town has been something of a ghost town since the 1960s, when its population consisted of just three people, and it was bought by a rancher for $30,000 in 1970. It’s worth visiting on the weekend for its live and local country music.
11. New Braunfels
New Braunfels often makes it onto best-of lists in Texas, and this isn’t really surprising.
Its main attraction is Schlitterbahn: a wild, sprawling water park, replete with hair-raising rides, pools in every shape, and slides to suit all sorts.
Much of the park is powered by natural water from the Comal River.
However, beyond the water park there’s more to see and do: there’s the retro Railroad Museum, mini golf at Landa Park, the McKenna children’s museum, and Animal World and Snake Farm.
12. Enchanted Rock State Park
Enchanted Rock is one of the biggest natural rock formations in the whole of the United States – and therefore certainly worth a look in.
Since 1970 it has been designated a Natural Landmark, and it towers 425 feet above the ground.
It also has a very interesting history relating to the native peoples of the area.
But the big rock isn’t the only thing to see.
There’s plenty of hiking on offer in its surrounds, and if you’re a keen birdwatcher there’s enough to keep you entertained here.
Houston is a fantastic place to go for a change of scene from Austin.
Another big city, but of a totally different vibe and character, Houston also has the advantage of having possibly the most famous Space Centre in the whole of America.
If you do visit, don’t forget to utter the famous phrase: ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ from Apollo 13. As a major city, Houston of course has all the usual options to offer the day tripper too: great restaurants, excellent bars, and a good selection of museums for idle browsing.
Texas’ third most populous city, Dallas is a bit of a dark horse but a truly great option for a day trip from Austin.
Its food and drink scene is always growing, and not just in the Texas barbecue arena.
There’s also always fun to be had in attending a Dallas Cowboys game.
Then of course, there’s the historical significance of the place to attend to: it was, after all, the place where JFK was assassinated in 1963. The Sixth Floor museum is well worth seeing for a history lesson, and to learn more about the tragedy.
15. Marble Falls
With plenty of outdoorsy options available for the visiting day tripper, Marble Falls is truly a delightful place to visit.
Wholesome activities such as berry picking (depending on seasonal availability) at Sweet Berry Farm, and wandering through the Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge mean that the Marble Falls area is a great hotspot for families.
Many interesting bird species can be found in the wildlife refuge – try to spot the endangered golden-cheeked warbler – or if you just need a place to kick back and relax, there are several natural water features nearby to help you cool off.