Austin may have drawn you to Texas, but it’s not the only destination worth visiting. From ranches to swimming, the state is filled with cultural gems and hidden hotspots that the locals sometimes like to keep that way. So venture outside the city of the weird and take a Texas day trip to see what else there is to explore in the Lone Star State.
Secluded down at the end of a winding dirt trail after a hot and dusty hike, you’ll suddenly find yourself face to face with a 50-foot (15.2-meter) waterfall that is part of Hamilton Pool. It flows into the non-chemically treated pool and large stalactites grow from the ceiling, where moss, maidenhair fern and cliff swallows are also visible. Enjoy wading, swimming or a back massage from the surge. If you aren’t ready to swim, wander around the rock outcroppings above and behind the waterfall for a beautifully distorted view of your surroundings. Thousands of years ago, the dome of an underground river collapsed, forming the natural pool located approximately 23 miles west of Austin. It consists of 232 acres of natural habitat, featuring a green pool surrounded by slabs of limestone.
Everyone is always talking about Fredericksburg, and with good reason. In a little under two hours, you’re a world away from Austin and its attractions. This little town is lined with antique shops and on just about every street corner you can try some Hill Country wine. Whether you stay overnight or just come through for the day, you’ll find yourself lulled into the pace of small-town life with a pull so strong that you’ll find yourself returning more frequently than you ever thought possible.
While one doesn’t normally associate Texas with wine, the state has made leaps and bounds in their viticulture. From Driftwood to Fredericksburg, the Texas Hill Country is dotted with vineyards as far as the eye can see. Just make sure you have a designated driver with you when you go, or try a wine bus tour that takes guests through beautiful Hill Country.
Want to spend time outdoors? Look no further than the gigantic lump of pink granite that is Enchanted Rock. This truly enchanting hill of stone sprawls 640 acres and elevates to nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. With so much space, there’s always a spot for visitors to get some seclusion and explore its caves, stargaze and birdwatch. There’s also the option to join a group and rock-climb before a picnic. Just try to go on off-hours as weekend afternoons present a parking challenge. There are also lots of great hiking trails in Austin and just outside the city.
If you’re a fan of Texas barbecue, then it’s worth taking a day trip out to Lockhart. The travel time to reach the barbecue hub of Central Texas is about the same as the waiting time in line at Franklin Barbecue (actually, you could probably get there, eat and then drive home in the amount of time it would take you to wait in line at Franklin’s). Lockhart is packed with regional Texas barbecue treasures like Smitty’s Market, Kreuz Market and Black’s BBQ – all of which are a must-try if you’re fastidious about your smoked meats. Plus, it’s nice to get away from the city and enjoy the real Texas country.