Travel Guide | Austin

5 Day Trips Around Austin

5 Texas Cities to Explore for the Day

Austin: the capital of Texas, live music, and good vibes. There are so many reasons to spend time here, but don’t forget about the surrounding cities that show off Texas charm, too.

For springtime road trippers: Texas’s state flower is the bluebonnet. On your drive to or from these cities, make sure to take a quick break to bask in their beauty.

Bandera (2 hour drive southwest)

Have you ever pictured Texas to be just a state of country music, cowboys, and horseback riding as everyday transportation? If not, thank you. But if so, Bandera will fulfill all your Texas country western fantasies. It lives up to its self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital name with its saloons and ranch tours. With horseback riding being so essential to this country culture, you will find a number of places to spend hours on trails, one of which being the Dixie Dude Ranch. After an afternoon of grazing the land you can liven up your night at one of the many country western dance and music halls to enjoy some live music and dancing!

New Braunfels/Gruene (1 hour drive straight down I-35 S)

Especially in the warmer months, New Braunfels is the popular place to spend the day. For a relaxing morning head over to the large farmer’s market that’s held over the weekends. After grabbing breakfast at the outdoor market, spend your afternoon floating the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. Rent a tube, bring some drinks and chill with all your friends (and meet some new ones, too)! The Comal specifically is very popular (especially for those needing a break from exams and job applications). If the weather isn’t warm, take a 10 minute drive over to Gruene. This small town is famous for Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall that’s a staple to country music. As you walk through the hall you’ll see country performers and audience members having a good time and walls lined with autographed pictures of past performers like George Strait and Lyle Lovett. After a restful afternoon, dinner at the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar overlooking the Guadalupe is a scenic way to end the day.

Gruene Hall image

Gruene Hall façade

Wimberley (50 minute drive on I-35 S)

The drive to this quaint city is beautiful enough in itself (picture winding roads that overlook rolling hills). Wimberley is another small Texas town that offers antique shops with rows of vinyl records, the country Wimberley Café, and stops for a quick ice cream cone. For some time to relax in the outdoors, the Blue Hole Regional Park is an absolute must-do, and it is conveniently near to the city center. With a few dollars of admission fee, this is a great place to visit in the summer time with a group of friends. The cypress trees (complete with rope swings) shade the swimming areas, making an afternoon spent here pretty picturesque.

Waco (1.5 hour drive straight up I-35 N)

This is a common halfway point for many college kids as it divides the drive from the DFW and Austin areas. It is also home to Baylor University, making it very much college oriented. The first suggested stop is to grab a cup of coffee at the popular Common Grounds coffeehouse. It also doubles as an outdoor music venue at nights for artists like Ben Rector, Penny and Sparrow, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. So, you could purchase a ticket in advance for a show later that same night as well. Another great stop of the day is Dichotomy, a coffee and cocktail bar that serves its name well. If you watch the show Fixer Upper on HGTV, don’t miss out on visiting Chip and Joanna Gaines’ store, Magnolia Market. After doing some shopping, spend some time outside at Cameron Park. For a meal before hitting the road home, George’s Restaurant and Catering is the ideal end to a day exploring some of Waco’s most prized places.

Landscape near Waco image

View of Texas landscape to Waco by Susanna Carlson

Brenham (1.5 hour drive on 290 E)

Downtown Brenham is the epitome of Main Street America in the south. For all you old souls, this city has plenty of activity that starkly contrasts that of Austin city hype. If you are a true sweets person, you will be glad to find the birth place of the beloved Blue Bell ice cream here. Tours are available at its factory for only $3. On these tours you will be given an inside look at the mass production and packaging of your favorite ice cream and even an inside scoop of your favorite flavor at the end! After your stomach and heart is full of sweet goodness, explore the downtown area. You’ll find antique shops, old book stores, and a vintage soda parlor.

5 Day Trips Around Austin


Kristin Naujok

Texas A&M University | 7 stories

Kristin is a senior at Texas A&M studying International Studies and Geography. She has a heart for travel, food, and Jesus. This past summer she studied abroad in Seville and Barcelona, Spain.

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