One of the fastest-growing and most dynamic cities in the U.S., Austin has plenty going on to keep most residents satisfied year-round. In addition to a constant stream of live music and cultural events, the Weird City has plenty of natural treasures within its limits. Still, it’s natural to crave a change from Barton Springs Pool, Town Lake, and the thriving Sixth Street music scene from time to time.
Here are a few day trip ideas that can help you further appreciate the beauty and splendor of Central Texas.
If you regularly travel between Austin and Houston, you probably stop in Elgin to gas up all the time. But have you ever taken the time to explore this “perfectly situated” little city? Known for its prolific production of sausages and brick, Elgin’s small downtown has an infectious charm, and enough good dining options to keep you satisfied for a day or a weekend. Elgin BBQ Pit, Meyer’s, and Southside are three pit stops that contribute to its contested reputation as Texas’s premier barbecue destination. Best of all for central Austin residents, Elgin is just 40 minutes from AMLI Downtown when traffic is light.
Ninety minutes west of Austin sits a giant pink rock formation made of granite. The dome-shaped Enchanted Rock has a mythical history that is important to the Texas Hill Country’s indigenous people, but today is most widely celebrated as a natural wonder and recreation site. With hiking, climbing, camping, bird watching, and stargazing all possible and permitted, Enchanted Rock is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of place. Since the rock can get pretty hot in the summer, it’s best to go on a day when the temperature is forecast to be cooler than average.
Twenty minutes south of Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg is another quaint Central Texas town worth visiting. Settled by German immigrants in 1846, Fredericksburg has a wealth of Bavarian-style architecture and other German influence. It’s a great place to stop for a brat, a beer, and some oom-pah music after a day spent burning calories at Enchanted Rock. If you or another member of your party is not interested in German cuisine, Wheeler’s Restaurant is a popular restaurant that serves sandwiches, burgers, Texas chili, and cornbread, in addition to traditional German dishes.
When you’re not eating, you can stroll Fredericksburg’s quaint streets, explore its myriad boutiques and antique shops, or taste wine in the nearby hills. Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek, and William Chris are a few area vineyards with sterling reputations.
Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve
The secret is out about Hamilton Pool, a pristine nature retreat just 20 miles west of AMLI on 2ND and downtown Austin. No matter how many people know about it, however, the nature preserve is breathtaking. It can also be surprisingly uncrowded. Pack a picnic and your bathing suit, and head to Hamilton Pool early on a warm summer day to snatch a prime spot. Admire the crystal clear water and spilling waterfall for a few hours, and you’ll be reminded of the richness of Austin’s natural surroundings.
Considered by many to have the best barbecue in the state, Lockhart gives Elgin a run for its money as the BBQ capital of Texas. Black’s, Kreuz Market, and Lockhart’s are perennial favorites for barbecue lovers. About 35 minutes south of downtown Houston, Lockhart is also home to the beautiful and historic Caldwell County Courthouse, a cute city park, and a nice hiking trail that runs along Clear Fork Creek.
Considering their relative proximity to one another, San Antonio and Austin could hardly be more different. Leave your downtown Austin apartment at 8 AM, and you can be strolling along San Antonio’s famous River Walk by 9:30. Spend the day touring the Alamo, shopping, eating, and drinking outside. If you want to step inside and learn more about San Antonio’s rich history, pay a visit to the Witte Museum. If it’s basketball season, you can wrap up the day with an action-packed Spurs game.
San Marcos River Tubing
The Comal, Guadalupe, and San Marcos rivers all offer family-friendly tubing fun. Just 35 minutes from AMLI Downtown, the San Marcos is a great option if you’re looking for a few hours of fun in the sun. Renting tubes is easy and inexpensive, and the water in the San Marcos River has a reputation for clarity. In fact, many adventurers opt to cruise down the river in glass bottom kayaks.
There’s no place like Austin. Part of what makes the Texas capital such a desirable place to live, however, is the abundance of hidden and uncovered treasures nearby. Enjoy both in and outside Austin’s city limits this summer by leaving your apartment and Bat City behind for a day trip or two. It will help keep Austin weird, and fresh, for you.
What’s your favorite day trip from Austin? Share your experience with a comment below!
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