20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Austin

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Austin is a fun place to visit and live, and it’s getting more popular each year, with population growth exploding in the Texas capital and surrounding areas in recent years. While many people think of Austin as the Live Music Capital of the World and a place to find great barbecue, it’s also a great base for exploring the natural beauty around it and all the historical and cultural sites in the region.

Drawing on my travels around Austin, I’ve selected these spots for their unique charm and quieter atmospheres, ideal for exploring central Texas without the usual crowds. Each location on this list offers a distinct experience, showcasing everything from serene natural landscapes and historical sites to engaging local communities. These destinations provide a perfect getaway for travelers looking to uncover the authentic adventures that lie just outside Austin’s city buzz. Let’s look at some you won’t want to miss.

1. Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs, TX
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Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and Dripping Springs, or just “Drip” as the locals call it, bills itself as “West of Weird.” It’s an area that has seen a huge influx of new residents, but its historic downtown has lost none of its charm. If brewpubs are your thing, you’ll find several good ones in the area. Suds Monkey gets my nod!

2. The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick
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The original Salt Lick is in the community of Driftwood (actually where I live), which is adjacent to Dripping Springs. It’s a barbecue joint, but it’s also a cultural experience where it’s BYOB and there’s often live music as a backdrop.

3. LBJ National Historical Park

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
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Out past Johnson City is where you’ll find this spot and also a state park of the same name. On the premises are President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch and the “Texas White House.”

4. George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
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The elder President Bush only served one term, but time has noted his impact as more significant than that of most other one-term presidents. He gave a lifetime of honorable service to his country, and no matter your politics, you’ll benefit from learning more about the man and his legacy at this College Station (home of Texas A&M) site.

5. Goliad State Park and Historic Site

Goliad State Park and Historic Site
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Goliad was the site of the second battle of Texas’s revolutionary war against Mexico. In this one, the Texians, as they were called then, won with only one death on their side.

6. “Port A”

Port Aransas , Texas
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If you call this beachside town by its proper name, Port Aransas, everyone will know you’re a non-Texan (but they’ll still be nice). Port A is a popular vacation destination on the Gulf of Mexico. Just don’t go during college Spring Break (unless you’re in college).

7. Fredericksburg

Frederiksburg, Texas
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In deference to its settlers, Fredericksburg has a strong German flavor to it in architecture, place names, and food (if you’re picky, don’t worry; there are plenty of other food options). It’s also home to the National Museum of the Pacific War. Unofficially, the best time to visit this small city is during Oktoberfest, which is actually in September. There are also a lot of wineries in the area, and Fredericksburg is famous for some of the sweetest peaches you’ll ever eat.

8. Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock - Fredericksburg Texas
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North of Fredericksburg is this State Natural Area that looks nothing like most of Central Texas. Here, granite domes formed from ancient lava are the highlight, and it’s my vote for the most scenic place in Central Texas. Most visitors simply hike to the top of the Main Dome, as it’s called, but there are other scenic hikes, too. It’s one of the best places in Texas for rock climbing—I should know since I often work there as a climbing guide!

9. Willow City

Willow city loop, Texan
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Willow City is a tiny, unincorporated town near Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock. Its claim to fame is the Willow City Loop, a driving tour that attracts people from hours away every spring for its stunning wildflower displays.

10. Luckenbach

Luckenbach, Texas, USA
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Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson made this little town not far from Fredericksburg famous in a song and then later by performing concerts there. Today, you can still go there for the vibes and to enjoy its legendary dance hall.

11. Wimberley

Wimberley, Texas, USA
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Small-town charm, arts and crafts, and scenic beauty alongside the Blanco River make Wimberley swell on weekends and put it on many people’s lists of where they’d move if they only could. When my wife and I decided to move to Texas, this was my #1 choice, but it was just too far from where she would be working.

12. Jacob’s Well

Jacob’s Well
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This small but beautiful spring-fed pool is on the outskirts of Wimberley. In the summer, it’s a popular swimming hole, and reservations are required.

13. San Marcos

San Marcos Texas Aquarena Springs
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Despite being off the ever-busy I-35 just half an hour from Austin, the heart of San Marcos still has a small-town, traditional feel. It’s a college town, so be ready for that (and please forgive my son if you run across him and his antics). Don’t miss out on Aquarena Springs, and take a glass-bottom boat tour to really appreciate the spring-fed lake there.

14. Pace Bend

Travis County, Texas USA
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This Travis County park is about 45 minutes from downtown Austin. It’s along Lake Travis, and it’s a popular spot for camping, swimming, and boating. Lake Travis is really deep, and when water levels are high enough, you can jump off cliffs up to 40’ high into the deep, dark waters below.

15. Reimers Ranch

Pedernales River at the Reimers Ranch in Texas
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Milton Reimers Ranch Park is the official name, so you can see why most locals just call it Reimers Ranch or Reimers. It’s a beautiful tract along the Pedernales River, with limestone features like those you find in caverns and some of the most massive cedar trees you’ll ever see. It’s popular with hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, swimmers, and bird watchers (and many more). It gets busy on nice weekends, and if you want some more solitude, I recommend heading out on trails that the park signs call North Bank and which we climbers call North Shore.

16. Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool sink hole, Texas, United States
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Hamilton Pool is just a few miles away from Reimers, and it’s one of the most spectacular and beloved locations in the Texas Hill Country. It’s also a hugely popular swimming hole, and you always need a reservation to get in now.

17. Garner State Park

Frio River at Garner State Park, Texas
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As you drive in, your eyes will be drawn to the big limestone “mountain” you see, and you can hike to its top. The main draw, though, is the Frio River, a spring-fed flow that stays cool all year long, even in the summer. Here, there’s easy public access to it.

18. Lost Maples

Lost Maples State Park, Texas
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Texas is known for a lot of things, but fall color isn’t one of them. In most of the state, the colors that light up much of the rest of the country happen just a little or not at all. Lost Maples State Natural Area, not far from Garner State Park, is an exception. Plan your visit for November if you want to see peak color, but the area is beautiful all year long.

19. Pedernales Falls

Pedernales Falls
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West of Dripping Springs, the normally placid Pedernales River rushes through a narrow gorge, creating rapids that only the most experienced whitewater kayakers can manage safely. Downstream, though, where the flow is gentle again, you’ll find another great Hill Country swimming hole.

20. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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The “Other LBJ” was President Johnson’s wife, and she was an avid conservationist. This location a little south of the heart of Austin has beautiful blooms all year and also serves as a habitat for birds and other animals; in some years, there are nesting owls right above the walkways.

The 7 Best Flea Markets in Texas

girl at flea market in Texas
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Texas is home to some of America’s biggest and best flea markets. If you love shopping, getting bargain deals, and meeting people, you’ll want to visit these flea markets. It’s a fun way to shop and discover all the things you need and even more things you didn’t know you needed. Flea markets in Texas offer everything from antiques and collectibles to home furnishings, vintage clothing items, and much more. 

The best way to browse a flea market? With your favorite people, of course! Whether you spend an afternoon or an entire weekend, heading out to one of Texas’s best flea markets can be quite a fun adventure!

The 7 Best Flea Markets in Texas

Discover the Lone Star State: 11 of the Best Places to Live in Texas

Big Tex in Texas
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As inviting a place as Texas may be to live, its vast selection of cities and towns, which number more than 1,200, can make for an overwhelming search. Of course, the whole state offers classic Texas energy and southern charm, but its vast size houses many unique regions and subcultures. To help narrow down the search, consider some of these options for the best places to live in Texas.

Discover the Lone Star State: 11 of the Best Places to Live in Texas

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.