Stretching from San Antonio to Austin on the east and Concan to Junction on the west, the Texas Hill Country is one of the most popular regions in the Lone Star State for visitors. Among the rolling hills and between expansive rivers you'll find a number of quaint cities and small towns that offer visitors the opportunity to explore some of the diverse cultures of Texas through a variety of unique attractions.
Rising 425 feet above the ground (1,825 feet above sea level), Enchanted Rock is one of the largest natural rock formations in the nation. Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1970, Enchanted Rock also has a fascinating history with the native peoples of Texas and early Texas settlers.
Enchanted Rock is located about 17 miles north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965, just north of the small town of Crabapple. Hiking is hands down the most popular recreational activity at Enchanted Rock State Park, but camping, bird watching, and rock climbing are also available.
New Braunfels' Schlitterbahn Park is Texas' oldest and most unique water park. In fact, it is generally considered one of the best and most innovative water parks in the country and has been named the "World's Best Waterpark" by Amusement Today magazine nearly a dozen times.
Schlitterbahn New Braunfels features over three miles of tubing, three water coasters, the world's first artificial wave machine, seven children's play areas, and 17 waterslides. Its most unique feature is the use of inner tubes for a variety of water rides and recreation, ranging from the lazily flowing Kristal River to the wild rapids of the Whitewater Tube Chute. Without a doubt, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels offers something for everyone and is especially welcoming on those hot Texas summer days.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a 400-acre drive-through safari located about 17 miles west of New Braunfels off Farm to Market Road 1863. More than 40 species of animals call Natural Bridge Ranch home, including giraffes, ostriches, zebras, rhinos, wildebeests, and lions.
Featuring four miles of driving trails, this wildlife ranch offers visitors the chance to see a variety of exotic animals up close without having to leave their vehicle. Admission is charged per person (not per vehicle), but prices are discounted on weekdays and annual passes are also available.
The largest city in the Texas Hill Country region, Austin is also the capital of Texas. Here, you'll find the state capitol building, which is one of the state's most popular attractions and a must-see for anyone visiting the Texas Hill Country.
Located on 11th Street between Lavaca and San Jacinto in Austin, the Capitol Complex covers 22 acres. The capitol, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, is open to the public at no charge, but if you want to experience how the government of Texas functions, be sure to check when legislators are in session to sit in on a public hearing.
Also located in Austin, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is one of the most impressive museums in the country. With an extensive array of exhibits, the Texas State History Museum encapsulates the history of Texas from prehistoric times to the present. The Museum also houses an IMAX theatre, café, and store. It frequently hosts traveling exhibits and special features as well.
Located down the street from the University of Texas at Austin campus and just a few blocks from the Capitol Building on Congress Avenue, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is open Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. year-round. However, the IMAX theater stays open later throughout the year.
Located just outside Burnet, Longhorn Caverns State Park is home to one of the state's best-known cave systems. Through the centuries, this natural cavern has at times been home to Comanche Indians, Confederate Soldiers, and, most likely, a few outlaws. Acquired from private owners between 1932 and 1937, the Longhorn Cavern State Park is managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and until 6 p.m. on weekends year-round.
Home to the only earthquake-formed cave that's open to the public in Texas, Wonder World Park is located along the Balcones Fault Line in San Marcos. Also known as the oldest cave tour in the state, having operated continuously since 1903, Wonder World Park offers educational earthquake programs, a wildlife park, train rides, and many more activities for the whole family—including an anti-gravity chamber and the "Mystery Mountain"—in addition to the standard cave tours.
Ticket packages can be purchased to simply explore the cave, take the train, or a combination of all activities offered at the adventure park. Additionally, the Wonder World Cave occasionally hosts a special event known as "Rave in the Cave" featuring electronic music artists performing to a crowd of hundreds deep in the caves themselves.
It may come as a surprise to learn that the Texas Hill Country is not only famous for its lush scenery, it's also known for producing some of the best wines in the region. To sample some of the best vintages in the Texas Hill Country, stop by the award-winning Fall Creek Vineyards—which has a location in Tow and one in Driftwood, Texas.
Founded in 1975, Fall Creek Vineyards was one of the first wine producers in the state and is known for its ExTerra, Meritus, Terroir Reflection, and Vitner's Selection wines. At either location, you can take a tour of the vineyards and sample the latest batch of world-class wine.
Another great way to cool down in the Texas summer—or spend a pleasant day on the water in the spring and fall—is to embark on a river tubing adventure down the Guadalupe River, which flows through the Texas Hill Country from Canyon Lake north of New Braunfels west to Kerrville and Hunt.
While anyone is free to set an inner tube in the river and float down by themselves, the best way to enjoy this unique activity is to use a service like River Sports Tubes, which organizes group outings on the Guadalupe River and provides transportation from the end of your ride back to your car after you're done with your trip. Located 12 miles west of New Braunfels off Exit 191 on Interstate 35 in Canyon Lake, River Sports Tubes invites guests to tube all day long for one low price.
Located in the northeastern New Braunfels neighborhood of Gruene, Gruene Hall is a classic venue for live music and dancing that was originally constructed in 1878. The oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall in Texas, this Hill Country staple is a must-see for fans of music, dancing, and history.
When you visit this 6,000-square-foot dance hall, you'll find the walls covered in 1930s advertisements and even have a chance to see some of the biggest names in contemporary country music perform on its stage. Be sure to check the official website for more information about upcoming shows before you go.