There's no shortage of convenient weekend getaways near Austin. Within a short drive from Austin, you'll find quaint small towns, water recreation, top-notch barbecue and tons of small, locally owned shops.
The bed-and-breakfast capital of Texas, Fredericksburg offers accommodations ranging from log cabins to downtown lofts. The pedestrian-friendly downtown area is chock full of antique shops, restaurants and clothing boutiques.
For outdoorsy types, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a short drive away.
2. San Marcos
The San Marcos River is an ideal destination during the summertime for snorkelers, kayakers and tubers. For a mellower outing, you can enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride at Spring Lake (formerly the Aquarena Center). Wonder World offers a unique way to escape the heat in cool caves. Downtown San Marcos is home to a number of burger joints and a quaint central square. Bargain hunters flock to the outlet mall on the edge of town.
A tiny little speck on the map, Wimberley is a haven for artists and craftspeople. You can find everything from handcrafted furniture to fine art, and the artist will probably invite you to hang around and have a beer or two. Don’t miss the town’s pristine swimming holes: Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole.
New Braunfels is best known as the home of Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but it is also a prime destination for all-natural water recreation along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers.
Affordable campgrounds and historic bed-and-breakfasts provide easy access to fun on the water. Landa Park in downtown is a favorite destination for tubers and picnickers alike.
Sure, it’s a bit gimmicky. There’s really nothing here other than an old general store. The town wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the classic country song by Waylon Jennings.
Nevertheless, Luckenbach is a laid-back place to stop for a little beer and barbecue, and there are usually a few singers playing tunes in and around the store.
Historic Gruene Hall is about all there is to this small town. But if you’re interested in dancing in a true Texas dance hall, it doesn’t get more authentic than this. Musical acts range from Jerry Jeff Walker to the Fabulous Thunderbirds. On Sundays, Gruene Hall hosts a gospel brunch with food from the nearby Gristmill Restaurant.
Another Texas town made famous by a song (by ZZ Top), LaGrange also inspired the play and film titled The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. You won’t find any brothels around town now, but there’s plenty of beautiful scenery along the Colorado River. For great live music, head to the Bugle Boy, a listening room devoted to Texas talent.
Barbecue is the main attraction in Lockhart. The meat is so tender at Kreuz Market that you don’t need a fork or knife -- so they don’t provide silverware. They also frown on sauces. The meat is served on butcher paper and you just dig in with your hands. Down the road at Black’s Barbecue, they’re a little less hostile to sauce and silverware, and the brisket is just as good.