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.
9. San Antonio
Founded in 1718 by Spanish explorers, San Antonio is a modern city with a long and fascinating history. The Alamo is best known as the site of a key battle for Texas independence, but it is also part of a group of five missions built in the 1700s by Spanish missionaries. In 2015, the missions were deemed to be so historically significant that they were collectively named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the mid-1800s, the city became a hub for both westward military expansion and commerce. Cattle barons and railroad magnates built luxurious hotels such as the St. Anthony and the brewery that later became Hotel Emma. This newfound wealth also led to the creation of upscale neighborhoods such as the King William Historic District. For those interested in the city’s longstanding connection to the Catholic faith, San Fernando Cathedral is just one of many historic churches around San Antonio.
Remember, if you really want to enjoy the Alamo, get there as early as possible before the hordes of tourists arrive. Most of the other missions are considerably less crowded.