15 Top Things to do in the Texas Hill Country
What to do in the texas hill country
The Texas hill country is my favorite place in the world. The rolling hills between Austin and San Antonio are home to some seriously cute towns, wineries, historic dance halls, and some of the best BBQ out there. If you’re wondering what to do on a weekend in Austin and beyond, then check out this local's ultimate list of places to visit and things to do in the Texas Hill Country.
15 top Texas Hill Country Things to do
Here’s a list of my favorite things to do in the hill country. I’ve organized them more or less geographically starting in Texas and ending in and beyond San Antonio. There’s a map at the end of this post with of these hill country destinations pinned for easy planning!
1. See live music in Austin
My hill country weekends always start the same way, with a day (or 3) in Austin. It's an ideal jumping off point for the hill country and has become quite the tourist destination in recent years. And what's the ultimate Austin experience? A concert! Austin is the live music capital of the world with over 270 music venues. There's even a live music tour available that will help you see legit bands like a local.
2. See the city skyline from a SUP
Austin is a very active city, so get outside one afternoon! Lady Bird Lake is always filled with kayaks and stand up paddle boards. This is a unique way to see the Austin city skyline and the best way to escape the heat on a hot day. If it's particularly scorching, go for a swim after in Barton Springs. This SUP tour includes it all, with a two-hour paddle tour and the opportunity to go for a dip at Barton Springs, click here to reserve.
3. Watch the Sunset with the Bats
Watching the bats in Austin is a tradition set in stone. Join the masses on the South Congress Bridge before sunset and watch the bats pour out from under you into the setting sun. From March until October, 20 minutes before sunset, 1.5 million bats emerge from under the bridge. Learn more about the world's largest urban bat colony on this 2-hour bike tour, ending with a sunset viewing of the bats.
4. Go Stargazing (Everywhere)
The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas! Go stargazing, just look up. Check here for the best stargazing spots in Austin. The night sky in Texas holds a special place in my heart, living in Buenos Aires made me realize how little I appreciated the stars and expansive sky back home. Whether you're in Austin, San Antonio or even out west in Big Bend or Marfa, take a moment to look at the heavens.
Best Hotels in Austin
The Driskill | 604 Brazos Street | My favorite Austin hotel is without a doubt The Driskill. I have never been lucky enough to actually stay there, but I visit the bar every time I'm in town. It's gorgeous and they make the city's official cocktail: the batini! The location doesn't hurt either, right at the corner of 6th Street and Congress. Check rates here.
South Congress Hotel | 1603 S Congress Avenue | Another hotel I always visit for the bar but haven't stayed in yet (sensing a theme here?) is the South Congress Hotel. It's new, stylish and located conveniently within walking distance from all the great South Congress restaurants and bars. Visiting in summer? They have a rooftop pool that's perfect for those sweltering Texas summer days. Check rates here.
5. Eat BBQ at Salt Lick in Driftwood
Forty miles from Austin in the tiny "blink and you'll miss it town" of Driftwood is The Salt Lick. In 1956, Thurman Roberts started the Salt Lick with his wife Hisako. They were determined to stay in Driftwood, so they compiled a list of 54 things they could do to make it happen. The restaurant was 14th on the list and we should all be grateful 1-13 didn't work out.
Keep in mind, The Salt Like is cash only but they have an ATM on site. If you don't access to a car, no worries! There's a shuttle that will bring you to Salt Lick and to two nearby wineries for tastings. What better way to spend a day than with BBQ and wine?
6. Be Somebody in Luckenbach
Country music and Luckenbach go hand in hand. Visit the tiny town where everybody's somebody for an afternoon show on the back porch behind the historic post office or to dance the night away in the dance hall. The small town turned music venue is just 13 miles from Fredericksburg. Check their schedule here to make sure you catch a good show.
7. Go Wine Tasting in Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg is home to Texas' wine country and it's surprisingly good! Becker Vineyards makes award-winning wines and I recommend adding them to your hill country wine tour. Another must is Pedernales Cellars, end the day with a glass of wine on their deck overlooking the rolling hills and live oaks.
Fredericksburg is one of my favorite places to go for a weekend getaway in the Hill Country. It's such a great a girls getaway with its wineries and adorable shops in the historic downtown. This was how my best friend celebrated her bachelorette weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (read: we drank a lot of wine).
8. Climb Enchanted Rock
My husband and I recently spent the night in Fredericksburg and woke up extra-early for a morning climb up this large granite mountain. "Climb" may be a stretch, it's actually a pretty easy walk up. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top.
And while it's not technically challenging (you're literally just walking uphill on a giant rock), we (ok, I) did run out of breath and need to take a few breaks. The views from the top of the endless hill country landscape make every puff of tired breath worth it. You can also camp in the park and there are other hiking trails. I've never done it but I hear great things!
9. Go to a show at Gruene Hall
Gruene Hall was built in 1878 and claims to be the oldest continually run dance hall in the state. Nothing beats a live show at Gruene Hall, nothing. It has hosted the greats, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, King George Strait, Lyle Lovett, and many, many others. If they're Texas music royalty, they have played here. Eat dinner before the show next door at the Gristmill, overlooking the Guadalupe River.
10. Float the River in New Braunfels
If you're visiting the Hill Country in summer, then you absolutely, must,have to tube the river. Every summer of my university years, you could find me in a tube, floating down the Guadalupe or the Comal Rivers in New Braunfels. What better way to cool off on a scorching Texas summer day?
11. Cool down at Schlitterbahn
Y'all, this water park is what every 7-year old's dreams are made of. Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels now has two sections, the old and the new. But the original section is where it's at, made up of tube shoots fed with river water. Similar to tubing the river, but with slides, drop-offs, and curves to pump up the fun. Make a weekend out of it by spending the following day tubing the Guadalupe and going to a show at Gruene Hall! Note: This is an accurate description of my ideal summer weekend.
12. Go on a BBQ crawl in Lockhart
Lockhart BBQ is infamous. If you're looking to try the best BBQ in Texas, dedicate a day to pigging out here. Skip breakfast and com hungry. There are four famous BBQ joints in town. If you bring enough friends you can hit up all four by ordering a bit of everything and sharing. Unfortunately, with only two of us, we were full after only two stops. Even though we only visited half, I can swear to you, I have never had better BBQ than in Lockhart.
13. Go to Stonehenge in Ingram
When I found out there are replicas of Stonehenge and Easter Island heads in the middle of the Texas hill country, obviously, I had to go! It was too weird to miss. Stonehenge II was built as an art project by Al Sheppard when his friend and neighbor, Doug Hill, gave him a large slab of limestone that was leftover from building his patio in 1989. Standing the slab up like a column sparked an idea...
Sheppard financed the project and Hill built it. They created a replica of Stonehenge out of metal mesh and steel frameworks covered in plaster and graphite. It stood proudly in Sheppard's pasture, and it wasn't long before a couple Easter Island heads were added to the display. They were saved from destruction after his land was sold by the Hill Country Arts Foundation.
14. Visit the Missions in San Antonio
While the Alamo is the infamous and most iconic mission in San Antonio, it's not the only one worth visiting. There are actually 5 missions in San Antonio and together they make up the only UNESCO Heritage Site in Texas. San Jose and Mission Concepcion are two of my favorites, and I never tire of reading about the Alamo. Check prices to tour them all here.
15. Have a Margarita on the River Walk
After you tour the missions take a stroll San Antonio's beautiful River Walk and have a margarita (or two). The Iron Cactus and Boudro's both make great margaritas, but I'm partial to the frozen prickly pear margarita at Boudro's. The Tex-Mex restaurants on the River Walk lean a bit more towards touristy than authentic but sitting by the river is beautiful, so we'll forgive them. If you have more time, the Pearl District is a historic but new and hip neighborhood to explore!
Best hotels in San Antonio
There's no shortage of stunning, antique-filled and possible haunted hotels in San Antonio. We stayed in The St. Anthony once and really enjoyed it. It was only minutes from the Riverwalk. Another great option, just next door to the Alamo, is The Menger Hotel, built in 1859 right where the battle of the Alamo happened. It's filled with history, make sure to have a drink in the bar!
Weekend Hill Country Getaway
If you can spend at least a weekend (or more) exploring the Hill Country you won't have any shortage of places to visit. Plan your own road trip from Austin to San Antonio! If you only have a day to spare (perhaps as a day trip from Austin), consider either heading to Lockhart and Gruene or spend the day in Fredericksburg and Lockhart, see the map below.
Hill Country Road Trip Map
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