San Antonio is the land of hearty Tex-Mex food, Spanish Missions, the colorful River Walk, and big Texas experiences. The vibrant, historic city offers a multitude of things to see and do, including breweries, a rising arts district, and plenty of shopping. But sometimes it’s nice to leave the familiar streets in the rearview mirror in exchange for the open road and a sense of adventure.
The Lone Star State boasts several big cities and plenty of beautiful open spaces between them. Why not venture out to enjoy live music in Austin, learn about our galaxy in Houston, or return to nature at one of Texas’s state parks?
Here are eight of the best day trips from San Antonio.
1. Fredericksburg, Texas
The Texas Hill Country’s green pastures and aromatic merlot should be reason enough to make the hour-long drive to Fredericksburg, Texas. If not, the town’s proud German heritage certainly is! More than 160 years ago, German settlers arrived in Fredericksburg. Many elements of the group’s culture are still preserved there, including their historic homes and buildings and their delicious traditional food.
With more than 55 wineries, Fredericksburg is also one of the best and closest wine countries to San Antonio. You can opt to drive from vineyard to vineyard or walk from tasting room to tasting room on Fredericksburg’s Main Street. Be sure not to miss Fat Ass Ranch & Winery and its unique wine flavors, including country peach, apple pie, and prickly pear-jalapeño-raspberry.
Just 25 minutes from Fredericksburg is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a nature lover’s paradise. The large pink granite rock provides 11 miles of trails, including a less-than-a-mile hike to the summit that offers gorgeous views of Central Texas. To see everything that the park has to offer, consider hiking the 4.5-mile trail around the perimeter.
2. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Stonewall, Texas
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is dedicated to the life and legacy of the 26th president of the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson spent most of his life in this part of Texas, and he is buried on the property in the Johnson family cemetery.
You can learn how Johnson’s early life influenced his political career by visiting the rural home in which he grew up. You can also visit the nearby museum and LBJ Ranch, also known as the Texas White House. Johnson regularly retreated from the nation’s capital to the peace and quiet of the Texas countryside. Unfortunately, the Texas White House is currently closed due to structural risks; however, the drive that runs through the area is still open.
3. Austin, Texas
Home to just under a million residents, the lively city of Austin is rapidly growing due to its reputation for creative expression and its fantastic culinary scene. About an hour and a half from San Antonio, the state’s capital is brimming with things to see and do.
The first stop for foodies — and especially barbecue lovers — should be the iconic Franklin Barbecue. Make sure to jump in line — the wait sometimes takes up to 2 hours — for a taste of some of the best barbecue in the nation. The restaurant usually sells out, so be sure to arrive before it opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
After you’ve had your fill of Texas barbecue, visit the beautiful State Capitol for a free guided tour of the building plus an overview of Texas political history (Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Or you could wander down trendy South Congress Street, take a photo in front of the famous “I love you so much” mural, savor a scoop from Amy’s Ice Cream, or grab a pair of cowboy boots at Allens.
In the evening, head to Mount Bonnell to watch the sunset before popping into one of the city’s 250 music venues that offer everything from jazz to country.
4. Hamilton Pool Preserve, Dripping Springs, Texas
You can head over to the Hamilton Pool Preserve from Austin or make a separate day trip to this spectacular watering hole. About 2 hours from San Antonio, the 232-acre preserve is well worth the trek.
Visit during the winter to hike the trails and view the year-round waterfall spilling into the pool from 50 feet overhead. It’s equally beautiful during the summer, when the weather is hot and the water is cold. The collapsed grotto’s rocky overhang provides plenty of cool shade.
Due to the pool’s popularity, Travis County has established a reservation system. Make sure to reserve a time slot so that you won’t be turned away at the gate. You can enjoy the preserve between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and you must pay $15 in cash at the entrance or $11 by credit card online.
5. Waco, Texas
HGTV fans shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Waco, Texas. Due to the popular show Fixer Upper featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines, Waco has become a major Texas tourist destination. The Magnolia Market at the Silos, the couple’s company headquarters, is a perfect spot for a family lunch, lawn games, and shopping for home decor.
If the Magnolia Market isn’t your aesthetic, be assured that Waco offers plenty more to do. The town is home to the beautiful Baylor University, the prehistoric Waco Mammoth National Monument, and the popular Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. You could easily spend a day learning about Ice Age fossils and the oldest law enforcement agents in the country (sorry, not Chuck Norris!) before making the 3-hour drive back to San Antonio.
6. Lockhart State Park, Lockhart, Texas
Just over an hour outside of San Antonio, Lockhart State Park is a popular place for weekend day excursions. You’ll need to pay $3 to enter. A lush and quiet retreat from the high energy of the city, Lockhart State Park provides opportunities to hike and view local wildlife such as deer, opossums, armadillos, beavers, and turkeys. After your stroll, go swimming or rent fishing equipment and stop by the creek. Sunfish, catfish, and bass are the fish you’ll most likely find in Clear Fork Creek. Plus, you don’t need a license to fish!
Another of the park’s attractions is its nine-hole golf course ($11). Grab a few friends or your partner in crime and enjoy a day on the green. Afterward, head to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas, for some tangy barbecue.
If you want to stay longer than a day, overnight stays at the Lockhart State Park campsite cost $20 to $24 per night.
7. Houston, Texas
In all honesty, Houston deserves more than just a day trip due to its size. However, even a day will provide a taste of everything the fourth-largest city in the United States has to offer.
If you only have time to do one thing, however, make it Space Center Houston. Dedicated to space education, the center provides a comprehensive look at the past, present, and future of space exploration. Here, you can touch a genuine moon rock, tour a space shuttle, and — if you’re lucky — meet real astronauts. You can easily spend 3 to 4 hours perusing the many exhibits.
After an afternoon of sightseeing, head over to one of the city’s many barbecue or Tex-Mex joints before making the 3-hour drive back to San Antonio. Rudy’s Texas Bar-B-Q and Hugo’s Restaurant are local favorites.
8. Corpus Christi, Texas
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi, Texas, is about a 2-hour drive from San Antonio. As one of the closest beach towns to the Alamo City, it’s the perfect oceanside getaway for locals and visitors alike.
In addition to the beach, one of the city’s most popular attractions is the Texas State Aquarium. It’s home to more than 460 species, and you’ll learn about coral reefs, dolphins, sharks, and stingrays, among other creatures. The aquarium helps to protect the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that are native to the Gulf of Mexico.
You can also tour the USS Lexington, known for its participation in World War II battles. The ship features an onboard museum, a 3-D theater, an escape room, a flight simulator, and a café. Several tours, including a self-guided tour, cover the ship’s history and significance.