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Fredericksburg Winery Texas
Photograph: Courtesy Signor Vineyards

The best weekend getaways from Austin

From Houston to San Antonio to Lake Charles, here’s where to drive for the best weekend getaways from Austin

James Wong
Written by
James Wong
Contributor
Cindy Brzostowski
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Although Austin is packed with many awesome things to do – from checking out its best attractions to dining at its ever-growing list of best restaurants or checking in at its best hotels – the surrounding cities are equally abundant and worthy of a weekend jaunt. Austin’s central location makes for the ideal starting point whether the drive takes you north, east, south, or west of it.

Even just an hour and a half south will get you into the buzzing city of San Antonio, where you’ll discover a rich and diverse history. The same distance in a western direction will take you to the rolling Hill Country where you’ll be able to sample the finest wines down south. How about some space discovery and a ton of international cuisine? Houston is your best bet two and a half hours away. Or answer the calls for a beach vacay… head to Galveston, the Texan answer to Coney Island, three hours on the road. Whatever floats your boat, here are the best escapes from Austin by car, all the way to neighboring Louisiana

RECOMMENDED: The best hikes in Austin

Best weekend getaways from Austin

San Antonio, TX
Photograph: Courtesy Visit San Antonio

1. San Antonio, TX

Drive time: 1hr 30 mins from Austin

San Antonio is a city rich in history, standing proud at over 300 years old. When planning on what to see and do here, there is, of course, the Alamo, one of its top tourist destinations. But visitors shouldn’t forget about the four other Spanish colonial missions, all of which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Strolling along the bustling River Walk is another signature sight-seeing activity. Into art? Visit one (or more!) of San Antonio’s many museums, such as the McNay Art Museum and the Witte Museum. Family-friendly spots include Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld, and the San Antonio Zoo. Before leaving, you can’t miss out on eating some Tex-Mex, a cuisine that’s found all over the state but was put on the map in this very city in the 1800s. Meanwhile, those with a sweet tooth should make a beeline for La Panaderia, the city’s most famous bakery.

Stay here: Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk opened in 2021 and is the hottest property of the moment. It’s conveniently located in the heart of all the action—walking distance along the riverwalk to the likes of the Alamo and trendy Pearl District and has two of the coolest social hangouts (Domingo and Otro) for dining and drinks.

Waco, TX
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Waco, TX

Drive time: 1hr 30mins from Austin

Waco has experienced a surge in tourism with the incredible popularity of locals Chip and Joanna Gaines’ HGTV show Fixer Upper. Fans and design lovers make pilgrimages to the stylish Magnolia Market at the Silos to shop for home goods and to enjoy the green lawn with games and food trucks. While this destination may be one of the more popular attractions in the town, you can fill out your weekend with trips to the Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth National Monument, Cameron Park Zoo, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and all the other antique and boutique shops. You should also consider visiting Homestead Heritage, a peaceful 500-acre community with a craft village showcasing artisan works and a restaurant serving local, organic foods.

Stay here: Now open, Camp Fimfo is the ultimate campers' paradise (but if you’re not keen on tents, they also have RV sites and cabins). The best part is all the activities, meaning a jam-packed schedule of fun without leaving the premises. Think water playground, pool, hot tubs, ball games (including 18-hole mini golf course) and food and drink outlets. Now there’s finally a good reason to stay overnight in Waco.

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Fredericksburg, TX
Photograph: Courtesy Signor Vineyards

3. Fredericksburg, TX

Drive time: 1hr 30mins from Austin

Fredericksburg is a charming small town famous for its German heritage and wineries. In between digging into delicious German food at restaurants like Otto, sampling wines at spots like Grape Creek Vineyards, and perusing the shops on Main Street, make it a point to check out the impressive National Museum of the Pacific War (located here because the town is the boyhood home of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II). Other things to add to your to-do list include going hiking at the scenic Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (a large granite dome that gives those at the top stunning views of the Hill Country) and strolling the beautiful flower gardens of Wildseed Farms.

Stay here: The quaint bed and breakfast Hoffman Haus is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, yet still just a block from downtown. You can choose to stay in a room, suite, or house on their compound—all of which have their own unique charm and serve as a beautiful and relaxing escape.

Houston, TX
Photograph: Courtesy Marriott Marquis Houston

4. Houston, TX

Drive time: 2hr 30mins from Austin

The largest city in Texas, Houston is a sprawling, incredibly diverse area. Houston’s Museum District alone, which includes 19 museums, galleries, and cultural attractions, is enough to keep you busy for days. And of the over 300 parks, the expansive Memorial Park and the tranquil Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens are just two places where you can take a breather from the urban metropolis to enjoy nature. Depending on the season you’re visiting, consider catching an Astros game at Minute Maid Park or a Texans game at NRG Stadium. Of course, you can’t talk about a trip to Houston without mentioning NASA. The Johnson Space Center calls the city home, and visitors are invited to learn about space exploration through a visit to Space Center Houston. Rice-lovers, arrive on an empty stomach—Houston has the largest Chinatown in Texas full of Asian delights (don't miss Vietnamese crawfish from Cajun Kitchen or tapioca dumplings from Nam Giao). Meanwhile, those looking for a unique swim should head to the Altitude Rooftop and Pool for the Marriott Marquis’ one-of-a-kind Texas-shaped lazy river.

Stay here: Base yourself at Houston's ultra-chic shopping, dining, and entertainment community, CITYCENTRE. There's only one hotel here, The Moran, which towers above the courtyard of all the action. The stay has a European flair with a business angle. Suites are spacious and come with floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of those vibrant views. On-site dining options include a Mediterranean eaterie, Radio Milano, and a cocktail lounge, Fireside. Step up to The Moran’s pool, or boggle down to work on the hotel-wide high-speed internet either in-room or down in the lobby.

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Dallas, TX
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Dallas

5. Dallas, TX

Drive time: 3hr from Austin

Dallas is part of the DFW metroplex, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the entire country. If you’re stumped on where to start your trip, the fashionable Uptown, vibrant Deep Ellum, hip Bishop Arts District, and thriving Lower Greenville neighborhoods serve as great hubs for exploring many restaurants, shops, and bars. History buffs should add a stop at the Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza to their itinerary to view exhibits on John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Other museums of note include the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and Perot Museum of Nature and Science. If you’re looking for an outdoor outing, check out the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, White Rock Lake, or Klyde Warren Park. Indoor festivities are a treat: go dine at Richard Branson's extremely social-media-friendly Commons Club, and after that head to funky subterranean cocktail lounge, The Midnight Rambler at The Joule, to toast the end of your trip

Stay here: Dallas is the best place to go glam, so live your best life at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. The icon was built in 1925 and today retains its charming European, Renaissance style amid a serene oasis of gardens. All 128 rooms and 15 suites ooze style and opulence, serving as a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of The Big D. That being said, The Mansion Bar is an excellent choice to turn things up at. 

Corpus Christi, TX
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Corpus Christi, TX

Drive time: 3hr from Austin

When you think of weekend getaways in Texas, chances are you’re not envisioning miles of beaches. But Corpus Christi offers just that: Situated right on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the city is a fun seaside retreat that’s unique from much of the rest of the state. Head up to North Beach to visit the Texas State Aquarium or simply enjoy the sun and sand. You can also see the USS Lexington here, a record-setting carrier that operated during World War II and was part of the set for the film Pearl Harbor. While you’re around, you’ll want to squeeze in some time at the Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park. Schlitterbahn Riverpark, South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, and the Selena Museum make for other worthwhile stops.  

Stay here: At the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, guests can enjoy sweeping bay views. Conveniences and amenities at this high-rise, downtown hotel include a fully-equipped fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, racquetball court, and spa.

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Galveston, TX
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Galveston, TX

Drive time: 3hr 30mins from Austin

For a weekend getaway to another coastal town, drive out to Galveston, a resort island in the Gulf just outside of Houston. Once the capital of the Republic of Texas (albeit briefly), this city boasts 32 miles of beaches and is dotted with well-preserved examples of Victorian architecture. The island is now a popular tourist destination thanks in large part to the presence of Moody Gardens, which has an aquarium, rainforest pyramid, 4D theater, animal experiences, ropes course, and more. But that’s far from the only site that draws visitors. There’s also the Historic Pleasure Pier (complete with rides, midway games, dining, and shops), Bishop’s Palace, Moody Mansion, and The Strand.

Stay here:  Hotel Galvez is named after Bernardo de Gálvez, just like the city itself. This historic beachfront hotel first opened in 1911 and has modern, relaxing resort luxuries, including a swim-up bar, courtesy bicycles, and a complimentary shuttle to the Strand District and Pier 21.

Lake Charles, LA
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Lake Charles

8. Lake Charles, LA

Drive time: 4hr 30mins from Austin

Driving east from Austin on I-10 across the state line will take you to Lake Charles, Louisiana. As Texas state law doesn’t allow for casinos, the main draw of this city for Austin visitors is its casino resorts, including Golden Nugget Casino and L'Auberge du Lac Casino which each have around 80 table games and 1,600 slots. Even if gambling isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other resort amenities for your enjoyment like a pool, an arcade, a spa, golf, shopping, and various entertainment events throughout the year. And if all of that still wasn’t enough leisure for you, Golden Nugget has its own lakefront beach while L'Auberge has a large lazy river. You could spend the entire weekend in the resorts themselves, but you might also want to check out the eco-tours and swamp tours where you can experience the area’s unique wildlife, museums, and art galleries.

Stay here: With a stay at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, you may never feel like leaving since restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and entertainment are all right there at your fingertips at your own resort and the next door L'Auberge du Lac Casino.

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