The best weekend getaways from Austin

From trips across the Lone Star State to a Louisiana visit, check out a new city during one of these weekend getaways from Austin

Photograph: Flickr/Jim Whitaker

There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Austin, from scoping out its best attractions to dining at its ever-growing list of best restaurants. But Texas is the second largest state in the country, and that means there’s so much more out there waiting to be explored. Austin’s central location makes it the perfect starting point for a number of weekend getaways, whether you want a small city retreat, a big city escape or even a jaunt into neighboring Louisiana. Here are some ideas for a memorable weekend trip outside the city.

Best weekend getaways from Austin

1
San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, TX

1hr 30 mins from Austin

San Antonio is a city rich in history, embarking on its 300th anniversary this year. 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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.

Stay here: Hotel Emma is a luxury hotel conveniently located in the heart of the trendy Pearl District. The building was originally built as a brewery in 1894 and has been transformed into a handsome space that expertly combines historic industrial accents with refined modern touches.

2
Waco, TX

Waco, TX

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 newer and 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 the number of 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:  The Cotton Palace is a bed and breakfast full of Southern charm, just minutes away from Magnolia Market. The inn’s design is the Arts and Craft style, and you’ll find special antiques and artwork throughout the cozy rooms. Gourmet breakfast is served every morning.

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3
Fredericksburg, TX

Fredericksburg, TX

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 Wildseed Farms.

Stay here: The luxury 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.

4
Houston, TX

Houston, TX

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.

Stay here: Live in luxury at Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District, a boutique hotel that places you in the city’s center, close to most of the popular attractions. Hallmarks of Hotel ZaZa include its seven lavishly decorated suites referred to as the Magnificent Seven, along with its ten concept suites each centered on a specific theme, such as Houston We Have a Problem and Geisha House.

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5
Dallas, TX

Dallas, TX

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.

Stay here: Smack dab in the middle of Dallas you’ll find a striking 1920s neo-Gothic building that houses The Joule. This chic hotel boasts a stunning rooftop pool that dramatically hangs out over the building’s edge. It also has a collection of designer boutiques and the popular CBD Provisions restaurant.

6
Corpus Christi, TX

Corpus Christi, TX

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 to 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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7
Galveston, TX

Galveston, TX

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.

8
Lake Charles, LA

Lake Charles, LA

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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