Texas Road Trips: Austin, San Antonio, and All Points In Between
January 15, 20224 min read
We’ve talked before about how big Texas is. So rather than repeat ourselves, let’s just say you could fit Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Connecticut into the confines of Texas, with plenty of room left for Delaware and Rhode Island.
The point being, Texas is way too big to be covered by a conventional road trip. If you really want to experience everything this great state has to offer, you’re going to have to break your epic odyssey down into smaller chunks and then focus on the stuff that grabs you.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the run between Austin and San Antonio. Now these two cities in and of themselves have a lot to offer travelers. Austin has the State Capitol, Zilker Park, Sixth Street, and a thriving live music scene. San Antonio has the Alamo, the River Walk, historic El Mercado, and its annual 10-day Fiesta. But we all know that road trips are just as much about the journey as they are the destination. So that’s why we’re going to focus, not on Austin and San Antonio, but all the points in between.
If we’re being honest, the small town of Lockhart is worthy of its own road trip. Calling itself the “city with a vision,” Lockhart has become home to a number of breweries and now boasts a live-music scene that nearly rivals that of nearby Austin.
But Lockhart’s main draw is—and has always been—its barbecue. In fact, the Texas Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 proclaiming the to be “the Barbecue Capital of Texas.” Black’s Barbecue is one of the oldest restaurants in Texas to still be operated by the same family and was a favorite of LBJ. This perennial favorite offers nine different meats, including homemade sausage. Black’s fiercest competitor is Kruez Market, which has technically been around longer, but began its life as a meat market and changed hands several times over the decades. Kruez is known for its no-frills service—meat is served on brown butcher paper with no sides (other than a slice of cheese or chunk of onion) and no sauce (because, according to the owners, “good barbecue doesn’t need sauce.”).
Located just about halfway between Austin and San Antonio (give or take 10 miles), the city of San Marcos is an enticing blend of contemporary style and historic culture. San Marcos is perhaps best known as home to the Outlets, the largest outlet shopping center in the U.S. However, if shopping isn’t your thing, you can always opt for a Manske roll at Gil’s Broiler or a glass-bottom boat tour of Spring Lake. And you can always commemorate your road trip with some ink at Classic Tattoo.
San Marcos hosts its annual Mermaid SPLASH Fest every September, which starts with a Mermaid Promenade downtown and wraps up with the Aqua Faire at Park Plaza. If you can plan your road trip accordingly, this is an event you’ll definitely not want to miss.
Just north of San Antonio is New Braunfels, a city that celebrates its German Texas heritage. The Gruene Historic District is a former ghost town that has been revitalized into a charming collection of shops and eateries, as well as Gruene Hall, one of the most famous dance halls in Texas. At the very least, you should visit the beer garden at The Gristmill and have a drink.
If you have room on your itinerary and want to beat the Texas heat, New Braunfels is home to Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort. It’s also a popular spot for folks looking to float the river, as the Guadalupe and Comal both flow through it.
Natural Bridge Caverns
If you’re looking to kill a few hours, you could do worse than the Natural Bridge Caverns, just outside of San Antonio. This massive network of caves was discovered in 1960 by some students from nearby St. Mary’s University and takes its name from the natural 60-foot limestone bridge that spans its entrance.
Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest commercial caverns you can visit in Texas and, believe it or not, they are *still* being explored and mapped. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the gigantic underground chambers (one of which is larger than a football field) and see the huge stalactites, stalagmites, and other mineral formations. The attraction also features a ropes course with a variety of obstacles and zip rails, as well as a mining experience that lets visitors pan for rocks, minerals, and rough-cut gems.
If you feel like expanding your trip a bit, you could head west to experience the Texas German history of Fredericksburg. This city, named for Prince Frederick of Prussia, is home to a wide assortment of restaurants, breweries, and wineries. (Yes, Texas wine has been a thing since Spanish missionaries in El Paso started producing it in the 1650s.)
One of the most popular attractions in the area is Enchanted Rock, a pink granite mountain located in the Llano Uplift. Visitors to Enchanted Rock can hike its nature trails, explore its caves, or scale it to the top and enjoy a breathtaking view. Reservations aren’t required but are highly recommended as the park will close once it reaches capacity.
It’s Not a Road Trip Without a Cooler
When you’re making a road trip, an ice chest or cooler is an indispensable piece of gear. Not only does it let you have cold drinks and snacks in the car, but it’ll let you bring home some Lockhart barbecue or chill your Fredericksburg wine.
If you’re looking for just the right cooler, check out these Bison models. From our built-tough Gen 2s to our convenient SoftPaks, Bison’s got the goods to turn that drawn-out drive into a proper road trip