Hill Country Hopping: Three Days from San Antonio to Austin



Only 80 miles separate downtown San Antonio from downtown Austin, but that short drive contains a world of adventure. Take your time soaking up the natural beauty, fabulous food, and thrilling excursions over three fun-filled days. 

Day 1: San Antonio to New Braunfels 

Start your adventure with breakfast at The Guenther House, a beautifully restored mid-19th-century limestone mansion. Savor Strawberry Sweet Cream Waffles and Buttermilk Biscuits & Sausage Gravy in the ivy-lined dining room (and peek into the on-site museum before you go). 

Next, explore San Antonio’s iconic sites. The most infamous is The Alamo, an 18th-century mission that hosted the 13-day Battle of the Alamo. Check out the battle cannons and artifacts, plus “living historians” who bring the 1830s to life. 

Next up is the San Antonio Riverwalk, a lovely pedestrian waterfront pathway through downtown. Stroll along the river in the morning sun, exploring boutiques and cafes along the way. Or take a scenic river cruise with an expert guide to learn about local history and architecture. 

If you prefer the epic scale of the natural world to the brief timeline of human history, explore the depths of the Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest commercial caverns in Texas. Take a guided Discovery Tour to traverse massive cave rooms and epic rock formations, all 180’ underground. 

After your time in the San Antonio area, head north to charming New Braunfels. Stop for lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, a Texan eatery inside an 1878 cotton gin. Enjoy a tender pulled pork sandwich and a fresh-squeezed lime margarita on the patio overlooking the Guadalupe River. 

Then, explore the Gruene Historic District, a walkable 15-acre neighborhood with an eclectic array of boutiques and music venues. Browse one-of-a-kind antiques, fine art, cowboy attire, and much more. Catch live music most days at the famous Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest dance hall dating back to 1878.

For dinner, treat yourself to an upscale meal at Myron’s Prime Steakhouse. This classic fine dining spot specializes in prime Midwestern beef, but you’ll also find Alaskan King Crab legs and Australian lobster tails. Save room for the crème brûlée.

Spend the night at the Gruene Mansion Inn, where a stunning Victorian farmhouse and historic barns have been refurbished into cozy accommodations. Each room is unique, from the rustic River Lookout room overlooking the Guadalupe River to the country-chic Carriage Haus.

Day 2: New Braunfels to San Marcos

Get a taste of Southern comfort food at New Braunfels’ Buttermilk Café. You’ll find farmhouse brown eggs, hearty biscuits and gravy, and stacks of buttermilk pancakes with sweet cream butter and warm syrup.  

If water thrills are your thing, a trip to Schlitterbahn Waterpark is a bucket list experience. This mega-park has over 45 different wet-and-wild attractions like tube slides and body slides, relaxation pools and wave pools, swim-up bars and splash pads. You could easily spend your whole day here! 

Or enjoy a more relaxed morning at 51-acre Landa Park. Hike through the natural beauty of Panther Canyon, rent a paddleboat on the lake, and much more. Take a miniature train ride through the park or visit the Landa Park Aquatic Complex for some water fun in three different pools.  

If you’re more of an indoor explorer, spend the morning at the San Marcos Premium Outlets. This expansive mall boasts over 140 brands like Burberry, Nike, Pottery Barn, Swarovski, and many more. And since this is an outlet mall, your retail therapy will come with great deals. 

Next, head into downtown San Marcos for lunch at local favorite Herbert’s Taco Hut. This low-key haunt whips up Tex-Mex fare like enchiladas smothered in cheese and their special gravy and burritos so big they take two tortillas to hold all the filling. 

Walk off your lunch at Wonder World Cave & Adventure Park. See the raw power of the earth in the “show cave,” created by an earthquake rather than by erosion. Take a train through the Wonder World Animal Park to feed and pet Texas wildlife. And walk through the sense-distorting Anti-Gravity House…if you can! 

History buffs can learn about the life and legacy of our 36th president at the quaint LBJ Museum of San Marcos, with exhibits about his early life, his presidential years, and his college days in San Marcos. Spot presidential memorabilia like the pen used to sign the Higher Education Act of 1965. 

Right around the corner from the museum, cozy eatery The Root Cellar Cafe serves a farm-to-table menu inside an early 20th-century hardware store. Try Southern-inspired dishes like apricot chipotle pork belly or bourbon pecan chicken, plus unmissable seasonal cocktails. 

Get some rest at the Crystal River Inn, a peaceful hotel across two 1880s Victorian mansions. Choose from eight beautiful rooms, each decorated with vintage touches. Walk to downtown San Marcos to spend the evening on the historic town square or relax in the inn’s lush gardens.

Day 3: San Marcos to Austin

Jumpstart on your day at Summer Moon Coffee. Their beans are roasted over Texas Post Oak for a richer, smoother brew. Zhuzh up your drink with their signature sweet cream Moon Milk. Grab a breakfast taco or a pastry, and you’re ready to head up to Austin! 

Spend the morning in one of downtown Austin’s outdoor gems like Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre municipal pool and local hotspot since the 1920s. Fed by four natural springs, the water here is crystal clear, and it stays a cool 68-70° year round. 

Just across the road, the Zilker Botanical Garden displays the beauty of Central Texas. Explore 28 acres of lush gardens, including the Taniguchi Japanese Garden with koi ponds and a tea house and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden with cast dinosaur tracks and Cretaceous period plants. 

You can’t road trip in Texas without stopping for finger-licking-good barbecue! Austin is home to Franklin Barbecue, famous for its tender brisket and epically long lines. But not to worry—order smoked meat and sides in advance, and pick it up curbside to skip the line.

Everything is bigger in Texas—including the magnificent Texas State Capitol, the largest in the country. Grab a brochure to tour the building and grounds on your own, spotting the rotunda and soaring dome, monuments, and historic courtrooms. Or take a free guided tour, departing from the South Foyer every 30–45 minutes. 

Dine on the go with an Austin Foodie E-Bike Tour by BikeTexas. Cycle around the city on an electric-powered bike, spotting Austin landmarks and stopping for bites at new hotspots and classic dives as you explore East Sixth Street, Rainey Street, and South Congress Ave. Stops change often! 

For a more relaxed meal, reserve a table at modern sushi spot Uchi. This upscale Japanese restaurant has persisted at the top of Austin dining guides for over 20 years. Feast on innovative sushi and sashimi, including a selection flown in daily from the Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. 

End your trip with a stay at Brava House, a five-room B&B in the historic Clarksville neighborhood. It’s an elegant retreat inside an 1889 mansion house with a bright, welcoming kitchen for chef-prepared breakfasts. Walk to great restaurants and wine bars tucked away in this lovely residential area.

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