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Just one road takes you from Dallas and Austin, but there are countless things to see and do along that route.
Getting from Dallas to Austin is a straight shot down I-35, but while that stretch of highway isn’t necessarily the most exciting by itself, all of the interesting places you can stop at along the way can make the drive quite an eventful one.
Unless you’re hitting the road during rush hour (and just don’t even attempt that if you can help it), the trip should only take about three to three-and-a-half hours — it’s roughly 200 miles, which is certainly doable in one go.
But remember, the best road trips are about the journey, and with so many notable attractions along the route, you can easily stretch the trip out to multiple days to make it less of a long, boring commute and more of a fun-filled adventure. Here are the best places to stop during your Dallas to Austin road trip.
Related Read: The 5 Best Campervan Rentals in Dallas, Texas
Dallas to Austin Road Trip by Section
Segment 1: Dallas to Waco
Waco is pretty much smack dab in the middle between Dallas and Austin, so driving time–wise, it makes the most sense to make a break here.
Another reason? The numerous tourist attractions worth checking out across the city.
- Distance: 97 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Highlight 1: Munster Mansion Replica
This first highlight may only appeal to you if you’re of a certain generation — or if your tastes in television are. At The Munster Mansion, you can walk through a replica mansion of the one from the popular ‘60s sitcom The Munsters.
Fans of the show will be amazed at how painstakingly each room matches the one from TV. Since it’s a private property, you’ll need to book a tour in advance. Keep an eye out for their murder mystery dinners too!
Related Read: 10 Unique Hotels in Texas, Including a Jail House
Highlight 2: Kolaches in West
The region of West Texas is famous for its desert landscape, and the town of West, Texas off of I-35 is famous for its kolaches. For those unfamiliar: Kolaches are a type of pastry brought to Texas by Czech immigrants and have become a much-loved breakfast staple in the state.
Slovacek’s and Czech Stop are the two most popular bakeries in the town to grab one, and it’s less about which you visit and more about simply enjoying some since they make for the perfect on-the-go snack and road trip fuel.
Related Read: 5 Must-Do Scenic Train Rides in Texas
Highlight 3: Homestead Heritage
Homestead Heritage defines itself as “an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community.” Their community land spans over 100 acres of which around 25 acres consists of the Homestead Craft Village, which you can visit Monday through Saturday. Here, you can buy beautiful handcrafted items, including furniture, ironwork, pottery, and fiber crafts.
Aside from shopping, there are lots of other family-friendly activities like hayrides, classes, and small workshops. There’s also a great restaurant serving satisfying, homestyle food.
Related Read: 9 Best Texas Lavender Farms for Getting Your Fragrance Fix
Highlight 4: Waco Mammoth National Monument
Mammoths in Waco? Thousands of years ago, sure. These days, you can see an incredible collection of Columbian mammoth fossil specimens at Waco Mammoth National Monument. Most of these fossils remain in the original position they were found in, giving you a peek at how exciting it must’ve been for the excavation team that uncovered them.
According to its website, this national monument serves as “the nation’s first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths.”
Highlight 5: Dr. Pepper Museum
Is Dr Pepper your soda of choice? Then, you can’t pass up a visit to the Dr. Pepper Museum. The soda was created in Waco in 1885, making it the oldest major soft drink brand in the U.S. At this museum, you can learn about the brand’s history and participate in different soda-related experiences.
Don’t worry about making a reservation in advance (you can’t buy a ticket online anyways). Just show up during their opening hours and enjoy that free Dr. Pepper you get with admission.
Related Read: 10 Best Tiny House Rentals in Texas
Highlight 6: Magnolia Market at the Silos
Anyone who loves HGTV is bound to know about Chip and Joanna, the couple behind the hit show Fixer Upper. You can visit the duo’s famous complex, Magnolia Market at the Silos, to shop for home goods, but that’s not all.
Even if you have no idea who Chip and Joanna are, it’s still fun to spend some time at the property, enjoying the sunshine and food trucks on the lawn.
Side Trip 1: Dinosaur Valley State Park
So the mammoths are covered, and now it’s time to talk dinosaurs. If you have the time to venture away from I-35 for a bit closer to the start of your journey, you can check out Dinosaur Valley State Park where visitors can see real-life dinosaur tracks in the riverbed.
Aside from that (and that’s already pretty cool), you can simply enjoy the park with hiking, biking, swimming, fishing and more.
Related Read: The 11 Best Small Towns in Texas To Visit This Year
Segment 1: Where to Stay
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding somewhere suitable to stay in Waco given the many hotels and Airbnbs in the city.
Some more unique options include Magnolia House (the much-sought-after vacation property associated with Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia brand), Bed and Breakfast on White Rock Creek (a serene and quaint getaway in nature), and Waco Surf Hotel (accommodations at a surf lagoon and wakeboard cable park).
Segment 2: Waco to Austin
Continue on from Waco and it isn’t long before you reach Austin. But don’t hurry down to the Bat City too fast since there are still some sights worth seeing before you finish off your road trip at the state’s capital city.
- Distance: 102 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Highlight 1: Buc-ee’s
To kick off your next day of road tripping, consider going to Buc-ee’s in Temple. It could be the right time to fuel the car up, but even if you have plenty of gas, you can’t really do a road trip in Texas without at least one Buc-ee’s stop.
This famous travel center chain is far more beloved than your run-of-the-mill gas station/convenience store thanks to its unreal number of gas pumps, incredible selection of jerky, and zany beaver-branded goods.
Related Read: The 8 Best Weekend Road Trips from Dallas, Texas
Highlight 2: Chalk Ridge Falls Park
If you’re craving a nice spot to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, Chalk Ridge Falls Park is a great choice. Located just off the highway in Belton, this park is a little under-the-radar but those who know about it are big fans.
There are trails to hike, a creek to explore, a beautiful waterfall to see, and a cool suspension bridge to cross. For a place so small, there’s a lot to love.
Highlight 3: Blue Hole Park
Another option to enjoy the outdoors that’s a little bit down the way is Blue Hole Park in Georgetown. Not to be confused with the popular swimming hole called Blue Hole in Wimberley, this park also has water as a prominent feature with its lagoon bordered by limestone bluffs.
In the summer, you’ll definitely find people splashing around here, just make sure you don’t jump off the cliffs in the water since that’s prohibited.
Related Read: 12 Refreshing Swimming Holes Near Austin, Texas
Highlight 4: Inner Space Cavern
We’re not done with Georgetown just yet! Another one of the town’s big tourist attractions, Inner Space Cavern is a well-preserved cave that’s been open to the public since 1966. While the Texas heat can get sweltering, it’s always 72 degrees under here.
Depending on your interests, you can decide on which kind of tour you want to go on, including the classic Adventure Tour where you’ll see the most stunning rooms and formations and the Wild Cave Tour, which takes you on a deeper, more physically demanding spelunking experience.
Highlight 5: Round Rock Premium Outlets
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the shopping. Round Rock Premium Outlets spans 430,000 square feet and has 125 stores. You’ll find brands like Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Calvin Klein, Coach, Giorgio Armani, and so many more.
Basically, if you’re wanting to refresh your wardrobe or pick up a present, you shouldn’t have trouble finding something here. Opening and closing hours vary depending on the day so check that before planning your visit.
Related Read: 9 Best Texas Scenic Drives for Enjoying the Lone Star State Countryside
Highlight 6: Round Rock Donuts
Speaking of things that are bigger in Texas: Round Rock Donuts is famous for serving a Texas-sized donut, which is a monster of a creation bigger than your head. It’s not just that novelty donut that makes this place special though.
Open since 1926, Round Rock Donuts hand makes their creations with yeast, giving them a distinct yellow color inside. They also have a convenient drive-thru if you need to just grab something quickly.
Segment 2: Where to Stay
Austin abounds with cool spots to stay for every budget and every type of traveler. Places to lay your head at night include romantic getaways, cabins, RV campgrounds, state parks for camping, glamping options, and so much more.
Looking to hotels, The Driskill, Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt, Hotel San José, South Congress Hotel, and Hotel Ella are all iconic for different reasons, and that’s just scratching the surface of what amazing accommodations are available. If you really want to live a little, you can splurge on a local resort like Lakeway Resort & Spa, Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, or Miraval Austin.
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Seen in: Destinations, Road Trips, Texas