Driving from Dallas to Austin on a road trip only takes a few hours, but if you have time, you should plan on making several stops along the way to visit some of the interesting natural, historical, and entertainment sites on your route. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a must-see while in the area, and the cities of Waco, Temple, and Georgetown are all worthy of a visit. Texas has an excellent state park system, and you should definitely consider adding a stop at a state park to your road trip itinerary from Dallas to Austin.
The United States has an extensive system of national parks and national historical parks, and there are several in the general area of your Dallas to Austin road trip. These two historical parks are fairly close to your route, and you will find much interesting historical information and facts at each.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Stonewall is a park that is dedicated to the memory and achievements of Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th president. President Johnson was known as the designer and driving force behind the creation of the "Great Society," a series of legislative acts in the 1960s that addressed poverty, civil rights, hunger, and other social issues. Lyndon B. Johnson retired to the farm that became this national historical park and died there. The museum is also a working ranch, and visitors will enjoy learning about LBJ's legacy and walking along the trails outside the museum.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park incorporates four of the five remaining Spanish missions that were established near the Rio Grande in the area of the current city of San Antonio. The missions were founded by the Spanish in the 1700s in order to protect the populace and convert them to Catholicism. The original missions contained fortifications, stores, farms, and irrigated water sources. Today, the park consists of Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada, which are connected by roads, city streets, and 12 miles of nature trails. Visitors can tour the missions and historic buildings, which are still active Catholic parishes.
Part of the fun of taking any road trip is to spend some time at a state park. Many state parks offer swimming and hiking, and there are often unique aspects that you may not have experienced before.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
At Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, you will be able to travel on the same paths that the dinosaurs walked along so many millennia ago. These ancient reptiles left their footprints on the riverbed, and today, you can see their preserved tracks beside the Paluxy River. During your visit to the park, you can swim, paddle, bike, and fish in addition to exploring the dinosaur tracks.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
Longhorn Cavern State Park is the home of Longhorn Cavern, an underground cavern that was created by an ancient river in the Hill Country part of Texas. The cavern proper and the park and its structures were created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, and the result is a unique park with great views both inside and outside the cavern. Visitors can take a guided cave tour, hike on one of the Hill Country nature trails, and explore the interesting structures built by the CCC. You should be sure to take in the views from the CCC Observation Tower, which affords a 360-spanning look out across the landscape below. While at the park, you will enjoy hiking along the Backbone Ridge trails and picnicking in the shade of the groves of trees.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park near Cypress Mill is a unique park with a river and several streams. You can swim, fish, and tube or kayak in the river, and you will have a great time wading and splashing in the step pools formed by Bee Creek. You can view wildlife from the bird blind and stroll through the butterfly garden, and you can hike up the half-mile Twin Falls Nature Trail to the falls overlook. If you are adventurous, you can hike the 6-mile Wolf Mountain Trail that winds along Tobacco and Wolf mountains and through the small canyons formed by Mescal and Tobacco creeks. The recently added 10-mile Juniper Ridge Trail is a single mountain biking trail with technical obstacles, and riders will find it challenging.
It's always worthwhile to visit places you've never been to before. If you have a chance, spend some time at one or more of these entertaining sites that offer their own brand of fun.
Six Flags Over Texas
Spending a day at Six Flags is always a great time for everyone in your group. Young and old alike can find plenty to do and experience at this thrilling theme park in Dallas. The youngest in your party can have a blast in the Looney Tunes children's areas, and everyone else will want to experience the exciting Batman: The Ride, La Vibora, and other equally thrilling adventures.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
Zilker Metropolitan Park is an urban oasis in the middle of Austin. Barton Creek flows into the Colorado River inside the park, and you can find many, many things to do in this 350-acre park. While in the park, you can canoe and kayak on Barton Creek, walk through the Zilker Botanical Garden, visit the Austin Science and Nature Center, and bike or cycle on the Lady Bird Lake Trail. There's even a miniature train and a giant playground for the little ones.
Waco Mammoth National Monument
The Waco Mammoth National Monument is an interesting dig site of mammoth remains. There are six Columbian mammoths at the site, which were relatives of the Asiatic elephant and were very tall, up to 14 feet in height. You can take a guided tour along an elevated pathway above the dig sites and listen to interesting facts about the mammoths and the history of the park.
It's about a three-hour drive on this Dallas to Austin road trip, but you still will probably want to take a break or two from the road. If you plan on spending some time on an extended road trip, then any one of these cities along the way is a great choice for some additional recreation. If you need to utilize a dump station, there are several choices near Dallas and other areas of Central Texas.
The city of Waco offers a diverse variety of things to do and see. The Cameron Park Zoo is located on the Brazos River and houses otters, lions, and meerkats. You can learn more about the Texas Rangers by visiting the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and you definitely want to have some fun and grab a beverage at the Dr. Pepper Museum. If you are interested in staying at an RV park, the Midway Park campground has a lake, nature trails, and lots of scenery to enjoy.
You will love visiting Temple, which is surrounded by lakes and verdant hills. You can commune with nature or tour several cultural venues. Lake Belton is only a few miles from Temple, and it is quite large and offers plenty of boating and other water-based activities. Berry Springs RV Resort is conveniently located next to the Berry Springs Park and Preserve and is still close to all the amenities of the city of Temple, making this a great choice for camping.
Georgetown is near many local attractions and also has several historical buildings to explore in the Historic District, such as the Old Williamson County Jail and the Courthouse. You can tour the Williamson Museum and visit the Fountainwood Observatory at Southwestern University. Farther out, you will enjoy visiting the Inner Space Cavern, which has hundreds of stalactites. Take a day or two to stay at the Rio Bonito Cabin and RV Park, which is on 14 acres along the San Gabriel River. You can tube, bike, hike, swim, fish, and boat on the river, all while enjoying the comfortable conveniences of the park.