Texas may be the largest of all 48 contiguous states but that doesn’t mean it should stop you from taking some epic day trips with a myriad of awesome destinations waiting to be explored throughout the Lone Star State. One of our favorite day trips that is definitely realistic given that size of the state is the route from Dallas to Austin which in itself may not be the most attractive in terms of natural beauty, but there are plenty of unique characteristics along this journey that should make it appealing among locals and visitors alike.
Both Dallas and Austin are two of Texas’ most iconic cities and undoubtedly for good reason. We want to share some of the best things to do in both locations along with highlighting a few lesser known gems that are worth experiencing. But the beauty of taking a weekend trip between both is that the journey itself offers a myriad of options to keep you occupied before you spend any time exploring either cities.
Dallas to Austin – I-35 Route
Whether you are intrigued by visiting one of the largest gas stations in the US or perhaps paying a visit to an area with a rich Czech heritage, the route along I-35 is much more attractive than the appearance on a map may suggest. Don’t let your GPS or eyes fool you as you venture along this route and perhaps think there is very little to see because after reading this post, you will be raring to take this weekend trip to experience all of this and more!
While I love putting together posts like this highlighting some alternative routes that people can take for a day (or weekend) trip between two locations, the reality is that between Dallas and Austin there really is only one route that you should consider.
But the beauty is that everything we are going to cover is directly off the interstate, so there will be no need for you to venture too far away from the route to explore all of the gems we are going to take a look at.
Here are some of the locations we are going to cover throughout this post:
- West – “Czech Stop”
- Temple – “Buc-ee’s”
The route along I-35 is a little shy of 200 miles between Dallas and Austin. With a speed limit of 75 mph along the majority of this route, you could feasibly drive between the two cities in as little as 3 hours. However, this journey isn’t about speed, rather it’s about exploring all of the above locations.
Let’s take a look at some of the best reasons why a weekend trip from Dallas to Austin, along with perhaps spending a day in each of the two cities, is a great way to spend a weekend in Texas.
When you think about Dallas, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? The TV show, the Cowboys, Dealey Plaza (the site of JFK’s tragic assassination), the Mavericks or something else? Regardless of your answer, Dallas is home to plenty of iconic attractions that will likely intrigue every visitor to the city. Get ready to enjoy the perfect weekend getaway in Dallas or visit a couple of attractions before venturing along I-35 towards Austin.
Whether you are intrigued by the thought of heading over to AT&T Stadium to watch the Dallas Cowboys or perhaps you want to take a self-guided tour of Dealey Plaza to learn more about JFK’s assassination, you can be sure there will be plenty to keep you occupied for several days. Here are a couple of our favorite spots that we think you should consider visiting on your next visit to Dallas.
Our recommendation would be to start in the heart of downtown Dallas and first pay a visit to Reunion Tower to enjoy epic panoramic landscapes across the city. This is not only a great way to admire the Texas scenery, but also to get your bearings and figure out where you want to visit next.
Standing at 561 feet in height, this observation tower is a popular spot among visitors, with the GeO-Deck at 470 feet providing an unforgettable experience. If you are planning on visiting this attraction among others, consider purchasing the Dallas CityPASS for substantial savings across all attractions.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Just a short walk from Reunion Tower is The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza where you can learn all about those tragic events of November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Dealey Plaza is frequently renowned as the “birthplace of Dallas” but unfortunately the aforementioned history is what most people associate with this part of the city. The self-guided tour offers a thorough look at not only the events but also a detailed history of JFK’s life prior to becoming President and throughout the time he served as the head of state.
If you have visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, this location in Dallas will be a great addition to learn the full life story of the 35th President.
Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Let’s head away from downtown Dallas to explore the natural beauty inside the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. For those that love the great outdoors, this attraction is the perfect place to visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Experience a myriad array of diverse floral species while admiring a collection of unique monuments and fountains that make this the epitome of relaxation.
Depending on the time of the season you visit Dallas will determine exactly what seasonal events you can experience at the Botanical Garden. The Christmas festivities are a great time to experience this attraction, with a 30-foot tall tree at the center of the gardens and plenty of other festive activities taking place throughout.
Dallas is home to so many other attractions and the aforementioned locations are just three of our favorites that we would recommend if you have limited time in the city. We didn’t even mention sampling the eclectic food scene across the city, with typical Tex-Mex and BBQ popular choices among locals and visitors alike…and yes, there are plenty of awesome, local spots to choose from!
West – Visit the Czech Stop
After spending time exploring all of the history and natural beauty throughout Dallas, head south along I-35 until you reach the town of West. Renowned as being home to the largest concentration of Czech residents in the state of Texas, West offers a collection of gas stations and convenience stores that sell delicious, homemade Czech pastries and kolaches that will entice you to book a trip to the Czech Republic to sample the best food in Prague.
Our recommendation is to head to the wonderfully named Slovacek’s gas station, a family-owned establishment that epitomizes everything there is to love about the Czech Texas combination.
Kolaches are a time old pastry made by generations of Czech’s and Slovak’s.Slovacek’s
Step inside the large convenience store to sample a little bit of Czech delight by indulging in 37 types of kolaches, a variety of deli options, local sausage and of course, a beer cave with an abundance of local brews and microbrewery options.
Grab a sweet or savory kolache and head to the dining area at the front of the gas station to enjoy this Czech delicacy before leaving West and heading towards Waco.
Waco – The Home of Fixer Upper
The home of Baylor University, Waco is a vibrant college town with a myriad of things to do to keep visitors occupied throughout their stay. Whether you are passing through en route to Austin or prefer to spend a few days, Waco is becoming a popular Texas destination primarily because of the impact Joanna and Chip Gaines are having in promoting this city.
For those of you that have watched Fixer Upper, you will know that this is set in Waco and is all about renovating properties to create a magical living space. Visitors to Waco can not only experience these homes across the city but also head to Magnolia Market at the Silos where Joanna and Chip’s inspiration can be seen.
Grab a glass of southern sweet tea from the Alabama Southern Sweet Tea Company before heading to the Magnolia Bakery to indulge in a cupcake (or two). There is a large open space for visitors and locals alike to relax and enjoy the surroundings but the most popular spot here is Magnolia Market itself where you can find all of your favorite decorative items.
Before you go spending all of your money here, don’t forget about the lesser known Little Shop on Bosque which was actually the original store back in 2003 but obviously much smaller. Here, you can find discounted items that are either slightly damaged or “last-chance” items.
After leaving the “Silos”, don’t forget to check out the best local coffee in Waco with a selection of coffee houses to choose from including Common Grounds, Dichotomy and BRU Artisan among others.
Downtown Waco is a great place to walk around with a cup of coffee, admiring the historic architecture and then heading over to the iconic Dr. Pepper Museum for a self-guided tour, learning all about the history of one of America’s favorite soft drinks.
Temple – Visit Buc-ee’s
If you ever never been to a Buc-ee’s gas station before, let’s start by painting a picture of what this experience is like. Take a moment to think about a regular gas station with six or eight gas pumps and then multiple this by ten! Combine this with a Costco sized convenience store and enough soda fountains to satisfy almost every customer that walks through the doors. Welcome to Bucee’s…the epitome of a gas station on steroids!
We have been fortunate to visit Buc-ee’s on our way to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama but Texas is home to several locations, one of which is in the town of Temple off I-35 just a short drive from Austin. You can enjoy pretty much anything you can think of in terms of dining…with freshly prepared brisket, hot and cold sandwiches, kolaches, pastries and much more waiting to entice your appetite.
Don’t forget to sample a bag of Buc-ee’s beaver nuggets, the perfect snack for the rest of your road trip! If you like popcorn but don’t particularly like the kernels in your teeth, these nuggets are the ideal compromise and come in a variety of flavors (the salted caramel is definitely a great choice).
Known as the “live music capital of the world”, Austin is an entertainment hub for those that love enjoying concerts and other music festivals. But visitors to Austin will be rewarded with a myriad of things to do along with a plethora of dining options to satisfy every tastebud. If you are visiting Austin for the first time, here are a couple of our favorite things to do, ranging from iconic attractions to a few lesser known experiences.
Let’s start with the Texas State Capitol building. For architecture lovers, this is a must-see experience. Take a stroll to the South Congress Bridge if you are visiting between the months of July and November to enjoy another popular experience in Austin – the local bats! This location is the largest colony of bats in North America.
There are a variety of architectural gems around the city and this leads us on to our next attraction that is perhaps a little more innocuous – street art!
Experience the best street art in Austin by exploring the downtown neighborhood, along with some spots just outside of the central downtown area. There are certainly some unique murals and it’s a real credit to the local artists that are perfectly showcasing the city through their creativity.
Just outside of Austin is McKinney Falls State Park, a gorgeous natural area with an abundance of hiking trails and a great spot to visit if you are looking for some rural relaxation following an intense trip exploring the best of the city.
It may sound ambitious to experience everything from Dallas to Austin in only 24 hours but this is certainly feasible if you only plan on spending a few hours in each location. The drive itself along I-35 is simple with only a few places worth stopping on the route. Gas stations may not normally seem like appealing “attractions” but when you hear that one of them offers Czech delicacies and the other is one of the largest gas stations in the US, it’s definitely worth spending some time at each one.
Austin and Dallas are two very unique, distinctive cities. Dependent upon personal preference, you may prefer one over the other. Alternatively, you may think that Waco is the perfect compromise as it’s much smaller, yet still with plenty to keep you occupied during your visit. As a road trip, Dallas to Austin isn’t spectacular but in terms of a weekend destination, this is definitely a great option!