Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Texas is a huge state and so there are a ton of Texas road trip options. We used some credit card points to book a car rental and were on our way for a really awesome adventure to road trip between Austin to San Antonio. They are both very affordable cities with tons of cheap and free things to do.
The biggest cost is a plane ticket, but hopefully, you’re able to find a good deal as we did for your Austin to San Antonio road trip. I love an opportunity to road trip around part of my home state. We wanted to see the most we could during our long weekend. This meant… road trip Austin to San Antonio!
Road Trip Austin to San Antonio Costs:
Airbnb: $160 for two nights in Austin
Hotel: $120 a night in San Antonio
Car Rental: $100 for weekend
Flight: $170 (we bought two one way tickets – into Austin, out of San Antonio)
Total Weekend Costs: $285 per person
Thank you to Visit Austin for the tips, welcome bag, and setting us up on a tour in my home state. As always, all opinions are my own.
We arrived after work on a Friday night around 9 pm. We didn’t eat dinner before our flight so we were starving by the time we picked up our rental car and got to our Airbnb. Our very sweet Airbnb host had left us a ton of recommendations on what to do and eat while in Austin so we jumped on one of the Austin classics she recommended – Chuy’s.
Chuy’s has awesome Tex-Mex and a really funky vibe. It’s an Austin original and has multiple locations around the city. I highly recommend the queso if you’re going there and the enchiladas are soooo good. We left with full stomachs and walked over to Uncle Billy’s for some house-made liquor and beers. It was a great way to spend our first night in Austin because it was so chill.
There are so many options for places to stay in Austin. I absolutely loved our little hippy bungalow in Zilker Park! It was super close to everything we wanted to do, convenient, and the host was excellent. Plus, it was just $75 a night so you really can’t beat that price! We had a great time staying here and the hosts are so welcoming. Highly recommend it.
Day 1 – Austin
On our first day in Austin, we decided to start off by eating at some of the famous food trucks. We went to an area in Zilker Park where we found donuts at Gourdoughs (should really be called something other than donuts – they are HUGE and delicious), great coffee at Seventh Flag Cofee, and tacos at Mellizoz Tacos. We split a donut and two tacos, we walked away so full after that. Seriously delicious and the perfect way to start the day.
After this breakfast, we walked First Street where there were murals and fun shops to stop in. We snapped a pick at the “Greetings from Austin” mural as we sipped coffee and headed downtown. Below you will find a bunch of spots in Austin that you should check out. I’ve been to Austin a bunch of times and these are some local spots you should try if you’ve got time!
The Picnic is the largest food truck area in Austin and has such a huge variety of food, you can’t go wrong there!
P. Terry’s is a burger spot with amazing sauce and delicious fries.
Torchy’s Tacos is another original for Austin and has super delicious tacos.
Tour with AO Tours $15
One of the highlights of this trip was the tour we went on with AO Tours. AO Tours offers 1 1/2 hour van tours of Austin and the surrounding areas. It was the best way to start the weekend in Austin because we got to hear about the history of the city, the best local spots, and got ideas for where we wanted to spend more time.
The tour guide was so kind and interacted with us throughout the tour. It’s a small group tour and you are seated the whole time. This had a lot of advantages on a day with 100 degree + temperatures. Being seated that morning did not bother us one bit.
Texas, and Austin in particular, has a really unique history because it has been a part of 6 different nations. One of those was the Republic of Texas (did you know Texas was its own country for a while?!) and so a tour can really give you insight into the history and how things evolved in Texas.
If you aren’t familiar with Texas history, I highly recommend this tour! It’s fun and really interesting to learn about. Even as a Texan, I hadn’t heard the stories in ten plus years and heard new ones on this tour.
There are other tours you can take of Austin too and the Visit Austin center located downtown is a really helpful hub that is willing to answer all your questions. They were super helpful and kind enough to help us out with our trip.
State Capital free
After our tour, we decided to check out the state capital. It is definitely not to be missed! The Capital itself is really impressive and beautiful. It’s made of Texas limestone and took millions of dollars back in the 1800s to build so you can imagine how much it would cost in money today. You can go into the Capital without a tour but will have to go through security.
It’s really fun to walk around and see all the history from when Texas was a republic, part of the confederacy, and as it became a state. As you walk around look for the details outlining Texas star. It is all over the place and in the tiny details. It’s a fun search to go on, from light fixtures to ceilings, to door hinges – it can be found everywhere!
The area outside the Capital is also very beautiful and worth walking around. There are lots of statues commemorating Texas history, but it is also a park that is well kept and people hang out in. We walked around and learned even more about the history of Texas. Free tours happen daily and you can simply go through security and join the next one. I haven’t done a tour but we saw lots while we walked around!
University of Texas Campus free
Due to time, we chose just to drive through campus while we were here. However, there are museums and beautiful buildings to be found on UT’s campus. If you’re not into swimming spots, you could easily spend more time walking around here and in the famous libraries on campus.
Barton Springs $8 for non-residents, $4 for residents
Barton Springs is probably one of the coolest and most unique public pools I have ever been to. It’s actually part of a river that runs through Austin and the water stays at a cool 68 degrees year-round. It has a natural limestone bottom and awesome views of downtown. It was absolutely beautiful to visit and the perfect way to spend a really hot afternoon in Austin.
There is a free side and a paid side for Barton Springs. The paid side feeds into the free side with a filter going through one pool back into the river (the free side). We chose to hang out on the free side because we wanted something a little less crowded. The free side barely had room for people to stand while the side we were on was fairly empty in comparison.
There is an area of the pool where floaties are allowed and it does get pretty deep with a diving board in the middle. The rocks are very slippery so you should be careful when visiting.
After 8 pm on most days, the pool is free. Check the website for the latest details.
Seeing the Bats free
Every night from March to October, bats fly over the Ann W. Richards Congress Ave. Bridge. I, unfortunately, didn’t get a good picture but this is the bridge before dark! While they are in peak numbers, you can see over a million in one night. While we were there there were about 100,000 and it’s an incredible sight to see!
Get posted on the bridge at least 30 minutes before sunset because it seems everyone in Austin wants to see this awesome wonder. You can take kayak tours to see them while you are on the water which would be really fun to see. Definitely check out a sunset kayak tour if you want to spend a little more and see the bats up close!
BBQ and Music $15 for dinner
Texas is known for its barbecue and Austin is home to some of the best in the whole state. There are some spots like Franklin’s that are listed as top 50, but there are others that have been staples of Austin for a long time. If you opt for a spot like Franklin’s, expect to have to wait in line for hours to get a meal. We opted to check out Green Mesquite Barbecue where we listened to live music, ate delicious brisket, and
Go Out in Austin about $15 for two drinks
Austin is known for its party scene and for good reason. It’s home to the University of Texas and there are lots of spots to go out for a drink. The most famous area in Austin is known as 6th Street. Dirty 6th is the part that most people picture because it has the highest concentration of bars in the area and they close off the street after 10 pm. It’s easy to walk around this area and hop from one bar to the next.
Most of these bars also have live music nightly and offer specials. We stopped and three different bars along the road and they all had live music and something unique about them. It was actually pretty dead for a Saturday night and felt much more touristy with gift shops between bars.
There are other areas in Austin that are more well known by locals though. One of the more popular areas is Rainey Street. After checking out Dirty 6th, we popped into Clive for some drinks and it definitely had a way more relaxed feel but was definitely a lively scene. The bar across the street was made of a bunch of freight cars and had a line around the corner.
It was definitely really cool as well. The bars and restaurants were unique (just what you’d expect of Austin) and packed too. We took an Uber between the two areas and headed back from there to our Airbnb.
Day 2 – Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country is a beautiful part of Texas and not what most people think of when they think of Texas. I’ve actually spent a whole weekend there in Fredericksburg with some girlfriends. There are rolling hills, tons of trees/green, wineries, hikes, and lots of swimming holes/rivers/lakes. This area of Texas is very beautiful, unique, and right between Austin and San Antonio.
Austin Java $6
On day 2 we started out around 9 am to get to Jacob’s Well with our last stop in Austin, Austin Java. I got another breakfast taco and we had awesome nitro cold brew as we got on the road to see the Texas Hill Country.
Jacob’s Well $7 per permit
Jacob’s Well is one of the swimming holes I was just mentioning that makes Texas Hill Country so unique. It’s also the largest underwater cave in Texas and located in a nature preserve area now in order to preserve it. You must have permits to swim and they are timed for entry so it doesn’t get overcrowded. I suggest getting the earliest one you can because this means fewer people.
Getting a permit is a pretty easy process on their website and you can show the permits on your phone when you arrive. If you don’t have a permit, they will make you turn around (we saw it happen to people twice while we waited in line).
Once you are through the gate, park your car and you take a short hike to the swimming hole. We had no problems with the hike in flip-flops. There are only port-a-potties so be mindful of this lack of bathroom situation. We swam for a couple of hours in the morning and hiked back out before heading to lunch.
Blanco for Lunch and Antiques $12
We stopped in the town of Blanco near Jacob’s Well to grab lunch. We went to Blanco Bowling Club Cafe where we stuck out as “city kids” (we were asked where we were from) and ate some awesome diner food. I had chicken fried steak (that I hadn’t had in years) and Andrew had a burger. It was the fix we needed. The place is actually also a bowling alley and you can see the lanes in the back while you are eating.
We then stopped at a cute little bakery The Bean and Biscuit where we got some peach cobbler (this area is known for its peaches!) and listened to a little live music. We also walked the town square and checked out a few antique shops too. Andrew tried on every single cowboy hat but we had no luck. I bought really cute earrings at a little boutique!
Looking for barbecue along your drive? Lockhart is right between and is the official BBQ capital of Texas!
Hill Country Lavender Farm free
I had heard about Texas lavender and if you follow me on Instagram you know I love lavender! So, we made a stop along the drive at a lavender farm. This place had everything you could think of with lavender infused in it! I chose to get some lavender fizz bath products and we drove on.
Wineries and Distilleries $7 – $12 a glass/tasting
Between Blanco and Fredricksburg you will hit a ton of wineries and distilleries! We stopped in at a few along our drive and had a great time. We stopped at a whiskey distillery called Andalusia Whisky Company where we did a tasting, then at a winery where I got Rose, Andrew got a white wine he loved. They had live music and it was pretty relaxing. I’ve got a list of wineries in my Fredericksburg guide here!
Fredericksburg is probably the best-known Texas Hill Country town. It has a really large downtown full of restaurants, shops, and wine shops. It’s definitely worth a stop and you can spend time eating, drinking, and shopping for hours. We walked around and Andrew finally found a cowboy hat he loved just in time for us to head to the rodeo. A must on this awesome road trip Austin to San Antonio.
Rodeo in Bandera $10 per ticket
A rodeo in Texas is the perfect way to see small-town Texas. The events, excitement, and performances are a lot of fun and have a strong tradition in Texas. I grew up going to rodeos.
There are tons of rodeos that happen each year and you can easily google to find the latest rodeos in the town of your choice. We found the Bandera Pro Rodeo just by googling rodeos on May 27. It was easy to buy tickets online or pay at the door.
Arrival in San Antonio Late
Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio
After the rodeo ended around 9 pm, we drove the rest of the way into San Antonio to our hotel downtown – The Sheraton Gunter. I loved this hotel because it has so much history! The hotel has been around since the early 1900s and there are so many unique and interesting features there. It has all the regular amenities you’d expect and want in a hotel as well. The location also can’t be beaten. It’s within walking distance of the riverwalk, Alamo, and all the downtown attractions. We didn’t have to take the car out until we left!
Day 3 – San Antonio
San Antonio is the oldest city in Texas. It was the capital at one point and has a lot of important history. It’s also a popular family vacation destination and has Six Flags, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and wax museums downtown. It is definitely a more family-oriented destination with less funky spots and more commercial feeling downtown. Even so, it’s totally worth visiting for a day. We were glad though that we did it toward the end of the trip just for a day instead of the other way around.
Coffee at Sip Brew Bar and Bakery $4
Across from the Sheraton Gunter is a really funky and cute coffee shop with great iced lattes. It was on the way to the River Walk so we stopped in for a coffee and pastry before starting off the day.
Walk the River Walk free
The River Walk has been a part of San Antonio since it was founded 300 years ago but became a tourist attraction during the late 1930s. The River Walk is full of shops, restaurants, and art in the Villita section of the River Walk. It really is beautiful to walk along the river and you’ll see lots of flowers, fountains, and vegetation along your walk. We got really lost here and for some reason, the maps along the River Walk are not North-South maps (they did not match google!) so be careful as you walk around not to get too lost!
You can take a boat tour along the River Walk and this can be a good option if you are tired. Note though the boats are pretty full and drive slowly so they are not a good way to cool off.
Pro-tip: Go in the morning before it gets really hot out. The water and all the plants do keep the River Walk cool, but nobody wants to walk in extreme heat. Instead, walk outside in the morning, shop, and eat in the afternoon. Go back out in the evening when it cools off!
The Alamo $15 for tour, free entry
A visit to the Alamo is a must when you’re in San Antonio. The Alamo is home to a lot of history and an infamous battle that led to tragedy. We opted to take a tour of the Alamo.
The tour we took is offered by the Alamo and should be reserved in advance. When we got there at 12:30, they were already sold out for the day. It was a very informative and interesting way to experience history. The tour had some major perks along with it too. When you purchase a ticket, you get to skip the very long lines to get in and go into restricted access areas inside the Alamo.
Late Lunch at Paloma Blanco $20 with two drinks
I absolutely love Mexican food and there are lots to go around in San Antonio. We chose to go to a spot off the River Walk to get away from the more touristy section before leaving town. They had $3 margarita specials and delicious chips and salsa. I had enchiladas again because they’re my favorite and we relaxed away from the heat. It was the perfect end to this road trip Austin to San Antonio.
Road trip Austin to San Antonio, seriously do it! You won’t regret spending a weekend seeing some of the coolest cities in Texas.