Ready for some Lone Star road trip? The Dallas-San Antonio route makes for a good start, whether you have an end destination to go to or just want to have a joyride.
But what is driving from Dallas to San Antonio (and vice versa) really like? Well, people’s comments differ. Some say it’s pretty scenic, while others say that it’s not that naturally stunning at all as it consists mostly of stretches of flat terrain.
In total, the trip will take you nearly 280 miles, and there are some cool landmarks along the way that are worth investigating. Dallas and San Antonio are two iconic Texas cities for a good reason – or a myriad of good reasons! And these reasons only await your discovery.
Driving on the I-35
Driving from Dallas to San Antonio (or vice versa) is usually done on the I-35. For the uninitiated, the I-35 is not always the smoothest, easiest, and most fun route as you would like it to imagine. If you’re able to do it in about three hours (if you’re going to and from your end destination), consider yourself lucky. That is, if you don’t encounter being pulled over, getting detoured by the endless road-blocking construction, or getting eaten up by a semi-truck.
Fortunately, the I-35 is not the only option. If you want to get away from the (mostly) fickle and crazy scene at the I-35, you can go off the beaten path, like Route 281, for instance. It will make a more fun and less stressful road trip. Plus, avoid rush hours.
Here are five of the great roadside spots and hidden gems that will fill your stops between Dallas and San Antonio on a day trip.
Buc-ee’s Gas Station (Temple, TX)
If you’ve never been to Buc-ee’s Gas Station before, but at least heard the name, you may think of it as just another average gas station. However, Buc-ee’s is anything but just another place to go full tank.
Buc-ee’s has become an iconic Texan institution. Your Texas road trip won’t be complete without making a stop here.
If Buc-ee’s 60 or so gas pumps won’t wow you, it also has a Costco-sized convenience store and 80 soda fountains to satisfy every customer entering the premises. Its restrooms of 33 urinals and 50 toilet seats are immaculately clean. In fact, Buc-ee’s sparkling clean restrooms have actually won several awards (yes, there’s such a thing).
Let’s go back to the behemoth convenience store. Buc-ee’s boasts a dizzying array of Buc-ee’s legendary brand road trip snacks, such as its world-famous jerkies, fudge, chips, and of course, its iconic Beaver Nuggets – those delightful little morsels are both crunchy and puffy. After filling up gas, make sure to grab a bag or two of the Beaver Nuggets before continuing your road trip.
Slovacek’s (West, TX)
West is a tiny Texan town with a significant Czech immigrant population. It’s the land of kolache – a puffy dough that holds a filling (usually fruit jam) in the center. Kolaches can also be savory.
Slovacek’s functions as a part-gas station, part-convenience store, part-dog park, part-gift shop and part-bakery. It’s like Buc-ee’s but much smaller and with a homey and cozy European atmosphere. While you’re there, don’t forget to order some Czech pastries, including, of course, its famous kolache. But you may get stuck in a choice paralysis, as Slovacek’s has 37 types of kolaches! So, it’s best to ask the shop about their best sellers.
If you’re a big fan of the HGTV series Fixer Upper, you would definitely not want to pass up Waco.
Waco is the seat of three major colleges including Baylor University, so the city exudes some sort of a vibrant college atmosphere. It offers a myriad of things to see and do.
For Fixer Upper fans, we’re sure you’re dying to visit Waco since the show is set here and is all about renovating properties to create a new and magical living space. Since the popularity of the series skyrocketed, Waco has become a tourist destination.
Visitors to Waco can check out the renovated homes in the city, then head to Magnolia Market at the Silos, which is operated by the show’s stars and real-life couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Of course, Waco is more than just a mecca for Fixer Upper buffs. Downtown Waco is a lovely place to have a walk, visit the historic buildings that now house several businesses, then stop for a cup of coffee. Fans of Dr. Pepper will be happy to check out the iconic Dr. Pepper Museum and learn everything they want to learn from the famous soft drink brand. If you are into wacky stuff, start a self-guided tour at the Webb Gallery that curates kooky, wild, and whimsical displays of art pieces.
Cameron Park is one of the biggest parks in Texas – so big that it has a zoo inside it!
San Marcos Town Square (San Marcos, TX)
If you’re traveling as a romantic or married couple and looking for somewhere idyllic, your heart will surely flutter as your car rolls into the San Marcos Town Square. Established in 1851, the square is lorded over by the majestic Hays County Courthouse in the center, which was constructed in 1908. It displays a beautiful Classic Revival architecture.
Check out indie specialty shops and boutiques, fine dining options, hipster coffee houses, late-night snack shops, bars, and free museums. Open-air musical performances and other events are also held there. Indeed, the San Marcos Town Square is a mix of homey and intimate. The Kissing Alley is one of the square’s hidden gems, with colorful murals, overhead string lights, and scenic views of the Hays County Courthouse – a place for the perfect “couples” pictorial!
Caves in San Antonio, TX
Check out a couple of nature spots as you reach the tail end of your Dallas-San Antonio road trip.
First is the Natural Bridge Caverns, which are some of the most beautiful in Texas. It has plenty of adventures for every visitor, whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with the family. Discover rocks, water streams, fossils, large underground chambers, breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites, and the magnificent limestone bridge that gives the Natural Bridge Caverns its name.
Second is the Bracken Cave Preserve, which houses the largest bat colony in the world, and obviously, the best place to see the flying mammals there. It’s also a conservation site that aims to protect and preserve the bat population of the area.
If you have ever taken a Dallas-San Antonio road trip and discovered other gems along the way, feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!