Road trips are a classic pastime for Americans, and there’s no perfect place to take one than in the huge state of Texas. With its stunning landscapes, expansive highways, charming small towns, and endless opportunities for exploration, the Lone Star State is a road trip enthusiast’s dream.
One of the most popular routes for such an adventure is the scenic drive from Austin to Dallas. The Great Plains are a prime destination for road trips. Whether you’re in a rush to cross the vast center of our country or eager to explore the peculiar roadside attractions scattered throughout the region, driving is undeniably the best way to experience the “fly-over” states of the Great Plains.
To be fair, this is a relatively short drive compared to others. However, don’t let that discourage you from making a few stops to admire the sights and explore this part of central Texas. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about driving between Austin and Dallas.
Distance and Route Options for Traveling from Austin to Dallas
Distance: The distance between Austin and Dallas is approximately 200 miles, with an average travel time of 3.5 hours.
There are several route options available when traveling from Austin to Dallas:
- I-35 – The most direct route between Austin to Dallas is Interstate-35 (I-35). Spanning around 195 miles, traveling through the I-35 can take three to five hours, depending on traffic and driving speed.
To travel from Austin to Dallas, start by heading north on Interstate-35 (I-35). As you drive along this route, you’ll pass through the captivating Texas Hill Country, where you can take a moment to appreciate the scenic view of rolling hills and native plants.
As your journey continues, your next notable stop will be Waco, where you can explore a handful of attractions (more on that later). Once you’ve finished exploring Waco, resume your drive north on I-35. This portion of the route offers a straight and flat drive, allowing you to immerse yourself in the vast Texan landscape. Finally, you’ll reach the bustling metropolis of Dallas, ready for the next chapter of your adventure.
- Scenic Route through Hill Country – This alternative route also covers approximately 195 miles and takes approximately three and a half hours to complete. Begin by taking Highway 290 west towards Johnson City, then proceed north on Highway 281.
Along this path, you’ll encounter picturesque towns like Blanco, Marble Falls, and Burnet, as well as the breathtaking Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Once you reach Lampasas, continue north on Highway 183 until you reach Dallas.
The Ideal Time to go on a Road Trip from Austin to Dallas
The weather in Texas can vary significantly throughout the year, so it’s important to choose the best time to embark on your road trip from Austin to Dallas. It’s advisable to avoid the scorching hot summer months of June, July, and August, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, consider planning your vacation between March and May or from September to November.
During these seasons, the weather is cooler and more pleasant, ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the scenery during spring and fall is absolutely stunning. You’ll have the opportunity to witness vibrant wildflowers, including the iconic bluebonnets that bloom across the state.
Springtime in Dallas is vibrant, with the city coming alive with blossoming flowers and comfortable weather for outdoor exploration. Fall is equally inviting, with the changing colors of leaves and cooler temperatures, making it perfect for urban adventures or catching a football game.
While summer in Dallas can be hot, many attractions, such as museums and the Space Center, offer indoor and air-conditioned experiences. If you visit during June or July, you can also enjoy the refreshing summer breeze while watching Shakespeare in the Park, a delightful outdoor theater experience.
Dallas experiences relatively mild winters compared to other parts of the US, with highs in the 50s-60s degrees Fahrenheit and lows in the 30s-40s degrees Fahrenheit. While snow is not common, it can occur occasionally. If you plan your trip during the winter months, be sure to stay updated on the weather forecast for any potential snow or ice that might affect driving conditions.
Overall, spring and fall offer the best weather and the most vibrant experiences in Dallas. However, you can enjoy your road trip throughout the year with the right preparations.
Towns to Explore Along the Journey from Austin to Dallas
The adventure begins in the lively city of Austin, renowned for its vibrant live music scene, culinary delights, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. Don’t miss visiting the Texas State Capitol, exploring the Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail, and taking a refreshing dip in the Barton Springs Pool. Indulge in the city’s famous Tex-Mex cuisine and barbecue at some of its renowned restaurants.
Located roughly halfway between Austin and Dallas, the charming town of Waco awaits. This city is home to the Magnolia Market at the Silos, a shopping and dining destination created by Chip and Joanna Gaines from the popular TV show “Fixer Upper.” Other notable attractions in Waco include the Waco Mammoth National Monument, the Cameron Park Zoo, and the intriguing Dr. Pepper Museum.
As you approach Dallas, make sure to make a stop in Fort Worth, famous for its Western heritage and rich culture. Explore the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, visit the impressive Kimbell Art Museum, and immerse yourself in the entertainment district of Sundance Square. Catching a rodeo or enjoying live country music performances are also popular activities in Fort Worth.
This multicultural metropolis offers a wealth of experiences, including world-class galleries, shopping destinations, and dining establishments. Don’t miss the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, which delves into the history surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Explore the beautiful Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
As you travel from Austin to Dallas, these towns offer unique attractions, local flavors, and cultural experiences that will enrich your road trip adventure.
Stop-Over Spots Along the Way from Austin to Dallas
As you go along the I-35 from Austin to Dallas, here are some must-visit places where you can stop over:
Round Rock Premium Outlets – Round Rock, TX
Round Rock Premium Outlets In the Lone Star State, shopping experiences are as vast as the Texas skies, and Round Rock Premium Outlets are no exception. This expansive retail destination boasts an impressive 430,000 square feet of space, housing 125 stores. Prepare to be delighted by a wide range of renowned brands such as Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Calvin Klein, Coach, Giorgio Armani, and many more.
Whether you’re looking to revamp your wardrobe or find the perfect gift, Round Rock Premium Outlets offers a diverse selection to cater to your shopping desires, it’s worth noting that opening and closing hours vary depending on the day, so be sure to check the schedule before planning your visit.
Slovacek’s and Czech Stop – West, TX
Kolaches are sweet pastries that have become a beloved breakfast staple in the Lone Star State, thanks to the influence of Czech immigrants.
In the town of West, you’ll find two prominent bakeries that sell this delicacy: Slovacek’s and Czech Stop. As you drive north, be sure to visit the renowned Czech Stop, where you can savor classics like the spicy jalapeno sausage with cheese. If your journey takes you south, make a stop at Slovacek’s, which even features a small dog park. These locations offer convenient grab-and-go options, with gas stations nearby for refueling.
Blue Hole Park – Georgetown, TX
An outdoor gem awaits just a short distance away at Blue Hole Park in Georgetown. Don’t confuse it with the well-known swimming hole in Wimberley. Blue Hole Park features a scenic lagoon bordered by limestone bluffs, creating a picturesque setting. It’s perfect for swimming, picnicking, and hiking. During the summer, you’ll likely see people splashing around, but please note that jumping off the cliffs into the water is prohibited for safety reasons.
Inner Space Cavern – Georgetown, TX
Located at Exit 259, Inner Space Caverns is a natural marvel discovered during highway construction in the 1960s. Its proximity to the road makes it easily accessible, and during the underground tour, you’ll find yourself far beneath the Interstate. Prepare to be amazed by the magnificent rock formations sculpted over thousands of years. An added bonus is that the cavern maintains a constant temperature of 72 degrees year-round, providing a pleasant respite regardless of the weather above ground.
Choose between the classic Adventure Tour, which showcases the most breathtaking rooms and formations, or the Wild Cave Tour, a more physically demanding spelunking experience that takes you deeper into the cave system. With tours lasting a little over an hour and costing around $20 per person, reservations are not required. Once you’ve experienced this underground wonder, it’s time to continue your journey to ATX!
Robertson’s Hams & the Choppin’ Block – Salado, TX
Alongside an assortment of eclectic items, this establishment is known for selling exceptional jerky made from beef, venison, and turkey, boasting an impressive variety of flavors for you to sample. With a website like realbeefjerky.com, you can trust that their jerky is the real deal. Additionally, you can savor a delicious and affordable ham sandwich served on potato bread or Texas toast. Robertson’s is a true treasure, maintaining its timeless charm for over 30 years.
Buc-ee’s Gas Station – Temple, TX
Located in Temple, Buc-ee’s is a must-visit destination to kick off your Texas road trip. You’ve probably noticed the adorable (albeit slightly unsettling) beaver mascot featured on billboards across the state. Buc-ee, the patron saint of Texas road trips, presides over a gas station experience like no other.
Prepare to be awe-struck by the sheer size of this roadside extravaganza. The convenience store is large, and you may want to indulge in an amazing selection of Buc-ee’s brand road trip snacks (like the famous Buc-ee’s Beaver nuggets, a delightfully sweet corn puff. Additionally, you’ll find an unmatched number of gas pumps, a vast array of jerky and sweets, and prepared foods to satisfy your cravings.– all available in generous quantities.
Buc-ee’s has gained a dedicated following, partially due to its impeccably clean restrooms, which have even won awards. Yes, you read that correctly—clean restrooms are a point of pride here, so this is the best spot for a restroom stop.
Dr. Pepper Museum – Waco, TX
For fans of the iconic soft drink, a visit to the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco is an absolute must. Established in 1885, Dr. Pepper holds the distinction of being the oldest major soft drink brand in the United States. This museum provides a fascinating journey through the history of the brand, showcasing exhibits on its origins, advertising campaigns, and a collection of captivating memorabilia. Here, you can immerse yourself in various interactive experiences centered around the world of soda.
No need to worry about making a reservation ahead of time, as online ticket purchases are not available. Simply drop by during the museum’s opening hours and enjoy the complimentary Dr. Pepper with your admission.
Magnolia Market at the Silos – Waco, TX
Anyone who loves HGTV knows Chip and Joanna, the couple behind the hit show Fixer Upper. If you’re a fan, take the time to visit their iconic complex to shop for home goods and more. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Chip and Joanna, spending time at Magnolia Market is a delightful way to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the food trucks on the spacious lawn.
Health Camp – Waco, TX
By now, it’s likely time for a well-deserved lunch break, isn’t it? But first, brace yourself for the infamous Waco traffic circle—an experience that can either be thrilling or terrifying, depending on your confidence in your driving skills. Once you’ve conquered the traffic circle, head to Health Camp, a burger joint with a cheeky name that has been a Waco classic since 1948. Indulge in their mouthwatering burgers, refreshing shakes, and, above all, their highly recommended onion rings. Alternatively, you can choose to wait for up to two hours to dine at their new neighbor across the parking lot, Magnolia Table, owned by Waco’s most prominent power couple.
Homestead Heritage – Waco, TX
Homestead Heritage is an intentional Christian community centered around agrarian and craft practices. Their sprawling community land covers over 100 acres, with approximately 25 acres dedicated to the Homestead Craft Village, open for visitors from Monday to Saturday. Explore this village and discover a treasure trove of handcrafted delights, including furniture, ironwork, pottery, and fiber crafts, available for purchase.
Beyond shopping, Homestead Heritage offers a plethora of family-friendly activities to enjoy. Take a delightful hayride, participate in classes, or join small workshops where you can learn and engage with various artisanal skills. Additionally, the village boasts a fantastic restaurant that serves satisfying homestyle food, providing a perfect dining experience to complete your visit.
Waco Mammoth National Monument – Waco, TX
In the days long before buffalo roamed the plains of Texas, colossal herds of Columbian mammoths roamed the vast landscapes of the Americas. Make a stop at the Waco Mammoth National Monument to witness the awe-inspiring fossilized remains of these magnificent creatures, along with other extinct animals from the Ice Age. The site, first discovered in 1978, showcases 21 mammoths and is an exceptional glimpse into the distant past. The highlight of the monument is the dig shelter, where the bones are still embedded in the ground, offering a captivating exhibit for visitors of all ages.
According to the monument’s website, this national treasure represents “the first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths” in the entire nation. Visit this fascinating site to connect with the ancient past and marvel at the remnants of these colossal creatures.
Cameron Park – Waco, TX
After exploring the fascinating world of mammoth bones, take a breath of fresh air in Cameron Park. Nestled along the picturesque Brazos River, this park offers an expansive network of trails that even an avid Austin Greenbelt enthusiast would find impressive. Whether you prefer hiking or driving, you can venture to one of the park’s scenic viewpoints perched atop limestone bluffs, offering stunning vistas of the river below. Don’t miss the beloved Jacob’s Ladder, a staircase with around 100 zigzagging steps that is a favorite among park visitors.
Munster Mansion Replica – Waxahachie, TX
Just before you reach Dallas, Waxahachie beckons you with its alluring detours. One of which is the Munster Mansion Replica, a sight that will transport you back to the beloved 1960s sitcom. Owned by Sandra and Charles McKee, this remarkable replica faithfully recreates the iconic Munster family mansion, both inside and out, room by room. Fans of the show will be astounded by the meticulous attention to detail, with each room painstakingly recreated to match its on-screen counterpart.
While it is not open as a public tourist attraction due to the fact that the owners actually reside there, private tours can be arranged (so it’s necessary to book in advance). Additionally, the McKees host monthly murder mystery dinners, providing a thrilling and immersive experience for visitors.
Embarking on a road trip from Austin to Dallas in Texas offers a wealth of exciting experiences, scenic landscapes, and unique attractions. There are so many places you can stop over on the way, making the trip all about the journey than the destination. With careful consideration of the best time to visit, taking into account the weather and seasonal attractions, road trippers can ensure a pleasant and enjoyable journey. Whether opting for the direct route along I-35 or taking scenic detours through charming towns and breathtaking landscapes, the Austin to Dallas road trip promises adventure, discovery, and a true taste of Texas hospitality.