What to Know About Driving from Austin to Dallas

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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 many places to explore – the Lone Star State is a must-visit for any road trip enthusiast. opportunities for exploration, the Lone Star State is a road trip enthusiast’s dream.

The scenic drive from Austin to Dallas is one of the most popular routes for such an adventure. The Great Plains is a prime destination for road trips – it’s full of great views and interesting roadside attractions. 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.

How Long is the Drive from Austin to Dallas?

Distance: The distance between Austin and Dallas is approximately 200 miles, with an average travel time of 3.5 hours.

Austin, Texas skyline

What are the Best Routes from Austin to Dallas?

Austin, Texas skyline over I-35

When traveling from Austin to Dallas, you have a few different route options to consider:

Interstate-35 (I-35) Route: The most direct route from Austin to Dallas is via Interstate-35 (I-35). This highway stretches about 195 miles, and depending on traffic and your driving speed, the journey can take anywhere from three to five hours.

To start your trip, head north on I-35. As you drive, you’ll pass through the beautiful Texas Hill Country, where you can enjoy the scenic views of rolling hills and native plants. Your next notable stop is Waco, which offers a variety of attractions to explore. After your fill of Waco, continue driving north on I-35. This stretch of the road is straight and flat, giving you plenty of time to take in the expansive Texan landscape. Eventually, you’ll arrive in the vibrant city of Dallas, ready for the next part of your adventure.

Scenic Route through Hill Country: For a more picturesque journey, you might opt for the scenic route through the Hill Country. This route is also about 195 miles long and typically takes around three and a half hours to complete.

Begin by taking Highway 290 west toward Johnson City. From there, head north on Highway 281. You’ll pass through charming towns like Blanco, Marble Falls, and Burnet along the way. Don’t miss the stunning Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a perfect spot for a quick hike or photo opportunity. Once you reach Lampasas, continue north on Highway 183 until you reach Dallas.

Whichever route you choose, you’re in for a memorable drive from Austin to Dallas.

The Ideal Time for a Road Trip from Austin to Dallas

Are you planning a road trip from Austin to Dallas? Timing can make all the difference, so let’s discuss the best times to hit the road.

First off, try to avoid the scorching summer months of June, July, and August. Texas can get incredibly hot during these months, with temperatures often soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Springtime and Fall

Instead, aim for a trip between March and May or September and November. The weather is much more pleasant during these periods, ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, the scenery is breathtaking, especially in spring and fall.

Springtime in Texas means vibrant wildflowers, including the famous bluebonnets, creating a colorful backdrop for your journey. Dallas in the spring is a sight to behold, with blossoming flowers and perfect weather for exploring the city.

Fall is just as wonderful, with the changing colors of the leaves and cooler temperatures making it ideal for both urban adventures and catching a football game. The comfortable weather also makes it a great time for hiking and outdoor activities along the scenic route through Hill Country.

How about Winter?

Winter in Dallas is relatively mild compared to other parts of the U.S., with daytime highs in the 50s to 60s and nighttime lows in the 30s to 40s. Snow is rare but possible, so if you plan a winter trip, watch the weather forecast for any potential snow or ice that could affect driving conditions.

Can We Still Go in the Summer?

Even though summer can be hot, Dallas offers plenty of indoor attractions, like museums and the Space Center, which are air-conditioned and provide a cool escape. If you happen to visit in June or July, you can still enjoy outdoor activities like Shakespeare in the Park, an enchanting outdoor theater experience.

Overall, spring and fall are the best times for a road trip from Austin to Dallas, offering the most comfortable weather and vibrant scenery. But with a bit of preparation, you can enjoy this road trip any time of the year.

Towns to Explore Along the Journey from Austin to Dallas

Austin Congress Street Bridge and Texas Capitol Building

Your road trip from Austin to Dallas promises an exciting adventure with plenty of fascinating stops along the way. Here are some towns you won’t want to miss:

Austin

Start your journey in the vibrant city of Austin, known for its lively music scene, delicious food, and great outdoor activities. Make sure to visit the Texas State Capitol and take a stroll or bike ride along the Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail. A dip in the refreshing Barton Springs Pool is a must. Don’t forget to indulge in Austin’s famous Tex-Mex and barbecue at some of the city’s renowned restaurants.

Waco

Roughly halfway to Dallas, you’ll find the charming town of Waco. This town is home to Magnolia Market at the Silos, a shopping and dining hotspot created by Chip and Joanna Gaines from the hit TV show “Fixer Upper.” While in Waco, also check out the Waco Mammoth National Monument, the Cameron Park Zoo, and the fascinating Dr. Pepper Museum.

Fort Worth

As you get closer to Dallas, make a stop in Fort Worth. This city is rich in Western heritage and culture. Explore the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, visit the impressive Kimbell Art Museum, and enjoy the lively entertainment district of Sundance Square. Don’t miss the chance to catch a rodeo or enjoy some live country music performances while you’re there.

Dallas

Finally, you’ll arrive in Dallas, a multicultural metropolis offering a wealth of experiences. Visit world-class galleries, shopping spots, and top-notch dining establishments. Be sure to check out the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, which explores the history of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Take a walk through the beautiful Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

Stop-Over Spots Along the Way from Austin to Dallas

As you drive along I-35 from Austin to Dallas, make sure to check out these must-visit spots for a fun and memorable journey:

Round Rock Premium Outlets – Round Rock, TX

Shopping is a big deal in Texas, and the Round Rock Premium Outlets are a prime example. This huge retail center spans 430,000 square feet and houses 125 stores. You’ll find a fantastic selection of well-known brands like Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Calvin Klein, Coach, and Giorgio Armani. Whether you’re updating your wardrobe or hunting for the perfect gift, this outlet has you covered. Just remember to check their opening hours, as they can vary by day.

Slovacek’s and Czech Stop – West, TX

Sausage kolache

Kolaches, sweet pastries that have become a Texas breakfast favorite thanks to Czech immigrants, are a must-try. In the town of West, you’ll find two famous bakeries: Slovacek’s and Czech Stop. Driving north? Stop by the iconic Czech Stop and try their spicy jalapeño sausage with cheese. Heading south? Make a stop at Slovacek’s, which even has a small dog park. Both spots offer delicious grab-and-go options, and there are gas stations nearby for a quick refuel.

Blue Hole Park – Georgetown, TX

San Gabriel River at Blue Hole Park in Georgetown, Texas

Just a short drive away, Blue Hole Park in Georgetown is an outdoor gem worth visiting. Don’t mix it up with the more famous swimming hole in Wimberley. This Blue Hole Park features a beautiful lagoon surrounded by limestone bluffs, creating a perfect setting for swimming, picnicking, and hiking. During the summer, you’ll see plenty of people enjoying the water, but remember, for safety reasons, cliff jumping is not allowed.

Inner Space Cavern – Georgetown, TX

an Inner Space Cavern

Located right off Exit 259, Inner Space Caverns is a natural wonder that was discovered during highway construction in the 1960s. Its convenient location makes it an easy stop, and once you start the underground tour, you’ll find yourself far beneath the Interstate. Be prepared to be awed by stunning rock formations shaped over thousands of years. A great perk is that the cavern stays at a constant 72 degrees year-round, making it a comfortable escape no matter the weather outside.

You can choose between the classic Adventure Tour, which takes you through the most beautiful rooms and formations, or the more challenging Wild Cave Tour, which offers a deeper spelunking experience. The tours last just over an hour and cost around $20 per person, with no reservations needed. After marveling at this underground treasure, you’ll be ready to continue your journey!

Robertson’s Hams & the Choppin’ Block – Salado, TX

If you’re passing through Salado, you have to stop at Robertson’s Hams & the Choppin’ Block. This place is famous for its amazing jerky made from beef, venison, and turkey, with a fantastic variety of flavors to sample. Their website, realbeefjerky.com, says it all—you can trust that their jerky is top-notch. Plus, they serve a delicious and affordable ham sandwich on potato bread or Texas toast. Robertson’s has been a local treasure for over 30 years, maintaining its timeless charm.

Buc-ee’s Gas Station – Temple, TX

a Buc-ee's convenience store

Next up is Buc-ee’s in Temple, an essential stop to kick off your Texas road trip. You can’t miss the quirky beaver mascot on billboards across the state. Buc-ee, the patron saint of Texas road trips, oversees a gas station experience like no other.

You’ll be amazed by the size of this place. The huge convenience store offers an incredible selection of Buc-ee’s brand road trip snacks, like the famous Beaver Nuggets—sweet corn puffs you’ll love. There are countless gas pumps, a wide array of jerky and sweets, and plenty of prepared foods to satisfy your cravings. And don’t forget about the impeccably clean restrooms, which have even won awards. Seriously, it’s the best spot for a bathroom break on your trip.

Dr. Pepper Museum – Waco, TX

Dr. Pepper Museum – Waco, TX

If you’re a fan of Dr. Pepper, a stop at the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco is a must. Established in 1885, Dr. Pepper is the oldest major soft drink brand in the U.S. The museum takes you on a fascinating journey through the brand’s history, featuring exhibits on its origins, advertising campaigns, and a collection of cool memorabilia. You can also enjoy various interactive experiences centered around the world of soda.

There is no need for reservations or online tickets—just drop by during their opening hours. And the best part? Your admission includes a complimentary Dr. Pepper to enjoy as you explore the museum.

Magnolia Market at the Silos – Waco, TX

Magnolia Market in Waco

Anyone who loves HGTV is familiar with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the dynamic duo behind the hit show “Fixer Upper.” If you’re a fan, you need to visit their iconic Magnolia Market at the Silos. This complex is a paradise for home goods shopping and more. Even if you don’t know much about Chip and Joanna, Magnolia Market is a wonderful spot to enjoy the sunshine, shop for unique items, and savor delicious food from the various food trucks on the spacious lawn.

Health Camp – Waco, TX

Ready for a lunch break? First, brace yourself for the infamous Waco traffic circle—it can be either a thrilling or nerve-wracking experience, depending on your driving skills. After navigating the circle, head to Health Camp, a classic burger joint with a cheeky name that’s been serving delicious meals since 1948. Enjoy their mouthwatering burgers, refreshing shakes, and especially their highly recommended onion rings.

Homestead Heritage – Waco, TX

Homestead Heritage is a unique Christian community focused on agrarian and craft practices. Their expansive land covers over 100 acres, with around 25 acres dedicated to the Homestead Craft Village, open to visitors from Monday to Saturday. As you explore the village, you’ll discover various handcrafted items, including furniture, ironwork, pottery, and fiber crafts, all available for purchase.

Homestead Heritage offers more than just shopping. Enjoy family-friendly activities like hayrides, take part in classes, or join small workshops to learn different artisanal skills. The village also features a fantastic restaurant that serves delicious homestyle food, making it the perfect place to complete your visit.

Waco Mammoth National Monument – Waco, TX

Long before buffalo roamed the Texas plains, massive herds of Columbian mammoths wandered the landscapes of the Americas. A visit to the Waco Mammoth National Monument lets you witness the incredible fossilized remains of these majestic creatures, along with other extinct animals from the Ice Age. Discovered in 1978, this site showcases 21 mammoths, providing a fascinating 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. Don’t miss this chance to connect with ancient history and marvel at the remnants of these colossal creatures.

Cameron Park – Waco, TX

After exploring the mammoth remains, take some time to relax and enjoy nature at Cameron Park. Nestled along the beautiful Brazos River, this park boasts an extensive network of trails that even avid hikers from Austin’s Greenbelt would appreciate. Whether you prefer hiking or driving, you can reach scenic viewpoints atop limestone bluffs, offering stunning vistas of the river below. Be sure to check out Jacob’s Ladder, a popular staircase with around 100 zigzagging steps that visitors love to climb.

Munster Mansion Replica – Waxahachie, TX

Before you reach Dallas, detour Waxahachie to see the Munster Mansion Replica. This incredible sight will take you back to the beloved 1960s sitcom. Owned by Sandra and Charles McKee, this replica faithfully recreates the iconic Munster family mansion, inside and out, room by room. Fans of the show will be amazed by the meticulous attention to detail, with each room recreated to match its on-screen counterpart.

While it isn’t open as a public tourist attraction since the owners live there, private tours can be arranged if you book in advance. The McKees also host monthly murder mystery dinners, providing a thrilling and immersive experience for visitors.

Conclusion

Going on a road trip from Austin to Dallas can offer you many exciting experiences, scenic landscapes, and unique attractions. There are so many great stopovers along the way, making the journey just as memorable as the destination.

Consider the best time to travel so you can ensure a pleasant trip. Whether you choose the direct route along I-35 or opt for scenic detours through charming towns and breathtaking landscapes, the Austin to Dallas road trip promises adventure, discovery, and a true taste of Texas hospitality.

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