I want to come back to Hill Country, Texas. We barely scratched the surface during our 9 day visit.
The Texas Hill Country is a huge region that encompasses 12 counties and is located at the crossroads of West, Central and South Texas.
It encompasses two major cities: Austin and San Antonio. That means there are so many things to do in Texas Hill Country.
I forgot that Texas is huge!
On our first day exploring the Texas Hill Country we had a two hour drive from our RV Park at New Braunfels just to get to Fredericksburg TX!
I knew then it was time to change our schedule a little and focus more on the region near New Braunfels. It’s not ideal to spend so much time in the car for day exploration trips.
That meant I was scrapping Bandera Cowboy Country and the Highland Lakes Chain near Austin. Since I’m intent on slowing down on this RV trip I have to be okay with letting go.
With so many things to do in Texas, I penciled in on my must return and explore further list – the Hill Country of Texas!
And I added a side note to make it either spring for the wildflower explosion, or summer so we could partake in one of my favorite summer activities – tube floating down the rivers.
Hill Country abounds with rivers and gorgeous state parks, and charming small towns.
I could see this being a region I could camp at for a couple of weeks and dive deeply into the serenity and stillness of lake living.
Oh, and for the unicorn lovers, we noticed a giant water tower on the outskirts of Landry Park in New Braunfels that said Unicorn Country.
Savannah is obsessed with unicorns and so this was her favorite thing to see in Texas Hill Country. Of course we whipped out her The Magical Unicorn Society Official Handbook later that evening to see if it got a mention.
We did not see a unicorn while in Texas Hill Country. Let us know if you did?
Please, if you have insider knowledge why Texas Hill Country is known as Unicorn Country let me know in the comments.
For the following enchanting things to do in the Hill Country, I’d spend a day in the Fredericksburg area, a day in the New Braunfels area, and a day in Gruene.
Of course, change things as they suit you!
Fredericksburg TX, or Fritztown, is an historical German town in Texas in the middle of Hill Country.
It’s close location to Austin Texas and San Antonio makes it one of the most popular places to see in Texas, especially as it is in the heart of wine country here.
There are quite a few things to do in Fredericksburg, we only spent half a day and this is what we enjoyed.
Climb Enchanted Rock
How can you ignore something called Enchanted Rock?
Once you round the bend on the way in and the vista opens up to this huge pink granite rock jutting out of the valley floor, you know you’ve reached a place that holds spiritual power.
This was once known to be a magical place for the local Apache and Comanche tribes.
It reminded me of Uluru in Outback Australia with its magnetic ability to draw you in.
One thing to be aware of is that Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has limited parking space. Once it is full, they close down the park.
If you are lucky, you’ll receive a ticket to come back later in the afternoon when it reopens. It’s guaranteed entry, but they only give a certain number of those out.
Either way, you’ll end up waiting in a line of cars to get a spot.
We arrived at about 11 am (stupid decision on our behalf – bad planning and slow to get moving) and after 30-minutes waiting in line, we received the ticket to come back at 3pm.
We had another 30-minute wait then, but at least got into the park.
It was totally worth it.
The climb up Enchanted Rock is steep but not as bad as it looks. It’s just the first part of the smooth rock that is pretty intense. I found it pretty easy and exhilarating.
The girls both handled the walk fine (aged 11 and 7) so if you have kids they’ll be fine too!
The 360 views from the top of the surrounding Texas countryside are extraordinary.
I commented to Kalyra,
“It is so wonderful to once again be seeing miles of open spaces without any built up places.”
It reminded me so much of Outback Australia.
Those experiences where you can finally let go as it’s just you and mother nature for as far as you can see. You feel like you’re learning to breathe again. You can just sit down and soak up the joy and simplicity of it.
The only difference is that in Australia you’re most likely to have this view all to yourself.
We didn’t realize, but if you walk down the other side of the rock there is a clump of rocks that have hidden caves to explore!
Read More – Tips for climbing Enchanted Rock Texas
Explore Downtown Fredericksburg
I wasn’t a raving fan of downtown Fredericksburg, although many people are.
It still retains much of its German influence, which is part of its attraction to many. For me, it felt like it had lost a bit of its soul along the way in its effort to maintain its touristic appeal.
But that is going to happen in popular tourist destinations. I much preferred Gruene, a town that has managed to keep its historical soul despite its popularity.
It’s just an energy that you feel, which can often be affected by the energy you bring to it. So you could have a completely different experience to me.
Fredericksburg has plenty of boutique stores in many of its old sandstone buildings, in fact over 100, so you can imagine shopping is a popular thing to do in Fredericksburg.
The main street is very wide and filled with loads of people. There are also lots of German restaurants and breweries.
We stopped in at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, the oldest brewpub in Texas for lunch.
Again, I wouldn’t rave about it. My German potato skins came out cold and the beer was just okay. We only had one beer though, so not a fair judgement.
There are plenty of wine tasting bars along the main street of Fredericksburg as well if you can’t get out to the nearby wineries.
See the Guitar Picking Circle at Luckenbach Texas
Despite this being a literal three building town, you may have heard of Luckenbach, Texas.
It was made famous by these lines in a Waylon Jennings song:
Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys
Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and
Newberry’s train songs and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain
I had never heard of that song until I Googled things to do in the Hill Country, and Luckenbach Texas popped up as a unique and unexpected highlight.
Guitar picking and country music under a 500 year old oak tree. How could we not visit?
You couldn’t get much better in Luckenbach.
Leave all the tourists behind wandering downtown Fredericksburg and join the handful of people standing around in cowboy hats, cracking jokes, drinking beer and listening to some good ole Texas Country.
Luckenbach was established as a trading post in 1849 by a small creek lined with oak trees. All that is here are a few wooden sheds: the pub, the dance hall, and the feed lot (where you can buy your traditional friend food!)
Bring cash as that’s all they accept at the bar, although there is an ATM hidden within a wooden box.
The bar reminded me of an Outback Australian pub.
The whole experience was very raw and authentic cultural, not like what you’d find in Downtown Fredericksburg.
In Luckenbach everybody is somebody. I loved hearing the old timers music, jokes and stories – and yes, one even involved a real life tale of an encounter with Willie Nelson.
I could just see him picking his guitar under these giant oaks. So far, one of my favorite experiences on our America Unplugged RV road trip.
Bring it Texas. I’m ready for more.
Other recommendations for things to do in Fredericksburg we received:
- Visit the wineries! There are more than 30 wineries off-the-beaten-path between Johnson City and Fredericksburg. I definitely want to come back for that sans kids. Here is a wine tour you may enjoy
- In the season, enjoy the Texas Hill Country wildflowers the area is famous for, especially the fields of bluebonnets.
- In the spring and summer, this region is also known for its peaches. Go pick and eat em!
- Lyndon B Johnson’s Ranch in Johnston City (his childhood home) – we had so many recommendations for this one! (It is part of the San Antonio Explorer Pass if you are going to explore that region as well.)
- Munch Food Park is a great option for those who love a wide variety of dishes served up from food trucks. There’s beer and wine and sometimes live tunes.
Things to do in New Braunfels, Texas
New Braunfels was founded in 1845 by a German prince looking to start a colony in the Republic of Texas.
It didn’t happen, but we now have a cute small German-Texas town to enjoy.
We didn’t explore too much of the downtown area. It’s much smaller than Fredericksburg and doesn’t have the pretty buildings, but I think it’s more about the surrounding area, especially nearby Gruene!
Gruene is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Gruene, all three roads lead to the Water Tower, which is where you find tradition, history and homegrown Texas fun.
Here is our blog post on things to do in Gruene, a bona fide Lone Star State town.
Enjoy a Scenic Drive
This is Hill Country!
There are lots of pretty drives to enjoy, especially in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
The River Road
The River Road is a picturesque drive along the Guadalupe river. The only disappointment is that you can’t stop along the way to soak it in and take photos.
So enjoy the view from the car window. The color of the water will entice you to come back.
Go straight from The River Road past Canyon Lake to get to the Devil’s Backbone scenic drive on R.M. 32. When you see a sign that states picnic area, pull over as it’s also a viewing point.
I’m not sure why they don’t denote it as being that so you’ll know to pull over and look. Because a picnic may not be of interest but a spectacular view will be.
Some other scenic drives recommended:
- Texas 29 West & RM 2341 northwest to Spider Mountain
- R.M. 2342, excellent view, especially at a turnout near the confluence of the Llano & Colorado River.
- R.M. 1431 for breathtaking views
Those ones are more near the Highland Lakes Chain region near Austin which we will visit sometime in the future.
Coffee and Cake at 2 Tarts, New Braunfels
The girls and I started our day exploring together with coffee and cake at 2Tarts.
I’m starting to drink more black coffee as I find mostly it’s difficult to get a good latte – I take far less risks and, unless I can work out from reviews that it will be a professional barista made espresso like I could from Kona Kona below, then I go black.
I’m glad I did.
It was a premium drip coffee and bloody delicious. Made me think black coffee is the way to go from now on. It’s definitely much cheaper and better for the waistline.
Except perhaps when you pair it with a cashew nut milk peppermint patty.
The girls loved their cupcakes too!
Have Lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, Gruene
The Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar has been serving meals since 1977 in the three story boiler room of the old cotton gin.
It’s location on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River and shaded by towering oak trees makes it a restaurant hard to pass up. It’s right under the water tower in the historic district and just behind the Gruene Hall.
Once I knew we were staying in New Braunfels for an extra three days over New Years, I announced we’d be all enjoying a New Years Eve lunch here to celebrate the past year.
At the Gristmill you’ll find South Texas fare like fried catfish and tomatillo chicken, and if you can fit it in, a signature Jack Daniels Pecan pie.
I’m guessing you won’t have room for dessert because the serving sizes here were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen. That’s just how they do it in Texas.
Our chicken in a bone was delicious, and BIG!
The restaurant is equally as big with multiple dining rooms by native stone fireplaces, an indoor bar, and an outdoor deck with river views, which would be perfect in the warmer months.
Plus, there is also a beer garden with fire pits that often hosts live music!
Go Dancing at the Iconic Gruene Hall
Gruene Hall is good ole Texas fun and a definite highlight on our list of things to do in Texas Hill Country.
It’s a place for the community to gather, and one of the best places to visit in Texas to listen to music and dance. It reminded me so much of the barn dances Australians once had in the country.
For families, I think the free afternoon session at the oldest dance hall in Texas is your best option.
There is plenty of space for the kids to play in the trees outside, or up the back with their toys. I’m sure they’ll even love to dance with you and listen to the awesome live music from the wide variety of styles the iconic Gruene Hall puts on every day.
There is an evening ticketed event as well.
Bring your cowboy hat and boots and relaxed personality.
You’ll need cash to grab a drink at the bar. If you’re lucky you’ll find space at one of the wooden picnic tables with the crowd up the front, or space on the dance floor at the back.
Only if you promise to dance though. Even if it’s just a little shuffle. The two step is welcome.
Taste Local Wine at Grapevine Winery, Gruene
There are several wineries in Texas Hill Country. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for us to go wine tasting.
But I was happy to taste a couple of local wines at the Grapevine Winery in historical Gruene. Craig was happy with his local Austin porter beer too.
The Grapevine is a cool spot, especially its fire pits in the outdoor garden, which regularly hosts live music. There is a homely neighborhood feel here and be prepared to chat with a local or two.
Watching the colors light up behind the water tower and sunset from your fire pit seat is something special to enjoy.
Sadly we had so much rain during our time in Texas Hill Country that we didn’t see too many sunsets.
Go Tubing on the Guadalupe or Comal River (seasonal)
The highlight of New Braunfels are the two rivers, Guadalupe and the Comal.
Both offer a wide variety of water activities – in the right season. This is a thing to do in New Braunfels if you are visiting in the warmer months.
Unfortunately, for us, it wasn’t, so I’m putting this down on my list to return too.
The Comal is a short ride that takes you past Schlitterbahn if you want to visit there as well. Schlitterbahn is the 70-acre water park situated along the Comal River and near Landry Park.
The Guadalupe is known as the party float with rapids, booze and music and can go for as long as six hours!
Enjoy a Coffee at Kona Kona, Gruene
If you’re in the Gruene area stop into Kona Kona for a delicious coffee (with hemp milk). So good I had two of them.
I stopped in for an afternoon to work, which is why I had time for two. The service here was super friendly and it’s a fantastic spot for a social coffee with a reading nook and a few games you can play, or if you want a mobile office for the day.
Chow Down a Brisket Burger at San Marcos (if in the area)
It’s probably good enough to make the detour out to San Marcos, but I’m not sure you’ll really want to do that.
However, if you are in the college town of San Marcos be sure to stop in at Craft House Kitchen and Tap for a Brisket burger – at a good price too.
You’re in Texas now which is all about beef and it’s the state that supposedly does brisket the best.
I’m not a big beef eater, but I decided to give this brisket burger a go because well, Texas.
It was definitely my beef quota for the week and I’m glad I spent it on this tender, fatty and delicious brisket burger.
Where to Stay in Texas Hill Country
There are plenty of RV Parks along the River Road. If you’re coming in the summer, I’d recommend camping here. It looks so pretty and lots of fun.
Otherwise, I’d use the New Braunfels area as your base because I liked it better and there is more to do in the area.
We stayed at the Hill Country Resort & RV Park, which had a lot of amenities like a playground, games room, indoor and outdoor pools and fitness centers.
This did make the cost of it a little higher than some others. Our night rate ranged from $51 – $60. You can get discounts for a week long stay, and they also have Good Sam and Passport America discount.
For those who are looking for Texas Hill Country hotels or apartments, check out the options in Hill Country through our partner, Booking.com.
We find they have the widest range of properties. You get free cancellation on most rooms, and a best price guarantee.
Plus, they have verified reviews from guests who have actually stayed at the property!
Here are some hotels we researched for you as good options:
- The Hilton Garden Inn, New Braunfels. We find this chain quite trustworthy and great for families. Book your stay and read reviews here.
- The Old Mill Resort has a great location and the rooms are spacious with kitchen, dining area and bathroom. Book your stay and read reviews here.
- Gruene River Inn is the place to stay for views and river access! Book your stay and read reviews here.
There are also loads of Airbnb options in the New Braunfels area. Click here to find the perfect home rental for you.
Want to Visit San Antonio?
Good news, San Antonio is super close to New Braunfels in Texas Hill Country. It could be a great base for you to explore San Antonio for a day or two.
Don’t forget the San Antonio Explorer Pass. It will save you up to 45% on combined admission prices on your choice of 3 or 5 top San Antonio attractions.
You can create your itinerary from 15 choices which includes a San Antonio River Cruise, Six Flags, San Antonio Museum of Art, and Texas Hill Country and JBJ Ranch Tour. Buy your pass here!
How to Get Around Texas Hill Country
As with most places in the USA, a car will be required to get around.
More Texas Travel Tips
- The ultimate guide to Big Bend National Park
- 1 day in Big Bend Ranch State Park
- In Dallas, we visited the JFK Museum.
- And one of our favorites – a day with Chip and Jo in Waco, Texas
- Dallas to Boston road trip itinerary