The perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The 4-Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
We have no idea how your week’s going, but we feel confident that you deserve a long weekend away. And long weekends are always made better when you have a comfortable place to stay, plenty to do, and an embarrassment of locally made drinks at your disposal. That’s why we’re sending you to Dripping Springs in the Texas Hill Country.
Depending on where you live, travel time obviously varies, so let’s consider this a loose four-hour rule. Dripping Springs is less than an hour from Austin and just under two from San Antonio, but it approaches four when traveling from DFW and Houston. All that to say, we’re counting it. Now, here’s what to know before you go.
WHERE TO STAY
Dripping Springs has a few chain hotels and roadside lodges, but that’s not where you’ll be staying. Head directly to Lucky Arrow Retreat. They throw around the word “glamping” liberally here, but don’t worry, you’ll like it. The 15-acre property has multiple options to rest your head, including cabins, houses, and yurts.
The 364-square-foot Courtyard Cabins have queen-sized beds, vaulted ceilings, and private bathrooms, plus all the amenities you expect from a nice hotel. The slightly larger Breezeway Cabins separate the kitchen and living space from the bedroom with a spacious breezeway patio. There are five Porch Houses, which join a 372-square-foot interior with a large, wraparound covered porch. And then you’ve got 10 climate-controlled yurts nestled in the surrounding woods.
Lucky Arrow also has a BYOB beer garden, a pool, and fire pits on site, so you’re bound to make some friends during your stay. Or stack the deck and bring a few with you.
Another great lodging option is Camp Lucy. This luxury resort sits on a 289-acre ranch and sports a variety of rooms, suites, and cottages. They offer experiences each day, from fishing and hiking to yoga, archery, and hatchet throwing, so there’s always something to do. You can also take advantage of the pool and common spaces, where you can sit around and roast s’mores over an open fire. During your stay, you might see a wedding or other big event happening, but don’t worry, the property is big enough that you can ignore most interlopers.
WHAT TO EAT
If you’re staying at Camp Lucy—or even if you’re not—check out Tillie’s. It’s located within the Camp Lucy grounds and is one of the area’s best (and nicest) restaurants. The menu is full of hits, but don’t forget to look up from your plate once and awhile, because the stunning building is a repurposed town hall that was brought over from the Ninh Binh region of Vietnam. And that’s not something you see every day.
Other fan favorites include Rolling in Thyme and Dough, which serves a mean cup of coffee and fresh pastries, plus breakfast staples and good sandwiches. That’ll loosen you up for lunch at Alice’s. It’s located at Treaty Oak Distillery, but the food is no afterthought here. The menu ranges from fresh salads, sandwiches, and burgers to smoked meats like brisket, sausage, and spare ribs. When in doubt, get the BBQ Plate Special with two meats, two sides, and all the accessories you expect on such things. If you’re still hungry, Flores Mexican Restaurant serves solid fajitas, enchiladas and tacos.
WHAT TO DRINK
No one goes thirsty in Dripping Springs. Start at Bell Springs Winery, where you can sample Texas-made Viognier, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. Or head to Sidecar Tasting Room, an offshoot of Bell Springs that pours beer and wine and hosts live music on its patio.
Treaty Oak Distilling is more than just the home of Alice’s. It’s a full-scale distillery that makes multiple whiskeys and is also responsible for Waterloo Gin. Visit the spacious property, and you can tour the facility and then hang out in the tasting room and cocktail bar. Twisted X Brewing Co. has all the easy-drinking craft lagers, pilsners, and IPAs you desire, plus a couple creative brews on tap. And Fitzhugh Brewing is a new operation that specializes in obscure and forgotten beers, which you can drink in the spacious beer garden alongside a soft pretzel and nachos.
If you want to get out of town without venturing more than 20 minutes, check out Jester King Brewery in West Austin, which is known for its farmhouse ales and sours and has surprisingly good pizza. Duchman Family Winery is a local favorite that makes Italian varietals from Texas Grapes. And Driftwood Estate Winery sits on a steep bluff, so you can sip wines while enjoying some of the Hill Country’s best views.
WHAT TO DO
You can spend a lot of time eating and drinking your way around Dripping Springs, but should you desire the occasional activity that doesn’t involve stuffing your face, that can be arranged. The historic Hamilton Pool is an emerald-green swimming hole with a 50-foot waterfall. Swimming access is closed for the foreseeable future due to falling rocks, but you can still visit. It’s located within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, which encompasses more than 31,000 acres of endangered species habitat. Explore the surrounding grounds, hike a few trails, and keep your head on a swivel for the hundreds of plant species and opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife.
If you want to kill an hour, stroll along Mercer Street in the Dripping Springs Historic District. You’ll find buildings dating back to the 1870s that now house vintage stores and quaint boutiques, plus the Barbershop, where you can’t get a haircut, but you can get a cold beer.
When you’re done strolling, head over to Texas Hill Country Olive Company. They planted olive trees in 2009 and now sell all manner of olives, olive oils, and vinegars, so leave a little extra room in your bag for souvenirs.
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