Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Austin, TX to San Antonio, TX

The Journey

A half day drive, 
leaving extra time to enjoy Austin & San Antonio! 

The Route 
Austin, TX > Hwy 290 Hwy 12 > Hwy 962 > Hwy 281 > San Antonio, TX

Though the map appears to show us traveling Hwy 71, we in fact traveled on smaller hill country roads (Hwys 12 & 962) which run roughly parallel to Hwy 71.  

Starting in Austin, TX

Austin is the capital of Texas and home to the University of Texas Longhorns.  Above is a view of the great Austin skyline from Lady Bird Lake, named after Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President LBJ.

Just minutes from downtown is Barton Springs, a natural pool fed by underground springs from the Edwards aquifer.  This landmark of Austin has been a draw for centuries, first enjoyed by Native Americans, early Western settlers, citizens of the independent republic of Texas, cowboys, skinny dipping hippies, and now us.  

One bit of trivia: Robert Redford learned to swim here when he was five years old.

On your way into downtown, take a stroll down South Congress Street, home to trendy shops and restaurants frequented by the locals.  There are more taco stands and BBQ shacks on South Congress than you can count, and several have been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives including Green Mesquite, Louie Mueller Barbecue, and Taco Xpress.

Continue north on Congress Street into downtown, where the road terminates at the Texas state capital building.  In the spirit of "everything is bigger in Texas," this is the largest capital building in the US.  The capital dome is taller than the US Capital Building dome, so tall that the Statue of Liberty could sit inside the dome without touching the top.

In addition to the impressive dome, the Texas capitol building features portraits of all former Governors, and distinctive Texas-style detailing on the floors, walls, and even the doorknobs.

 Across the street from the capital building is The Old Bakery & Emporium.  This neat old bakery building still has the wood-fired oven where bread was baked in the 1800's, and on the 2nd level there is a free museum telling the story of life in Austin through the family that lived and worked in the building in the 1800s and early 1900s.  This exhibit includes old photos taken of cattle drives down Main Street, the parade celebrating the end of World War I, and other historic events.  It also has a photo of the first Texas Longhorn football game in 1924, where the Longhorns defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 7-0.

From Austin to San Antonio

There are several unique features of traveling and staying at hotels in Texas.  My wife enjoys the Texas-shaped waffles which seem to be a permanent fixture of all Texas hotel complimentary breakfasts.  And our car, inside and out, experienced the effects of the very buggy conditions on the Texas roads.

*Our bug friend who hitched a ride with us from just outside of Austin to just outside of San Antonio.

Soon after leaving Austin on Hwy 290 you will pass through Dripping Springs, where the water tower lets you know you are entering Texas Hill Country.  The plains and prairies you have traveled though begin to quickly fold into the craggy Texas hills.

Unfortunately the beautiful Hamilton Pool at Dripping Springs was closed due to weather when we passed through.  But there were still several neat sites and locations along the way, not to mention a fun curvy hilly drive on seemingly deserted roads.

Hwy 287 takes you quickly (with 75 mph speed limit) from the sparse hill country to the heart of San Antonio.

The Destination
 San Antonio, TX

San Antonio is home to one of the most recognizable landmarks of American history, The Alamo.  The famed heroes of the Alamo, which included figures like James Bowie and Davy Crockett, fought against Santa Anna's 5000 man Mexican army for Texas independence from Mexico.  The roughly 200 defenders of the Alamo were besieged, defeated, and killed at the Alamo, but not before killing around 600 Mexican soldiers.  

Less than two months later, with the battle cry "Remember the Alamo!", Sam Houston led the Texas militia to victory over Santa's Anna's army in The Battle of San Jacinto.  This allowed the creation of The Lone Star Republic of Texas, which remained an independent nation for nearly a decade before joining the USA as the 28th state in the Union.

Not quite as heroic as defending the Alamo, my wife and I, and her parents who met us in San Antonio, survived the Alamo Beer Company 5k run.

Another landmark of San Antonio is the Tower of the Americas, built in HemisFair Park for the 1968 World's Fair.  It was the tallest observation tower in the US for nearly 30 years, and remains the tallest building in San Antonio and an eye-popping place to ride the exterior glass-windowed elevator to the observation deck or revolving restaurant and catch expansive views of the city and beyond.
*My wife's parents from the restaurant atop the Tower of the Americas.  That is not a painting in the background.  That is the window with a view of the city from the Tower.

The main attraction of San Antonio, and the 23rd most visited tourist attraction in the world, is the San Antonio Riverwalk.  The Riverwalk is the main arterial system of San Antonio's unique and attractive downtown.  Shops, restaurants, and hotels line the various arteries of the riverwalk system, where riverboats can carry you to your destination.

Wildlife intermingles with the boats and folks along the Riverwalk.

We stayed at the Marriott Rivercenter, which provided "out your front door" access to the Riverwalk and had great views of the city. 

On our final morning in San Antonio, we walked from the Riverwalk to El Mercado, a Mexican market featuring many vendors of food, art, and authentic Mexican crafts.  We had breakfast (yes, I said breakfast) at Mi Tierra, a bustling Mexican restaurant the size of a city block.

After a fun several days in San Antonio, we struck out for west Texas.

Stay tuned for our next post on wild and beautiful west Texas and otherworldly Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.


  1. Noticed the Missus aboard the Ms Laura ... :)

  2. I really love your blog and the whole idea behind it – travelling on the interstate just makes you miss so much of the real countryside and people. Texas is also a great place to get off the main roads if you know what you’re doing – my husband took me on a tour when we went on vacation there last year.

    Refugia Stein @ Container Domes