A road trip from Houston to Austin is worthwhile no matter your income level. After all, Austin’s food scene runs the gamut from taco trucks to fine dining restaurants requiring coats and ties.
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Even though the point of your trip is to come enjoy Austin, several spots along the way beckon you to stop for an hour or two. In this road trip guide, we’ll take you from Houston to Austin and back again in a counterclockwise route, coming to Austin on US Highway 290 and returning to Houston via State Highway 71 and Interstate 10. This gives you different roads to travel and more side stops to make. You can even take the trip in reverse if you want. It’s up to you!
Alright, let’s get onto those vital stops…
Once you head out of Houston on Highway 290, your first stop is about an hour down the road in Brenham. If you leave mid-morning, you’ll arrive in town just in time for lunch at Volare Italian Restaurant. The food is authentic, yet accessible to those whose Italian dining experiences is limited to spaghetti, ravioli, and chicken parmesan. If you’re a seafood lover, try the Salmone Alla Griglia, a fresh filet of salmon marinated in lemon pepper, grilled and served with fettuccine alfredo. Or, if you’re more in the mood for locally inspired fare, K-Bob’s Steakhouse is southern dining done right. Try the chicken fried chicken, but beware: It’s so much food you may have to be wheeled out.
Once you’ve had a nice meal, take a stroll through historic downtown Brenham where many buildings date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s one of the nicest downtowns in central Texas thanks to the city’s major revitalization efforts in the ’90s that placed an emphasis on growing tourism. One particular point of interest is Brenham’s historic public and private cisterns. Toubin Park in downtown Brenham features a private cistern built around 1880. Public cisterns scattered across Washington County collected rainwater to fight fires and were the first of their kind in Texas. The city also has a replica of an 1800s horse-drawn fire buggy, which you can see from the street.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind about Brenham is Blue Bell Ice Cream, where visitors can pop in to taste the creamy goodness at the Ice Cream Parlor, watch how the magic is made on the Observation Deck, and learn more in Visitor Center before doing a little shopping in the Country Store.
Now, onto your next small town stop ….
If you start your trip early, you might find yourself in Brenham too early for lunch, but you may arrive in Elgin just in time to treat yourself to some Texas barbecue at Southside Market & Barbecue or Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse. Both are fine places to get your barbecue fix and both will ship their products to your house. So you can try them on a plate with traditional barbecue sides, and later you can throw some on your own grill.
Once you’ve made your stop in Elgin, you’re only a few miles from Austin!
As you come into Austin on Highway 290, you can easily maneuver yourself to hot spots in East Austin including places for great dates and experiences that prove Austin’s weirdness isn’t just down south. But don’t limit yourself to one part of the city!
Of course, we could go on and on about Austin — that’s what we’re here for! Just look at the rest of this website as proof.
So once you’ve soaked in all of Austin you can handle and you’re ready to begin your journey home on a different route than the one you used to come to Austin, make some time to stop at McKinney Falls State Park. Lace up some comfortable shoes (and if the weather is right, your swim trunks) and follow a few of the park’s short trails. Make sure you see the upper and lower falls where Onion Creek drops in elevation over limestone ledges.
But your trip isn’t over just because you leave Austin ….
If you missed Southside Market & Barbecue in Elgin, you’re in luck because they also have a Bastrop location. You can still get your barbecue fix if you neglected to satisfy that itch in Elgin or Austin.
As you follow State Highway 71 on its zigzag through Bastrop, you can’t miss the enormous Buc-ee’s store calling you to stop at one of their 100-plus gas pumps or countless — and spotless — bathroom stalls. If you consider yourself a germophobe, you’ll be happy to sanitize your hands next to the toilet or urinal, then wash your hands on the way out of the restroom and avoid touching any doors until you get back to your vehicle. But don’t leave before you check out all the cool things they have to buy — Buc-ee’s branded stuff, leather goods, Yeti coolers, and much more!
Now that you’ve had your biological break and bought your Buc-ee’s swag, you’re ready for the next leg of your journey.
If you were to complete this road trip in the reverse order, Schobel’s Restaurant in Columbus would be the first reason why. This place has been serving up great food since 1979, and their breakfast is can’t-miss. Even if you have to drag yourself out of bed way earlier than you want to get up, do it. Why? Oh, you’ll see.
Happy road tripping!
Featured photo: Flickr user Jeremy Keith, Creative Commons licensed.