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Texas is most well-known for its big cities—the Cowboys and the JFK-related sites in Dallas, San Antonio’s Alamo and River Walk, the music and energy of Austin. But there’s so much to be seen and discovered in some of the smaller towns. Just a half-hour from Austin, Dripping Springs, Texas, combines some of the best outdoor activities in Texas with the food and craft beverages usually only seen in the cities. Here’s a look at where to eat and drink and some of the fun things to do in Dripping Springs.
Things to do in Dripping Springs
Swim at Hamilton Pool
One of the most well-known places in Dripping Springs, the lush landscape and cool waters of Hamilton Pool draw people from all over central Texas and beyond. The pool itself was formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed, giving it a unique structure with a waterfall and a grotto where you can escape from the Texas sun. If you’ve been to an open cenote in Mexico, this will feel somewhat familiar.
Located on a 234-acre nature preserve, Hamilton Pool is one of the best swimming holes in Texas. You can bring a picnic, spread out a towel on the small beach area, or just wander through the surrounding trails to check out the wildlife. The water itself can be quite cool (about 55 degrees in the spring), but that doesn’t deter most swimmers.
From March through October and weekends in November and December, you’ll need to reserve a 4-hour time slot on the Travis County website. It’s best to make Hamilton Pool reservations well in advance during popular times because there are only 140 slot per day. Bring close-toed shoes or water shoes for the rugged hike from the parking lot and walking around the swimming area.
Wondering where to stay in Dripping Springs?
Exceptional hospitality: Amici B&B
Luxurious getaway: Camp Lucy
Convenience and comfort: Holiday Inn Express & Suites
You’ll find more details about accommodations near the end of this article.
Shop in the Historic District
The Historic District has a charming collection of boutiques along Mercer Street and Old Fitzhugh Road. Within a few steps, you can find vintage-inspired decor at Vintage Soul TX, stylish and unique clothes and jewelry at Starrs on Mercer, and a little bit of everything old and new from 40+ different vendors at Lone Star Gifts. To refuel, head into Mazama Coffee Co. for a bite to eat or coffee roasted on-site or visit Crepe Crazy to sample one of their 20 to-die-for crepes.
Visit a Texas distillery
For a small town, Dripping Springs is big on craft distilleries.
Undoubtedly the most notable distillery is Deep Eddy, which is now part of a corporation but keeps its roots in Dripping Springs. A Deep Eddy distillery tour walks you through the stages of distillation from grain to the addition of real fruit juices and local honey that go into Deep Eddy vodka.
If you can’t do a tour (they’re temporarily suspended while the distillery expands), stop by the tasting room to try the fruity flavors and enjoy live music and the views from the patio. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, and it fills up early on the weekends.
Just a few miles down the road is Treaty Oak Distilling. This gin and whiskey distillery has been making spirits for over a decade. With the goal of the “pursuit of the curious,” they have some unique offerings, including the longest-aged gin in the world (which is delicious). With a restaurant, live music, a fun cocktail bar, and outdoor games, you could practically spend the whole day there. Everything at Treaty Oak is open Thursday through Sunday, and you can take a tour on Saturday.
Rounding out the craft distillery options is San Luis Spirits, the makers of Dripping Springs Vodka and Gin. San Luis distills their products in 50-gallon copper stills, infusing their Texas Orange vodka with oranges from the Rio Grand Valley and their gin with oranges and eight other botanicals, including cardamom and juniper. You can taste the products Monday through Saturday or a come for a tour on Thursday through Saturday.
See live music
For a small town, Dripping Springs offers a huge opportunity to enjoy music. On Mercer Street, Hudson’s on Mercer has “a little something for everyone.” Almost every night there is live music, karaoke, or an open mic night show. The venue also offers music lessons, music camps, and a recording studio to encourage budding and more established musical talent.
Visit a tasting room
This speakeasy-style tasting room is a unique departure from the other distilleries in the area. At Goodnight Loving Vodka, you won’t find yourself looking at barrels or peering in at a production facility. Instead, it’s just about enjoying vodka—that is, if you’re clever enough to find your way through the hidden door.
Goodnight Loving Vodka starts with Texas artesian spring water and ends up as a perfect martini, vodka cranberry cocktail, or any other vodka-based boozy libation you can imagine. You can try them all while hanging out in the 1960s-inspired tasting room or relaxing in the outside garden. If you fall in love with the ambiance like we did, you can even buy some of the glassware and other accessories to take home.
Try local olive oil
Across the Mediterranean, refined wines and rich olive oil go hand-in-hand. There are great wineries in Fredericksburg nearby, so it makes sense that there would be fabulous olive oil, too. That’s just what the Texas Hill Country Olive Company makes. This family-owned business has been growing olives for a decade.
Drawing on their Italian heritage, the owners—the Gambini and Melnick families—have developed their organic olive orchard to produce high-quality extra virgin olive oil while preserving the natural beauty of their 17 acres in central Texas. The soil conditions and land have many similarities to Italy, making growing conditions for the olives ideal. Tours are available on Fridays and Saturdays, or you can stop by to taste all the offerings in the tasting room.
See Pedernales Falls State Park
Growing up in the (very flat) Dallas area, hills and waterfalls were foreign to me. But just a few hours away, Pedernales Falls State Park has both of those as well as hiking trails, horseback riding, camping, and plenty of other outdoor activities. This picturesque park–one of the top attractions near Dripping Springs–is based around the Pedernales River whose rushing waters have carved out the bumps and crags of its ancient limestone bed over millions of years. The whole effect is dramatic with pools and waterfalls (and the occasional flood situation).
A visit here is a great way to spend a day, but if you’re short on time, plenty of the park’s sites are within easy walking distance of a parking lot. It’s that flexibility that makes Pedernales Falls State Park such a popular destination.
There are trails and campsites for all abilities and interests. The popular Twin Falls Nature Trail is only a one-half mile hike, but you can also tackle the 10-mile Juniper Ridge Trail if you’re feeling intrepid.
Visit Mercer Street Dance Hall
Four miles from downtown Dripping Springs, you’ll find the Mercer Street Dancehall. Several nights a week it welcomes some of the finest honky tonk bands in Texas for music, dancing, and fun. If you want to join in but don’t know how, check out the two-stepping lessons on Saturday night.
Visit Jester King Brewery
Jester King is definitely one of the best craft breweries in the area, but it’s more than that, too. This authentic farmhouse brewery has transformed its huge ranch near Dripping Springs into the best adult playground anywhere around.
It begins with the beer, of course—Jester King has over 60 draft options from spritzy sours to ales brewed with ingredients like honey, grapefruit, and even mesquite beans. They use a combination of spontaneous fermentation (like the famous Cantillon brewery I visited in Brussels) and other techniques like refermentation and barreling to craft an endless number of rotating offerings that are uniquely Texas.
But the beer is just the beginning. There’s also cider and wine from Texas and beyond and an on-site restaurant serving pizza and other tasty things. You can grab a little of everything and spend the afternoon playing games and hanging out at one of the picnic tables. Join in on one of the brewery tours or take a tour of the farm, too.
Splash down in Jacob’s Well
I’ll end this list like I started it–with one of the (other) best swimming holes in Texas. A 20-minute drive from downtown Dripping Springs will land you at Jacob’s Well, one of the prettiest and most popular places to cool off in central Texas.
The chilly water in Jacob’s Well is deceptively deep, bubbling up from a cave system that stretches over 100 feet underground. Jumping from the cliffs above into the mouth of this ancient spring is popular with just about everyone during a Texas summer.
Visit an unexpected barber shop
Despite its iconic pole out front and the large “Barber Shop” sign, the Barber Shop on Mercer Street is…well, a bar. And a popular one at that.
Established in 2009, the Barber Shop bar is the ideal place for a beer and some live music in downtown. This welcoming bar serves predominantly Texas craft beer along with a bit of wine and hard cider in a totally relaxed, unpretentious setting with indoor and outdoor seating. There is live music most Tuesdays and a pickers’ circle on Sundays. Look out for the blackboard that shows how many people have come in looking for a haircut.
Try Texas barbecue at The Salt Lick
Texas—and the greater Austin area, in particular—is known for its BBQ. At the top of the list for many BBQ fans is The Salt Lick in Driftwood. We first visited about five years ago after seeing this brisket and pulled pork heaven featured on Top Chef, and we’ve been back numerous times since. It never disappoints.
With 50 years of slow-cooked history under its belt, The Salt Lick is one of the most photographed BBQ pits in Texas. This BYOB has meats cooking over an open flame, outdoor and indoor family-style seating, and the ambiance of being close to the big city but feeling a bit like middle-of-nowhere at the same time.
The Salt Lick has won just about every BBQ award around for its brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and sauces and rubs. With Salt Lick Cellars next door, you can also try some of the great wines the Texas Hill Country is famous for. Grab a bottle, a bucket of beers, and pull up a picnic table for a great afternoon.
Visit Salt Lick, Duchman Family Winery, and more on a half-day chauffeured tour from Austin
Visit a Dripping Springs winery
Fredericksburg doesn’t have a monopoly on amazing wines in the Hill Country. The Dripping Springs area has several great wineries to choose from. On this trip, we tried out both Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood (2 miles down the road from The Salt Lick) and the Sidecar Tasting Room, an outpost of Bell Springs Winery in the center of town.
Duchman has been producing Italian wines from all Texas grapes since 2004, making it one of the original Texas wineries in the area. Featuring varietals like Montepulciano, Vermentino, and Dolcetto, Duchman Family Winery combines grapes from the Hill Country and the cooler Texas High Plains region to make “food-friendly” fine wine. Stop in the winery for tasting but don’t miss the grounds where you can relax under the oak trees with your favorite varietal or check out one of Duchman’s special events like wine dinners or even yoga or painting classes.
The Sidecar Tasting Room–conveniently right in Dripping Springs–serves wines from Bell Springs Winery. They feature the Tempranillo, Albarino, Montepulciano, and others alongside a limited menu of cheese plates and other delights. You’ll also find live music several days a week in this laid back tasting room.
How to Get to Dripping Springs
The heart of Dripping Springs, Texas, is about 30-40 minutes west of downtown Austin. Highway 290 runs through the center of town, and cute Mercer Street is just steps away. Dripping Springs is about halfway between Austin and my favorite Hill Country town, Fredericksburg. Connecting the two would make for a fun and easy day trip from Austin or an extended weekend road trip.
Where to Stay in Dripping Springs
Camp Lucy — On a bluff above Onion Creek, Camp Lucy is a beautiful getaway with luxury guest rooms and cottage accommodations. Enjoy the outdoor pool and great on-site restaurant. Check prices and read reviews