The 8 Best Road Trips From Austin

white sands national park
8 Best Road Trips from AustinJames Barrett

The hustle and bustle of airports can be a lot. Plane tickets, TSA security and fitting everything into a carry-on isn’t always the most pleasant experience. However, it’s always a good idea to take a road trip–no airplanes required. Austin, Texas continues to grow as a hotspot destination for live music, nightlife, cuisine and more. Boat days on Lake Travis, swimming in Barton Springs and hanging with friends in Zilker Park all define this “keep Austin weird” city.

We’ve rounded up our favorite road trip destinations from Austin. Whether you enjoy the road less traveled by to a small town of Marfa, or want to step inside Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, we’ve got you covered.

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee, located in West Tennessee on the banks of the Mississippi River is dripping with southern hospitality, lots of barbecue, the National Civil Rights Museum and of course the music. Known as the home of the blues and birthplace of rock and roll, the city delivers a truly authentic experience built around the music that flows from street corner to street corner. It’s the hometown of Mr. Elvis Presley and his home Graceland that you can tour inside.

Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis is the very first and only hotel to acquire a famous Beale Street address. The hotel is a property of firsts and onlys, including the city’s only riverfront and rooftop whiskey bar where guests can imbibe in local spirits and cocktails complemented by premium views of the Mississippi River and “M” bridge and the downtown-area's only resort style pool with poolside dining, cabanas and deck for live entertainment.

Distance from Austin: 647 miles

memphis, tennessee
Getty Images

Las Vegas, Nevada

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! Whether it’s your first time or tenth, there’s always something new to see and do on the Strip. You don’t need to go all the way to New York to eat at the highly-rated Italian restaurant Carbone. Part of ARIA Resort & Casino, the restaurant pays homage to the Italian-American restaurants of the mid-20th century.

Stay at the Bellagio and become immersed into the famous fountains outside as well as one of the most popular casinos. If gambling and nightlife isn’t your thing, check out a show such as the new Mad Apple by Cirque du Soleil. For the morning after, venture off the strip for the colorful and bright Seven Magic Mountains art installation. These 30-35 foot totems of painted stacked rocks are the perfect Instagram moment.

Distance from Austin: 1,286 miles

las vegas, nevada
Getty Images

Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua, Texas, literally a ghost town located just 12 miles from the Mexican border and is arguably the most “Texan” place. There’s a local watering hole–a general store and a restaurant, Starlight–where you can get wild game like Tequila-Marinated Quail.

You can explore the ghost town and go ATV riding as well as Jeep Tours. The town is right next to Big Bend National Park, where you can spend more than a day adventuring. For lodging a casita lends itself to the culture of the area and is a unique experience. The wifi might not work but when you’re looking up at an unobstructed sky of stars at night, who cares?

Distance from Austin: 485 miles

terlingua, texas
Getty Images

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

White Sands National Park is one of the most jaw-dropping and surreal places in all of America. Until 2019, White Sands was a National Monument but officially changed to a National Park. What's the difference? National Parks are protected because of their scenic, recreational and educational value whereas a National Monument may have objects of cultural, historical or even scientific interest.

It’s the biggest gypsum dune field in the world. The sand is so perfectly white because it's made of gypsum whereas most sand is made of silica. Gypsum is very rare in sand form because it is a mineral that dissolves in water. That's right – it starts to dissolve everytime it rains. But just how much of a big deal is this? White Sands covers 275 square miles of dune fields, while the second largest in the world is a whopping 8 square miles in Mexico.

Distance from Austin: 611 miles

white sands national park
James Barrett

Marfa, Texas

Artist Donald Judd left New York City for Marfa, Texas in the 1970s and wanted to create permanent art sculptures. He helmed an artist movement that heavily lends itself to this small town today. It’s famously known for Prada Marfa, which is an art installation and not an actual business (you can’t go inside). It’s an insta-worthy photo op that also has underlying tones on American consumerism from the artist.

Hotel Paisano is in the middle of this quaint town. You'll find many candid photographs throughout from the filming of Giant. During production, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean and 150 crew members made Hotel Paisano their headquarters for six weeks.

Distance from Austin: 429 miles

marfa, texas
Getty Images

San Antonio, Texas

You can't take a road trip from Austin without seeing theAlamo! San Antonio, Texas drips with American history as well as a booming scene of food, arts and culture. The Riverwalk is a must-see and is located in the heart of downtown. There’s 13 miles of pedestrian paths along the river, countless restaurants, bars, shops and galleries and you can even take a boat tour on the water accompanied by a tour guide. To escape the city, visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden with over 38 acres to explore.

Distance from Austin: 80 miles

san antonio, texas
Getty Images

Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado is a playground for everyone whether you want serene hikes or to explore the bar scene of downtown. If schedules coincide, you definitely should make the trip to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a special night. The Kimpton Hotel Born hotel located at Union Station downtown is an urban refuge for travelers. Experience all that the property has to offer from outdoor happy hours to modern architecture and more.

Distance from Austin: 918 miles

denver, colorado
Getty Images

Taos, New Mexico

If you’re craving a small town vibe like Marfa, then be sure to add Taos to your list. With a population of 6,600, there’s no shortage of the arts and culture here. Taos, New Mexico is filled with clay-style buildings, art galleries with local artists, museums, Mexican food and more. After exploring town, you can go hiking with goats, visit the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and go on a hot air balloon ride. For a relaxing stay close to downtown and dripping in Americana accents at every turn, visit El Monte Sagrado Hotel.

Distance from Austin: 724 miles

Just remember–you don’t have to get on a plane and fly across the world to have a great trip. A road trip gives you complete freedom and being able to see popular or lesser-known places from a different perspective. Lastly, your best companion will be a solid playlist to jam out!

taos, new mexico
Getty Images

You Might Also Like