Travel out of the Lake Travis area and head a little ways south and west to the place where Highways 12 and 290 intersect.
You’ll find yourself in the city of Dripping Springs. This seemingly sleepy community — also known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country” — is home to so many cool things to do, both adult and family-friendly. Who knew, right?!
Get ready to fuel your next slew of envy-inspiring Instagram uploads in Dripping Springs.
This Hill Country swimming hole is what you can call a magical grotto where unicorns used to swim and take selfies. Hamilton Pool was formed when the roof of an underground river collapsed, giving the area a cool “space cavern” look.
You can lounge on the sandy shore, wade in the increasingly deeper water, or perch yourself under the waterfalls that pour over the high sides of the pool. Just be sure to do the Little Mermaid hair flip at least once.
While you may prefer to spend your free time in a hard state of chill, there are some of you out there that want a more stimulating experience.
Most people end up here when they are turned away from Hamilton Pool, leaving them unprepared for what Reimers Ranch Park is best for: hiking, swimming, mountain biking, and climbing (Reimers Ranch is home to some of the best rock climbing in Central Texas). Go here on purpose and you will have a lovely time!
Okay … we will admit that olives aren’t nearly as fun as their cousins-in-shape grapes, but they still have a strong appeal.
This olive-celebrating destination is the brainchild of a Texas family with roots to Italy. Surprisingly, the Dripping Springs terrain has similarities to those back in the land of spaghetti and pizza, making it the perfect spot to cultivate one of the world’s most ancient crops.
Don’t worry, in true European form there are also curated wines to sip while you taste the oils and balsamic vinegar that are made on-site. It’s also a beautiful spot for a family picnic.
Craft breweries are not a secret in this part of the world, however Twisted X Brewing Company is focusing on something that they actually have the patent on: Tex Mex Beer.
We aren’t talking about the tiny corona upside down in a frozen margarita (darn those things are good). We are talking about concoctions such as “Jalapeno Pilsner (Fuego)” which is refreshing and spicy and “Vienna Style Lager (Cow Creek)” that resembles Negro Modelo. It worked with fajitas, why not beer?
It wouldn’t be the Hill Country without a few wineries sprinkled in.
Bell Springs Winery does not grow their own grapes, but don’t let that fact put you off. They curate the best varietals to make their own wine and the result is pretty great.
Most impressively, a tasting is only $7 and they make a wine called “Needy Bi#%h” … a Christmas present for someone you know perhaps?
At Hawks Shadow Winery you are likely to get chatted up by the owners/brothers Doug and Tom. They are notorious for telling guests about their passion for wine making and how they came into the business in the first place … while bringing out wine after wine to taste of course.
The scenery here is also top notch. You will feel like you are much farther from home than you actually are.
Another interesting factor is that their website has a volunteer form where you can sign up to help in a harvest or pressing. Not a bad hobby to pick up part-time.
If you are looking to impress your inner grape-geek, head over to Solaro Estate. This is wine-making on a grand scale that incorporates expensive technology with researched wine-making techniques.
Everything from the ancient fossil-beds the vineyard resides on, to the elaborate glass-covered tasting pavilion was meticulously thought out and planned with consultants from all over the industry. They also have a wine-making location in Houston, amidst the urban sprawl.
Deep Eddy Vodka and Austin go hand-in-hand.
While some of you will be disappointed to learn the pin-up girls don’t saunter around the distillery in Dripping Springs, you will soon be mollified with a vodka-flight in the 5,000 square foot tasting room.
Have a vodka cocktail in a signature Deep Eddy mason jar that you get to keep. And “Please Day Drink Responsibly.”
I’m not even going to try to sound casual about this place … IT IS AWESOME.
On the weekends you will find live music, yard-games, cocktails on tap, and multiple places to explore the Treaty Oak Operation.
A must-see is the Rickhouse and Bar. This is where they keep all the barrels of goodness while they age and also a “secret” bar where you can taste the goods (very speakeasy-esque).
There is also a pretty rad food truck out there that will one day be the brick and mortar restaurant at the ranch. You will find dishes that range from duck confit tacos to snow cones for the kids.
After spending the day imbibing it would probably be smart to go two-stepping to get out all that hard-won liquid confidence.
While Mercer Street Dance Hall isn’t among those historic dance halls that Texas is known for — it opened in 2013 — it does have a little piece of history in its framing. The wood used on the inside of the hall was originally used to construct a set for the movie “The Alamo” (2004).
While this place isn’t the best for kiddos (too many cool things they can’t touch), it is the perfect stop to see something unique in Dripping Springs. This place is “yard-art mecca” and you’ll find many works from local artists on the 3-acre lot.
If you are in the market for some landscaping advice, they have you covered there too. They specialize in Xeriscaping, which incorporates drought-resistant plants into your yard. Drought? What drought? (knocking on wood).
Our last stop on your Dripping Springs getaway tour is Juniper Hills Farms.
Here you will find a getaway that includes beautiful cabin lodgings, dynamic cooking classes, yoga retreats, and spa services.
The owner and cooking instructor, Sibby Barrett, offers to bring you with her to gather local ingredients from various farms, vineyards, and orchards. The cooking classes and events take place in her Onion Creek Kitchens. You can check yourself — or a group — in for the ultimate gourmet Hill Country experience.
Dripping Springs is chock-full of awesome stuff for you to do. Head out for a day trip or a weekend adventure. Either way, you’ll have plenty of places to discover and explore in the “Gateway to the Hill Country.”