If the thought of Texas calls to mind nothing but endless stretches of flat highway, you haven’t heard about the Hill Country. Spanning nearly 31,000 square miles of central Texas between U.S.-83 and I-35, the Texas Hill Country is all limestone and granite hills, scenic views, juniper and cactus, a thriving German culture, and charming small towns.
A popular trip to the region entails staying in Austin and day-tripping to the many wineries of Fredericksburg, but it’s just as much fun to stay closer to San Antonio and check out the lesser-known treasures within an hour’s drive of that city. There is so much to do in the Hill Country, you can only scratch the surface in a weekend, but here’s an intinerary to get you started.
Where to stay: La Cantera Resort & Spa
On the southernmost edge of the Hill Country, La Cantera Resort & Spa feels more like a relaxation village than a hotel. Deer roam the 550 acres that encompass a golf course, 496 rooms (including an adults-only floor with a daily happy hour in the private lounge), 34 private villas, infinity pools, a spa, and enough restaurants to render eating off property unnecessary.
For a Hill Country adventure, La Cantera provides the ideal location. Eleven miles from the San Antonio Airport and 17 miles from downtown San Antonio, the property is driving distance from everything—antiquing, wineries, world-class restaurants, a million Mexican food options. Even Austin is only 84 miles away—and yet, it’s a remote retreat, with scenic views and those central Texas sunsets that smear the sky hot pink.
On-site activities include the new monthly “Women + Whiskey” program, which hosts local distilleries on property to offer guests tastings, live music, and whiskey education; and the fine-dining restaurant Signature, where an array of copper pans fringes the open kitchen, a sommelier will assess your palate for wine pairings, and the chef’s garden supplies the herbs and spices. The French Texan menu changes seasonally and might include mussels served pulled from their shells, accompanied by crusty bread and a white-wine cream that the server pours tableside.
The crown jewel of La Cantera is the 25,000-square-foot Loma de Vida Spa, a peaceful sanctuary of heated pools, saunas, steam rooms, and cushy lounge furniture facing glass walls for spectacular views of the Hill Country. Treatments incorporate local honey and lavender.
Where to eat and drink
One thing you’ll find no shortage of in Texas, especially near San Antonio, is Tex-Mex. Check out the 25-year-old San Marcos staple Casa Maria or veteran-owned-and-operated Compadres Hill Country Cocina in Boerne (pronounced “Bernie”).
For the most spectacular 360-degree view of San Antonio, put on your party clothes and ride the elevator of the Thompson Hotel to the 20th-floor rooftop. The Moon’s Daughters is the perfect place to watch the sun set and enjoy a cocktail with a few Mediterranean bites—feta burrata with pesto, char-grilled octopus skewers, fried calamari with Greek olives.
A decade ago, 17-year-old Ty Langston went into business with his dad, opening what is now a locally famous pizzeria, Comfort Pizza. Father and son built everything from scratch, renovating a 1920s gas station for the space, constructing an Old World–style wood-fired oven, even inventing Bluetooth-powered, remote-controlled table umbrellas for the outdoor seating area. They home-grow their sourdough yeast and “Ty The Pizza Guy” bakes every pie himself.
A beloved-by-locals Hill Country winery, Bending Branch offers wine made via a technique called cryo-maceration. It’s wine-nerd stuff that involves freezing and defrosting grapes, but whatever the details are, the proof is in the product: Its wines are delicious and the estate and tasting room make for a beautiful stop.
Things to do in the Hill Country
There are plenty of things to do within an hour’s drive of San Antonio:
Visit Luckenbach for country music
Check out Luckenbach, population three. OK, these days, the population is zero, and the “town” is a country music venue and a few food trucks and beer stands, but it is a kitschy good time. As Waylon Jennings sang, “Out in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”
Go antiquing in Comfort and Boerne
These two towns are crammed with curio shops where you’ll find everything from cowhide rugs to vintage Coca-Cola signs to one-of-a-kind mirrors. A couple not to miss: Sift through treasures at 8th Street Market in Comfort, where the antique collections of 35 vendors converge in a repurposed Ford dealership with a grain silo ceiling and sprawl into a spacious yard; and Carousel Antiques & Fickle Pickles, a Boerne shop that’s all pickles in the front, antiques in the back. (Fickle Pickles has several locations throughout the Hill Country and its pickles are spicy, sweet, and totally addictive.)
Spend a morning at San Antonio’s Weekend Market
Though you might not want to spend much time in the city when you’re here to see the country, if you’re traveling on a weekend, the Weekend Market in the Pearl District of San Antonio is a delightful outdoor stroll. At the Saturday farmers’ market, you’ll find free-range eggs and honey straight from the hives, while at the Sunday artisan market, you can shop for handmade soaps, jewelry, and pottery crafted by local designers.
How to get there
Fly into San Antonio and rent a car because one of the best things to do in the Hill Country is drive through the gorgeous scenery. The Hill Country spans 31,000 square miles and 25 counties, so just choose your first destination and plug it into Google Maps.
>>Next: The Scenic Route: A Guide to the World’s Best Road Trips