The car is packed with people, duffle bags, coolers, maybe a tent or two. The Spotify playlist is queued up with a little Pat Green, a little Fat Pat, a little Buddy Holly, a little Polyphonic Spree. You’ve made the final push west on I-10 past Sealy, officially out of sight of the city, and the flat, grassy prairies begin to give way to gently rolling hills peppered with cheerful Indian paintbrush and bluebonnets. It’s the beginning of the quintessential Texas road trip: a weekend in the Hill Country.

Much of what is officially the Hill Country lies on the western side of I-35, in Central Texas between Dallas and San Antonio. However, many Houstonians have a slightly looser definition of the region than our brethren. For us, Brenham and Round Top, in the “foothills of the Hill Country,” count, as do Luling and Lockhart, offering the undulating topography and small-town charm that draw us out of our swampy metropolis—without the accompanying five-hour drive.

The region calls to us for so many reasons. There’s the bluebonnets; the dance halls; the crisp, spring-fed creeks and swimming holes where rope swings hang from knobby-kneed cypress trees. There’s the top-notch antiquing; the back-country roads dotted with vineyards and wineries; the unmatched barbecue joints, steeped in layers of smoke from decades of briskets past. And there’s the beautiful parks full of trails and campsites where, if we’re lucky, we can sleep under a cool night sky saturated with stars, sacked out after a day of hiking.

We’ll explore the Hill Country’s best settings for those activities and more. So fill up your tank, grab a few Whataburger taquitos for the road, and prepare to go truly Texan.

In This Feature:

Wait, What's Officially the Hill Country?

It's time for a little geography and geology lesson.

04/17/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt

Take the Plunge in Wimberley

Welcome to Wimberley, where the water's fine — and so is everything else.

04/17/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt

Travel the Texas Wine Trail in Fredericksburg

Toast the state's second-oldest viticultural region in Fredericksburg.

04/17/2017 By Catherine Matusow

Seeking Antiques? Head to Round Top

It's all about the thrill of the hunt.

04/17/2017 By Jeanne Lyons Davis

In Lockhart, a Texas Barbecue Pilgrimage Takes Place

From brisket to sausage to, yes, pork chops, Lockhart is a meat-lover’s mecca.

04/17/2017 By Sarah Rufca Nielsen

Climb to the Sky in Garner State Park

The trails might be challenging, but they're worth it.

04/17/2017 By Marianella Orlando

Waltz Across Texas in These Hill Country Honky-Tonks

These old-school, floor-stompin' dance halls are the soul of the Texas Hill Country.

04/17/2017 By Marianella Orlando