In the day, small town Dripping Springs was nothing more than a farm and ranch community with a few log homes, farmsteads, a post office named Nannie, and dripping limestone ledges. Located only 17 miles from the southwest edge of Austin, Dripping Springs now flourishes with the many treasures of the Texas Hill Country and is called the Gateway to the Hill Country.
Dripping Springs’s rich history and modern flair mixed with its natural springs, rolling hills, and striking views make this quaint Texas Hill Country town a wonderful place to visit any time of year. It boasts 36 wineries, breweries, and distilleries in the area and is the only town in the Hill Country to have all three. You might think people visit just to drink (and it’s not called “Sipping in Dripping” for nothing), but this upscale town has so much more to offer. For instance, Dripping Springs is also known as the Wedding Capital of Texas. And for a good reason — the views and venues. There are 35 wedding venues in Dripping Springs.
The community and visitors alike can enjoy several large events throughout the year. When planning your visit, look for events such as the Founders Day Festival in April, the Fair and Rodeo in July, Dripping with Taste in May and October, and the Dripping Springs Songwriters’ Festival in October.
I had a chance to visit Dripping Springs for the day while on a wine tour through the Texas Hill Country. Destination Dripping Springs went with us to a couple of wineries and treated us to lunch at Salt Lick BBQ.
1. Meander Historic Mercer Street
Travel back in time as you stroll Mercer Street and marvel over the unique storefronts unchanged from the 1870s. Shop and peruse the quaint boutiques and perhaps sip on something to drink. If luck has it, there may be live music playing outside.
For something amusing, grab a brew at the Barber Shop Bar. And do me a favor — when you enter, ask if you can get a haircut. Warning: Lots of laughter will follow. The building was once a barbershop, and the original barber pole is still attached to the outside of the building. New folks in town, understandably, think it’s still a barbershop.
2. Historical Mercer Street Walking Tour
After shopping downtown, take a lovely walking tour to see 18 historic sites, from houses to gas stations, stores, and more. Be sure not to miss the landmark of the actual dripping springs that gave the town its name — they’re number 2 on the list. All but one site are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Stop by the Visitors Bureau at 509 Mercer Street to pick up a map of all the sites and routes.
3. Cimb A Rock At Milton Reimers Ranch Park
Reimers Ranch is well known for its world-class outdoor rock climbing. Not into climbing? No problem, there’s more to do here. Mountain bikers can enjoy the 18 miles of trails, anglers can enjoy fishing for white bass in the Pedernales River, and swimmers can take pleasure in playing at the beach. If nothing else, come out to enjoy the panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country.
Pro Tip: There is a small, cash-only day use charge. No credit cards accepted.
4. Take An Orchard Tour At The Texas Hill Country Olive Co.
Texas Hill Country Olive Co. is a family-owned, awarded-winning olive oil company located in Dripping Springs. You can take part in olive oil tastings, orchard tours, lunch at the bistro, as well as shop collections, buy gifts, and even become a member of the olive oil club — like a wine club but with olive oil. They share lots of recipes on their website.
5. Wineries, Breweries, And Distilleries, Oh My!
With 36 drinking establishments within 15 miles of each other, there’s no doubt you’ll find a favorite. Whether it’s wine, beer, or the hard stuff, Dripping Springs is definitely a fun place to grab a friend or two for a good time.
We visited Solaro Estate Winery and enjoyed a tasting of their best wines and an ear-full of information from the proud owner. I now know more about growing grapes than I ever hoped. I loved our experience here because I found a good tempranillo that I view as my favorite red wine. We also visited Driftwood Estate Winery, where we enjoyed a wine tasting, then went outside and sat on the ledge overlooking what we all love about the hill country: the views.
6. Explore Charro Ranch Park
Surround yourself with some of the prettiest nature paths in Dripping Springs. Go for a run on the jogging trails, bring your binoculars along for bird watching at the bird viewing station, or take a leisure walk and have a picnic. All this and more are available at Charro Ranch Park.
Pro Tip: For a true bird watching experience, plan to visit during the spring or fall migration. Check with the visitor’s bureau for more information.
7. Hamilton Pool Preserve
Every outdoor enthusiast needs to plan a visit to see this natural preserve. It’s not often you cross paths with something this beautiful unless you live nearby. I’m planning my second visit later this year just to witness the views and watch the 50-foot waterfall plunge over the box canyon. Hamilton Pool Preserve is home to the golden-cheeked warbler and various other birds. So pack your binoculars, your hiking shoes, and plenty of water and enjoy the view. Guided tours are available.
From the looks of things, swimming is no longer allowed, and there seem to be strict rules regarding entrance, swimming, parking, and pets. I highly suggest calling before you go or reading over the website carefully. The Public Information Line for the most up-to-date status of the preserve is 512-264-2740.
Pro Tip: You’ll pay a car fee and a per person fee. Cash only at the preserve and reservations for cars are best made online. No pets allowed.
8. West Cave Outdoor Discover Center
Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is a 76-acre natural preserve with caves, dripping springs, bird watching areas, and more. Individual and group tours are available. My first pick would be the Westcave Uplands self-guided tour. For a small entry fee, take up to an hour and a half leisurely walk through the oak trees and spring wildflowers.
Pro Tip: Reservations are required beforehand. Hours may vary.
9. Buy Local At The Farmers Market
One of my favorite things to do is visit farmer markets where ever I go. Plus I love supporting locals. If you like a local farmers market as I do, and you’re in town on a Wednesday, head to the market at Highway 290 and Ranch Road 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. Look for fresh produce, fun goods, and live music. The Dripping Springs Farmers Market is open year round.
10. Drive South To Driftwood
If you thought Driftwood was a town, I’m sorry to disappoint you — it’s not. I was ready to deem it one of my favorite small towns in the Hill Country until I was told it’s not a town, just an area of Dripping Springs. Even though Driftwood is not a town, it is a place you’ll want to visit. It’s home to the famous Salk Lick BBQ restaurant with an out-of-this-world outdoor dining space. Even if you don’t care for barbecue, it’s worth a trip to have a drink outside and listen to live music. Also in Driftwood are wineries, wedding venues, restaurants, vineyards, breweries, a park, lodging, and even a place to dance! I’m sure I left out a few.
11. Mercer Dancehall
Speaking of places to dance, are you up for a bit of boot-scootin’? Pack your boots, and maybe your cowboy hat, and head 3 miles out from town (to Driftwood) to the Mercer Dancehall. Not just a dancehall, you might think. This one has tables and serves food. You can even rent a cabin nearby. Check the website for upcoming events — your favorite singer just might pop up on the online calendar!
12. Lodging In Dripping Springs
I don’t know about you, but if I were to spend any more than a day here, I’d book the most quaint stay I could find. Well, if you’re like me, you’re in luck. From retreats and bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals, ranches, and lodges, there is the perfect place for everyone to rest their head in Dripping Springs. A place to start is online at I Love Dripping Springs Vacations. There are several charming overnight stays on the list. Otherwise, there is a list of places to stay in the visitor’s guide. Be sure to order a visitor’s guide as you plan your trip. I always order one as part of my planning process.
Pro Tips: Locals here are very proud of their town and want everyone to know that the best friend chicken in town is at the Shell Station on Highway 290! And whether you’re coming for the day or a weekend, they hope visitors visit the historical sites as much as the wineries!
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