If your dream getaway includes lake activities, live music, and shopping at locally owned boutique shops, look no further than Austin, Texas. Book a stay at an Austin vacation rental tucked away in the woods, or nestled in a quiet neighborhood close to the historic downtown area. When the weekend comes around, venture out to one of these exciting nearby cities and towns.

1. Salado

Source: Facebook/Salado Texas

Plan your trip to Salado for the same dates of one its amazing festivals. In September, arrive in time for the annual Chocolate and Wine Fest. Throughout the weekend and at various locations in town, you get to taste the best chocolates, desserts, and wines available. There are activities for kids and vendors selling chocolate and wine that you can take home with you. The holiday season is another popular time of year a visit during the Christmas Stroll. As you wander the downtown area during the first two weekends in December, you run across carolers singing your holiday songs. Many of the shops offer hot beverages and tasty treats to help keep your energy up as you do your Christmas shopping.

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2. Glen Rose

Source: Flickr/Dave Catchpole

In Glen Rose, learn more about dinosaurs than you ever imagined with the Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World located here. Dinosaur Valley State Park is home to several preserved footprints of these massive creatures. In the interpretive center, you can learn more about these creatures, the discovery of the footprints, and see a trail map to navigate the trails in the park. With a little knowledge under your belt, make your way to Dinosaur World. Start with the museum to find out about the 150 dinos that you’re about to see. Take the kids on the park’s trails to see the life-sized dinosaurs of all types.

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3. New Braunfels

Source: Flickr/Michael Salazar

Get out and explore the environment in New Braunfels. Natural Bridge Caverns offers a tour of this underground system of caves. Once your back above ground, there’s an adventure course to walk across rope bridges and practice your balance skills. If you prefer your fun closer to the ground, enjoy a snack at the cafe while the others climb. McKenna Children’s Museum offers a variety of hands-on exhibits that appeal to children and teaches them about space and technology. Climb aboard a train and explore various cars from the engine to the caboose at the New Braunfels Historic Railroad and Modelers Society. There’s also an indoor exhibit of model trains.

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4. Pilot Point

Source: Flickr/GoToVan

Smell the fresh air with a weekend away in Pilot Point. Start your weekend with a tour of the Western Son Distillery for the adults in your group and pick up a bottle to take home with you to your vacation rental. For more family fun, visit the Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch and book an up-close and personal visit with some of youngest zoo animals. The park extends for more than 120 acres, and the tram makes it easy to see the exotic and rare animals housed here. In the spring months, Texas-Tulips is the hottest ticket in town with its blooming flowers in almost every color.

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5. Jefferson

Source: Flickr/Jay Carriker

Spend a weekend on the bayou with a visit to Jefferson. Kids love getting out into the swamp with Captain Ron’s Swamp Tours. Captain Ron shares his knowledge of this rich ecosystem and points out the unique animal and plant life. At the Museum of Measurement and Time, your family gets to view some amazing old timepieces, such as pocket watches and sundials, along with salt and pepper shaker sets. The owners of this unique museum greet you upon arrival and can answer any questions that you might have. Grab a quick bite to eat at Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar or enjoy a family meal at the Austin Street Bistro with its great selection of desserts.

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6. Marble Falls

Source: Flickr/Mark Bonica

This small town sits on the shores of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, so it’s the perfect getaway for the family who loves the outdoors. Bring your own boat to launch from one of the public sites and dock it at your vacation rental. In Johnson Park, your family can spend a day on the beach, play volleyball, and walk or bike the trails. For a small fee, the park rents kayaks to get out on the lake and explore. A short drive away is the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. As you walk along the trails, look out in the meadows to see if you can catch sight of a rare grey fox.

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7. Georgetown

Source: Flickr/Rebecca Siegel

Go underground in Georgetown with a visit to the Inner Space Cavern with its well-preserved caves. After you take a tour of the caverns, let the kids loose on the playground or try your hand at mining gold. Located on Lake Georgetown, Cedar Breaks Park offers white sand beaches and miles of hiking trails when it isn’t warm enough to play in the water. Each year, the downtown area comes alive for the Red Poppy Festival with vintage cars, live music, and vendors.

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