JUST WEST OF WEIRD
11 reasons to escape the Austin bustle with a day trip to Dripping Springs
As a Dripping Springs native, I like to think I know it pretty well. The town has come a long way from being known as the place “just west of weird," exploding in recent years into a suburb of Austin (though many would frown upon that designation). If you’re driving on Highway 290, viewing the Dripping Springs water tower with its “Gateway to the Hill Country” motto in bold letters serves as a personal welcome for residents and newcomers alike.
Despite the rapid recent growth in the Austin area, Dripping Springs still has many of the small-town features that its local residents — and transplants — all love. Many of the culinary staples I enjoyed as a teenager are still thriving, years after the COVID-19 pandemic threatened local businesses statewide. The annual April Founders Day Festival has been a must-see for families for decades.
With Austin's festival season officially in full swing (you know, the one that lasts eight months), anyone looking to escape the busyness or find a new day trip spot should consider these 11 places to visit in Dripping Springs.
Where to Eat
Homespun Kitchen & Bar
Homespun is a farm-to-table American restaurant with European influences that serves brunch, lunch, and dinner with live music and kid-friendly spaces. Chef Michael St. Germain is behind all menu choices, applying his experience from San Francisco restaurants and bringing critical acclaim for his burgers, according to the restaurant's website. With weekday specials, fresh-made desserts and over 300 whiskeys to choose from, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Reserve at homespunkitchenandbar.com.
Oak Creek Cafe
Who can say no to some good Southern comfort food? Oak Creek Cafe has been operating at the corner of Sportplex Drive and Highway 290 for several years. Must-try menu items include the chicken fried steaks, biscuits and gravy, and mushroom Swiss burger. The cafe regularly posts photos of its large plates of comfort food on Facebook, and Google reviewers love it as a breakfast spot above all.
Rolling in Thyme & Dough
A personal favorite: Rolling in Thyme & Dough’s original Highway 290 location is in the center of Dripping Springs, offering delicious pastries, breakfast, and lunch options. Fan favorites include the smoky chipotle breakfast sandwich, the TX two-step sandwich for lunch, and any of the freshly-baked pastries. They also have weekly BYOB bistro nights on Wednesdays in the spring, utilizing fresh ingredients from the Dripping Springs Farmers Market.
Mazama Coffee Co
Since its founding in 2012, Dripping Springs’ first independent coffee shop has been caffeinating the town for over a decade. They micro-roast their own beans from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Brazil. They also have a bakery to provide customers with well-loved baked goods and lunch. Mazama’s was named the Best Coffee Shop of Dripping Springs from 2018-2021, according to their site.
The Great British Baking Company
This cozy food spot is a newer addition to Mercer Street. The Great British Baking Company adds to the growing food culture in town with their homemade sticky toffee pudding, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, and rotating soups. All of their menu items are made right behind the checkout counter in their open kitchen. Don’t forget to browse their selection of imported British goods, and make sure to take home a parfait or chocolate mousse in a jar.
What to Do
Dripping Springs Chocolate Company
The Wilson family created their chocolate business as a way to support local economies in Nicaragua after a family mission trip. In their mission statement, they aim to create the best chocolate while “improv[ing] the lives of the farmers and communities that grow the cacao.” They’ve since expanded their initial chocolate offerings to spice rubs, dessert and hot cocoa mixes, and chocolate-covered snacks.
The Sated Sheep
As a self-described “psychologist-turned-fiber-junkie,” this yarn shop owner has created her own community surrounding fiber crafts and a love of knitting. Allison’s shop has been a must-see for any visitors looking to pick up a new hobby, or wanting to grab a glass of wine and watch other knitters or crocheters create works of art. The shop offers affordable classes for any skill level, private lessons, and workshops for special events.
If you’ve never met Julie Crawford, you’re missing out on one of the most bubbly and welcoming personalities in Dripping Springs. Whether you’re in her Mercer Street shop or watching her weekly “Try-on Tuesday” Instagram stories, Julie makes everyone feel confident in her clothes and accessories. And let’s be honest, everyone loves information about true garment sizing before you try it on or buy online.
Starrs on Mercer
Two sisters with zero retail experience collaborated in 2015 to build a bustling “modern day department store” on Mercer Street. Born out of a love for shopping and convenience, Starrs on Mercer is a one-stop shop for women’s, men’s, and baby clothing, plus accessories, and gifts. The Starr sisters have since opened a travel agency, Starrs On The Go, to expand their endeavors.
Treaty Oak Distilling
You can’t write about Dripping Springs without including some popular distilleries. When it was founded in 2006, Treaty Oak says it was only the fourth distillery operating in the state. The distillery sits on a 28-acre property on Fitzhugh Road with plenty of space for children to explore while you sit back and enjoy a hand-crafted cocktail. Tours of the distillery are available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and classes are available on select Saturdays every month.
Desert Door Distillery
What was once a barren plot of land on Darden Hill Road has now developed into the only sotol distillery in the United States. Desert Door hosts a range of live music weekly, offers tours on weekends, and also has a rental space for private events. With a variety of cocktails and tacos made by James Beard award winner Jesse Griffiths and Spoke Hollow Steward, it’s definitely a go-to for any day trip itinerary.