11 Day Trips You Just Gotta Take While at Fort Hood
The best thing about a PCS to Fort Hood is its central location in Texas. There's a lot to do located within just an hour or two's drive, and this list doesn’t even include the awesome, Texas-sized attractions a little further out (3 hours away) in places like Dallas (JFK museum, AT&T Stadium) and Houston (Space Center). Below are the top eleven attractions to consider, both for newbies and longtime residents alike!
If you know anything about Austin, you probably know about Sixth Street. Perhaps nowhere else in America is there so dense an offering of bars, nightclubs and live music (not just 6th street – 5th street and the surrounding area has great offerings, too). Austin is the live music capital of the world, and you are guaranteed to find innumerable options any Friday or Saturday night. Everything a UT college kid or bearded hipster could want. Get your bar crawl on! (Though plan ahead for a DD, as Austin has effectively banned Uber. Why? Because “Keep Austin Weird”).
Right and Up Tip: Sixth Street is a blast the weekend of Halloween!
Not just craft beers. Texas is starting to earn a reputation for its own wine country. And Fort Hood is located right on the border of the beautiful vineyards in the Hill Country. There are at least 52 wineries to visit, and putting together a wine tour is an easy Google search away. Combine it with a day trip to Lake Buchanan, LBJ’s ranch tour, or the Fredericksburg Pacific War Museum.
Right and Up Tip: Getting married in CenTex? This same Hill Country features the prettiest parts of the State and is also a popular location for wedding receptions, often hosted by these same wineries.
The Texas Hill Country sits along the Edwards Plateau, comprised mostly of limestone. Ground water erodes the limestone over time, meaning the Hill Country is dotted with caverns and caves – many likely yet undiscovered. The Inner Space Cavern was discovered when building Interstate-35 in Georgetown. The workers found not only unexplored caverns but also the preserved bones of mammoths and sabre tooth tigers. The Inner Space Cavern basic tour makes for a good family event year round. They also offer a Wild Cave tour for ages 13+, which ventures into the undeveloped crevices beneath.
Can’t get enough of caves? The Natural Bridge Caverns are also a very popular destination, located two hours from Fort Hood in San Antonio.
Right and Up Tip: The caverns are NOT cold. In fact, I got sweaty carrying my one year old around the whole place. With humidity, apparently it keeps a balmy 80 degrees year round. Plan accordingly.
4. Texas Rodeo
If you’re a city slicker uninitiated to the pastimes and sports of Cowboy country, Fort Hood is an excellent area to catch a quality rodeo. Almost any time of year, there is probably a rodeo going on somewhere within an hour’s drive. Rodeo Austin takes place in March. The Central Texas State Fair in Belton is a great place to catch a rodeo closeby every September, followed by the Waco Heart ‘O Texas Fair and Rodeo every October. The HEB Center in Cedar Park also hosts rodeos from time to time. You’ve got 8 seconds to put this on your calendar…
Right and Up Tip: If you’re one of those city slickers picking out Stetsons, remember that you wear white straw hats in summer and black felt hats in winter (best to get a white straw hat as the Texas winter lasts about a week).
Did you know Dr. Pepper was invented in little ole Waco, TX? Located in the original building first used to bottle Dr. Pepper is the Dr. Pepper museum. The building has three stories of exhibits, commemorating not just Dr. Pepper’s history but the history of soda. Combine it with a Waco day trip to a Baylor game or the Texas Ranger Museum.
Right and Up Tip: When in Texas, drink Dr. Pepper.
6. San Antonio River Walk and Alamo
A day or weekend trip to San Antonio is a must for Fort Hood dwellers. And there’s a lot to do, whether catching a Spurs game, checking out Sea World, or going to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. But you must – MUST – go view the Alamo and adjacent River Walk. The Alamo, of course, is the fortress in which fewer than 200 Texians held off ten times as many Mexicans for thirteen days before being overrun and slaughtered to a man. The time bought and the example of their sacrifice would lead to Texian victory over Mexico and Independence. The Alamo today is an icon of that struggle and the San Antonio landscape.
The adjacent River Walk is a meandering river that goes through downtown San Antonio, with countless shopping outlets and restaurants dotting its entire length. It is a scenic world famous attraction in San Antonio you shouldn’t miss.
Right and Up Tip: Looking to cap off your San Antonio visit with a someone special? The Tower of the Americas is a rotating restaurant (like the iconic Reunion Tower in Dallas) 750 feet over the San Antonio landscape.
7. Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool
Zilker Park is a mammoth park (over 350 acres) within sight of downtown Austin, set against the Colorado River. There are countless things to do and see, including jogging trails, the Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin Nature and Science Center, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and chilly Barton Springs Pool. Many of Austin’s most famous events and concerts are hosted in the park, including the Trail of Lights and much of SXSW. Barton Springs pool is a 3 acre “pool” at the end of the park, fed by underground springs and is swimmable year round.
Right and Up Tip: Be warned – while the pool and surrounding playgrounds are family friendly, sun-bathing topless is permitted and frequently exercised in some of the Barton Springs Pool areas. Austin, amirite?
Texas is famous for its football. Not only does it host the world’s most lucrative sports franchise, the Dallas Cowboys, but even its high school football is nationally famous. With that tradition is the University of Texas' college football. Beginning in 1893, the UT Austin Longhorn football program is one of the oldest in America. The program has had the 2nd most bowl game appearances of any in America. In 2012, the football program’s estimated value was more than some professional NFL teams. If you love football, go to a game! If you’ve never seen football, there couldn’t be a more perfect place to start than a Longhorn game. Hook ‘em horns!
Wow. Do not miss this if you are a service member or have family who served. Thanks to Fredericksburg’s status as hometown to WWII Admiral Chester Nimitz, the town hosts the nation’s 6 acre Pacific War Museum. The museum features a complete chronicle of the Battle for the Pacific, and numerous displays of the biggest and most fearsome of WWII naval weaponry. It also has the new Japanese Garden of Peace, commemorating our reconciliation with Japan and strong alliance today, forged in victory. Do NOT take impressionable teenagers, as they will come out wanting to join the Navy, and that is unacceptable (Go Army – Beat Navy).
Right and Up Tip: Check ahead if visiting on a weekend. They have a “Living History” show – a WWII battle reenactment. Ear plugs provided.
The Grand Central Café is a very unassuming building in Kingsland, frequented by little old ladies after church on Sunday. Do not be fooled!
This was the home in which the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film was shot. At the time of the filming, it was located in Georgetown, TX, but was since moved two hours away in Kingsland, TX. Now it operates as a diner. I had Sunday brunch in the same room as Leatherface. For horror film buffs, this is a must-see.
Right and Up Tip: Your time at the café won’t take all day. It’s just a lunch. So while in Kingsland, throw in some time on Lake Buchanan or visiting wineries!
For fans of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”, the iconic silos and Magnolia Markets owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines are close by, in Waco, TX, just an hour’s drive from the Fort Hood area. The Magnolia Market at the Silos features home décor for sale – some of the same items Joanna uses in the show. The rest of the area has local food trucks visiting, the bakery with Joanna’s famous cupcakes, and a family friendly open space for kids to swing or throw a ball. And who knows when Chip and Joanna might come swinging by!
about the author
A Dallas native, Brian graduated from from the United States Military Academy in 2009, and requested Fort Hood as his duty station. After 5 years of service and one deployment to Afghanistan, he left the Army to pursue his passion in real estate. His wife Helen is from London, and they have two happy and beautiful daughters, Heather Lily and Matilda May.