The Great Plains are prime for road tripping: whether you’re in a hurry to get across the flat center of our country or up for an adventure by taking in some of the quirky roadside attractions you can find all over the region, driving is arguably the best way to explore the “fly-over” states of the Great Plains.
On this site, I provide lots of advice on making road trips in the Great Plains. Whether you’re driving from Denver to Omaha, Sioux Falls to Kansas City, Billings to Fargo, or Amarillo to Lubbock, I want you to feel excited about the time you’ll spend on the wide-open road. Today, I’m sharing my best tips on making the drive between Dallas and Austin.
To be fair, this is a short drive compared to some; don’t let that deter you from making a stop or two to see the sights and explore this part of central Texas. You’re still within the Great Plains – and there are some great reasons to take an exit off I-35!
Ready to hit the road? Read on for everything you need to know about driving between Austin and Dallas.
Distance Between Dallas & Austin
As the crow flies, it’s 182 miles between Dallas and Austin. However, if you’re reading the article, you probably want to know the distance when driving and not flying.
Unlike many other road trips, the drive between Austin and Dallas covers the same distance as flying. The shortest route between Dallas and Austin is 195 miles, along Interstate 35 – a very easy route to follow!
Just a reminder, the final driving distance you’ll have depends on your start and end points within each city. Also, the distance may get longer or shorter depending on the detours you add to your route.
Drive Time Between Austin & Dallas
A nonstop drive from Dallas to Austin takes about three hours. As you can see, this road trip is easily doable in one day, giving you a chance to add a few touristy stops along the way!
Another thing worth noticing is that whether you drive northbound to Dallas or southbound to Austin, you’ll cover approximately the same mileage and spend the same time on the road.
Notice there are three routes you can use to drive from Austin to Dallas:
- via I-35 E and I-35 S
- via I-35 E, Texas Highway 317 S, and I-35 S
- via I-45 S and I-35 S
In addition to being the shortest route, the fastest route between Dallas and Austin is on Interstate 35, taking three hours and 15 minutes to drive.
9 Stops to Make on Your Drive Between Dallas & Austin
If you’re making a road trip out of your drive between Dallas and Austin, here are a few stops worth checking along the way, whether it is to snap a few photos or stretch your legs.
Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum
Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum isn’t exactly on I-35 but inside the Truck Yard, north of Dallas. If you’re making a drive between Dallas and Austin, you might want to take a detour to this unusual spot.
Barney Smith was a retired plumber well into his 80s when he decided to showcase his long-time artistic pursuit: toilet seat artworks. It turns out he had always been a gifted painter, and toilet seats were the perfect canvas to create quirky collages. The variety of themes and styles is impressive. Look to your right, and you’ll find a toilet seat covered in Troll Dolls; look at your left, and there’s another one decorated with colorful marbles. Next to that one, there’s a toilet seat with an amalgamation of toy cars.
Munster Mansion Replica
Yep, there’s a Munster Mansion along the drive between Austin and Dallas. Sandra McKee, a born-and-bred Texan, was so in love with the Munster television series that she decided to create an amazing replica of the house with her husband.
The replica opened in 2002, and its resemblance to the original one is nothing short of impressive. Even the disposition of the artwork is the same! As a heads up, Sandra offers tours of the house with previous appointments only.
Making a stop at Mayborn Museum is a no-brainer if you’re traveling with kids. The museum has curated immersive exhibitions using walk-in dioramas. Most topics focus on the natural and cultural history of Central Texas. Walking around its rooms, you can find a humpback whale skull or a life-sized representation of a 28-foot-long Pliosaur. The museum also organizes special exhibits.
Dr. Pepper Museum
Whether you like Dr. Pepper or not, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco. Housed in the original factory of 1885, the Dr. Pepper Museum gives an interesting look at the start of soft drinks and, of course, the invention of Dr. Pepper. The exhibits focus on the history and branding strategies, displaying the company’s various bottles, logos, and advertisements over the years.
The museum’s highlight is the recreation of the soda fountain where Dr. Charles Alderton first mixed the favors that make up Dr. Pepper. Here, thirsty visitors can make their soda and create new flavors using syrups and carbonated water.
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
On your drive between Dallas and Austin, stop by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and dive into the history of the Texas Rangers, one of the most iconic figures in the history of the Lone Star State.
The Texas Rangers are the oldest state law enforcement agency in the United States, and their legacy has inspired numerous movies, radio shows, and television shows in the country.
This museum in Waco features exhibitions about the Rangers’ origin, evolution, and influence in Old West history. It also has exhibitions dedicated to famous Rangers and an incredible collection of rare artifacts, with descriptions and explanations. If you have the time, sit for the 45-minute documentary on your admission ticket.
Texas Sports Hall of Fame
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is a real find for sports fans. However, it is also an excellent option for those who don’t want to extend their drive between Dallas and Austin too long. It only takes two hours, tops, to explore this museum’s collections.
You’ll find exhibits paying homage to everyone who played a pivotal role in Texas sports, from athletes and coaches to administrators. For Football fans, there is a Tom Landry exhibit; baseball fans will enjoy the Nolan Ryan exhibit, and boxing enthusiasts can check out the George Foreman exhibit. There are also displays of cute college mascots.
Inner Space Cavern
Inner Space Cavern is literally a hidden gem right off of I-35. Located in Georgetown, the Inner Space Cavern is a karst cave resulting from water passing through Edwards limestone. It is estimated to be around 20-25 million years old! The site offers excellent tours, including the history of the caverns’ discovery and their importance to the geological and paleontological records. Also, it is a good fit for families with young kids as the tours cater to different ages.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
If you didn’t learn much about Texas history at school, this is your chance to do so. The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin does an excellent job covering every historical episode of the Lone Star state, from Indigenous peoples up through the Space Age.
Currently, they offer self-guided tours. You can enjoy three floors full of displays that comprehensively examine the origins of Texas. There are also small theaters where you can watch short movies about history.
Congress Avenue Bridge / Austin Bats
Did you know there’s a colony of bats living beneath Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin? Well, now you do. The best of all is that you can witness this spectacle on your road trip.
Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, with around 750,000 and 1.5 million bats living beneath it. The bats start streaming out into the night sky on their hunt when dusk comes. The only downside of this “pitstop” is that you must time your visit to coincide with the dusk. Try to be in Austin about 90 minutes before sunset. Then, find a good viewing spot southeast of the bridge or on a hill to sit and wait.
Other Tips for Your Drive Between Dallas & Austin
Now that you know the basics of the drive and are inspired to make a few stops, here are some final tips to help you finish planning your road trip:
- The route between Dallas and Austin occurs entirely within a single state, Texas.
- The biggest city along the route is Waco, which is also the halfway point if you need to stop and stretch your legs.
- While you might not need to stop, there are a few commercial truck stops along the route between Austin and Dallas.
- There are also plenty of gas stations and truck stops along I-23 if you need fuel, toilets, snacks, or other services.
Should You Fly Between Austin & Dallas Instead?
I know I always leave it up to you to decide if it’s better to fly or drive from one city to another. However, in this case, we have a clear winner for travel between Austin and Dallas: driving.
Cost-wise, there’s a marked difference between flying and driving. A one-way flying ticket starts at $100, whereas you’ll spend $59.51 on gas – round trip.
Time-wise, a flight from Dallas to Austin takes about three hours, considering the time you need to get to the airport, check-in, flight time, and drive to your destination in Austin. A Dallas to Austin drive takes three hours without any detours or stops. Unless you don’t feel comfortable behind the wheel or just want to avoid the stress of driving, I highly suggest you make the drive between Austin and Dallas. It will be an excellent opportunity to see something new!
Have any other questions about making the drive between Dallas and Austin? Let me know in the comments!