Get to Know Gruene!
One of the many great things about living in Central Texas is the fact that within two hours’ drive there are literally hundreds of great places to explore and enjoy. And the little town of Gruene is one of the best on the list.
Before we moved to the Austin area we’d always heard of Gruene, primarily because when you grow up or live in Texas for any length of time you’ll hear about a place called Gruene Hall, which as Kevin Geil very aptly pointed out in our video is the “Grand Ole Opry of Texas.” It’s the legendary Texas dance hall, and after well over 100 years in operation it still regularly attracts big crowds and some of the biggest names in music. (We’re saving our gushing remarks about Gruene Hall for a special blog post tomorrow by the way.)
But it was only during our first actual visit to Gruene many years ago when we realized there was much more to this groovy little spot on the map than just the dance hall. And since we had a couple of days to kill between adventures these past few weeks, we thought we’d pay a quick visit to Gruene, and put some material together to share with all of you guys out there in internet-land. So here’s our to-see-and-do list for a visit to Gruene:
We arrived in Gruene right at lunchtime and kicked off our visit with a tasty mid-day meal at a place called Mozies, located on the corner of the old H.D. Gruene building and a stone’s throw across the street from Gruene Hall.
The Gruene General Store is arguably the most “touristy” place in Gruene, and yet we still make a point to stroll through the place every time we visit. Despite being stocked with all the trappings of a schmaltzy Texas souvenir shop, it’s a very cool old building with a fun, nostalgic vibe. And if you don’t at least take a minute to walk through the place you’re missing out. In addition to the wide selection of cowboy hats, candies, signs, magnets, keychains and the like, you can also sample several different kinds of tasty local, homemade sauces and salsas and treat yourself to some fantastic hand-dipped ice cream at the old soda fountain. The only downside to the General Store (other than the touristy nature of the place) is the crowd. Every time we’ve been there the place has been jammed with people, and the isles and merchandise inside are so closely packed together that it’s easy to feel a bit claustrophobic.
The crowds aren’t nearly as big across the street at the Gruene Antique Company, housed in the historic old H.D. Gruene building. And even though we’re not big “antiquers” we still love walking through the place and checking out all the groovy stuff. And there’s lots of it. The place is a maze of room dividers and display cases, and is packed from wall to wall with all sorts of kitchy, crazy cool collectibles, furniture and knick-knacks.
If you’re looking to sample some good wine while in Gruene, The Grapevine is definitely an inviting stop (heck, the refreshing cool of the misters spraying clouds of fine cold water across the porch is enough to draw anybody in). It’s hard to miss – literally next door to the General Store – and it’s another one of those places that’s just very… well… Gruene. The tasting room definitely has a very casual, very western feel to it, and they’ve got a wide variety of fabulous Texas and non-Texas wines from which to choose. Best of all, tastings are still free (giddyup!) which we’ve learned is a rarity after visiting a number of wineries and tasting rooms around the country. Cheers!
Tubing (or “toobing” as many call it) the Guadalupe River is really just a great time. Really. Even in years like this when the water levels are low and the river’s flow rolls at a snail’s pace at times, in our opinion there’s still no better way to spend a hot summer Texas day.
You can bring your own tubes if you like and ride the river essentially for free, but if you don’t want to mess with the hassle you can rent tubes from a number of outfitters in the area. We went with Rockin’ R River Rides there in Gruene, which is literally a block’s walk down the hill from Gruene’s main historic district. As mentioned in the video they offer a few different tubing options, and they like most companies provide a shuttle service to carry you from the end of your float back to your car. They also provide canoes, stand-up paddleboards and white-water rafting (when conditions allow) if tubing isn’t necessarily your thing. A word of warning about beverages though: the city of New Braunfels – of which Gruene is a part – has banned “disposable beverage containers” from the rivers in town (i.e., beer and soda cans and bottles) so you may have to, shall we say, get creative if you want to enjoy a cold drink while you tube. As we speak there’s an ongoing battle in the court system over this very issue, and the status of the “can ban” as they call it is very much fluid (awesome pun intended). So best to call ahead to any companies operating in New Braunfels to find out what the current regulations are.
And for dinner, there’s really no better place in Gruene than The Gristmill. It’s without a doubt Gruene’s most popular dining spot, so it can definitely get pretty crowded during peak times. But the wait is absolutely worth it (plus, if the wait’s too long you can just pop into Gruene Hall next door for a cold beer while you’re hanging out). The building and the surroundings alone are worth stopping by to see – but the food really is fantastic and takes the place over the top. Out –of-this-world chicken fried steak, grilled shrimp, killer ribs, tasty veggies, cold beer. Yum. And the list goes on. You can opt to dine inside what remains of the historic old cotton gin building, or outside on the multi-level wooden decks that overlook the Guadalupe River (which we always do, even if it’s a blazing 100 degrees outside). During our visit last week we sat at a table on the railing outside and looked down on a couple of deer that were wandering around at the water’s edge. Very cool. Some might argue that the Gristmill is also just another over—hyped tourist trap, but we’ve honestly never had a bad experience there. Great food, great atmosphere, and friendly service. Highly recommended.
All in all, you’ll love a visit to Gruene – whether it’s just for a few hours or a couple of days. There so much more to see and do in Gruene than what we’ve mentioned, and when you visit you’ll see why it’s a favorite stop for lots of folks. Best of all, everything in town is located literally within an area the size of a couple of city blocks. So you can park your car and leave it parked all day while you walk everywhere you want to go.
So enjoy! And again, be sure to check out our special post about Gruene Hall, along with some very cool photos.