German heritage meets Texas history in charming New Braunfels, Texas.
PHOTO: MICHAEL ANTHONY MASCORRO / 500PX / GETTY
Situated between Austin and San Antonio is New Braunfels, Texas, a historic town at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe rivers. Founded in 1845 by German immigrants, New Braunfels is full of historic buildings that have been preserved through the years. Walk or drive through town and see early German-vernacular homes built by early settlers, or immerse yourself in Tex-German culture at the annual Wurstfest, where you’ll find plenty of lederhosen, German beer and food, live music, dancing, and fun for all. Whether you choose to float a river in true Texas fashion, visit local museums, see a show in the historic theater—or all of the above—you’re sure to have a blast here. Here, our favorite things to do in New Braunfels.
Visit Gruene Historic District
Pronounced “green,” the Gruene Historic District was once home to German settlers in the early 1800s. Today, the area is home to the famous Gruene Hall, the oldest dancehall in Texas where music legends such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and George Strait have played. There’s live music every night here, so grab a pair of cowboy boots and hit the dance floor. The District also includes the Gruene General Store, a great place for souvenirs, postcards, homemade fudge and salsas, and more. Grab dinner at The Gristmill Restaurant, perched under Gruene’s iconic water tower in the 19th-century cotton gin ruins, or sample a wine tasting flight at The Grapevine, where Texas wines make up most selections.
Float The River
Hot Texas days are always made better when there’s a source of water to cool off in, and New Braunfels is one of the best places in the state to do so, as it’s home to both the Comal and Guadalupe rivers. Tubing in Texas’ rivers is basically a rite of passage, and there are numerous outfitters that can help you get on the water. The Comal River offers a shorter float and calmer waters, while the Guadalupe River offers a longer float. Feel free to bring your own tube and access the rivers via river parks, or use an outfitter like Rockin’ R to help you shuttle in and out of the river. Alcohol is allowed, but you must drink from non-disposable containers if you’re inside city limits.
Say Cheers At Local Wineries And Breweries
Sip your way through New Braunfels at numerous breweries and wineries, including Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, which offers wine tastings from varietals such as tempranillo, syrah, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto. In historic Gruene, Winery on the Gruene serves over 30 different types of wine, including fruit-infused wines like watermelon white merlot and black cherry pinot noir. Beer enthusiasts can enjoy Guadalupe Brewing, where craft brews include pilsners, ales, hefeweizens, and more paired with menu items such as muffalettas and artisan pizzas. Faust Brewing Company makes German- and English-style beers with seasonal varieties.
Learn History At Local Museums
Immerse yourself in the history of New Braunfels with museums such as the Sophienburg Museum, which tells the story of New Braunfels’ earliest settlers as they crossed the Atlantic to come to Central Texas. Exhibits include photographs, maps, artifacts, and documents that take visitors through the history and heritage of New Braunfels. Railfans will love the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, where model rail cars and railroads, railroad history, photographs, and artifacts explain the area’s rail history. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the McKenna Children’s Museum. Exhibits include an aquarium, kid-friendly grocery store, and spaces about ranching and the outdoors.
Take A Walking Tour
In German, “spass” means “fun,” and that’s exactly what’s in store with a walking tour of New Braunfels from Spass Walking Tours. Stroll through downtown on a mural tour, walk through historic cemeteries and find unmarked graves, enjoy a craft beer on the saloon tour, or sample local fare on the Taste of New Braunfels Tour. There are numerous tours available, and pricing includes a guided tour, food, and drinks. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring sunscreen.
Texas Ski Ranch
Thrill seekers should head to Texas Ski Ranch, where you can wakeboard (with or without a boat), wake surf, play paintball, or do axe throwing. Those wanting to wakeboard without a boat can use the cable park, where you’re pulled across the water by a cable. Beginners can learn to ride on the ‘Lil Bro or by taking a private lesson, and advanced riders can challenge themselves with rails and kickers. Afterwards, head to Ironsides Craft Bar, which has 26 beers on tap and a food menu.
Explore Downtown New Braunfels
Don’t miss a stop to downtown New Braunfels, where dining, shopping, live music, art galleries, and more abound. Treat yourself with a sticky roll or German pretzel at Naegelin’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas, or pick up some artisan cheeses for your next charcuterie board at Gourmage. The New Braunfels Art League showcases works from some of the region’s best artists, and the Downtown Antique Mall includes more than 60 vendors within 20,000 square feet of retail space. End your day with a scoop of scratch-made ice cream from Scoop Street, where flavors like pumpkin whiskey caramel cheesecake keep patrons coming back.