How many times recently, have you daydreamed about quietly slipping away for the weekend or longer? Taking time away is usually the biggest issue for us all. A quick getaway could fit the bill. You can be in New Braunfels in less than an hour from Austin or San Antonio–you can be there by this afternoon.
This small town earns its rights to its Texas roots by packing “big” recreation and relaxation options, think small-town rhythm with a big city pulse.
The catch phrase ‘All-American’ comes to mind as the atmosphere offers a playful, cozy setting for a family holiday or a couple’s getaway. The wonder and laughter of kids and their friends can be heard on the sidewalks and the joy of family bonding seen as memories are being made on the banks of the Guadalupe River.
With something for everyone, this town is certain to lift your spirits and scratch the vacation itch. Get off the ground and into the river with the many river outfitters or take a walking tour of downtown New Braunfels where history was made. With multiple vendors including antiques; shabby chic decor; wineries; specialty candy and gelato, be sure and catch the New Braunfels Farmers Market open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. You’ll find several vendors offering products such as organic vegetables; candles; fresh produce; and more. This weekly event has a huge turnout with live music and activities every Saturday.
Let the “past be your present” to yourself or someone else from one of the many antique shops in New Braunfels. The downtown Antique Mall offers a lot of memories and novelty items within their 16,000 square-foot facility. With over 40 dealers, inventory in this location ranges from American and English hardwood furniture to a variety of memorabilia.
A wealth of ‘times-gone-by’ is displayed on the walls inside the many shops, restaurants and attractions homed in this whimsical town. Vice President of New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau, Judy Young shared a bit of the history of New Braunfels Historic Gruene district. “German immigrant Ernst Gruene and his wife Antoinette reached the city of New Braunfels in 1845,” she explained. “According to history, Ernst and his two sons purchased land just down river, and Ernst built the first home in Gruene in early fachwerk style. His second son, Henry D. Gruene, built his home (now bed and breakfast Gruene Mansion Inn) and planted his surrounding land with cotton. Having become the number one cash crop, the cotton business soon brought 20 to 30 families to Henry D.’s lands.”
She continued, “Further construction included a dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall), which became the center of the community’s social life and is still frequented today. By 1922, the original cotton gin burned and was replaced by a modern electric model down the road (now Adobe Verde). The economic disasters of the boll weevil and the Depression were too much for the family businesses and they went under, except for Gruene Hall, which never closed. The area stayed somewhat dormant for several years until 1974 when architecture student Chip Kaufman began working with the Texas Historical Commission to restore the once-thriving community. By 1975 Kaufman, together with developers and city officials, worked to place Gruene on the National Register of Historic Places. Prospective owners were sought out for new commercial ventures and the core of what exists today began.”
The village-esque setting of today has been beautifully restored without losing the charm of yesteryear. It operates with quaint shops, restaurants, a bed-and-breakfast, river outfitters, and art galleries and wineries. The rhythm of New Braunfels can truly be felt here in its Gruene historic district.
Tucked away just underneath the Gruene water tower, yet centrally located in the heart of the Gruene district, accommodations at the Gruene Mansion Inn will not disappoint. The rooms are comprised of century-old barns and homes restored to Victorian rustic elegance. With a combination of antiques, fine fabrics, and handmade furniture, every room has unique character and offers details such as clawfoot tubs and deep pedestal sinks.
The Gruene Mansion Inn is just a stone’s throw away from the many, shops, attractions and other hot spots that are the pulse of the Gruene area. Owner Cecil Eager said, “We tell our guests that they can park their car and not have to get back in it for the entire weekend. Everything is literally a Texas two-step away, within walking distance from our location.” Cecil can be found on the grounds most days and is happy to share captivating nuggets of history in this well-kept and finely crafted bed and breakfast. “The rhythm of the Gruene heart can be felt here with our Texas-friendly hospitality and amenities in the midst of rustic structures,” he explained. “We make every effort to keep what is original intact. With continuous updates and renovations, we are able to offer a piece of the past as part of the present to our guests.”
Once you’re settled into your home away from home at the Mansion, the Gruene Day Spa is just about a five minute walk or a two minute drive around the corner. Start your stay off with the intent to relax, rejuvenate and revitalize here. You’ll receive excellent and informative care from educated massage therapists. Tranquility awaits via massage; couples massage; facials; and manicures and pedicures, all within a space dedicated to serenity.
Don’t forget to pack your clubs for a serene experience at Landa Park. This 18-hole course offers Hill Country charm and unique golf course wildlife that will leave you with a feeling of everyday routine escape. Located less than 10 minutes from the Mansion, tee times are available at 7:00 a.m. Depending on your dedication to your game, you can be back, feeling refreshed and accomplished in time for breakfast and a full day.
Strolling down Gruene Road you’ll find several places to visit including the town’s General Store, which is replicative of years past with items that include food and consumables like coffee beans, spices, specialty candy, honey and molasses, crackers, cheese, syrup and hand-churned ice cream. You don’t want to leave here without trying the homemade fudge, which is sold by the block.
After indulging in the decadent fudge or a sweet ice cream treat to beat the Texas heat, step on down to the Gruene Antique Company where you’re sure to find an item or two that evokes memories from your childhood or depending on your age, an article of interest you’ve never seen before within the 6,500 square-feet of antiques, collectibles; gifts and decor.
If wine is a friend of yours you’ll definitely want to visit the Grapevine where tastings are offered daily with live music on the kid-friendly garden patio which is infused with a mist-cooling system in the evening. Featuring one of the largest selections of Texas wines available, as well as Texas craft beers and select wines from around the world, this spot provides fine wine in an outdoor or indoor setting.
The music doesn’t stop there. The legendary Gruene Hall, right next door to the Mansion hosts live music throughout the day and evening, everyday. Explosive sounds of Americana with that true Texas beat can be heard as you approach the door of the famous dance hall where artists like George Strait, Lyle Lovett and Hal Ketchum got their start. You won’t be able to stop the movement in your feet once you’re here (but would you really want to?).
Lunch and dinner can be found two steps away from any location in the Gruene area. If it’s bar eats and a cold beer you’re after go across the street to Mozie’s where you’ll find food options from juicy panko crusted parmesan chicken to a melted smoked gouda ‘Grown Up’ grilled cheese sandwich with fresh spinach and tomato on focaccia bread. Looking for appetizers and wine in an outdoor candle lit atmosphere? Head behind the Gruene Mansion to The River House where you’ll dine by candlelight to the romantic sounds of an acoustic guitar.
The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar is perhaps one of the most unique eateries in the area. Directly next door to the Gruene Mansion, you’ll enjoy a phenomenal steak, chicken or fish dinner in the ruins of a 100-year-old cotton gin beneath the water tower.
Literally an eight minute drive, downtown New Braunfels has plenty to offer for ‘date night.’ Stop by the Art League Gallery before dinner where original works of local artists Janet Chang, Pam Pohl and Robert Anschutz among others are displayed. Fine dining can be found at Myron’s Steakhouse, which boasts Chicago prime beef (the top 2% of all prime beef in the United States), a full bar and an extensive wine list. Housed in a remodeled 1924 movie theater, should you be called into the restaurant’s office, you’ll find yourself in the theater projection booth! After dinner you’ll want to visit the Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre. Established in 1942, this Art Deco inspired theatre offers musical and theatrical productions that provide a perfect uptown ending to a downtown evening.
Texans love rafting, tubing and kayaking at any time of year and rightly so as the many natural springs and rivers provide the necessary equipment– a body of water. Just around the corner from the Mansion are two river outfitters, the Gruene River Co. and Rockin ‘R’ River Rides. Get out of the sweltering sun and into the fun on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. Both river outfitters offer rafting and tubing trips.
The Rockin ‘R’ also has kayaking, and a unique hybrid of paddleboard yoga; plus the company offers transportation to and from events such as the 10-day annual ‘Wurstfest’, a German sausage festival hosted in New Braunfels since 1961. According to locals, Wurstfest is the finest in Alpine and Bavarian style entertainment.
When you’re ready to retreat from miles of shops, activities and live music, be intoxicated by nature as you enjoy the view of the serene Guadalupe River in the Gruene Mansions’ rocking chairs on your own private porch. The grounds at the Mansion itself are a pleasure to walk and talk or sit and chat with someone over an abundant breakfast.
The aromatic rich smell of dark, delicious coffee wafts through the crisp morning air walking into the main lobby. Tables are laden with every intricate breakfast detail you can bring to mind. Eggs florentine with smoked breakfast sausage and bacon; and sweet, delicate pastries and breads are among the many offerings. With foods that have an array of textures from the airy crunch of a strawberry tart to the softer, toasted banana bread, breakfast at the Mansion is altogether lovely over a hot cup of coffee with an old or a new friend.
Less than ten minutes from the Gruene area you can ride the waves at Schlitterbahn New Braunfels Waterpark, ranked the #1 Waterpark in the World for the last 20 years. Located on the the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn flagship waterpark has 51 attractions on over 70 acres. Family-owned and operated, Schlitterbahn provides a staggering variety of river rides, waterslides, and adventures from mild to wild.
Public Relations and Communications Specialist Pam Renteria said the German name Schlitterbahn means ‘Slippery Road.’ Find your inner kid that still wants to see the ‘largest, biggest and best in the whole wide world’ here.
Named for the world’s first surfing wave invented 27 years ago, the Boogie Bahn, Surfenburg is also home to the first uphill water coaster, The Dragon’s Revenge – invented 24 years ago. The attraction that has the most awards in Schlitterbahn history, the Master Blaster uses patented water injection technology, which starts at the top of a six-story tower in Blastenhoff. (Two other rides also take off from the same tower.) Surrounding the “Blast Tower” is the Torrent Wave River – which combines an endless river with a wave pool for unlimited fun. Tubenbach features the award winning ride The Falls, the world’s longest tubing adventure. The Tubenbach area features several no-wait attractions and beaches allowing park guests to enjoy the rides without standing in line. Also, several of the Tubenbach attractions are interconnected through an innovative Transportainment® river, which allows guests to float their way throughout the Tubenbach area. There’s also a larger than life Coca Cola glass on the grounds, which Renteria said is known as the world’s largest Coke float in history.
Open year-around, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels has four times the rides and attractions of any waterpark within 200 miles, and twice the number of attractions of any waterpark within 500 miles. Guests can enjoy the family excitement and convenience of a Resort and Waterpark during the summer amidst the beauty of a Hill Country Getaway. From hotel rooms, to Treehaus Luxury Suites, and a seven-room house, Schlitterbahn Resort has a wide range of accommodations for any type of vacation.
Still up for another round? Just 20 minutes away from the Gruene area is the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. You’ll interact with animals from all over the world in a six-mile, drive-thru Texas-style African Safari. Bags of food are available at the gate for feeding the animals on your journey. If you’d like your chance for a selfie with a Zebra, you’ll find it here!
If that’s not enough to spike your adrenaline, drive a couple of minutes down the road to the Natural Bridge Caverns where you’ll find the largest known commercial caverns in the state of Texas. The name is derived from the 60-foot natural limestone slab bridge that spans the amphitheater setting of the caverns entrance. Test your balance on a four-story obstacle course, where you have up to 30 minutes to grapple your way to the top of the 60-foot, four-tier adventure course.
Conclude your day on the next level at the Zip Lines.Gliding high above the Texas Hill Country, snap into your harness, step to the edge of the zip line platform, raise your feet and sail across the landscape (This is the time to put your hands up and wave!).
Visit the Chamber of Commerce of New Braunfels here: http://innewbraunfels.com/chamber/ for more information and to plan your getaway.
By Michelle Keller