As I middle school history teacher, I love old “stuff”. I especially love towns that have maintained their architectural history, but still have a present day function. To me, nothing is sadder than a beautiful old building that is boarded up and abandoned. New Braunfels, Texas takes great pride in their historic downtown and preservation efforts. It is small enough that you can easily tour it in just 1 day.
Joe and I recently spent a day in New Braunfels during our Texas Barbecue Road Trip. We found it to be a delightful little place!
A Day in New Braunfels, Texas
A Little History
Prince Carl of Solm-Braunfels, Germany purchased 1265 acres in the hill country of Texas in 1845. On Good Friday of that same year, Prince Carl led the German first settlers into New Braunfels. Like many of German settled towns in central Texas, New Braunfels has maintained much of the German culture that its founders brought with them.
Downtown New Braunfels
After just a few minutes of walking in downtown New Braunfels, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. I loved all the cute boutique shops and bought several “must haves”. Joe appreciated the big shade trees and buildings.
New Braunfels Farmers Market
When you plan a road trip, timing your itinerary is key (read Planning the Perfect Roadtrip). You can really get a feel for a town by visiting their farmers market. Some towns don’t even have one. Joe and I were lucky enough to hit New Braunfels on a Saturday. The people were exceptionally friendly and the vendors all had interesting stories to tell about their wares.
A Little More History
Henry Gruene was a German settler who bought 6,000 acres about three miles north of New Braunfels at a crossing on the Guadalupe River.
Several dozen families sharecropped his land, so Mr. Gruene built a school and a store to service them. The store was in an ideal location on the river and also on a stage coach route between San Antonio and Austin. By the early 1900s, Gruene was a proper town with its saloon and dance hall being the center of social activities for miles around.
Eventually the town fell into decline and elapsed into a ghost town of abandoned buildings. In the 1970s developers saw the potential of Gruene for arts, crafts, and music. Its dance hall started featuring weekend music events, and the area became an official historic district of New Braunfels. The entire area is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are plenty of good restaurants and cute little boutiques in Gruene, but what we loved the most was the abundance of music. The Saturday afternoon we were visiting was packed full of different musicians camped out in front of stores, and of course, playing in the dance hall.
The Gruene Dance Hall was my favorite part of the day. I love that it is still being used for its original purpose, DANCING! So which part of our day would be your favorite, New Braunfels downtown, the farmers market, or historic Gruene? Please comment below. Keep up with all of our travel, camping, and cycling tips by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Leave us your email (blue box at the bottom of the post) to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and never miss a post!