Located at the mouth of Texas Hill Country, New Braunfels is a picturesque city with an old-fashioned charm. German immigrants settled here in the mid-1800s, and the culture continues to thrive to this day. The city is also home to a historic 19th-century settlement and the oldest dance hall in Texas. Travelers and locals mingle downtown, sampling buttery, flaky strudels, and delightful Texas wines. There are two rivers in town perfect for watersports, while the local caverns are an intriguing respite on a hot summer day.
Not far from the Main Plaza, Naegelin's Bakery has been serving a taste of German heritage since 1878. The New Braunfels institution bakes traditional European delicacies, but they are best known for their apple strudel. The treat is likely to sell out early in the afternoon, so be sure to arrive early for a taste. Plan to ruin your appetite as you work your way through a selection of danishes, Lebkuchen, which are frosted cookies, or kolaches, firm pastries filled with fruit or meat. If you're in town on a Saturday morning, arrive early to beat the Farmer's Market crowd.
Conveniently located on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels is a popular destination for Central Texans. The downtown district is a lively neighborhood with a thriving cultural atmosphere. Visitors can shop up and down San Antonio Street, then stop at one of the numerous eateries for some delicious cuisine. If you feel like celebrating, enjoy live music at a pub or sample a flight of Texas Hill Country wines. The Comal River is a great place for the family to unwind and only a short walk from the center of downtown. Download the New Braunfels Mobile App for a self-guided walking tour.
If you're in the mood for some outdoor recreation, head for the giant oak trees at Landa Park. This 51-acre green space is only a short walk from downtown and a perfect place for romantic interludes or family outings. Find a shaded spot and try your hand at bass fishing, or pack some snacks and walk the Panther Canyon Nature Trail, keeping an eye out for wildlife. Just off of Landa Park Drive is the Landa Park Boathouse, where you can rent a paddleboat for a modest fee. Spend some time paddling on the water to burn off that apple strudel from breakfast.
Everything's bigger in Texas, and when it comes to convenience stores and gas stations, Buc-ee's epitomizes the distinction. The New Braunfels location is the largest in the world at 68,000 square feet. The chain is known for its large-format stores, clean restrooms, and private label brand foods. Pump your gas at one of 120 stalls, then move your car to the parking lot before entering the store, because you'll be there a while. Browse the endless collection of souvenirs and apparel, and stock up on fishing or hunting supplies. Don't leave without a bag of the infamous Beaver Nuggets, or sweetened corn puffs.
The Faust Hotel opened its doors weeks before the stock market crashed in 1929. The following years were tough, but the Faust remained as one of the only businesses that would survive The Great Depression. Renovated in the 1980s, the Italian Renaissance Revival-style house is now one of Texas' most historic landmarks. It is also considered one of the most haunted hotels in Texas. Furniture rearranging itself and spooky sightings do little to scare visitors away. On the contrary, the hauntings are a part of the Faust's appeal, and brave travelers will often book rooms and hope for a sighting.
The Faust Street Bridge was an engineering marvel in its time and continues to awe locals and visitors alike. The 1887 Whipple truss roadway bridge is the only one of its kind still standing on its original site. These days, the Faust Street Bridge is a pedestrian walkway and tourist landmark, with locals often choosing the spot for photoshoots and ceremonies. The nearby Weddington's Demin Co. factory was also a shooting location for the TV series, "Fear the Walking Dead." Walk underneath the bridge for a peaceful respite and to see the belly of the bridge.
Every November, New Braunfels honors its German heritage with a celebration of Texas-sized proportions. The 10-day Wurstfest brings the best wursts, beers, and Bavarian delicacies to the Wursthalle in Landa Park. Wander the charming grounds with an authentic German beer in hand, put your polka-dancing skills to the test, or relax at the beautiful Biergarten with friends. Kids can let loose at the Kinderhalle, a special children's entertainment area, while the Marktplatz hosts dozens of vendors providing unique shopping opportunities. Check the Wurstfest website for dates and admission fees, as some time slots are free.
The historic community of Gruene was once a thriving town with a lucrative textile industry. The boll weevil blight and stock market crash of the 1920s wreaked havoc on the economy, and, by the 1950s, Gruene became a ghost town. Today, the revitalized neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places and a point of pride for the community of New Braunfels. Visit the Victorian-style Gruene Family Home, book a room at the Gruene Mansion Inn Bed and Breakfast, then walk to the famous Gruene Hall. Some of music's biggest names have played at Texas' oldest dance hall, including George Strait, Garth Brooks, and Willie Nelson.
Named for the natural limestone slab that spans the cave's entrance, the Natural Bridge Caverns are New Braunfels' most exciting organic wonder. Massive rock formations fill the subterranean space and, though geologists have found multiple caverns, the theory remains that miles of passages remain undiscovered. The Discovery Tour navigates through the most extensive show cavern, while the Hidden Passages Tour visits smaller underground chambers with rare and delicate formations. The Adventure Tour gives visitors the chance to explore the caves in the most rugged way possible. Surface attractions include zip lining, shopping, dining, and the Bracken Bat Caves. Visit during the summertime to witness the bats' evening flight and impressive formations.
The Guadalupe and Comal rivers run through New Braunfels, making the city a prime destination for watersports. Visitors can fly-fish year-round in the Guadalupe and tube with the locals in the spring and summer. Camp along the scenic River Road and take a dip first thing in the morning, or head for Landa Park. The 51-acre green space is home to the tube chute, a high-speed waterway for daring tubers. Spend some time in the water, then enjoy a picnic beside Landa Falls. The river can be crowded on hot days, so check online to research several tubing locations to find the right experience.