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17 Awesome Things to do in Historic Gruene, Texas

Located in the Texas Hill Country, exactly midway between Austin and San Antonio, you will find a slice of Texas’ past: the Gruene Dance Hall. This is Texas’ oldest dance hall and it has a very unique history. 

Gruene, Texas was a former German town in Comal County. It rose to prominence in the second half of the 19th century as a cotton-producing center. Gradually, the town fell into decline and was incorporated into the city of New Braunfels. 

Fun fact: There is no Gruene, Texas. Most visitors are surprised to find that the dance hall is located on Gruene Road in New Braunfels! 

Today, Gruene is one of the best small towns to visit in Texas to experience German heritage and architecture. 

History of Gruene

The primary reason for Gruene’s charm is its storied history which goes back to the pre-Civil War era. 

German settlers in the Texas Hill Country established New Braunfels in the 1840s. However, as the city grew, land became scarce and settlers looked outside of the city to buy new land. 

Ernst Gruene, a German immigrant who arrived in New Braunfels in 1845, purchased land on the banks of the Guadalupe. He built the first home here in the traditional Fachwerkhaus style of architecture of Germany. 

Gruene’s son, Henry Gruene, planted cotton and built several buildings in the area including the Gruene Family Home. Other settlers soon moved there and thus, the little town of Gruene was established. It was named after the founding Gruene family. 

Also Read: 10 Best German Towns in Central Texas

At its heydey, Gruene had several buildings and two railroad stations. It had its own school, bank, dance hall, grist mill, and three large cotton gins. It was a significant cotton-producing and shipping center. It was also an important stagecoach stop between San Antonio and Austin in the 1880s. 

However, the town’s prosperity was short-lived. The first cotton gin burned down to the ground in a fire in 1922. The boll weevil beetle that devastated the cotton industry in the southern states affected Gruene too. Then the Great Depression came and Gruene was a ghost town by 1950.  

It was forgotten for about 20 years when the restoration of the historic structures began in the 1970s. Today the historic small town is a part of New Braunfels and has become a prominent tourist destination in Texas. 

Also Read: Best Things to do in Texas Hill Country

How to pronounce Gruene

Gruene, the German last name of the founding family, is pronounced ‘Green’. 

Where to stay in Gruene

One of the best places to stay in Gruene is at the Historic Gruene Mansion Inn. This was originally the Gruene Family Home and has beautiful Victorian architecture. You will be staying in one of the original surrounding buildings amidst rustic period furnishings. It is also next door to the Gruene Hall where you can enjoy live concerts. The romantic location is perfect for couples. 

Another option is the historic Gruene Cottages. The cottages are located over the property of 3 acres and are walking distance away from Gruene Hall. There are an onsite children’s play area and swimming pool. We recommend a stay here for families. 

Besides these, you can also stay in a variety of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts in New Braunfels. Landa Park downtown also has an RV park in case you want to camp out. 

Things to do in Gruene

Historic Gruene makes the perfect day trip from Austin or San Antonio. It is located just under 40 miles from both the cities and can be easily seen in a day. The city is perfect to experience the rustic Texan countryside and its German heritage. 

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Gruene, Texas. 

See the famous dance hall

Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall. Built-in 1878, the hall still looks just as it did at the time of Gruene’s rise. The building is built by Henry D. Gruene. 

The dance hall has a high pitched tin roof that helps in the excellent acoustics. It has a bar, a small stage, and an open place for dancing. You can still see signs from the 1930s and 1940s on the walls of the hall. You will also see pictures of celebrities that have performed here in the hall. It also has a huge outdoor garden. 

The 6000 square foot building has hosted weekly dances since the 19th century. Generations after generations have laughed, danced, sung, and hung out here. The hall has also held school graduations and fights. 

The dance hall has an excellent atmosphere and is a must thing to do in Gruene, Texas. Texas’ oldest dance hall has also been a filming location. The movie Michael starring John Travolta was filmed here in 1996.

Enjoy a concert in Gruene

Today, the Gruene Dance Hall hosts a variety of music concerts throughout the year. Most popular are the country music performances. Some of the best country musicians have performed here in Texas. 

In the past, the dance hall has hosted George Strait, Hal Ketchum, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson, and more. Attending a concert here is an amazing experience. You can enjoy the live music and songs as well as dance with your friends and family. 

The dance hall mostly always has something going on. The hall often hosts free shows while popular bands require tickets. We recommend stopping here on your trip to Gruene and enjoying the music.

Take a stroll around Gruene Historic District

Walking along the streets, you can easily imagine the entire town in its heyday before being struck by the boll weevil infestation and the Great Depression. 

The historic buildings in Gruene are on the National Register of Historic Places. They are beautifully preserved and restored to their 19th-century glory. The buildings have a late Victorian style of architecture. 

Enjoy a walk and go shopping at the boutique stores. Enjoy a refreshing couple’s massage at the Gruene Day Spa followed by some Texan wine at the Grapevine Wine bar. See the specialty stores such as The Barn Pottery, The Great Texas Pecan Candy Co., and Gruene Hat Company. 

Shop at Gruene General Store

Gruene General Store is a must-stop while exploring this charming historic town. Hundreds of tourists stop here and purchase souvenirs for their trip. The store sells a lot of retro and vintage themed items. You can buy postcards, magnets, cowboy hats, boots, decor, puzzles, wall signs, and more. 

If you happen to visit during holiday time you will also find Texas-themed ornaments. The historic store also has food items like fudge, candy, salsa, ice cream, and more. The store has a lot of variety and provides a fun shopping experience. 

Admire the historic Gruene Mansion

This is the original Gruene Family Home built by Henry D. Gruene in 1878. It has an Eastlake Victorian style of architecture. In the 19th century, this charming building was surrounded by the Gruene family cotton plantation. 

Today, the home and its surrounding buildings have been converted into a bed and breakfast called the Gruene Mansion Inn. Steeped in history, the inn welcomes all visitors with its signature Texan hospitality. All the rooms have a unique character and feature rustic elements such as clawfoot bathtubs, antique decor, and handmade furniture. 

This is definitely the best place to stay in Gruene, Texas, and has also been featured on the list of best historic inns in the US. The Gruene Family Home is located right next to the Gruene Dance Hall and is difficult to miss.

See the Gruene Water Tower

The historic water tower stands over the town and is a symbol of Gruene. It is built on a bluff about the Guadalupe River. 

The original structure was built from wood in the 1900s. This was destroyed in the same fire that burned the cotton gin in 1922. 

The current steel tower was erected in 1924 and since then has become a historic landmark. 

Go river tubing in Gruene

Gruene’s location on the banks of the Guadalupe River makes it perfect for river-tubing. This is one of the best tubing spots in Texas and a variety of float trips down the river are available. Rockin R’ River Rides Outfitters located in Gruene rents river tubes and life vests for your party. 

Did you know that you can take kids floating too? Guadalupe River is gentle and calm; the raft type tubes with bottoms are great for kindergartners and preteens. River tubing in Gruene is a fun family activity and very popular in the summer. 

Get a cup of coffee at Gruene Coffee Haus

If you’re looking for a quirky coffee shop that also serves breakfast then visit Gruene Coffee Haus. Walkthrough their red doors and be greeted by the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans. They have delicious flavored coffees. The Texas Pecan is our personal favorite and we also buy it by the pound every time we visit the shop. 

One thing you should try here: stroopwafels! They also serve small bites and baked goods such as muffins and apple fritters. The decor and overall vibe of this place are also really nice and trendy. We love sitting outdoors, enjoying our coffee, and people watching. 

Here’s a tip: if you are visiting in the fall, definitely try the pumpkin spice latte. It’s one of the best we have ever had! 

Have a meal at the Gristmill Restaurant

Located directly underneath the iconic water tower, you will find the Gristmill River Restaurant. The building housing the restaurant was originally the Old Cotton Gin from the 1880s. 

Farmers from all over the Guadalupe River Valley came to Gruene’s cotton gin to process the cotton. In 1922, the gin partially burnt in a fire, and the brick boiler room was left in ruins. This has now been converted into the Gristmill Restaurant, which has become one of the best things to do in Gruene. 

The restaurant has served many famous guests including actor John Travolta, Governor Rick Perry, Texas Country star Lyle Lovett, among others. A historic marker near the building narrates its prominence. 

The restaurant is popular for its delicious food including fresh fish, chicken fried steak, and amazing desserts – especially the Jack Daniels Pecan Pie! They also have live music in the outdoor beer garden. 

Eat fresh seafood at Gruene River Grill

The Gruene River Grill, located in a scenic spot overlooking the Guadalupe River, is famous for its seafood. 

Whether you’re trying the Oriental Shrimp Salad, pan-seared redfish, salmon piccata, or the fried catfish, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of food served here. They also have great frozen specialty cocktails.

Other great places to eat in Gruene include Mozie’s which serves sliders, hot dogs, and excellent drinks as well as Cantina del Rio, located on the riverbank, for Mexican food and the best margaritas in the city. 

Enjoy a glass of wine in Gruene

For an amazing wine tasting experience, visit the Grapevine in historic Gruene. This quaint tasting room has an amazing selection of Texas wine and beer. You get three free tastings per person. 

Grapevine Wine Bar also has an outdoor seating area with live music. Below sitting in the shady courtyard, sipping our wines, listening to the live bands, and enjoying the evening go by. It is also family-friendly. 

Find one of a kind items at Gruene Antique Company

This antique store has over 6,500 ft of space filled with antiques and collectibles of every kind. It is located directly across Gruene Hall in the old Mercantile Building That was built way back in the 1900s by Henry Gruene. Inside you can find Gruene memorabilia, treasures from the past, beautiful furniture, furnishings, eclectic items, and more. 

Enjoy Gruene Market Days

Every third weekend of each month except January, you can enjoy Gruene Market Days. This is a great time to be in the town and browse stalls by over 100 artisans. You can shop for handcrafted goods, artwork, home decor, sculptures, and more. Gruene Market Days also has free live entertainment as well as free admission. 

Attend the special events in Gruene

Gruene hosts many special events and festivals such as the Gruene Music and Wine Festival in October and Tour De Gruene in November. During the music and wine festival, you can hear upcoming Texan country music artists, taste many variants of wines, and eat at food trucks. 

In November, you can also enjoy Wurstfest near Landa Park in New Braunfels. This is the cities version of Oktoberfest. There is a lot of beer Bavarian foods, polka music, and dancing. Of course, the dance hall is the focus of many of these activities. 

Experience Christmas in Gruene

Spend a holiday weekend in Gruene to experience the festive spirit and Christmas cheer in this historic Texan town. Gruene Country Christmas is one of the most popular holiday events in the Texas Hill Country. 

One of the highlights of the event is taking photos with Cowboy Kringle. That’s right, the town has its own Western version of Santa Claus complete with hats and boots. Families love taking a photo with him! 

Other activities include beautiful Holiday Lights and an annual Pony Express Ride. The Holiday Christmas market is also held during this time. Here you can shop for handcrafted gifts and gourmet goods. Gruene is definitely one of the best places to spend Christmas in Texas.

Flyfish on the Guadalupe River

If you have never been fly fishing, then one of the perfect places to have your first trip is on the Guadalupe River in Gruene. 

Visit Gruene Outfitters and they will equip you with everything you need, even a guide for your trip. You can go fishing for rainbow trout or other native species. 

While you are in the Gruene Outfitters store, don’t forget to admire this historic building. This was once the 19th-century carriage house and then the Gruene Brother’s Garage in the 1920s. 

Shop at the Pomegranate

Also owned by the same owners as Gruene Outfitters, the Pomegranate is an excellent store to shop for women’s apparel. I love browsing through their collection of jewelry and purses. 

They also have fly fishing gear for women. The store also has kid’s clothing and accessories as well as items for the home. The clothes are expensive but of excellent quality. 

Things to do in New Braunfels

After spending time in Gruene, be sure to visit Downtown New Braunfels. There are plenty of things to do in the city from museums including the Children’s Museum, Railroad Museum, and History Museum to the famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

Water too cold for river tubing in the Guadalupe or enjoying the wave pool at Schlitterbahn? Enjoy a dip in the Comal River in downtown New Braunfels Landa Park. This spring-fed river is just 3 miles long and the water is at a comfortable 72F year-round. 

The Downtown Antique Mall is an excellent place to look for one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and yard decor. Read our detailed guide on things to do in New Braunfels for other area recommendations. 

Things to do near Gruene and New Braunfels

There are a surprising number of things easily accessible from Gruene and New Braunfels. 

Canyon Lake, in Central Texas, is just a few miles away from historic Gruene. Spend a romantic weekend in one of the lakeside cabins and enjoy water sports on the lake. 

San Marcos, Boerne, Fredericksburg, and Wimberley are all located close to Gruene and you can see them all together on an epic Texas Hill Country Road trip. 

You can also see the largest underground caverns in Texas at Natural Bridge Caverns. Take guided tours to see these fantastic underground limestone formations and learn about their geology. 

San Antonio and Austin are also easy day trips away from the Historic District. 

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