New Braunfels is located in Central Texas near San Antonio. This charming Texan small town has German heritage and is known for its scenic beauty. The city’s rich heritage has also made it a cultural destination in the Lone Star State.
The city has an interesting history. New Braunfels was founded in 1845. It wasn’t settled by just anyone but by the German Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels along the banks of the Dry Comal Creek.
Braunfels means ‘brown rock’ in German. The city is named after Braunfels in Germany. Several buildings from the 19th century are excellently preserved in New Braunfels.
Fun fact: Did you know that the New Braunfels newspaper is called Herald Zeitung? This was originally two newspapers till 1967: the Herald in English and Zeitung in German!
It is located at the confluence of the Guadalupe and Comal River. The city has beautiful big urban parks and hiking trails. Outdoor activities like tubing on the rivers, kayaking, and camping are really popular here. Sunsets in New Braunfels along the river are also spectacular.
Also Read: 10 Best German Towns in Texas
Things to do in New Braunfels
Because of its location in the Texas Hill Country, New Braunfels is a popular tourist destination. Summer brings the crowds looking to tube, swim, or splash in the cool waters; this is definitely the peak season.
However, the city is also a year-round travel destination In Texas and has lots of fun and interesting things to do for families and couples. New Braunfels also has museums and shopping where you can stay inside on a hot or rainy day.
Here are some of our favorite things to do when you visit New Braunfels Texas.
Visit Gruene Historic District
Gruene was originally a small town in Texas that was significant for its cotton production. It had its own general store, school, bank, dance hall, cotton gin, grist mill, and even a railroad track to ship cotton. It slowly declined and became a ghost town until its revival in the 1970s.
Read our detailed post on 17 Fun & Historic Things to do in Gruene, Texas to plan your trip.
Today Historic Gruene is incorporated within the city of New Braunfels and preserved as the Gruene Historic District. The main attraction of the Historic District is definitely the Gruene Hall. Built in 1878, this is Texas’s oldest continually operating dance hall.
Visitors can enjoy live music and dance at Texas’ oldest dance hall even today. The dance hall hosts several country music concerts throughout the year. Gruene Hall has also appeared in the movies; the 1996 film ‘Michael: was filmed in the hall.
There are several other historic places and things to do in the district. You can admire the Victorian style Gruene family home. Visitors can also enjoy a romantic meal at the Gristmill River Restaurant and take a stroll around the area. The chicken fried steak at the Gristmill is said to be one of the best in Texas.
Take a stroll in Landa Park
The amazing Landa Park is an urban oasis in the city. If you are tired from the museums or shopping and need a break then simply visit Landa Park. Families in particular love the park for its range of amenities.
The park has many mature trees, is well shaded, and has play areas for kids. The park also has many hiking and biking trails. Kids love the train that goes around the park. It costs $3 and lasts for about 10 minutes.
The park is popular for swimming and even scuba diving. It also has a spring fed swimming pool filled by the Comal River which begins here. Other amenities include putt putt golf, paddle boats, tennis courts, picnic tables, and grills.
The park is also great for wildlife watching. You can spot deer, ducks, geese, squirrels, and more. This is the perfect place to have a picnic in the city.
Go River tubing in New Braunfels
Floating down the river in summer is one of Texas’s favorite fun vacation traditions. There are two rivers in New Braunfels where you can go river tubing: the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers.
Guadalupe River is one of the best rivers in Texas for water sports. You can go tubing, canoeing, or whitewater rafting. Several gear outfitters are located in the city and provide rentals for half day or full day floating trips.
The Comal River is fed by natural springs and has its origins near Landa Park. This is also one of the shortest rivers in the world and is just 3.2 miles long. It meets the Guadalupe River after flowing through the city. River tubing along the Comal is a very tranquil experience.
Drive the scenic River Road
The scenic River Road in New Braunfels connects the city to Canyon Lake. The road is a little over 10 miles and has amazing scenery. We recommend keeping your camera out and enjoying the stunning views as you make the drive.
Visitors can enjoy the many attractions located along the road like restaurants, cafes, and watersports companies. This is also a great place to stay in New Braunfels. The road looks very pretty in the fall when the trees along the Riverbanks change color.
Spend a fun day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark
If you do not want to spend a day on the Comal or Guadalupe River but still want to beat the summer heat then consider a trip to Schlitterbahn Waterpark. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in New Braunfels.
The waterpark has two different sections: the East and the West. It has a variety of slides and rides that kids of all ages can enjoy in both areas. The park also has wave pools and even kiddie pools where toddlers can enjoy splashing in the water. The park provides tubes and life jackets for kids.
Summer for favorite rides at Schlitterbahn include the Master Blaster, the Dark Knight, the Wolf Pack, and the Torrent River. We recommend getting the fast pass if you don’t want to wait in the lines for a long time.
Take a stroll on the Faust Street Bridge
The Faust Street Bridge is definitely a hidden gem in New Braunfels. The historic truss bridge is one of the few still left in Texas. These bridges are an excellent reminder of the engineering ingenuity from the frontier days. Visiting Faust Street Bridge is a must for structural engineers and bridge aficionados.
The pedestrian bridge is not only architecturally pleasing but also a great place to enjoy views of the Guadalupe River. It is also a great place to take photos, sit on the benches, and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. You can also see the railroad bridge from here and if you’re lucky, may even see the train go by.
Spent a day at Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo
This children’s attraction started way back in 1967 and is now one of the top things to do in New Braunfels with kids. The zoo is small but has many things to do. Also because of its small size visitors can see the animals from up close then in the larger zoos.
Here you can see over 700 different snakes as well as an entire zoo with several species of animals including lions, buffaloes, panthers, hyenas, wolves, monkeys, and pumas. It also has a petting zoo area for kids. They can feed llamas, and goats.
Hens and peacocks run free through the zoo and can also be fed. Families love visiting here during spring break and this is definitely one of the busiest times of the year. We recommend keeping aside an hour to two for the entire experience.
Watch a movie at Stars and Stripes drive-in Theater
For some good old-fashioned family fun, consider seeing a movie at the Stars and Stripes drive-in theater in New Braunfels. Children love seeing the movie in an outdoor environment and it is a great way to make memories with the family.
A concession stand has a variety of foods including popcorn and candy. You can also bring your own food and beverages but alcohol is not allowed. Here’s a tip: go early if you want a good space.
Enjoy the hands on exhibits at McKenna Children’s Museum
If you are used to the really large children’s museums in Houston or other major Texan cities, then you’ll definitely find the McKenna Children’s Museum to be small. However in spite of its size, it has a lot of awesome themed areas and is a great fun spot to take the kids.
Inside you will find a grocery store, bank, hospitals, camping spots, and more. Outside there are play areas and water fun. That is something for everyone and kids have a blast exploring the museum.
Understand the city’s history at Sophienburg Museum
The Sophienburg Museum and Archives in New Braunfels is dedicated to the city’s past and German heritage. This small history museum has excellent artifacts that narrate the history of one of the first German settlers to come to Texas.
Inside you will find informative documents, maps, photographs, and more. Visiting the museum is a fun and educational experience and a must for history nerds. The museum gift shop also has great souvenirs from New Braunfels.
See the model trains at the New Braunfels Railroad Museum
The New Braunfels Railroad Museum is amazing for train lovers. This small museum has a couple of rooms with detailed model train displays.
One display has an amazing model of downtown New Braunfels. You can also see many other things such as historic pictures of the railroad, train depot, signage, vintage suitcases, and other railroad memorabilia.
Outside, you can see old vintage railroad cars and an engine. We especially love the old fashioned dining car. The caboose is also great to see. The best part is that it is free to visit, though we definitely recommend donating $3 to $5 per person.
Visit the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture in Heritage Village
History nerds should definitely visit the often forgotten Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture located inside the Breustedt-Dillen Home in New Braunfels. The museum is also a favorite with woodworkers.
Breustedt-Dillen Home is a historic home located in the Heritage Village area of New Braunfels. It was built in 1858 in the Fachwerkhaus style of architecture prevalent in Germany. The house itself is very interesting. Several other historic buildings are also moved here.
The museum houses over 70 pieces of Texas Biedermeier Furniture created in the later half of the 19th century. The pieces were created by the original German settlers of New Braunfels. The collection includes cabinets, wardrobes, secretary, tables, rocking chair, stoneware, and handmade quilts.
Visitors can see the collection on a guided tour. The docents are very knowledgeable and friendly. At the museum, you can not only see the handcrafted furniture but also understand early furniture making techniques brought over from Germany.
The guides also share interesting insights in the pioneer’s life in early Texas and early New Braunfels history. The display is small but interesting and takes about an hour to see.
Enjoy a sweet wine at Winery on the Gruene
If you want a great spot off the beaten path in New Braunfels then visit the Winery on the Gruene. It’s laid back atmosphere and inviting decor is a treat. They have a great selection of sweet wines, dry not so much.
This is also a great spot for people watching in the historic district. The tasting room is also kid friendly and great to visit after a day spent tubing on the river.
Drink ale at the Guadalupe Brewing Company
The Guadalupe Brewing Company, located in New Braunfels, is popular for almost all its brews but the most well-known is its Texas Honey Ale. This is made from locally sourced honey and is a must try.
You can also try stouts, meads, pale ale, and IPAs. They’re outdoor seating area has a great vibe with fire pits in the winter. The brewery is expensive but the beer is definitely solid. They also have decent food, we especially love the fried pickles.
Enjoy the goodies at Naegelin’s Bakery
This bakery in New Braunfels is said to be the oldest bakery in Texas and was founded in 1868. They have a delicious variety of baked goods including pies, strudels, cinnamon rolls, and cupcakes.
We especially love their colorful and tasty macarons. They also have savory items including kolaches, pretzels, and more. The bakery is definitely a must stop on your visit to New Braunfels.
Try the pickles at Fickle Pickles
This famous store from Boerne, Texas has been featured in the Southern Living Magazine. They have a location in Gruene and are a must visit. The store is popular for its homemade pickles as well as antique treasures. They also have free samples.
Buy gourmet goods at the Gruene Olive Tasting Room
Love olive oils, pestos, dipping oils, balsamic vinegars, and sauces? Then step inside the Olive Tasting Room, one of our favorite stores in the area. They have a huge selection and amazing varieties. The store is pricey but the goods, especially infused oils, are worth it.
Enjoy shopping in the city
While we have mentioned a couple of our favorite stores above, New Braunfels also has many other excellent boutique and specialty stores. Visitors can buy wood fired pottery at The Barn or decor at the Dancing Bear.
You will find art galleries, wine tasting rooms, candy companies, vintage apparel, cowboy boots and hats, jewelry stores, and an old time photo studio in the city. New Braunfels is just perfect for holiday and gift shopping as well as to buy fun Texan souvenirs.
Find lost treasures at the antique stores
New Braunfels has many other antique stores besides Fickle Pickles. Whether you want period furniture, pots and pans, interesting decor or other collectibles, try one of the antique stores like Black Swan Antiques, Downtown Antique Mall, or Gruene Antique Company. You can easily spend an hour or two looking for treasures inside the stores.
Enjoy Wurstfest in New Braunfels
Wurstfest is New Braunfels’s annual festival that celebrates the city’s rich German heritage. The festival is held in November and lasts for 10 days. It is similar to Oktoberfest and is held on the fairgrounds next to Landa Park.
During the festival, visitors can sample German and Texan beers, listen to German bands perform polka music, dance, and eat German cuisine. You can try delicacies such as different types of sausages such as a and other Alpine dishes such as schnitzels, and pretzels.
You will find several locals and visitors dressed in traditional costumes including lederhosen. A variety of craftsmen sell their products during the festival. This is a great time to go shopping for handmade gifts and goods.
The festival also has many fun activities for kids and is completely family friendly. We always love understanding and enjoying the Bavarian culture in New Braunfels during Wurstfest. Talk about Texas fun!
Besides this, you can do many other things in New Braunfels such as seeing a show in the art deco style Brauntex Theatre, wakeboarding at the Texas Ski Ranch, trying craft beer at New Braunfels Brewing Co, visiting the free Fire Station Museum, and seeing the excellently preserved historic buildings at Conservation Plaza.
Things to do near New Braunfels
On a visit to New Braunfels you can also enjoy the nearby attractions in Comal County and Texas Hill Country such as the tranquil Canyon Lake, Devil’s Backbone Scenic Drive in Wimberley, tubing in San Marcos, and the Alamo in San Antonio.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in the area
Enjoy water sports on Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is known as the Water Recreation Capital of Texas. The Canyon Dam was built to stop flooding of the Guadalupe River. The resulting Canyon Lake reservoir is one of the deepest lakes in Texas. Since it’s creation, The lake has become a heaven for water sport enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Popular activities on the lake include swimming, fishing, sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and even scuba diving. Numerous hiking and biking trails as well as campsites surround the lake shoreline. The area is also excellent for birding and wildlife watching.
See real dinosaur tracks in the Hill Country
Visiting New Braunfels with young dinosaur lovers? Make sure to visit the Heritage Museum of Texas Hill Country. Here you will find over 250 excellently preserved dinosaur tracks, some of them belonging to the popular iguanodon. The museum is a favorite with kids of all ages.
Tour the Natural Bridge Caverns
The underground limestone caves at Natural Bridge Caverns make an excellent adventure for explorers. The caverns are simply enormous and have a variety of geological formations including stalactites and stalagmites. Be sure to make advance reservations for the guided tour to see these stunning geological formations. The nearby Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch & Safari is also great for the kids.
Have a romantic time in San Antonio
San Antonio is just 30 miles away from New Braunfels. You can definitely visit both the cities in one trip. Visit the Historic Alamo, take a cruise on the San Antonio River, and go shopping on the riverwalk. End your day by listening to a Mexican Mariachi band or seeing the show at the San Fernando Cathedral.
Enjoy the wineries in Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg, another gem in the Texas Hill Country, is located just 90 miles away from New Braunfels. This beautiful German town has striking architecture and a host of tasting rooms on Main Street. This is definitely one of the best places in Texas to go wine tasting. You can also go boutique shopping and antiquing in the city.
See the State Capitol in Austin
Austin, the capital of Texas, can be easily seen on a day trip from New Braunfels. The city and its many urban attractions are just 45 miles from New Braunfels. You can tour the State Capitol building, visit the LBJ Presidential Library, swim at Barton Springs Pool, and enjoy the city’s restaurants.
We hope you like our guide on the best things to do in New Braunfels, Texas.