For many, New Braunfels is known simply as “that little town right before San Antonio.” You know the one: if you blink, you just might miss the appropriate exit and “New Braunfels” sign on your way down I-35. Others know it purely as the home of Würstfest and the belovedly quirky New Braunfels Unicorns. For a relatively small town just skirting San Antonio’s burgeoning metropolis, New Braunfels is far from a typical suburb. In fact, it can be described as a delightful fusion of Austin’s novelty and the Hill Country’s welcoming charm.
And while many city-dwellers assume that skyscrapers are superior, residents of New Braunfels have found the opposite reality to be true: the community’s charm lies in its ability to retain that “small town” atmosphere. Because, while San Antonio is wonderful and we wouldn’t change anything about it... it’s just not New Braunfels. Here are just a few unique local treasures to prove it:
1. The River Advantage
Image Courtesy of The NB Scene
Located at the crossroads of the crystal-clear Comal and the ever-popular Guadalupe, New Braunfels has become a hub of aqua-adventure and general outdoorsiness. The local landscape is the famous host of camping trips, tubing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, swimming, fishing, and so much more. Gorgeous, well-maintained trails and parks allow for biking, hiking, and picnicking. On any given Summer afternoon, New Braunfels is a sort of Texan utopia: inviting, refreshing, and ready to carry you down the river with a Yeti full of Shiner.
2. Serious Hill Country Vibes
Some pieces of San Antonio have Hill Country views...but why settle for a view when you can plant yourself smack dab in the middle of all the beauty? The rolling Hill Country isn’t meant to be tamed into a window frame: it's a wild landscape, meant to be experienced in every way! New Braunfels residents fully embrace the local ecosystem, hiking and biking on trails, kayaking down the Guadalupe, taking scenic Sunday drives through country roads, and spending Saturday afternoons on the river.
3. Live Caves
Image Courtesy of FromTexastoBeyond.com
Given the natural beauty of the Hill Country’s topography, it’s almost no surprise that an equally beautiful landscape lies beneath the surface. Touring the wide-open caves of the Hill Country feels like setting foot into another world. Over long periods of time, a steady flow of water hollowed out the natural limestone to create these rather mysterious formations. New Braunfels’ local favorite is Natural Bridge Caverns...an underground adventure that you truly can’t find in the city.
4. Small Town Festivals ...specifically, Wurstfest
While San Antonio can host big-name concerts and some massive festivals and gatherings, Hill Country towns offer a whole new brand of community celebration. During these festivals, there’s a clear difference between being a spectator and part of the community. Regular festivals and events include Old Gruene Market Days, Gospel Brunch, Guadalupe River Troutfest, the Vintage Guitar and Instrument Show, Quiltfest, Wein & Sangerfest...and the king of them all: Wurstfest, the glorious 10-day salute to sausage. No matter your age, interests, or bedtime, New Braunfels probably hosts a festival perfect for you and your crowd. In the end, all we can say is: New Braunfels certainly knows how to have a dang good time celebrating anything (and we really do mean anything). Foodies, music snobs, and Instagrammers can rejoice at the creativity and celebrations hosted by this town.
5. Texas Wine Trail
Image Courtesy of TexasHillCountry.com
These days, we can’t help but notice that “Texas Hill Country” is nearly inseparable from and interchangeable with the term “Texas Wine Country.” Not only is this region the epicenter of the Texas wine culture, it’s also grown rapidly in national recognition for its quality vineyards, In the past 10 years, the amount of wineries and wine cases in Texas has more than quadrupled, ranking our lone star state as the fifth largest wine producer. Naturally, New Braunfels and the surrounding area is an integral part of The Texas Wine Trail. The same rocky hills and bluffs that create incredible views also create ideal conditions for vineyards and winemaking. Age-old skills and recipes have combined with Texas-quality soil, grapes, and other ingredients to grow and brew some of the best sipping in the country. Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, Blue Lotus Winery, and The Vineyard at Gruene are just a few of the local favorites!
6. Founder’s Oak
Perhaps nothing brings together New Braunfels’ deep sense of history and natural beauty better than Founder’s Oak in Landa Park. Planted around the year 1700, this sprawling live oak tree was officially named a “Famous Tree of Texas” by the state. Its budding branches are truly a piece of the city and have borne witness to significant events throughout the state’s frontier history.
7. Historic Gruene + Gruene Hall
Image Courtesy of TexFiles.com
Officially within the New Braunfels city limits, Gruene is a historic town within a town. Though the land was originally settled in 1872 with the intention of building a prosperous cotton farm, it has now grown into a legacy of the Hill Country days of old. A designated Texas Historic Landmark, the area boasts the elegant Gruene Mansion Inn, the famous Gristmill restaurant, the beloved Gruene Hall, as well as a wide array of adorable shops, restaurants, and local business. Gruene Hall in particular stands as a community landmark: a bar and dance hall from the 1880’s, this iconic venue became the town’s social epicenter and later drew in countless star performers. Willie Nelson and George Strait are just a few of the legends who have graced Gruene Hall’s classic wood floors!
Alright, so San Antonio claims SeaWorld. But if you told New Braunfels citizens that the Alamo City saw itself as #1 in the area’s novelty aquaculture, they’d probably laugh a little and say, “That’s sweet.” Novelty exhibits and animals are nothing compared to the adventure that is Schlitterbahn...named the world's best water park by Amusement Today! Schlitterbahn’s sprawling complex offers over seventy acres of splashy fun, from adventurous rides to leisurely floats. Nestled right up against the crystal-clear waters of the Comal River, this mega waterpark boasts over 40 rides, including Congo River Expedition, Hillside Tube Chute, Skycoaster, Sea Creature Cave, and a Tadpole Kiddie Pool...not to mention plenty of leisurely spots to lay out and relax.
9. Legendary Wildflower Status
Image Courtesy of InNewBraunfels.com
Longhorns and cowboy boots certainly have their place as Texas symbols, but perhaps no single object is more dear to the heart of Texans than bluebonnets. When Spring and Summer roll around, fields, valleys, and lawns come to life with bursts of violet, pinks, and yellows. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and Buttercups are sweet reminders of the wild delicateness of the Hill Country landscape. Besides being a Hill Country town where wildflowers thrive (check local spottings here), New Braunfels has a special claim to these blooms. As the former home of Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (the “Father of Texas Botany”), New Braunfels has preserved this famous gardener’s former home and landscaping. You can tour his year-round gardens and former home by scheduling a tour!
10. A Tight-Knit Community
Though just a few miles north on I-35, New Braunfels is distinctly more Hill Country town than metropolis San Antonio. Perhaps one of the qualities that shows this best is New Braunfels’ sense of tight-knit community. By supporting local businesses and investing heavily in their town, residents have been fighting for their thriving community since its founding days. New Braunfels residents earn the loyalty and respect of their neighbors, encourage creativity and innovation among local business owners, and know how to belly-laugh with old friends.
11. The Best Mascot: The Unicorns
Image Courtesy of the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
Go Unicorns! Other than eliciting chuckles and photos from visitors and road-trippers, this longtime mascot of New Braunfels High School has inspired a culture of school spirit that’s truly unlike any other. As the only “Unicorns” in the state, this quirky choice of mascot has put New Braunfels on the map...as well as multiple “Weirdest Mascots” lists: Funniest High School Mascots in Texas, Unbelievable High School Mascots, and Oddest High School Mascot in Every State, to name a few. Way to find a mascot as unique as you are, New Braunfels.