Think Austin has a Texas monopoly on the whole “weird” thing? Think again! For a relatively small town just skirting San Antonio’s burgeoning metropolis, New Braunfels offers a sort of delightful fusion between Austin’s novelty and the Hill Country’s welcoming charm. And while New Braunfels’ proximity to the classically “weird” city of Austin has certainly influenced its business and cultural arts realms, our little city boasts a flavor all its own. For your reading and visiting pleasure, we’ve compiled a list of 6 of our favorite off-the-beaten-path spots in New Braunfels.
1. Snake Farm
When Mack McClung founded the original Snake Farm in 1967, he had dreams of emulating Indiana Jones’ adventurous, risk-taking spirit by opening a facility where tourists could view the weird and wild species of the earth. From then until now, the Farm has evolved from creepy roadside attraction into a family-friendly zoo! Boasting more than 500 animals at any one time, it houses everything from primates to alligators to (of course) snakes. In addition to usual visits, Snake Farm also offers special events and shows, including alligator and crocodile feedings and snake handling demonstrations!
2. Natural Bridge Caverns
New Braunfels may be famous for its rivers, but another natural attraction lies below the surface! The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known commercial caverns in the U.S. state of Texas. As a designated State Historical Site and National Natural Landmark, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest and most spectacular show cavern in Texas. Besides spelunking and exploring, you can experience the Watchtower Challenge, zip line, and Hidden Passages Adventure Tour.
3. Naegelin’s Bakery
Did you know New Braunfels boasts the oldest bakery in the Lone Star State? Local favorite sweet shop Naegelin’s started serving up homemade goods in 1868 and still remains a delicious reminder of the town’s German heritage. Need we say more? Head down for a strudel, a pastry, or a Lebkuchen cookie!
4. Freiheit Country Store
The very definition of a local hidden gem, Freiheit Country Store immediately made it to the top of our list. Besides cheap drinks and an insanely delicious selection of comfort food (think burgers, beer, and buttermilk pie), Freiheit offers a killer atmosphere for live music, weeknight hangs, and everything in between. This repurposed country store acts as a casual, intimate atmosphere for both amateur and professional shows...and yes, by “amateur” we do mean “you and your friends joyously belting karaoke on Thursday nights”. Beloved by all, Freiheit is a true Texas hangout! Check their live music calendar and head down for a good time.
5. A Unicorns Game
According to investigations, New Braunfels High School is the only high school in Texas (and probably in the country) that can boast the Unicorn as a mascot. The best part? The whole magical ordeal started in 1928 as a sort of delightful accident. Originally taken from the coat of arms of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, this blue unicorn in a gold field was a nod to the city’s German roots. However, it was later discovered that the seal had been misinterpreted...the coat of arms had depicted a lion instead! Despite this misunderstanding, the school district has soldiered on with the Unicorn throughout the years...and we aren’t complaining. So next time you’re in town, stop by a game! The Unicorns compete in cross country, volleyball, football, wrestling, basketball, swimming, powerlifting, soccer, golf, tennis, track, softball & baseball. Way to find a mascot as unique as you are, New Braunfels.
6. Oma’s Secret Garten
Nestled in the center of historic Gruene, Oma’s Secret Garten is exactly as magical and comforting as its German/storybook name implies. Listed as one of the top 10 Beer Gartens in the world (by Jetsetter.com), Oma’s manages to be a community staple while still retaining the feel of a “hidden gem”. It’s clear from the get-go that the owners and employees of Oma’s are committed to community service and an authentic atmosphere...the venue is kid, dog, and adult-friendly, serving up a phenomenal selection of fresh food, snow cones, craft beer, wine, and more! The best part? There’s never a cover charge at Oma’s for live music.
So whether you’re a local, a tourist, or a San Antonio day-tripper, jump out of your comfort zone next time you’re in town and try out one of these quirky spots! Support local musicians, local establishments, and the wonderful spirit of the Texas Hill Country.