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Situated halfway between San Antonio and Austin, the city of New Braunfels is a lesson in superlatives. The first German city to be established in the United States, New Braunfels—named for Solms-Braunfels, Germany—was once the fourth-largest city in Texas and, in 2015, was ranked the second-fastest growing city in the United States. Beyond the numbers, New Braunfels offers a taste of Texas Hill Country with a side Old World charm. Each year, 35,000 people flock to Wurstfest, a 10-day celebration offering endless pitchers of pilsner and tasty Bavarian treats. Whether you're an ardent history buff or you’re drawn to the region's thrilling whitewater, New Braunfels is an ideal place to satisfy your wanderlust in the Lone Star State.
Willkommen to New Braunfels, where beloved local restaurants and Texas' oldest continuously running bakery stand beside a sprawling water park. The city's charming downtown beckons with a railroad museum, an opera house, and a Saturday farmers' market, while the Gruene Historic District allows visitors to peer into the past for a look at New Braunfels in its heyday.
In the heart of Downtown, a main plaza and bandstand pay homage to the enduring influence that music has had on New Braunfels. From this idyllic green space, the city bustles in every direction. Eateries with names like Alpine Haus and the Gristmill reveal the German and Texan influences on the town, while sites like the Circle Arts Theatre and the McKenna Children's Museum appeal to travelers of all ages.
Northeast of Downtown, the Gruene Historic District offers a look at the New Braunfels of long ago. Timber-frame houses line the lanes and a restaurant inside an 1878 cotton gin churns out chicken-fried steak along the banks of the rushing Guadalupe River. Nearby, the historic Gruene Hall hosts acclaimed American roots musicians and the Gruene General Store offers a chance to taste regional honey butters, jalapeno salsas, and fruit preserves.
In German, Braunfels translates to "brown rock"—but there's more to see in New Braunfels than rolling Texas prairie bisected by rocky riverbeds. In addition to the swing dance lessons and live music at Gruene Hall, the Brauntex Theatre showcases recitals, musicals, and concerts, with headliners like Donny Edwards and Rosanne Cash. Looking to catch a flick while you're in town? Head to the Stars & Stripes Drive-In Theatre, which shows feature films, rain or shine, every night of the week. Those who want to behold noteworthy artifacts and maps should head to the Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which documents the trailblazing German immigrants who established New Braunfels in 1844.
From turn-of-the-century structures to adrenaline-charged waterparks, New Braunfels offers a bevy of things to do in Central Texas. History buffs should begin at the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, where exquisite pieces of German-made black walnut and pine furniture are housed inside a former log cabin. Those who want to pair their love of history with their passion for fine wine should consider a winery tour in the Texas Hill Country region. Or, choose to cool off on the action-packed rapids of the Comal and Guadalupe rivers during a guided whitewater or tubing experience. For those traveling with children, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort offers thrilling waterslides and tranquil kiddie pools where even the smallest sightseers can keep cool. Likewise, water sports enthusiasts can head to Texas Ski Ranch, where a wakeboard cable park promises warm-weather refreshment. For a walk on the wild side, the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo houses exotic animals and some snakes that are indigenous to the region.