Downtown New Braunfels







The Good Life: New Braunfels, Texas
Article by Ted Gresham
Photography  by George Hosek

Life is Beautiful in New Braunfels. That’s what the New Braunfels water tower proudly proclaims… except the actual text is thus: “In New Braunfels. . . Is Das Legen Schön!” One has to wonder what Texas might have become if the Adelsverein had gotten their way.

They were a group of upper-crust Germans who wanted to create a new German colony in Texas. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed. But they did manage to add a very interesting European twist to the history and culture of Texas. Though somewhat muted by an influx of newcomers over the years the town’s German heritage remains strong. Some people visit the area specifically because of its German roots.

Others are pleasantly surprised and delighted by it when they arrive. Visitors quickly discover that the locals are quite proud of their heritage and cling to German ways, ideas, and even the language, though not like they once did when a German interpreter would have been required! Grand old German buildings and remnants of German culture is everywhere. For those who like to stroll city streets and enjoy unique architecture and culture, New Braunfels is the place to go.

New Braunfels


The Friesenhaus Restaurant sponsors a walking tour which directs visitors from Sophienburg Museum, where Prince Carl once planned to build a castle, northwest past centuries old Downtown Plaza, up along the Comal river to Landa Park. Landa Park, Northwest of downtown, is a great place for a lazy day’s outing.

A brisk morning walk from there to the river and over the historic (and totally cool!) Faust Street Bridge makes a good start to the day. There’s brochures available around town with maps of all the best places so an impromptu stroll might be the best idea yet. But to really discover New Braunfels one must get off the sidewalks and go into the numerous museums, shops, and attractions throughout the city.

The Friesenhaus Restaurant
The Sophienberg Museum is a good place to start. This museum not only gives a great explanation of New Braunfels’ German heritage but holds a very valuable genealogical archive. A couple of blocks further west is a hands-on fun stop for kids: the McKenna Children’s Museum and little farther, the intriguing Buckhorn Barbershop Museum. For little boys and big boys who never grew up the New Braunfels Railroad Museum beckons another block west.

Downtown New Braunfels is only a short walk from the Railroad Museum. Buildings constructed from an era long gone now serve as shops and restaurants which demand attention. The Comal County Courthouse, built in 1898, is quite an imposing structure.

Sophienberg Museum New Braunfels
The architect was J. Riely Gordon. Gordon saved time and money in its construction by using plans he’d already drawn up. That’s why the Comal County courthouse building is virtually a duplicate of the Lee County Courthouse in nearby Giddings, Texas.

Back towards the Interstate from downtown on Comal Avenue there’s yet another great old treasure serving as a museum: the Lindheimer house. Of course for a real extravaganza one must visit Conservation Plaza and Heritage Village a few miles east and north of downtown near the freeway. Conservation Plaza has eighteen historic buildings, dating back to 1847, which they moved to the site and restored.

Mckenna Childrens Museum
Seele Mural New Braunfels
There’s even more unique and historic buildings next door at Heritage Village which is also the home of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. Plenty more history is sprinkled throughout New Braunfels but if there’s one place old and new come together—and a “must see” for one’s itinerary—that place is Gruene Historical District. Gruene (pronounced green!) was once a town itself but has since become part of the city of New Braunfels.

Great shopping, exceptional dining, and most of all, incredible entertainment are all a part of what makes Gruene special. Gruene is home to the oldest dance hall in Texas. Cowboy boots aren’t required but recommended at Gruene Hall where there’s live music and a dance floor that’s been scooted around on since 1878!

Gruene Historic District
Thousands of performers from George Strait to Charlie Robison, and countless local bands, have rattled the open air venue where music is live every day of the week and twice on Sunday! There’s also a another little thing in New Braunfels which tends to draw a rather big crowd: The Comal River. The Comal bubbles out of the earth and runs a paltry 2.5 miles before it flows into the Guadalupe.

The Guadalupe and it’s little tributary’s rushing water is filled all summer with tubing enthusiasts from all over Texas and beyond. A pricier water play offering isn’t far away. Schlitterbahn theme park is where German heritage mixes with modern water rides under the hot Texas sun. For more open water Canyon Lake, only a short drive west of town, is sure to ease one’s appetite for water sports.

Prince Solms Park
The events calendar stays pretty full in New Braunfels. Every third weekend there’s Gruene Market Days, sure to offer up a bargain or two. And, neither last nor least, every October Wurstfest celebrates New Braunfels heritage with entertainment, fun, and oh so much wonderful food. To find out more about what’s happening, stop in to the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.

If all this isn’t enough a short drive from downtown there’s Natural Bridge Caverns and Wildlife Ranch, smaller diversions like Texas Ski Ranch or Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo. There’s more to do in New Braunfels than’ll fit in a hand full of summer days!

Schlitterbaun New Braunfels
Big city hoopla isn’t so far away that one can’t slip down to San Antonio or up to Austin when bright lights call. But forget the big city! New Braunfels is the only place to go for a week or a lifetime. Why? Because! It’s Das gute leben, Texas style!

New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce

New Braunfels Official City Website

New Braunfels Jump In

New Braunfels Conservation Society

Also see Texas Explorer Magazine's Tubing New Braunfels article.

Gruene Hall
Nightlife Gruene




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