Founded in the 1840s by German settlers, New Braunfels is still packed with small-town charm. And since this Hill Country destination is a short drive from Austin, a weekend provides plenty for outdoorsy types, foodies, and all-around Texas enthusiasts.
It's situated on both the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, so you might say that spending any significant time here without exploring the great outdoors is a Texas sin. Floating the river in an inner tube will likely be the highlight of any trip to New Braunfels, so check water levels online before you go to ensure prime floating conditions.
Visitors looking for more of a party should head to the Guadalupe River. Not only is it more winding and adventurous, but the culture of floaters on this river is younger (read: lots of beer and loud music). First-time tubers will prefer the Comal River for its gentler conditions and shorter duration of about two or three hours. The Comal is a wider, more leisurely float that's great for families.
Every tubing company operates a little differently, but most take online reservations. Comal floaters can book through Comal Rockin’ R, Chuck’s Tubes, Comal Tubes, and Landa Falls. Guadalupe floaters can book through Whitewater Sports, Riverbank Outfitters, TubeHaus, and Shanty River Center. Shop around to find the best deal for your party’s size and steer clear of businesses that don’t include a return shuttle to your car (though most do). For both rivers, bring lots of sunscreen, drinking water, and waterproof bags to hold valuables. Don’t forget a trash bag for empty cans.
If you need a little more structure to your outdoor adventure, Schlitterbahn Water Park has pools and rides to please everyone. With onsite lodging and plenty of food options within the 70-acre park, Schlitterbahn could easily be the centerpiece of your trip.
On the weekend, locavores can go nuts at the New Braunfels Farmers Market. With goods such as kettle-fried doughnuts, smoked meats, fresh lemonade, and gourmet pizza, this farmers market is as much a food hall as it is a produce market. Insider tip: It's a great place to stock up on snacks for tubing.
With its German, Mexican, and Southern influences, New Braunfels is not wanting for good food.
Taqueria El Sazon Tapatio, tucked away in a strip center, has breakfast tacos and fajitas for your Tex-Mex fix. Suffer through the meat sweats for the tasty brisket, beef, and sausage at Granzin Bar-B-Q. Inventive dishes at McAdoo’s — Cajun enchiladas, oysters, shrimp étouffée — are a terrific reward once you're off the river.
The recently reopened Krause’s Biergarten & Cafe has a decent assortment of German plates and American standards. For Southern fare, get the fried sampler or pulled pork grilled cheese for brunch, dinner, or as a late-night bite at the Downtowner. Treat yourself to a chocolate torte, thumbprint cookie, cream puff, or strawberry lime cupcake at 2tarts Bakery.
If your downtown exploration lasts into the night, bar hop between some local favorites. Hear live music and grab a drink at Phoenix Saloon, the first bar in Texas to serve women. Play patio games while sipping local beer at Pour Haus, or bowl while you drink at Downtown Social.
But you have to rest your head at some point. Several tube rental sites, such as Roy’s Rentals & Campground and Jerry’s Rentals, also have camping accommodations, but if that's not your thing, New Braunfels is also home to many charming inns and B&Bs. Stay in the cottage-like Historic Kuebler Waldrip Haus, a few miles north of town, or the Comal Inn in the center of town. Lamb’s Rest Inn fronts the Guadalupe and has direct access to the river, as well as a pool and hot tub.