As the temperature rises in Austin, chances are that many travelers are planning to splash around at Schlitterbahn or tube down the Comal River. But those folks are missing out on a lot of fun. From vintage shopping to natural caverns, New Braunfels is full of activities for all ages — and only a few of them require getting wet.
Where to eat and drink
Housed in the former home of downtown’s Ol’ Bossy Creamery, this sunny eatery has the sort of charmingly historic storefront Instagram was made for. The Southern-influenced comfort food inside is just as picture-worthy, blending tradition and innovation. Hearty meatloaf gets a sweet-smoky lift from candied bacon, biscuits are topped with duck egg and heritage pork, and Salisbury steak sheds its TV dinner roots by using top quality, pasture-aged ribeye.
Krause’s Biergarten & Cafe
No trip to New Braunfels is complete without a taste of authentic German fare. This classic restaurant does it right with crispy pork and chicken schnitzel, tangy sauerkraut, and beefy brats. Call two business days in advance, and the kitchen will even roast guests up a whole hog or lamb or make a six-foot sandwich with all the fixings.
Muck & Fuss
Burgers and beer are a classic summer combination, but sometimes a quarter pounder and a Bud Light just doesn’t cut it. Thankfully, this stylish newcomer ups the ante by offering everything from bison to the vegan Impossible patty as the base for an array of tempting toppings, including local goat cheese, fried green tomatoes, tobacco onions, and pulled pork. The beer menu is just as impressive, ranging from hyper-local ales to IPAs from cult Colorado breweries.
Where to shop
The Art Cottage
Even for those whose budgets barely make room for the Target discount bin, much less original art, this working downtown studio is still fun to visit. The artists who show here — Vicki Smith, Sherry Kelley, Kathy Perales, Sherry Wooley, and Wendy Volpe — work in a wide variety of mediums, from sculpture to fiber arts. Those with a few bucks to spare, however, are likely to be unable to resist Perales’ vibrant floral paintings or Kelley’s whimsical bronzes.
If Henry Higgins was outfitting his home in present day Texas instead of Edwardian England, surely this sumptuous shop would be on autodial. Even the most particular gentleman will find much to like in the selection of Turkish rugs, Libeco Belgian linens, handmade Rustico leather goods, and grooming products from Jack Black. Scattered about are coffee table books, European antiques, and, occasionally, a spoiled cat.
One suspects that Kat Balmos has an enviable closet. From lightweight maxi-dresses to shimmery iridescent tops, the clothing she carries in her eclectic shop ooze Texas cool. But Lot 59 isn’t just a space where you can cop her breezy style. It’s full of plenty of home fashions, from artwork that brings just the right amount of kitsch to a space to very of-the-moment wicker peacock chairs.
What to see
Hill Country Craft Beer Trail
Some of Texas’ best craft breweries can be found near New Braunfels, including Lone Star favorite 5 Stones. Book a shuttle with friends to enjoy all the pints worry-free, and don’t forget to pack a few snacks to munch on while taking in the beautiful scenery.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The fascinating formations are naturally the main attraction of this family favorite, but there’s plenty more to keep fidgety kiddos engaged. Toddlers can explore Sky Tykes, a ropes course specifically designed for small children. Older teens can grapple through the Canopy Explorer course or take a ride on the zipline. Everyone will love watching the Bracken bat flight fill the Texas sky.
Where to stay
It’s easy to wax rhapsodic about the Art Deco details at this downtown hotel, but one of its main draws can be found outside of your suite’s doors. The Faust Brewing Co. downstairs serves some of the Texas Hill Country’s finest beers. Try a few, then plop down on the hotel's luxuriously appointed beds.
Gruene Mansion Inn
Just a hop from New Braunfels in Gruene, this stately 1872 house is one of the most gorgeous inns in the state. The rooms, however, orange from richly Victorian to strikingly contemporary. The Texas Suite is decked out in cowhide rugs and leather furniture, the Gruene Room is as plush as any big city boutique hotel, and Bertha’s Bedroom is quaint with a floral wallpapered ceiling. Make the stay even better by adding a basket full of artisan coffee, tasty snacks, or tubing supplies.
The Resort at Schlitterbahn
Looking like a set piece from Swiss Family Robinson, the Treehaus luxury suites at the water park are perched on roughly hewn logs. Inside, guests will find modern conveniences like a full kitchen, wi-fi, and fine bedding — not that kids are likely to notice. They’ll be too busy gazing at the park’s lazy river, located just a few tantalizing feet from the hotel’s balcony.