Are you planning a fun-filled trip to the little river town of New Braunfels, Texas? You will be delighted to know that this region is full of activities to pack into your vacation agenda!
Snapshot of the Best Activities in and around New Braunfels:
- Float the Rivers
- Visit Natural Bridge Caverns & Wildlife Ranch
- Explore the Museums
- Spend an evening at the Drive-In Theater
- Enjoy a day at Schlitterbahn
- Get thrills at the Texas Ski Ranch
- Attend a seasonal event
- Spend an evening listening to live music
- Eat and drink at the iconic restaurants and breweries
- Spend a night in a cabin overlooking the river
Where is New Braunfels, Texas?
New Braunfels is nestled in the southeastern part of the Hill Country just thirty minutes north of San Antonio and one hour southwest of Austin. It’s a busy, quaint town with a wide variety of activities for anyone to participate in at any time of the year.
More specifically, it is known for hosting one of the most popular Oktoberfests in America: Wurstfest, which is a 10 day long German Heritage festival celebrating German culture and cuisine.
If brews aren’t for you, you can always participate in any number of the outdoor activities offered around the town ranging from tubing or floating on the Comal river, to riding a miniature train and doing a round of mini-golf or even hiking!
If you happen to love shopping and food as much as I do, you can head over to the Gruene Historic District to shop, eat, and then dance until your heart’s content.
New Braunfels is also home to the deepest lake in Texas: Canyon Lake. At roughly 43 feet deep with eighty miles of shoreline, it is perfect for fishing, sunbathing, boating, and even scuba diving.
Floating the Rivers: The Comal and the Guadalupe
Floating the Comal River
The Comal River is a spring-fed river which averages around 72 degrees year round and is 2.5 miles (4 km) long . The experience of floating the Comal will take approximately two hours, as the river runs through city limits and past quite a few landmarks like the Wurstfest grounds and Schlitterbahn waterpark.
This particular float is known as the shorter float with calmer waters and a tube chute (which is a giant concrete water slide!)
Floating the Guadalupe River
As the home base of the 230-mile-long Guadalupe River, New Braunfels is the hub for tubing in Texas. You will get plenty of scenic nature views and lots of time to “chill” while floating with your friends and family!
This float will last you between 2- 6 hours, but you will need to check the website for updates regarding the float route, float times, and weather conditions.
You will also need to arrive early, as this is one of the most popular activities to do during the summer. A wide variety of river outfitters provide tubes, parking, and transportation to and from your vehicle. Both rivers are open 7 days a week, pending weather, water levels, and other conditions that could impact your float.
Visit Natural Bridge Caverns
If water and sun aren’t what you seek, try heading 180 feet (55 m) below ground and emerging on the other side in an adventure seeker’s paradise.
Natural Bridge Caverns boasts several different tours that showcase the cavern and all of its hidden wonders. Tours range from a discovery tour to an adventure tour (wherein adventurers can become spelunkers for a few hours!)
Natural Bridge Caverns is also home to the Twisted Trails Zip and Ropes Course which is a 60 foot (18m) high adventure ropes course that consists of 50 suspended elements and 7 zip rails through the hill country.
Parents and caretakers of the wee ones can also put the little tykes on a similar challenge better suited for them, you know– to create more adventure seekers in the world.
For the less adrenaline-inclined folks, there is a 5,000-square-foot maze, gem and fossil mining, bat flight watching, as well as eating and shopping.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch:
If the animal lovers would much rather go see some animals ranging from avian to dinosaurs to zebras, consider a trip to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch.
This ranch sits on over 450 acres in the middle of the Hill Country, just North of San Antonio and South of New Braunfels. You can take a self-guided tour through the property, take a guided tour with one of their Safari Animal Rangers, sign up for a Giraffe VIP Experience, or take any one of their group adventures.
If you’re still stuck on dinosaurs, they offer a Prehistoric Experience, where you can walk amongst the creatures that roamed the earth long ago.
They’ve been well trained by the Safari Rangers, so fear not!
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch also offers plenty of food and drinks in case you get hungry while touring the grounds.
McKenna Children’s Museum:
Located in the center of New Braunfels is the McKenna Children’s Museum, which offers a wide variety of activities to let your child’s imagination run wild. For a break from the sun, take them here, and foster excitement about learning and discovering!
Interested in the history of New Braunfels? The Sophienburg Museum is where you will witness the history of Prince Carl and a group of German colonists as they travel overseas and find a home in the middle of Texas.
You will see exhibits, local artifacts, photographic images, and so much more that will take you through the rich history of this town.
Stars and Stripes Drive In Theatre
If you’re looking for something to do that can send you back to the past, go to the Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre. With three different movie screens, you can have your choice of movie to view.
To ensure that you’re comfortable in the past, they have a 50s cafe that will keep you well fed and hydrated. They also have a great playground for the children to get those extra wiggles out right before the movie.
Before you go, make sure you look at their website for the ground rules they have established so that everyone has a pleasurable time.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark New Braunfels
With something for everyone, Schilitterbahn offers over fifty-one different water rides that range from lazy to adrenaline filled.
If you feel like you can’t get all fifty-one, plus of those rides in, you can also stay in their resort that offers many different types of accommodations and enables you to spend more time enjoying the spring-fed lazy river or holding on for dear life on one of their many water roller coasters.
Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo
With over 50 years of history, this former “Snake Farm” turned accredited zoo offers visitors access to over 500 different species of animals. Visitors enjoy hands-on interactions, interactive shows, and conservation-based programs that raise awareness about wildlife issues.
Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo is open year-round and during most daylight hours. Make sure you check the website for any changes due to weather and basic FAQs on what to expect or ground rules.
Texas Ski Ranch
This 70 acre outdoor haven for aquatic thrill- seekers and adventurers features activities ranging from wakeboarding, to paintballing, and even ax throwing!
Texas Ski Ranch also offers a private lake with beach access, a bar, and a restaurant for respite after your day of adventuring. These activities are available year round, but make sure you check out the website for any maintenance or closures before you plan.
Faust Street Bridge
Faust Street Bridge is great for not only sight-seers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, but also the architecturally-minded folks.
This historic bridge was built in 1887 and made out of wrought iron and stone making it a rare survivor of the ages! Its Whipple truss structure is even more rare, as the design is uncommon but innovative for its age. This is a top pick for photographing!
Rockin’ R Gruene
This seasonal tubing outfitter isn’t just for tubing down the Guadalupe or the Comal, they also offer space for public and private events with live music, a bar, and even an El Arroyo food truck! (El Arroyo is world renowned for their sassy signage and memes that have gone viral).
Rockin’ R Gruene offers everything for your tubing adventure needs, rapid transit to and from your hotel or residence, group events, and a craft beer trail (a beer tour for those that love hops vs. grapes). Make sure you check out their website for any information about weather and water levels!
Brauntex Performing Arts Center
At Brauntex Performing Arts Center you can catch a wide variety of shows at this Art Deco styled theater. Whether you prefer ballet, musicals, comedy, or movie screenings, this is the theater to visit in New Braunfels!
It is worthy of noting that Brauntex Performing Arts Center is the home to one of New Braunfels oldest movie theaters now recognized by the National Register of Historic Presses.
New Braunfels Fire Museum
The New Braunfels Fire Department offers tours in their original fire station, the New Braunfels Fire Museum. This historic structure was built in 1919 and served as the main fire station until 1985.
Here, you will see a 1925 REO SpeedWagon (no, not the band) and a 1931 American LaFrance, as well as all sorts of fire-fighting gear, uniforms, badges, and memorabilia.
You will be guided on this free tour by an active or retired firefighter on Saturdays or by appointment.
New Braunfels Railroad Museum
You can go tour the New Braunfels Railroad Museum which lies right next to one of the busiest North/South Union Pacific railroad tracks with over 30 trains passing each day.
All tours are free to all ages. They also offer a wide array of monthly activities events.
Millstreet Art Gallery
The Millstreet Art Gallery is housed in a commercial office building which was ruined by a fire in 2014. In an effort to preserve more the town’s history, the building was rebuilt using bricks from the original New Braunfels hospital and an old cistern.
You can tour the gallery during the week and view original artworks by Texas artists. These works include landscapes, wildlife, and historical themes.
Circle Arts Theatre
In Landa park, next to Wurstfest, you will find the Circle Arts Theater. This production company offers a wide variety of shows ranging from comedies, dramas, musicals, youth shows and bonus productions.
This venue was founded in 1968 and gained notoriety after Wurstfest requested that they produce an original melodrama every year for Wurstfest.
Check their website to catch a play or even to see if you can enroll the kiddos in a class or two.
Fall Events in New Braunfels
- Comal County Fair and Rodeo– where you can experience the largest county fair in Central Texas with carnival rides, delicious food, tractor pulls (which are very loud, so beware), livestock shows, mutton bustin’, extreme bull riding and so much more!
- Gruene Music and Wine Fest- featuring live music, beer and, you guessed it, wine. You get to experience a culmination of Texas and Americana Music while sampling wines from all over the state and putting top dollar down for guitars auctioned off for charity with Unite Way of Comal County.
- Dia de los Muertos Festival– celebrating Mexican and Hispanic culture and featuring kids’ activities, live entertainment, food, vendors, an ofrenda, shopping and so much more.
- Texas Clay Festival– witness and shop through over 80 of the top clay artists and potters in the state as they all come together for this fantastic festival.
- Wurstfest– Since this is the second most popular Oktoberfest in America, you will need to plan ahead for this one.
- Festival of Trees: Somewhere in mid-November you can begin your Christmas season by walking through beautifully decorated christmas trees and ogling at the intricate wreaths. All of which you can bid or buy with the purchases supporting Meals on Wheels! This event comes with family friendly entertainment, photos with Santa and snacks for all.
- Weihnachtsmarkt (Vy- Noks-markt)– Channeling their inner open-air Christmas market, New Braunsfels kept the tradition indoors. With over 60 artisans and merchants offering a wide variety of wares from German collectables to apparel and gifts. Oh, and Santa, the jolliest elf will make his appearance and join you and the kids for breakfast. Tickets are $25/ child. General admission is $15 (with Children 12 and under being FREE) and all proceeds benefit the Sophienburg Museum.
Winter Events in New Braunfels
- Wassailfest– 1st Thursday in December. Shopping, eating, and wassailing? Sign me up. First, what’s Wassail? It’s a beverage, usually cider, wine, or ale, mixed with mulling spices which usually contain cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and cloves.
- Gruene’s Christmas Market Days– with over 100 vendors, you can get your Christmas shopping done in one spot!
- Menorah Lighting– come gather around a 6 foot menorah and celebrate the Festival of Lights with this vibrant Jewish community while participating in giveaways, crafts for kids and eating delicious donuts!
- Caroling in the Park– If you LOVE christmas music and caroling, this one is probably for you. With train rides, kids holiday cookie and ornament decorating, live entertainment, and of course, caroling.
- Jingle Bell Run– If running is more in tune with you, you could always sign up for the annual Jingle Bell 5k run/walk benefiting St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. Before, after, and during your run you can enjoy a holiday costume contest, hot cocoa, coffee, sausage wraps, beer and pictures with santa.
Spring and Summer Events in New Braunfels
- Kids fest– this is a two day event that offers a variety of fun activities for both kids and adults (the big kids in charge). It features over 100 exhibitors, dozens of activity stations, life performances, and even a foam party.
- Floating and Tubing the incredible river trails!
Where to find the best New Braunfels Music
- Whitewater Amphitheater– nestled on the Guadalupe river, you will have a one-of-a-kind experience under the stars while listening to the likes of Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Dwight Yoakam, and Jason Isbell. Make sure you check out the website to go see a show!
- Gruene Hall– Built in 1878, Texas’ oldest dance hall with over 6,000 sqft (557 sq. m.) of dance floor, a bar, a stage and an outdoor garden that hosts live music everyday featuring local and national artists. This popular tourist attraction was also the launching pad for George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, and Hal Ketchum.
Best Breweries & Wineries
- New Braunfels Brewing Company– small, family- run brewery that specializes in brewing beers with local yeast and bacteria. There are beer tastings available, as well as a tap room with a full array of flavor forward beers.
- Guadalupe Brewing Company– This is a brewpub pizza kitchen specializing in 32 handcrafted beers on tap and New York and Detroit- Style pizza. They also have live music on some Saturdays and Sundays.
- Hill Country Craft Beer Trail– You can choose to drive or ride through a variety of “trails” that take you through New Braunfels and all of its scenery, each of the trails ranges from 1 hour to just under 4 hours. You can also choose whether or not you want to stick with beer or go visit a distillery.
- Winery on The Gruene– Visit this boutique winery that specializes in making wine from all over the world. You can even experience making your own batch of wine for yourself. Tastings are available daily and if you find one that you really like, but can’t get back in time, you can order your wine online.
- Dry Comal Vineyards– A family owned winery that produces wines with local yeast and bacteria. You can partake in the wine tastings that take place under the covered pavilion or in their tasting room and includes 5 of their 100% Texas wines.
Best Food in New Braunfels
- Krause’s Cafe German Food– with the largest tap wall in New Braunfels, you can grab a brew while chowing down on some classic Deutsche meals, with a Texas flair, of course. They also host live music most weekends.
- Naeglin’s Bakery– The oldest bakery in Texas, established in 1868 with a cute history and even though the ownership changed hands, it still pays homage to the original baker, Edouard Naeglin. They offer everything from bread, cakes, cookies, pies, kolaches, strudel, and even tortillas.
- Huisache Grill and Wine Bar- located in a restored historical building that the owners revamped and brought back to life, this restaurant will delight both the foodies and the wine experts in your life. The shoppers can also go pursue the shops that are next to the Grill and shop to their heart’s content.
- Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar– located in the ruins of an old cotton gin and overlooking the Guadalupe River, you will be well-fed, entertained, and very hoppy with the beer garden selections.
Best Shopping in New Braunfels
- New Braunfels Farmers Market– Every Saturday morning, you can browse through over 60 vendors who provide fresh produce, food, art, personal care, and my personal favorite– the prepared food and beverage stations. They also have live music during this time, so you can jam while you shop. If you go at the right time, you could even get everything you need for a picnic at any one of the many places we’ve recommended for you already!
- Downtown Antique Mall– This 16,000 sqft (1486 sq.m.) store is a thrifter’s paradise with a huge selection of antiques and collectables from multiple dealers that are guaranteed to surprise even the most savvy shopper.
- Freiheit Country Store– Built in 1889 and it continues to be a local meeting place for all walks of life offering food, beer, and live music in a honky tonk environment.
Best New Braunfels Cabins
- River Road Cabins: Cabins and treehouses located on the scenic River Road and Guadalupe River, offering camping and tubing facilities.
- Gruene Cottages: Cozy and elegant cottages located near the historic district of Gruene and the Guadalupe River.
- Comal River Cottages: Charming cottages with river access and views, located across the street from Schlitterbahn and walking distance of downtown New Braunfels.
Activities in New Braunfels Await!
There is so much to explore, so much to enjoy in the cozy, river towns of the Texas Hill Country. Whether you stay at Geronimo Creek Retreat in the neighboring town of Seguin, or you stay in the heart of action at River Road Cabins, you are certain to find all the fun you can handle!