Situated in the middle of San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels is a hidden gem of a city. Each year, given its attractions (and proximity to those major cities), it attracts an increasing number of tourists and residents.
I have visited New Braunfels many times over the last 15 years, so I’ve had the opportunity to see its rapid growth from a small town into one of the best cities to visit in Texas.
Its roots trace back to 1845 when German settlers founded it, and a significant part of New Braunfels is that heritage. It can be seen in the food, architecture, and festivals. If you’re in town at the right time, you might catch Wurstfest, the German festival. Highly recommended!
Nature and water attractions are what make New Braunfels stand out. Two rivers, the Comal and Guadalupe, flow through the city’s center. They’re popular spots, especially in the summer, where people come to swim, tube, and relax by the water. New Braunfels also has Schlitterbahn, one of the top waterparks in the world.
So, if you’re traveling in Texas, consider dropping by. Whether for a short break or a weekend stay, there’s a lot to see and do.
Let’s get into a list of outstanding activities for your visit to New Braunfels!
Walking into the Gruene Historic District, you feel like you’re stepping back into the 19th century. The district has been carefully preserved and restored to maintain its historic charm.
One of the best features is its collection of antique shops. These shops offer everything from vintage furniture to memorabilia. The restaurants in Gruene are also fantastic. My top recommendations are Adobe Verde (casual Tex-Mex) and The Gruene Door (upscale American).
But the most well-known place is Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall. It has a classic Texan aesthetic, with rustic decor and wooden floors.
At Gruene Hall, you’ll see great live music performances. Often, it’s from relatively unknown artists, but over the years, more known ones like Garth Brooks and George Strait have performed there.
Float the River
One of the top reasons for New Braunfels’ fame is the tubing and kayaking it offers. If you’re looking for a relaxed activity, tubing is the top choice. Each summer, locals and tourists grab a tube and float down the Comal or Guadalupe River. It can take 3-4 hours to go the entire way, so you can spend half a day doing it. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
While some parts of the rivers are calm, there are rapids in a few sections, making kayaking another worthwhile activity.
Doing either of these is relatively hassle-free, thanks to the businesses in the area that cater to the river crowd. They provide tube and kayak rentals, in addition to shuttle services, so that you can easily hop in and out of the water and not worry about getting back to your starting point.
Landa Park is a popular spot for locals and tourists, especially during the hot months. One of its main attractions is its natural springs, which (although a little cold!) are a refreshing way to cool off. One of New Braunfels’ two rivers, the Comal, runs through Landa Park, creating some gorgeous scenery.
If you have children, there’s a fun, slow-moving train that goes through the entire park. The kids will love it!
The park also has designated walking trails and picnic areas, some located near the water, so you can pack a meal and enjoy the view.
Schlitterbahn has established itself as not just one of the best waterparks in the country but also the world. In my opinion, it lives up to that reputation.
The park has many water slides that vary in height, speed, and intensity. Some slides are great for an adrenaline rush, while others are more moderate, suitable for kids or those who prefer a less intense experience.
One of the best parts of Schlitterbahn is the lazy river, where you can float on a tube along a slow-moving current. The river snakes through the entire park, an efficient way to hop between rides.
There’s also a surfing simulator (called the Boogie Bahn) and a dedicated play area for children. My personal favorite ride is the Master Blaster; be prepared for a big drop!
Downtown New Braunfels
As you enter the downtown area, the first thing you’ll notice is the picturesque gazebo in the center of the main plaza. It’s a great place for a photo op!
Trees and historic buildings surround the plaza, and it is also a place for various events in the city throughout the year. The two main ones are the Comal County Fair Parade and Wassailfest, where vendors set up booths and pass out their concoction of wassail.
The downtown area also has a collection of unique boutiques and food options. Many of the businesses have been in existence for over a century, like Naeglin’s Bakery, which originated in 1868. If you go to Naeglin’s, try the cherry strudel. It’s the best!
During November and December, the plaza is bright with Christmas lights, which sets the holiday tone in the city.
Natural Bridge Caverns
A short drive from the city, Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the largest cavern systems in Texas and one of the best things you can do when you visit New Braunfels.
The caverns are filled with stalactites and stalagmites, a sight to behold. I recommend taking a tour to learn about the geology and history of the caverns. The Hidden Wonders Tour takes you away from the traditional paths to new ones and even includes a light show.
Natural Bridge Caverns also has an on-site wildlife park where you can drive your car through acres of landscape and get up close to exotic animals, many of which are not often found in zoos. The last time I went, a few zebras approached my car. An amazing experience!
So, if you’re planning a trip to New Braunfels, I encourage you to add these activities to your list. You won’t be disappointed! Remember that it’s a popular tourist destination, so book your accommodation and activities in advance, especially if it’s in the warmer months.
Have a wonderful time in New Braunfels!