Gruene (pronounced “green”) is a great weekend getaway destination and is home to Texas' oldest dance hall. If you've never visited, you're missing out on one of the most adorable and quaint little towns in the Texas Hill Country! Here are 10 Things To Do In Gruene Texas:
Gruene is the perfect day trip from Austin or San Antonio — at approximately 40 minutes from either city (varies with traffic). The actual historic downtown area in Gruene is only a couple blocks wide, so you can easily navigate the entire town in one day. Almost every restaurant or shop is located on one of two streets, so it's a very walkable town.
My Suggestions for the Top 10 Things to do in Gruene Texas:
1. Go Two-Steppin' at Gruene Hall
Gruene Hall is Texas' oldest continually operating dance hall, and the building's age is apparent from the moment you enter the screen doors and step onto the slanted and rickety old wooden floors. The walls are covered with photos of some of the most famous country artists imaginable — many of whom got their start at Gruene Hall. (Think George Straight, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett, amongst others.)
On any given week you'll find live entertainment that ranges from hugely popular current stars to up-and-coming local Texas acts. Gruene Hall's website has a calendar of upcoming performers and info for purchasing tickets to shows or dance lessons.
Fellow reality TV show fans: Gruene Hall was featured in an episode of Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette. See if you can find where she added initials and a heart to one of the posts.
2. Grab a Bite to Eat at the Gristmill
Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar is probably the most well-known restaurant in Gruene and for good reason; the food is scrumptious. It's located in a prime spot along the banks of the Guadalupe River and has a beautiful view, particularly in late fall or winter when the trees have dropped their leaves.
Everything I've ever sampled off the menu at Gristmill has been delicious; it's one of those restaurants that gets my order right every time. I typically order their old-fashioned burger with round cut Gristmill fries. (Obviously, all diets are off when visiting the ‘mill!) Sometimes I'll simply opt for a drink with a side dish, since their sides are very filling. I have a bad habit of snacking at the other shops in the area while I'm shopping, so it's nice to save room so I can sample goodies elsewhere.
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The Great Texas Pecan Candy Co. is my second favorite place to stop for food. It isn't a dine-in shop, but the sweet gentleman behind the counter is very generous when handing out samples. You have to try the Pecan Roca Toffee!! It's my top choice and one of my favorite items to give as a Christmas gift. Friends and family go nuts for the stuff. The store also sells various flavored nuts, seasoned popcorn, pralines, brittle, and more. I'd suggest sampling to determine your favorites, then purchase the container that holds 3 varieties of your choice.
3. Check out the Famous Water Tower
The landmark water tower in Gruene can be seen from miles away and has quite a history to it, including a depressed town manager who hung himself from the famous beacon and a dent in the cap of the tower that occurred during a land dispute. Although the tower once supplied water to the town of Gruene, it no longer serves that purpose and is now a decorative symbol of the city. It is most commonly spotted in the background of Instagram shots featuring #gruenehall.
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4. Relax & Taste Some Local Wine
The Grapevine is probably one of the first establishments you'll spot if you park in the main parking lot in Gruene. They frequently have live musical acts performing in the garden, and it's hard not to be drawn in to see what's happening. Simply put — it's all about the alcohol! There is a wine tasting room where you can sample a large selection of Texas wines that can be purchased by the glass, bottle, or case, and they also have beer on tap. It's a lovely place to just rest and chill for a bit.
Gruene Music & Wine Festival occurs during the beautiful fall season and is one of Gruene's most popular annual events. The festival features the very best in live Texas music paired with wine and beer tasting events. It also offers numerous booths where you can sample delicious German foods.
5. Support Local Artists
Old Gruene Market Days occurs the first full 3rd weekend of each month (except January) and the event showcases local artisans who offer a wide variety of handcrafted items. Think hand-crafted leather, Texas photographs and artwork, jewelry, canned goods, children's clothing, spices/dips, etc. They operate under tents that are set up on the main street (Hunter St.) in front of Adobe Verde. Even though there is shade, just be aware it gets very hot in the summertime!
6. Dip Your Toes in the Guadalupe
The Guadalupe River is stunningly beautiful and is a great place for taking pictures, playing in the water, or going tubing. The water is cold, but on a hot summer day in Texas it's just the ticket! Rockin' R River Rides and Gruene River Co. both offer water activities, such as tubing (a Texas tradition), rafting, and canoe trips.
Daisy and I like to park in Historic Gruene and walk down Hunter Street until we hit the bridge, then kick off our shoes and go exploring.
Even when visiting during the winter months, Daisy can't help but roll up her jeans and dip her toes in the crystal clear water!
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7. Shop Local & Support Small Businesses
Alibi Boutique carries all the hottest brands and is the official Kendra Scott retailer for New Braunfels, Texas. You'll find accessories, gifts, trendy clothing lines, and great shoes in this fun shop! Alibi is in the newer section of Gruene known as Gruene Lake Village.
Simply Detailed is an adorable store set in an historic older home, and it's where we spend the majority of our clothing budget in Gruene. The store is decorated beautifully and carries current trends in addition to basics, such as tanks and leggings. It's a boutique with a good selection of unique jewelry, in addition to the really cute clothes. This store reminds me a lot of the boutiques in Boerne and Fredericksburg.
8. Sleep in Texas History
Gruene Mansion Inn is currently a 31-room bed & breakfast, but it once served as the town founder's home. In 1872, H.D. Gruene constructed this Victorian home as his place of residence along the Guadelupe. It's been featured in Texas Monthly and Southern Living magazines, and many of the rooms offer riverfront access.
The historic Gruene Mansion Inn is centrally located and just steps away from Gruene Hall and The Gristmill Restaurant.
Gruene Homestead Inn – If you prefer to stay on the outskirts of town, this is a good option. It's a collection of small farm homes located on an authentic German homestead. Select it if you love nature and want to relax on a rocking chair while enjoying beautiful Texas scenery. They have free wifi, a complimentary continental breakfast, and free parking.
Antoinette's Cottage is a bed & breakfast with rooms dating back to the pre-Civil War era. There are many antiques and heirlooms on display throughout the home, and you'll find claw-foot tubs mixed with modern amenities. Look for the pink house with lots of flowers and butterflies by the front porch!
If you prefer to rent a home in Gruene (my preferred option whenever I travel), please read my post How to Rent a Vacation Home You'll Absolutely Love. I provide all of my best tips for finding the perfect getaway! (You can also score a $40 Airbnb credit at that link.)
If you are planning to visit Gruene and have questions about which Airbnb or Homeaway rental would be right for your situation, please email me at [email protected], and I'll help you locate a few great options!
9. Pick up a Souvenir
Gruene General Store is perfect for kids and the young-at-heart. 🙂 It's ranked as one of the top 40 places to visit in Texas and is packed to the brim with food, toys, books, and unique Texas souvenirs. Daisy could spend hours in this store — most of it perched at the old-fashioned ice cream counter. She loves ordering scoops of Blue Bell Ice Cream in a cone, while I prefer sampling the fudge varieties. There's also a large section of flavored butter, salsas, and preserves available to taste. They have a Christmas tree on display year-round, so be sure to pick out an ornament to commemorate your visit!
View of the ice cream and soda fountain area at the Gruene General Store. All the butter and salsa samples along the left side of the photo can be taste tested. My favorite is the Amaretto Pecan Honey Butter!
While Gruene is beautiful throughout the year, my favorite time to visit is during the Christmas season when it's aglow with lights. Everything looks so magical! So, last but definitely not least…
10. Experience Christmas with a Texas Twist
Holidays in Gruene is an annual event bursting with small town Texas charm. It's an ideal stop for families because there's something delightful for all ages. In Gruene, Santa is better known as “Cowboy Kringle” and he sports a cowboy hat, chaps and boots.
During the annual town lighting ceremony, he rides down Hunter Street (on his horse, of course) and stops just shy of Gruene Hall to visit with the crowd and hand out candy canes. The most magical part of the evening is when he flips a special switch and the entire town alights with the twinkly glow of Christmas lights. Even the famous water tower receives a colorful treatment that can be seen from neighboring small towns!
Cowboy Kris Kringle is an authentic Texas Santa! He has a bag full of candy canes that he passes out to to the kids.
If you're seeking a unique travel destination, Gruene is one of my favorite small towns in Texas! It's a great vacation spot for the family, with a variety of activities for young and old alike. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
If you love reading about charming small towns, you may also want to check out my detailed guide to River Street in Savannah, GA. What's your favorite small town in the U.S.?