If you've read my 10 Things To Do In Gruene, Texas post, then you already know it's one of my favorite small towns in the entire state of Texas. A visit during the holiday season is an absolute must! Here's a complete guide to the holidays in Gruene Texas.
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Complete Guide to the Holidays in Gruene Texas
Before I begin, here's a map so you can familiarize yourself with the town:
Important Note: I update this post yearly when the new dates become available, so you might want to bookmark it!
The most important date to note is usually the day of the Gruene Town Lighting. Unfortunately, the town lighting draws a massive crowd, so it's been cancelled for 2020. Safety is top priority during a pandemic!
If you can only pick one day to visit Gruene all year, this is usually my top suggestion. It's crowded, but so worth it because the entire town gets into the holiday spirit.
Even though the Town Lighting has been cancelled, the rest of the seasonal events are still on for 2020!
Pony Express Trail Ride
The day begins with the 20th Annual Gruene Pony Express Ride, where relay riders on horseback deliver a message of Christmas cheer straight from the Governor of Texas.
The town sets up a makeshift post office next to Gruene Outfitters, and you can mail all of your Christmas cards from there. They'll be cancelled with the special 2020 Gruene commemorative stamp.
Important Details: December 5, 2020 beginning at 10:00 am. Head to Gruene Outfitters at 1629 Hunter Road, New Braunfels, TX, 78130
Lunch at The Gristmill
Once you've mailed your Christmas cards, I suggest grabbing an early lunch at The Gristmill. The lines will be longer than usual on this particular day, and they don't take reservations, so get there right when they open.
Trust me when I say the restaurant is packed for a good reason! The food is incredible! If you miss them for lunch, try again for dinner.
Here's a peek in the window to the main dining area, where they're known for having an upside-down Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling each year:
Live Reenactment of A Christmas Carol
After lunch, there's usually a special one-man live theater showing of Charles Dickens' classic tale, A Christmas Carol. The actor does an amazing job of acting out the story! I hope it's the same actor this year that it has been in years past.
He does quick costume changes and acts out the role of each of the famous characters — from Tiny Tim to Scrooge — and is so entertaining.
His show usually begins at 1 p.m. in the garden outside of The Grapevine. (Parents, that means you can enjoy sipping on a glass of wine while the kids take in the show.)
Photos with Cowboy Kringle
Once you've watched the show and are full of wine, you probably won't want to wander too far off. I suggest letting the kids have their pictures taken with Cowboy Kringle.
Look for him in the breezeway right next door to The Grapevine. The photos aren't very expensive, and you'll receive a flash drive to take them home immediately.
Please note that, due to the pandemic, you and your kids will need to wear a mask this year. The children and Cowboy Kringle will remove the masks for the actual photo.
Important Details: Check Cowboy Kringle's schedule to set up an appointment time in advance, and then head to 1612 Hunter Road, New Braunfels, TX, 78131 for photos.
Sightseeing & Shopping
Next, stroll around town to enjoy the sights and perhaps do a little Christmas shopping at a few of the amazing stores in town! You can pick up a wide variety of unique gifts for almost anyone on your list in Gruene.
The tents of Old Gruene Market Days will be set up for the weekend, you can shop all of my old favorites along the main two streets in Old Gruene, or you can head off to visit the newer section known as Gruene Lake Village.
Be sure to print out Kringle Cash coupons before you go to save money on your purchases!! The shops in Gruene typically close around 6, but on this particular night many offer extended hours.
The Gruene Town Lighting
NOTE: I'm leaving this section in so you can plan ahead for 2021, but please note the Gruene Town Lighting has been cancelled for 2020. It will resume in 2021.
Make sure you head back over to Hunter Road around 4:30 because you'll want to grab a prime spot to watch Cowboy Kringle when he flips the switch to light up the town.
This is my absolute favorite part of the day — maybe even the whole year! (I'm such a kid at heart!) Here's what happens:
- Around 5:00, Cowboy Kringle rides his horse down Hunter Road towards Gruene Hall. He probably begins somewhere near the entrance to New Braunfels Street, but I admit I've never actually looked to see exactly where he starts. I am always waiting at the end to greet him. Families line Hunter Road on both sides to wave at him as he passes by. Most fall in line behind him to follow him towards Gruene Hall.
- Once he gets to the end of Hunter Road (near Gruene Hall), Cowboy Kringle stops at the Gruene Antique Company. (That's where he stopped in years past, at least.) That's my best secret that I'm giving away today!! Grab a spot early at Gruene Antique Company if you want to score amazing close-up of him.
- The host will grab the mic and introduce Cowboy Kringle to the crowd. He'll say a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and then will request that everyone begin counting down with him. Finally, he'll flip a switch and all of the buildings in town will light up at the same time! It's so magical! All of the kids (and some of the adults) gasp in wonder when the town lights up.
Daisy and the rest of the crowd wait with anticipation for Cowboy Kringle to flip the magic switch and then hand out candy canes to all the kids. Click on any photo to view it larger.
- Cowboy Kringle greets all of the kids and he passes out mini candy canes to anyone who wants one. You can take pictures of him, but he doesn't typically stand around and take photos with each person in the crowd because there are so many people in attendance. (That's why you need to arrive early and grab a good spot!) The lighting is great and he's a very photogenic Santa, so definitely snap a couple pics.
After that, I'd suggest grabbing a mug of hot chocolate across the street at Gruene General Store, and then you can wander around some more and enjoy the town all aglow with Christmas lights.
Related Reading: I'm Dreaming of a Gruene ChristmasGet the scoop on the holiday town lighting ceremony in Gruene TX, including the best places to stay and eat. Click To Tweet
Where to Stay: Bed & Breakfasts
If you're interested in planning more than just a day trip to Gruene, here are my top recommendations in the area:
Gruene River Inn
I love this option! It sits high on the banks of the Guadalupe River, so it has amazing views of the Texas Hill Country. It's so relaxing to sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea and a good book!
Gruene Mansion Inn
This is such a charming white Victorian-style B&B. It's in the center of historic downtown, and it's only steps away from Gruene Hall and The Gristmill. They have free wifi, a complimentary continental breakfast, and free parking.
⭐ Insider Tip: No matter where you choose to stay, be sure to book early! Gruene is a very small town and the best spots fill up months in advance for this particular holiday weekend.
Where to Stay: Home Rentals
If you've never rented a home through HomeAway or Airbnb, please read my post How to Rent a Vacation Home You'll Absolutely Love. It's where I've listed all of my best insider tips for finding the perfect getaway!
You can also get up to a $65 Airbnb credit from me. I love home rentals and stay in them about 90% of the time when I travel.
I've been quoted in national financial publications like Kiplinger for my home rental tips, so I guess you could say I'm a pro at finding the deals!
Gruene Travel Tips
If you're flying into the area, it's equally as easy to fly into San Antonio International (SAT) or Austin (AUS), and then drive a rental car to Gruene. If the rates are no different, I'd suggest SAT since it's about 20 minutes closer.
Gruene really is one of the best small-town Christmas towns in Texas! If you go once, you'll probably want to do as our family does and make it an annual tradition.
⭐ Insider Tip: Don't forget to check out the calendar for Gruene Hall and purchase tickets early if you want to catch a live show that night. It'll be packed!
Related Reading: The Best Christmas Lights in Texas and the Southwest U.S.
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