A highlight of a Texas Hill Country vacation has to be the small, historical town of Gruene, Texas.
That is pronounced Green.
170 years ago, a German immigrant, Ernst Gruene, and his bride Antoinette went searching for farm land after learning that land was scarce at nearby New Braunfels.
Just down the river they found land at Gruene Texas and grew a successful cotton business that brought more families to the area.
It was a very profitable time and the town grew to include various homes, a mercantile store and a cotton gin powered by the Guadalupe River.
The Gruene Hall in Texas became the center of town life.
The death of Ernst’s second son Henry D Gruene in 1920 brought an end to the town’s good fortune and development. The family businesses went under except for Gruene Hall; it never closed.
In the 70’s, new purchasers came into revive Gruene TX into this charming relic of timeless community gathering and grew it to become listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The three street town located near the water tower is indeed thriving again and the Gruene dance hall still remains the center of community life.
The streets are filled with boutique and antique stores in old homes, a general store with a soda and ice cream bar, and restaurants.
I fell in love with the historic charm of Gruene and the fun that lives inside the walls of the historic Gruene Hall, which for us Aussies would be like showing up to that Outback shed for a barn dance.
I visited twice, once with the girls for a quick hour.
And then, once I knew we were staying in Texas Hill Country a few days longer over New Years, I decided Gruene was the place to spend the day for New Years Eve.
Fun Things to do in Gruene Texas
Seasonal summer fun – Tube on the Guadalupe River
Obviously, being in Gruene over the Christmas holidays and the winter period, we were not going to be jumping in a tube to float down the Guadalupe River.
But, during the warmer months, I say jump on in.
There is a launching spot right underneath the Gristmill in the center of the town i.e the water tower.
You can walk down and look at the river during the colder months. It sure does run fast and I can imagine how pretty it must look with the Spanish moss and oak trees overhanging it when in full bloom.
Have Lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant
Beneath the water tower in the 1870’s cotton gin is the Gristmill River Restaurant.
This restaurant is massive, which is great for its popularity. Chances are you’ll get a seat in one of its many rooms or the beautiful deck dining with views of the Guadalupe River.
The Gristmill is one of those restaurants in Gruene TX that personifies the adage that everything is bigger in Texas.
They were some of the biggest meal servings I’ve ever seen, and for a decent price.
Savannah’s chicken tenders were seriously the size of half a chook. Our chicken in a bone with a side of mash and broccoli was humongous and delicious!
The chicken was only $11.99 as well, which is a great price.
There is a beer garden outside the Gristmill Gruene with fire pits for the colder months and sometimes live music.
Walk around Gruene Town
Time to walk some of that lunch off before you hit Gruene Hall for dancing.
Walk in a circle around the town and you’ll find antique stores like The Gruene Antique Company housed in the GH.D Gruene’s landmark mercantile building, or specialty spores with Texas and Gruene themed gifts at shops like Cotton Eyed Joe’s and dancing Bear and plenty of boutique shops for the ladies.
Check out Pookie Jane’s and Tipsy Gypsy. How could you pass up shops with those names?
You can pick up a coffee from Gruene Coffee Haus, or an ice cream float from the Gruene General Store soda fountain.
You may even want to stop in at Gruene Day Spa for a relaxing massage.
Hit the Dance Floor at Gruene Hall (or just enjoy the music)
It doesn’t matter what time or day you visit, there will be music and fun happening in Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. Gruene Hall was first built in 1878.
Bring your cowboy boots and hat, and cash – it’s the only way they take your payment. Just like the good ole days.
Generally, the live music from 1-5pm each day is free and the evening show is ticketed.
The Gruene Hall in Texas is the place where legends like George Strait, Hal Ketchum, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett have played and even current superstars like Maren Morris – before Meet me in the Middle made her a household name. (I saw her in Raleigh just before this!!)
What a fantastic music venue!
I absolutely loved the relaxed, country home grown vibe of this dance hall, and it’s one of the don’t miss things to do in Gruene!
It’s a place you can just let down your hair down and be yourself.
You’ll be welcomed with a hat tip and a bottle raise!
On New Years Eve day we loved the Aaron Stephens band who was enthusiastically embraced by the crowd with wahoos and cheers. A mixture of Ben Harper and Lenny Kravitz smooth soul and funk, this guy was an incredible singer.
It was loads of fun and I could have stayed there all day.
There is a large outside area if you want some fresh air or the kids want to play in the sand pit and climb trees. I saw a group of younger children up the back of the hall with their dolls playing; it really is that kind of place.
Don’t be afraid to dance up the front right near the band or up the back with the larger dance floor space.
Plenty of little girls were out dancing with their dads and Savannah did me the honor of dancing with me, after a bit of cajoling.
She was always my dancing partner with her only intention of experiencing joy.
She’s now started to become more self conscious, which is devastating to me, and shaky ground I’m navigating to help her understand the more she fears what others think, the less she’ll live and and experience joy.
I took great joy in watching Betty on my first afternoon with just the girls and experiencing more of a traditional country rock band.
Betty was a groover, her moves not giving a clear indication of her age. Many people told me on social media after that Betty was quite the fixture in Gruene Hall, visiting daily to dance.
I loved her spirit and could only hope that I have the same vibrancy and enthusiasm at her age, even at my age now. She was a great lesson on how to live.
I only learned of her name on our next visit, when she stopped right near where I was sitting beside the fire pit at the Grapevine Winery. I had a bit of a fangirl moment and couldn’t let the opportunity pass to chat with her.
“They call me the Dancing Queen. I’m 84 and have been dancing today for the past 6 hours. I just can’t help it when I hear the music I just have to dance.”
She’s a national treasure.
She went on to tell me how much she loved Gruene and the townspeople who always look out for her. They buy her drinks and make sure she’s getting home okay.
I gave her a big hug and she took a photo with me. Look at her sweet beaming face.
“You know I’m so blessed. I get so many hugs from people every day.”
That’s because you are just a national treasure Betty. The uninhibited joy you exude is what everyone wishes they had the courage to express.
More live music and fire pits wine at The Grapevine
After you’ve done dancing, cross the road at the Sheriff’s command, and enter The Grapevine.
It’s a cute wooden shack with two outdoor sitting areas. One larger one with tables and fire pits and live music, and a smaller one out the front of the porch with a fire pit under the tree.
The Grapevine is a wine tasting room and bar located in Gruene Historic District. They feature one of the largest selections of Texas wines available, as well as Texas craft beers and select wines from around the world.
You can also buy glasses and pints to drink outside, or even a bottle from their extensive collection if you are drinking with friends.
There are lots of local wines and a delicious mixture of flavors perfect for a cool evening around the fire pit listening to a Bob Dylan wannabe have the time of his life singing the best songwriter in the world’s songs to the crowds. One after the other.
I cracked up when he said, I have another Bob Dylan song for you. The fifth one in a row!! I could tell by the large glasses of wine he was consuming between sets that he too was having the time of his life in Gruene.
We left just after the setting sun painted the sky pink and orange giving this historical town a soft glow of timeless good times
Bonus Travel Video of Gruene
Is there parking in Gruene?
Good news. There is loads of free parking in this small town – a huge lot that will be pretty full but still have space for you. Just behind the Grapevine.
There’s a full time sheriff (at least when I visited) controlling the traffic coming through this small town. He will tell you when to cross the road.
He’s super friendly and adds to the charm.
Places to Stay in Gruene Texas
In Gruene town itself, you have one accommodation option, the Gruene Mansion Inn. It’s rustic Victorian elegance and B&B style.
For those who are looking for Texas Hill Country hotels or apartments, check out the options in Hill Country through our partner, Booking.com.
We find they have the widest range of properties. You get free cancellation on most rooms, and a best price guarantee.
Plus, they have verified reviews from guests who have actually stayed at the property!
Here are some hotels we researched for you as good options:
- The Hilton Garden Inn, New Braunfels. We find this chain quite trustworthy and great for families. Book your stay and read reviews here.
- The Old Mill Resort has a great location and the rooms are spacious with kitchen, dining area and bathroom. Book your stay and read reviews here.
- Gruene River Inn is the place to stay for views and river access! Book your stay and read reviews here.
There are also loads of Airbnb options in the New Braunfels area. Click here to find the perfect home rental for you.
Want to Visit San Antonio?
Good news, San Antonio is super close to New Braunfels in Texas Hill Country. It could be a great base for you to explore San Antonio for a day or two.
Don’t forget the San Antonio Explorer Pass. It will save you up to 45% on combined admission prices on your choice of 3 or 5 top San Antonio attractions.
You can create your itinerary from 15 choices which includes a San Antonio River Cruise, Six Flags, San Antonio Museum of Art, and Texas Hill Country and JBJ Ranch Tour.
Car Rental for Texas Hill Country
As with most places in the USA, a car will be required to get around.
More Texas Travel Tips
- Enchanting things to do in Texas Hill Country in three days
- In Dallas, we visited the JFK Museum.
- And one of our favorites – a day with Chip and Jo in Waco, Texas