Tubing in Gruene: Check websites (there are two main tube rental places) for current weather conditions and hours (office hours are 10am-5pm)
Gruene Hall: Phone Number – 830-606-1281, Address– 1281 Gruene Rd., New Braunfels, TX 78130
Gristmill Restaurant: Summer Hours – Fri. & Sat. 11am-11pm and Sun.-Thu. 11am-10pm, 1287 Gruene Rd., New Braunfels, TX 78130
Gruene, Texas is probably one of the first places I would recommend to someone touring the hill country. In the mid 1800’s, Germans settlers arrived in Gruene, and it became a cotton town. The Gruene Dance Hall was the heart of the town and still is today. As you walk down the main street, stopping in boutiques and sipping on coffee, you will be walking right toward the dance hall, and if you stick around long enough, you’ll start to hear some twangin’ and cheering coming from that dance hall. I love this town, but beware that it is crowded in the summer, especially on weekends so plan in advance.
The first time I went to Gruene was in my early twenties to go tubing down the Guadalupe River. We had a cooler full of beer, which got its very own tube, and we were decked out in cutoffs, swimsuits, and sunglasses. We may have had straw hats, too. I hope we did, but even if we didn’t, you should know it’s appropriate to wear a straw hat in Gruene; however, while floating down the Guadalupe, it might just be one more thing you have to keep track of.
That summer day, we had to stop at a gas station to ask for directions to this famous, tiny town. Eventually we found it, and tubing the river at least once in the summer became tradition in my early twenties. It’s not a tradition for the weak. There are lots of people (if you are an early riser, good. Get there as soon as possible and try to beat the crowd), it’s hot while waiting in line to get your tubes, and usually there are heavy coolers that need to be lugged around with you. It’s worth it all to tube down the river on a Texas summer day, though. After a tough day of tubing, I always wanted large amounts of TexMex and Adobe Verde was my favorite.
The German settlers started planting cotton when they arrived, but by the 1940’s, Gruene was all but a ghost town. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that Gruene started making a comeback. A gentelman named Pat Muluck, tired of the city life, came to town, bought Gruene Hall and made some repairs. Lucky for those of us who love history and Texas, Muluck and his friend Mary Jane Nalley preserved the authenticity of the buildings they repaired.
In my late twenties, I started to appreciate that there was more to Gruene than the hearty Guadalupe (it really is a hearty river with all it endures in the summer) and large amounts of alcohol that could be consumed while floating and dodging around other drunk 20 somethings. I learned to appreciate the old dance hall with the good music and the bar. I’ve been to a couple of concerts in Gruene and always have a good time. I’m not a concert person, either, not even in my twenties. But there is something about a good country band and dancing in an old wood dance hall with no air conditioning that I just love.
Most recently, now that I’m in my thirties, I like to walk down the main street and ohh and ahh at all the neat shops. Last time, my husband and I went, we spent a few hours just looking in the stores and sitting outside the Gruene Coffee House and drinking our iced coffee. There’s lots of shopping to explore and we didn’t see it all. I didn’t buy anything but I almost bought a jar of pickles (I know weird, right?) from the Fickle Pickle after the sample the owner gave me. There’s something about those pickles that’s quite tasty, and I’m buying a jar next time. Then we walked down the hill to the Guadalupe and sat there for awhile.
I had never seen it like that, without a mass amount of people and coolers floating down it. That day there were only a few people out there fishing and taking pictures for a graduation. It was really nice, and a nice way to get away from the shopping bustle (which I do also enjoy, but I think a balance is good). After that, we ate at the Gristmill. Now let me tell you about the Gristmill. In the 1800’s it was part of the cotton gin, specifically the three story brick boiler room (in 1922 the rest of the cotton gin burned down). On our recent trip, B didn’t want to go to the Gristmill, but I insisted and then regretted it. If you go to the Gristmill, you are going for the ambiance and not the food. While not horrible, the food is not great either.
However, while you wait for your table, you can sip on a glass of wine at a picnic table and listen to a band all while enjoying the shade of lovely oak trees. I love that part of the Gristmill. Then, you might get lucky and get seated somewhere that you can see the river, but probably not. B and I followed the waiter about half a mile to get to our seats (I kid, I kid, but it’s a big place), and we were nowhere near the river, which is what I really wanted. For me, it’s hard to resist the wait beneath the trees while a band plays and the possibility of sitting where I can see the river, but next time we go, I’m going to try somewhere new and update this blog with other options.
Something else I really would like to attend in the future is the Gospel Brunch (scroll to bottom of the page on this link) held the second Sunday of each month in Gruene. If all goes well, I’ll be updating the blog with a review of that soon.