A small town 40 miles south of Austin, New Braunfels is known primarily for the popular Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but that’s just the beginning of the fun available in the area.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Located about 15 minutes west of New Braunfels, Natural Bridge Caverns is one of Texas’ true natural wonders. The guided tours take you through massive underground rooms and through narrow passages with shimmering walls. You’ll see huge stalactites and “flowstones” that look like petrified waterfalls. Beyond the caves, the park also has ziplines and an area where kids can pan for minerals.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort
The Blastenhoff area has some of the most exciting rides (plus, it’s fun to say). The Wolfpack Raft Slide starts at the top of the tower in the center of the park. Up to four people can ride together on a 72-inch raft through a five-story gauntlet of curves and drops. The Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster sends two-person rafts on a harrowing ride up, down, up and sideways. For those who prefer mellower tubing, there’s also a circular course around the park.
Located on the less-crowded Comal River, Chuck’s Tubes offers tubers a lazy ride through one of the coolest, bendiest stretches of the river. They also rent mini-kegs and insulated backpacks for beer. At the end of the day, you can buy top-notch barbecue in the parking lot. In a business where many of the customers are rowdy and/or drunk, it’s tough to get consistently high praise, but this place manages to do it again and again. The staff clearly enjoys working here, and they’re determined to help you have fun (safely).
Opened in 1878, Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest dance hall. The rustic building is basically one big room with a stage at one end, a bar at the other and a wooden dance floor in between. The venue attracts surprisingly high-profile acts, ranging from Willie Nelson to Chubby Checker. While tickets are required for weekend performances, many of the shows during the week are free. Keep in mind that part of the rustic charm is the lack of air conditioning, but there are plenty of fans and cold beer.
Perched on a hill above the Guadalupe River, Gristmill is a sprawling restaurant built out of the remains of a historic mill. The multi-level eatery has breathtaking views of the river from indoor and outdoor seating. Burgers and steaks are the restaurant’s main attractions, but they also have chicken-fried steak, catfish and decadent pies.