Happy 2022! It’s hard to believe that this next year has come so soon . . . the years seem to fly by faster and faster. Cheers to new beginnings and the freshly-sharpened-pencil feeling of a new year.
We rang in the new year in Texas with John’s family. They live near Dallas, but we met them and some of John’s childhood friends in the Hill Country, a collection of small, picturesque towns west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The area was absolutely lovely, and the trip exceeded my expectations in every way.
We stayed in New Braunfels and spent most of our time there and in neighboring Gruene (pronounced “green”). (This area welcomed many German immigrants years ago, so many of the names have German roots. And I’ve heard rumors of delicious German restaurants, although we ran out of time to try them.)
As you can see below, this area is a summertime dream–multiple lazy (but natural) rivers to float down in inner tubes, ice cream stands, swan boats on the lake, fabulous water parks, and green parks galore.
The summertime attractions were closed during our visit, but that meant there were no crowds, and I enjoyed peaceful walks and bike rides along the many rivers. (I think there were at least three different rivers within a 5-mile radius of our Airbnb.)
We went out for drinks one night and ended up at the Pour Haus in downtown New Braunfels — such a cool place! The entire bar is outside, sort of like a yard party. We enjoyed the live music and played many rounds of corn hole while laughing at our lack of skills. At the end of the night, we snagged seats on some of the swings around the outdoor bars. The swings are like the ones we sat on as kids in the playground, but the top of each swing is attached to a track that travels the perimeter of each bar. If there were no other patrons, you could sit on a swing and use your feet to move along the outside of each bar. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of the swings, but they were super fun!
And the food in Texas . . . that was my favorite part! We loved the outdoor patio at Cantina del Rio in Gruene. The spicy margarita was among the best I’ve ever had. If you like BBQ, John loved the meat and the sides at Cooper’s — he said it’s among the best BBQ places in the world. This pescatarian didn’t eat the BBQ, but the jalapeno mac-and-cheese was delicious. And the Sunday brunch on the patio at the Gristmill Restaurant was fabulous (although pescatarian or vegetarian options were scarce). When the waiter at the Gristmill heard us talking about how much we loved the tortilla chips, he brought us a huge bag to take home!
On Saturday, while John watched the Notre Dame game, I spent some very enjoyable hours shopping in the boutiques in Gruene. Even in January, this small town was filled with flowers. They were spilling out of their containers in the center of town, right next to the famous Gruene Hall (a venue for live music).
Gruene has a to-go bar that serves wine and frozen margaritas, and I wandered around town sipping a crazy mixture of frozen Bellinis and frozen sangria. Generally this would be too sweet for my tastes, but it was perfect on that unseasonably warm day. If you’re in Gruene, I highly recommend Gruene with Envy for women’s clothes. So many eclectic and interesting items!
We’re already planning to go back this summer so the kids can experience the water park, lazy river, and small-town life. And I definitely want to take a kayak trip (offered all year through some local groups) and try the traditional German pastries. Have you been to the Hill Country? If so, what places do you recommend?