Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 2. Washington-On-the-Brazos
- 3. Maifest
- 4. Bluebonnet Trails
- 5. Visit Blue Bell Creamery
- 6. Flying Horses Antique Carousel
- 7. Parks and Water Features in Brenham TX
- 8. Blue Bell Aquatic Center
- 9. BBQ in Brenham TX
- 11. Wineries Near Brenham TX
- 12. Distilleries Near Brenham
- 14. Toubin Park
- 16. Old Baylor Park
- Where to Stay in Brenham, Texas
Looking for a Texas country getaway that’s easily accessible from both Houston and Austin? Look no further than Brenham TX, located in the rolling fields of Washington County. Folks flock here every spring for wildflower and bluebonnet pictures and make family trips to the Blue Bell Creamery. Here’s why Brenham Texas should be on your Texas to do list.
Not familiar with Brenham? It’s the county seat of Washington County, the birthplace of Texas, roughly 35 minutes south of College Station (home to Texas A&M). If you’re driving on Hwy 290 between Austin and Houston, you will pass right through Brenham.
1. Downtown Brenham Shopping
With a cute downtown area, Brenham offers plenty to see with a very walkable grid pattern. Located just off of Main Street, parking is easy and abundant and there is a boutique for everyone in your group. The City of Brenham also offers clean, air-conditioned public restrooms right in the downtown area (across from Book Nook).
Ballad of the Bird Dog and Mescalito Coffee
Mescalito Coffee (Ballad of the Bird Dog), The Book Nook, Anatomy Clothing Boutique and the Hospice Boutique are a few of my favorites. Ballad of the Bird Dog is a shop filled with artisan goods ranging from candles to clothing and jewelry. Items are on the pricey side but are quality pieces. If you’re lucky you might run into one of the shop mascots, adorable doggos Rye and Ruby. Tucked inside of Ballad of the Bird Dog is Mescalito Coffee‘s counter. As a veteran of the coffee world who judged at the US Barista Championship, the coffee here is worth the stop. They make a beautiful flat white and, pre-COVID, I spent many happy hours writing at their back room table over every drink on their menu.
The Book Nook
The Book Nook is one of the first shops we visited back when we were looking at homes in the area. It’s everything you want in a hometown bookstore. They moved a few years ago to a larger shop on the corner of W Alamo and N Douglas Streets. There is a huge assortment of books, games, puzzles and more including both new and well-priced used books. This female-owned store features a friendly, knowledgeable staff that makes kickass book recommendations. Your kids will LOVE this store.
Anatomy Clothing Boutique is located across from Ballad of the Bird Dog and has really reasonably priced on-trend clothes and jewelry. They almost always have a sidewalk sale rack.
The Hospice Boutique is located on the corner of E Alamo and S Baylor Streets. This thrift shop features clothing for a good cause, raising money for Hospice Brazos Valley. It is closed on Sundays. If mask-use is important to you, please be aware that the (very nice) staff in this store does not wear masks (before, during or after the state mandate). Just a heads up if that is a deciding factor for you. I always wear my mask in store with no comments on it. There tend to be hidden gems here as far as new clothing and brand names go. They also have regular sales including some everything $1 ones.
This spot sells everything from clothes to gourmet foods and unique candies. When I need a gift or stocking stuffer this is where I run. Their prices are reasonable and you’ll always find something new. Great place to grab a treat when the kids were good for the car ride.
If you’re a native Texan you probably grew up hearing the phrase “Where Texas became Texas.” If you’re not, think of it as the Texas version of Plymouth Rock. This site is where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed proclaiming Texas as its own sovereign nation separate from Mexico. For historical context, during the Battle of the Alamo the delegates were meeting here and receiving dispatches from San Antonio.
Today this 293-acre historic site makes a great day trip. Located in Washington TX, moments from downtown Brenham, the site includes a Visitors Center, gift shop, Independence Hall, Barrington Living History Farm and Star of the Republic Museum. Admission can be purchased in the Visitors Center.
I must admit upon moving to Brenham I didn’t quite get Maifest and I still don’t have a full grasp on it. The basics are that it’s a festival celebrating the German heritage of the regions early settlers. As the oldest Maifest in Texas, the Brenham festivities include a carnival, food vendors, parade and the coronation of a Maifest King and Queen. During the weeks surrounding the event, you can see old Maifest memorabilia like royal costumes and old pictures in the window displays of many surrounding businesses.
4. Bluebonnet Trails
If you’ve heard of Brenham before it’s likely for one of two reasons – Blue Bell Creamery or bluebonnets. Bluebonnets bloom all over Texas in late March/early April and Brenham is home to particularly beautiful and abundant patches. Taking bluebonnet photos with your kids in a purple-y blue field is a tradition that’s Texan through and through. If you’re looking for bluebonnet spots please take safety to heart and avoid pulling over on the shoulders of busy highways. There are plenty of safe spots to take your pictures including a field right next to Goodwill and behind Baymont Inn, the corner near N Park Street and 36 (pull over on the side roads) and Old Baylor Park. Several local churches and wineries also have decent bluebonnet patches some years and ample parking.
Check out our Bluebonnet Tips and Where to Find Bluebonnets in Texas.
5. Visit Blue Bell Creamery
Who doesn’t love ice cream? When you head to Brenham you are hitting the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. Be sure to swing by the factory to view the ice cream making process, shop in the gift shop and grab a $1 cup of ice cream. Outside you can take your kiddos’ pictures with bronze statues and across the parking lot is a little museum teaching about the history of Blue Bell.
TravelingMom Tip: When you head into the seating area near the ice cream counters, look to the right where the barstools are. The ice cream cartons on the wall are always arranged into a design celebrating the season or upcoming holiday!
6. Flying Horses Antique Carousel
One of my daughter’s favorite features in Brenham is the Flying Horses Antique Carousel. It’s located in Fireman’s Park on N Park Street. This antique carousel features hand-carved wooden horses and is covered. Brenham’s carousel is one of only five antique wooden carousels in Texas! The carousel is open on weekends from March 1st-October 31st. It costs $1 to ride. Kids under 12 can ride the horses. Those over 12 must stand on the platform to preserve the integrity of the structure. If you are coming through on a weekday you can make actually book the carousel for private rides. Learn more here.
7. Parks and Water Features in Brenham TX
If you have more time in Brenham we recommend exploring Fireman’s Park beyond just the carousel. It’s a great spot to let the kids run some energy out. There are play structures in two different areas that accommodate all age groups and a skate park. Fireman’s Park also features a StoryWalk which is an immersive reading experience where you stroll between 20 panels that each have pages of the story. The story begins near the Nancy Carrol Roberts Memorial Library playground. That playground is great for toddlers.
Across the street is Henderson Park which features a splash pad. The splash pad operates from April 1st through September from dawn to dusk.
Important to note for families is that public restrooms are readily available in this area both at Fireman’s Park and at Henderson Park as well as in the library lobby.
8. Blue Bell Aquatic Center
If you’re visiting Brenham TX in the warmer months and staying for more than a day definitely put the Blue Bell Aquatic Center on your list. It’s located diagonally across from the Blue Bell Creamery and trust me your kids will be asking about it the second they see it. There are both indoor and outdoor pools. The outdoor pool features an ice cream theme along with sprays and slides. From time to time special inflatables are set up indoors so we recommend checking their Facebook page before heading over. Day passes are available.
9. BBQ in Brenham TX
When we moved to the area in 2014 the BBQ scene was nowhere near where it is now. Nathan’s BBQ located just off of Hwy 290 was the main show in town. Nathan’s is still around and is a super convenient stop for those just passing through with its easy and ample parking. Their ribs are great and I’m partial to their broccoli salad and lemon meringue pie.
For me though, LJ’s BBQ is the gold standard for BBQ in Brenham. In fact, it ties for my favorite joint in the whole state (Snow’s BBQ in Lexington TX is my other fave). This small family run spot has some of the best brisket I’ve ever had and their mac n’ cheese is spicy and to die for. If you know you are coming through Brenham do yourself a favor and plan a stop here. If you want to up your game call ahead and order a vacuum pack of cooked brisket or turkey to take home. They’ll give you perfect instructions on how to warm them up properly to recreate the entire experience in your kitchen. Be aware they do sell out. They do a great job giving menu and sell out updates on their Facebook page.
Other bbq spots to head to in Brenham include Pioneer Smokehouse in historic downtown Brenham (good variety of meats) and Truth BBQ. The pitmaster of Truth was on Chopped. It was a great spot for BBQ until they got more popular and opened their Houston location. Now, hours can be irregular. They do have a corn pudding side that I adore.
Random Texas BBQ Note: If you aren’t from here you may see the beer cooler and think they’re for purchase. At Truth and LJ’s the beer is complimentary. This is because free beer can be given away without a liquor license. It was baffling to me at first. Pioneer does have a license and sells beer.
10. Where to Get a Beer in Brenham
Brenham is home to several wineries and one amazing brewery. The Brazos Valley Brewing Company is located moments outside of the historic downtown area. The tasting room is brand new (opened in May 2020) and you can swing by and grab a 6 pack or growler to go if you don’t have time to sit down for a drink. They’ve also expanded their outdoor seating and added a play area for the littles. I have visited numerous breweries across the country and the world in my work as a travel writer. I am so happy that this is the one closest to me.
What Beers to Try at Brazos Valley Brewery
Personally, my favorites are the 7 Spanish Angels Coffee Ale, the Bramble on Blackberry Sour and the Mama Tried Citra IPA (and I’m not usually an IPA fan). Frequently, though I’ll place a pickup order for a mixed flat because I haven’t met a beer from Brazos Valley Brewing Company that I haven’t liked.
I’d also highly recommend veteran-owned Home Sweet Farm if you’re looking for a few beers and some music. Located right downtown their tap variety always leaves me discovering something new. If you’ve already tried out Brazos Valley Brewing Company’s beer definitely see if they have any Coalfox on tap. It’s brewed nearby in Chappell Hill Texas and is amazing. For the non-imbibers, they have fresh root beer on tap. The root beer price includes one free refill. There is outdoor seating and their Facebook page will list live music events.
11. Wineries Near Brenham TX
Local wineries include Pleasant Hill Winery, Windy Winery, Saddlehorn Winery and Texas Star Winery (Chappell Hill). Saddlehorn Winery is a quick 10 minute drive from my house and is my personal favorite. Technically it’s in Burton TX but is a super easy stop off of Hwy 290. The tasting room is large and there is a selection of over 20 wines to choose from. For $10 you can taste any 6 that you choose. Check their Facebook page for updates before you go.
Busted Oak Cellars in Carmine is fantastic and very close to Brenham. They are one of the most family-friendly wineries in the area. Kids can wander the outside grounds, take their picture in a giant chair, and, the last time we were there, staff brought all sorts of treats out to them while I was tasting.
Their Facebook page is kept up to date on live music events and food being served. First responders and military get a discount which of course means that I had my paramedic husband buy me a bottle of my favorite Wanderer. It’s a semi-sweet wine made with Blanc du Bois grapes and infused with cranberry and is incredible!
For more of my favorite wineries and a meadery, be sure to check out this Things to Do in Round Top article.
12. Distilleries Near Brenham
If you’re heading into Brenham for the day or the weekend, odds are you’ll be traveling on 290. Kooper Family Whiskey Co. is located right on US-290 West in Ledbetter about 20 minutes before you hit the center of Brenham (if you’re coming in from the Austin direction). This small family-owned distillery blends and tastes some fantastic whiskeys in a super chic store front. Stop and buy a bottle or grab a tasting. You won’t regret it. As a heads up, this location doesn’t offer outdoor seating but is usually fairly quiet. They are open from 1-6pm on weekends. Double check hours here before heading out.
13. Murals in Brenham
Brenham sports some unique murals as a result of the Texas Arts and Music Festival. There are commissioned works all over the downtown area. As a travel writer I love the photo opportunities it creates for tourists! Here are where you can find some of my favorites.
Owl Mural by Jeff Soto
E Commerce and S Baylor Street intersection Brenham TX 77833
This one’s a personal favorite. It’s more of a standalone picture since it is so tall making it more challenging to include a person in.
Tiger Eye Mural
E Commerce Street between S Baylor and S Park Streets Brenham TX 77833
You might recognize this one from its appearance.
The Brenham Mural by Anat Ronen
S Austin Street close to W Alamo intersection
What’s a visit to Brenham without a snapshot of this mural to use as the thumbnail on social media? This one is located on the side of a building as you drive past downtown Brenham. The easiest way to get a full shot is to stand on the very corner of S. Austin and W. Alamo directly in front of it and shoot it at an angle. If it’s not a busy time there is a curb that you can stand on further back, but there will be a street sign/pole in your photo.
14. Toubin Park
Right in downtown Brenham is a neat little park hidden between storefronts. It contains one of Brenham’s original cisterns. You can walk around reading informative signs about the history of the cisterns and Brenham itself.
15. Museums in Brenham TX
There are several museums to add to your list if you’re in town. Many have limited hours, but if you call ahead some offer private scheduled tours. As always, with potential coronavirus closures, it’s a good idea to check the site right before going for any updates.
The Brenham Fire Museum
Located right downtown, the Brenham Fire Museum is open on Saturdays from 10am-5pm. The tour will allow you to see fire artifacts and the Wall of Honor. However, even if you are there on a weekday, you can read outdoor plaques and see the fire carriage. There is a button to push to hear a narrative about the carriage and museum. Be aware that in the early morning hours when you push this, it will sound like the booming voice of God. It is so loud! Scared the crap out of us.
This museum flooded early on in our Brenham residency and has not reopened. I have high hopes that one day I’ll see the inside of it. You can visit a modified version in the Brenham Bus Depot Building. It’s open to the public on Saturdays or by appointment during the week.
16. Old Baylor Park
Old Baylor Park, which I mentioned above regarding bluebonnets, is a great stop in all seasons. There are actually two parks. One is Old Baylor Park and features the ruins of the original campus that became the Female Campus on Academy Hill. The other Old Baylor Park at Windmill Hill is across FM 50 next to the Antique Rose Emporium. Both are worth the visit. You can picnic there and there are scores of historical markers and panels to read about the history. If your kids (or you) play Pokemon there are stops, gyms and tons to catch. For the most bang for your buck visit near sunset to capture gorgeous golden hour photos.
Where to Stay in Brenham, Texas
Whether you’re passing through or looking to spend some time in Brenham, you can use this interactive map to find local hotels and available Airbnbs.
I hope you enjoy your stop in Brenham. There is SO much more to do than what we’ve squeezed into 3000+ words here! Drop a comment if you have any more questions.