The 2nd of January, we drove to Hamilton Pool Park in Dripping Springs and hiked ½ mile to a large natural pool and waterfall area. It was sunny and beautiful, and I wished I had worn shorts instead of jeans.
With the Grands we climbed over rocks, took a walk under the falls and headed towards another trail, which led us to the Pedermales River. When we arrived at the river all hot and thirsty, we wished we had brought the water bottles from the car.
May I suggest—don’t leave the water bottles in the car thinking you are taking just a short hike. You may change plans in the middle of all that beauty.
The spontaneity of our son-in-law then led us up the highway, and the next thing we knew we were on our way to downtown Austin. After an exit or two and down a few blocks, we parked in front of a real Italian Pizzeria. Because sometimes you need good pizza.
Before we arrived in Texas, we heard about this great little town of Gruene. Our biggest goal was to see the oldest Dance Hall in Texas.
Here’s a bit of history:
German born Ernst Gruene, (pronounced–Green) came to New Braunfels in the 1840’s, but found acreage scarce there and settled down the river a bit farther. There he bought 9,000 acres and built his home with early fachwerk framing. He and his two sons planted cotton. Later, his son Henry D. built several homes, including a Victorian house, a brick mercantile, a cotton gin, gristmill, and the dance hall on the Guadalupe River.
In later years after Henry D, died, the town fell into decline. The cotton gin burned down and was replaced by a newer modern electric one. The blight of the boll weevil and the Depression were too much for the small community and they all went under except for the Dance Hall.
In the 1970’s, an architect student named Kaufman discovered the town and it’s buildings and made inventory. He contacted a group of real-estate investors and the whole town was nominated for the historical registry. Soon the town was bought up and many shops appeared.
These famous country singers have appeared at the dance hall: Willie Nelson, the Highway Men, George Strait, Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, and Lyle Lovett, and many more.
Here is a list of some of the shops in Gruene:
- Gruene Coffee Haus
- Fickle Pickle
- Tipsy Gypsy
- Cotton Eyed Joes
- Dancing Bear
- The Grapevine
- Gruene General Store
- Gristmill Restaurant
- Gruene Outfitters—top of the line outdoor wear, fly tackle
- Gruene with Envy—women’s wear
- Hunter Junction
- Natural Selections—jewelry, rocks, fossils
- Simply Detailed Boutique—women’s wear
- Smiling Eyes Photo Gallery—old time photos
- The Barn Pottery
- The Great Texas Pecan Candy Company
We were in town by 9 am at the Coffee Haus and enjoyed our coffee and hot chocolate outdoors while being serenaded by a mocking-bird. I believe they open at 7, but all other shops open at 10 am.
If you plan a trip, be sure to take your time. The folks in Gruene are very friendly and don’t mind asking how far you traveled to get there.
We had lunch outdoors at the Gristmill Restaurant, overlooking the Guadalupe River and had the best beef sandwich and fries. What is surprising to me is that they serve plain tea and not just sweet tea.
Large cities are full of great things to see, but don’t miss out on small towns if you plan a trip to Texas. There are delightful folks in the unique specialty shops.