Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gruene – A Great Little Town in the Texas Hill Country


Just 30 miles north of San Antonio is the Texas town of Gruene, a small village on the banks of the Guadalupe River built by immigrant German farmers.  It is a charming little town with impeccably preserved historic buildings from the late 1800’s and a name that visitors have no idea how to pronounce.  We asked a couple of locals the proper pronunciation and got more answers than we bargained for.  Today, everyone just calls it “green.” 

Downtown Gruene.
This little town’s roots date back to the mid-1840’s when German farmers settled the area.  Although the town was originally called Goodwin, it later took the name of Gruene after one of the most influential settlers Henry D. Gruene.   Henry established a large cotton farm in 1870 which attracted other settlers and spurred the business growth and development.  The town grew up around the cotton industry and soon a cotton gin, mercantile, dance hall, and school were built.  The town eventually fell into despair after Henry died and a boll weevil infestation decimated the cotton industry in 1925.  In the 1970’s this all but ghost town saw a revival and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Today, Gruene is once again a thriving and vibrant town that has become a big tourist draw.

Throughout the town’s heyday and demise one business stayed open – the Gruene Dance Hall.  This inconspicuous, plain white building sits quietly at the town’s crossroads during the day but lights up the town at night and the waft of music and dancing draws people from all around.   Considered the oldest dance hall in Texas, this juke joint has seen the likes of famous musical artists that reads like an American music history book.  From George Strait to the Fabulous Thunderbirds,  Arlo Guthrie to the Dixie Chicks, Little Richard to Randy Travis, and everyone in between … including Bo Diddly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Marshal Tucker Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Garth Brooks, Emmy Lou Harris, Willie Nelson and on and on.  Stop in for a beer and kick up your heels with the live music.  It seems the place is always open (day and night) and most of the time there is no charge for enjoying the musical splendor that is offered.
The famous Gruene Hall where George Strait, Hal Ketchum, and Lyle Lovett got their starts.
Inside the dance hall is a great old bar ready to serve up cold longnecks (and root beer for the kids).
We enjoyed our stroll around Gruene and quickly discovered this town has a charming personality.  The brick lined streets are filled with whimsically named shops such as “ GiddyUp Gruene,” “Cotton Eyed Joe’s,” “Tipsy Gypsy,” and “Pookie  Jane’s” all of which exude the Texas spirit and fun atmosphere of the towns people.  The stores describe themselves as having “spirited apparel,” “sassy clothing,” “unique collectables,” and many more superlatives that entice shoppers.  Stores range from pottery to candy to rocks and gems to outdoor gear, and of course t-shirts and souvenirs.  If you get hungry head on over to the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar for unique Texas-style dining.  The sprawling restaurant is perched over the Guadalupe River and is built around the 1870’s cotton gin offering patrons a delightful mix of history and good food.   One store that is not to be missed is the Gruene General Store which has the acclaim of one of “the 40 best places to visit in Texas” and is filled with a little bit of everything, including our favorite, a soda fountain.
Buck Pottery has been hand crafting
pottery for 30 years.
Antique shops line the downtown.


The Grapevine is the place to come for sampling some 20 Texas wines or just relax on the porch with a glass.
Enter Gruene Outfitters and you will be greeted by a super sweet yellow lab.
Gruene General Store is the town's first Mercantile.  The store was founded by Henry D. Gruene to serve families of those working on his cotton farms.  He sold clothing, furniture, farm implements, food, and his own brand of whiskey.
Take your time in the general store, there is lots to see.  We loved the license plates nailed to the floor.
Rows and rows of Texas-themed stuff.
A treasure that we almost could not pass up.
We stopped in Gruene on a whim and happenstance and quickly found there was much more to do than just stroll the streets and shop.  For such a small town, there really is an appealing mix of things to do including riding a raft or tube down the Guadalupe River rapids, relaxing at the day spa, enjoying a wine tasting, antique shopping, fly fishing, wandering through the arts and crafts at the Old Gruene Market Days, and don’t forget the dance hall. 

2 comments:

  1. Hey Gals ! I was just curious about the repairs to your rig. Mine are starting on Monday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've danced many a two step on that old un-level dance floor at Gruene Hall (in a former life)! Love reading about all the places I used to enjoy, keep it up!

    ReplyDelete

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