12 Ways To Spend A Weekend In Brenham, Texas

Famous for Blue Bell ice cream, Brenham, Texas, is full of history, beauty, and Texas charm. 

White Gazebo Downtown in Brenham, Texas
Photo: Donovan Reese

Midway between Austin and Houston, you'll find Brenham, Texas, a small town in Washington County where past meets present in a quaint yet thriving setting. Brenham's downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is full of picturesque buildings that date to the 1860s. And the town is home to arguably the best ice cream in the country, Blue Bell Creameries. Stroll the historic streets for a bit of shopping and entertainment, or head out to nearby Chappell Hill for historic charm and some time outdoors. Here are our favorite ways to explore Brenham, Texas.

Treat Yourself at Blue Bell Creameries

For Texans, a favorite sweet treat is a scoop or two of Blue Bell ice cream, as it's some of the best ice cream in the South and definitely the best ice cream coming from Texas. Blue Bell has called Brenham home since 1911 when the founders turned an abandoned cotton gin into a creamery and began making butter and then ice cream. Travelers can stop by Blue Bell to see the Visitor Center, where self-guided tours about the company are available through the Blue Bell Museum. It's also a must to visit the Ice Cream Parlor for a scoop or two and the Observation Deck to see how the ice cream is made. Don't leave without stopping at the Country Store, where you can buy Blue Bell merchandise to take home.

Wander Through the Antique Rose Emporium

Sometimes you really should just stop and smell the roses, and the Antique Rose Emporium is a great place for this. Here, eight acres of rose display gardens are open for guests to explore everything from perennials to drought-tolerant roses of all shapes and colors. The gardens began in 1984 after owner Mike Shoup wanted to showcase garden roses in new, creative ways. His goal was to show people that rose gardens can be mixed with other types of flowers, such as perennials, native flowers, herbs, and other plants, and didn't have to be a standard rose garden. Lots of the roses here came from rescued roses found in cemeteries, along fences, and on roadsides that were brought back into commerce. Visit the gift shop to buy a souvenir, or snap a pic next to your favorite display.

Visit Nearby Chappell Hill, Texas

Located 15 minutes east of downtown Brenham is Chappell Hill, a small town founded in 1847 as part of Stephen F. Austin's original Texas colony. Chappell Hill was a steamboat port for cotton traveling down the Brazos River to Houston and was also a favorite stagecoach shop. Chappell Hill has 12 National Register places about town, including the oldest continually operating bank in the country, historic churches, and the Chappell Hill Historical Museum. Group tours are available Wednesday through Saturday for the Providence Baptist Church, the Rock Store, and the museum. A stop at the Chappell Hill Lavender Farm is also a must. Here, wander through fields of lavender or take a class or seminar on painting and other fun.

Enjoy Fireman's Park and the Antique Carousel

If you're traveling with kids, Fireman's Park is a great place to let them roam and play. Here, 20 acres of park space include playground areas, a baseball field, the StoryWalk outdoor reading experience, a skate park, and volleyball courts. Pack a blanket and a picnic, and enjoy an afternoon under the trees. The park also includes Brenham's Flying Horses Carousel, an antique carousel adored by locals and visitors alike. It's one of only five surviving classic wooden carousels that still exist in the state, and it's also the oldest one in Texas. Left in a pasture during the Great Depression, the carousel was discovered in 1930 by Hugh Durden in Clay, Texas. The carousel was part of a carnival that couldn't afford rent on the land used for the carnival, so they packed up and left the carousel behind. The carousel was moved to Brenham, repaired, and has been enjoyed by the young and young at heart for decades.

Find Your Favorite Street Art

Murals are commonly found in larger cities, but seeing them in smaller towns like Brenham is special. Scattered throughout town on the side of buildings and in alleys, you'll find many vibrant murals that bring Brenham to life. There's Sam Houston on South Douglas Street, portrayed with black paint across his eyes and carrying a gun with bluebonnets coming out of the end of the barrel, and just a street over is Cosmic Armadillos: two black armadillos against a white wall, with interstellar designs painted across their backs. A local favorite is Lady and the Bear on West Commerce Street: a blonde, comic-book-esque woman posed next to a pink bear. If you visit in October, check out the Texas Arts and Music Festival, where a new work of art goes up every year.

Say Cheers with Local Beer and Wine

Make plans to hop around town for local wineries and the brewery, where you'll find a glass of wine or a pint that pleases your palate. Windy Winery is a working vineyard producing classic varietals and fun blends. Stop by the tasting room for a glass of wine and enjoy sweeping Hill Country views in a relaxing atmosphere. Downtown, Salud is an all-outdoor bar serving cocktails and natural wines in a fun setting. Beer lovers will like Brazos Valley Brewing Company, where 24 taps include blonde ales, pilsners, IPAs, and seasonal favorites.

Explore Downtown Brenham

Take some time to walk the streets of downtown Brenham, where past meets present with historic buildings, modern storefronts, and plenty of eats and entertainment. The downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and fun awaits around every corner. Stop in the Downtown Art Gallery to see paintings, photography, recycled jewelry, pottery and gourd artwork, sculptures, and more. Hermann Furniture is one of the oldest family-owned and operated furniture stores in Texas and offers furniture as well as accessories and gifts. For a fun meal, check out Ninety-Six West, a tapas fusion restaurant where menu items such as crab cakes, sliders, and salmon poke take the stage.

Learn Brenham History at Local Museums

Located inside the historic post office building is the Brenham Heritage Museum, which covers 10,000 years of Washington County history, from prehistory and Paleo-Indian culture to the modern day. Past exhibits have included freedom colonies of Washington County, Texas Rangers and their weapons, and Victorian and Edwardian eras of Washington County. The Brenham Fire Museum was built to house Samanthe, a 1923 American LaFrance Type 38 firetruck. Samanthe is one of only three left of its kind, and the museum also houses a 1950 American LaFrance, the Invader, and fire artifacts from the department's history. Inside, a Wall of Honor highlights the men and women who've served as fire department members since it began in 1867. Tours are available.

Roam Wildflower Fields

If you’re in Brenham during springtime, you’ll catch the area’s spectacular wildflower display. Drive the loop from Brenham to see fields of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, beardtongue, coneflower, and other wildflowers. There’s a bluebonnet watch for updates about bloom status, and in April, Chappell Hill holds an annual Bluebonnet Festival of Texas.

Savor Texas BBQ

A visit to Brenham wouldn’t be complete without Texas barbecue. For old-school “true pit” style, stop at Nathan’s BBQ. Order a barbecue plate, ribs, or the Texas Sloppy Joe featuring pork and coleslaw on a jalapeno bun. LJ’s Barbecue is another favorite where you can grab a plate of smoked brisket, pork, ribs, or sausage with a side of slaw, pinto beans, or collard greens. The Pioneer Smokehouse is the place for loaded sandwiches, brisket chili, brisket nachos, or barbecue-stuffed baked potatoes. Once you’re hooked on Texas barbecue, head over to Truth Barbeque where you can have your favorite smoked meat shipped home or take a pitmaster class.

Stay in Comfort

Book a room at the Ant Street Inn in historic downtown for luxurious amenities like a canopy bed, game table, wet bar, or private garden access. The 15-room boutique hotel features landscaped gardens and an on-site restaurant. Spend the night at one of the renovated rooms at the Dixie Motel just outside downtown Brenham. The retro 1950s motor court got a modern facelift with features like high-end linens, an outdoor patio, handmade furniture, and breakfast for guests.

Experience Ranch Life

Get a taste of the cowboy way at Texas Ranch Life. Choose from seven restored historic homes to settle into after a day of ranch activities or exploring nearby Brenham. Enjoy open-range horseback riding, campfire cookouts, barn dances, and rodeos, and get behind-the-scenes views of daily ranch life. Escape to Solid Rock Ranch in Carmine for fishing, hiking, star gazing, and relaxing in one of the property’s cabin rooms. Or pitch a tent and sleep under the stars.

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