Planning a visit to the charming Texas town of Brenham? Check out our recommendations for top things to do in the city from checking out street art to the annual bluebonnet jaunts. Find recommendations on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat in this Texan city. You may also like our post on the Ultimate Texas Road Trip Itinerary.
Brenham is just an hour away from Houston and one of our favorite day trip destinations. Like most others, we first came to know about Brenham because of the Blue Bell Creamery. But Brenham is so much more than Blue Bell and bluebonnets. It has got a wonderful Main Street and is charming. It has got history, oodles of it! After all, this was where the Republic of Texas came into being way back in the nineteenth century. You will see the ‘Birthplace of Texas’ plaque at many places around Brenham and Washington County.
Located in east-central Texas, Brenham is incredibly romantic. Surrounded by ranches and farmlands, it is tranquil – while being just an hour away from the Houston Metropolitan area. It’s Main Street is steeped in history and lore. Brenham is home to many German immigrants who first settled here following the German Revolution in the 1850s. It takes pride in its German heritage and you will find that Brenham celebrates events like Maifest and Oktoberfest with great enthusiasm.
Brenham makes the perfect stop while on a road trip from Houston to Austin or College Station – it is exactly midway between the two on US 290. There are many things to do in this wonderful city and you should definitely go and explore all of them.
Best time to visit Brenham
Branham is around the year travel destination but it really shines in spring when thousands descend upon the Texas countryside to enjoy bluebonnets and the other wildflowers. This is also the time when Brenham holds the bluebonnet festival and trails are opened for driving around the countryside. Art walks and spring events are arranged throughout the peak season. Another good time to visit is May when the annual Maifest celebrations that honor the city’s German heritage are held. But honestly, living so close we have been to Brenham several times and have always enjoyed the trip – whichever season we visit.
Where to stay
Where else, but the historic Ant Street Inn in downtown Brenham! This boutique hotel is one of Brenham’s gems and has a lot of history. It is conveniently located near Main Street in proximity to all of the town’s attractions. The hotel building is a national historic landmark. All of the hotel rooms are decorated with antiques, period furniture, and have beautiful stained glass windows. The hotel is a popular choice for weddings, anniversary celebrations, and romantic vacations. Ant Street Inn is a perfect choice for exploring Brenham and historic Washington County.
Things to do in Brenham, Texas
Most tourists often visit Brenham solely for the Blue Bell creameries. However, the creamery is located outside Downtown Brenham. Downtown itself has many attractions including vibrant street art, an art walk, galleries and antique stores, and historic buildings. You can also see the train go whistling by. Here are some of our favorite things to do in the city.
Try Texas’s famous ice cream at Blue Bell Creameries
Blue Bell Creameries is one of the most popular ice cream brands in the country and it is located right here in Texas at Brenham. The creamery was established in 1907. On a visit to the Blue Bell Creameries, you can see how ice cream is made from their Observation Deck as well as try many full-sized scoops for $1. The factory also has a Visitor Center where you can see Blue Bell’s history and a country store where you can shop for souvenirs. There are many things to see outside the factory as well including the iconic Blue Bell van, a sculpture of a girl leading a cow, etc. Blue Bell Creameries is open only on weekdays, so plan your visit accordingly.
Search for the bluebonnets and other wildflowers
Brenham is popular for the bountiful bluebonnets that grow along the roadside and in fields surrounding the city. Bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas and you will see it depicted on murals, artwork, souvenirs in Brenham. In fact, Brenham is a prime spot for bluebonnet viewing in central Texas in spring from late March to mid-April. Read our guide Texas Bluebonnets Travel Guide for more details.
Go for a drive along the farm to market roads and gravel roads surrounding the town and you will spot large swatches of the area covered in bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and other colorful wildflowers. We Texans love our wildflowers so be careful not to walk or sit or pluck them. Taking a photo of kids in the bluebonnets is a Texan tradition – find a spot without flowers and stoop low to the ground for the best pictures.
Get information at the Visitor Center
Brenham’s Visitor center is a great place to start your explorations in Washington County. The friendly locals at the Visitor Center can give you information about bluebonnet trails and peak bloom dates. You can grab a free map for the driving trails here. They can also share information about historic sites, attractions, and seasonal events in the area.
Check out the historic buildings on Brenham’s Main Street
Brenham Downtown Historic District is on the national register of historic places. As you walk around this area, you will see many important buildings and unique architectural features. Some of the historic buildings in Brenham include Bassett and Bassett Banking House, Santa Fe Freight Depot, Washington County Courthouse, US Post Office building, Brenham Opera House, etc.
You can also take a DIY guided tour of the buildings, for maps click here. You will find most of these buildings in and around Main Street of Brenham. There are many cafes, eateries, and restaurants located in the historic buildings in and around Main Street. Narrow alleyways connect the streets and are beautifully landscaped with native plants, water features, and string lights. My favorite is the Alamo Alley located right behind the Book Nook.
Explore the street art in town
If you love street art, then Brenham is the place for you. There are many murals, sculptures, and other public art projects all over the town. We especially loved checking out the colorful murals in and around Commerce Street. Many of them were completed during the Texas Arts and Music Festival and these are a treat to see. You can see them all together on a Brenham Art Walk.
Go antiquing and find unique treasures
If you love antiquing, then Brenham is an essential stop. There are many antique stores in the city, where you can find a variety of treasures including furniture, artwork, decor including rugs, vases, unique Texas signs and billboards, marquee letters, and more. We usually stop in many antique stores while in town. I personally enjoy Today & Yesterday, Jim’s Wims, and Hermann. The last time we visited Jim’s Wims was closing and had a lot of stuff on sale. Hermann advertises itself as the oldest furniture store in Texas and is simply huge. At Today & Yesterday, you will find an eclectic selection of garden decor, old frames for DIY projects, stained glass, and other treasures.
Check out the art galleries
Brenham is a great town for art enthusiasts. In addition to the many murals in downtown, Brenham also has many art galleries. Some of the prominent ones include the Back Lot Art Gallery which showcases works of native Texas artists and Downtown Art Gallery, another great place to shop for art enthusiasts. Another great stop is Tegg Art Studio on Alamo Street. I especially love seeing the bluebonnet inspired artwork in all galleries.
Grab your next read at the Book Nook
As a book lover, the Book Nook was love at first sight for me. I love the charming name – doesn’t it make you wish to buy a book and read it curled up in a corner. The book Nook also has great murals on its wall and a literary signpost. It sells used and new books and inside you can always find something worth buying. They also have fun book gifts, souvenirs, and more.
Try the famous Texas barbeque
Brenham is famous for the Texan barbeque cuisine. There are numerous bbq restaurants in Brenham and if you love bbq, you must make a pitstop here. Brenham also makes a weird bbq claim, the world’s largest bbq pit which can smoke 4 tons of meat is located here. You can read all about it here. Some of the popular BBQ joints in Branham include Truth BBQ, Nathan’s BBQ, and LJ’s BBQ. Nathan’s is the oldest while LJ’s is the newest. Debates always rage on over who has the best-smoked meats but we suggest visiting them all and finding your favorite.
Eat old fashioned Southern dishes and explore Brenham’s dining scene
In Brenham, you can find a classic mix of Southern cuisine and German dishes. Most of the eateries are located around the Historic Downtown and Main Street. We love visiting Must Be Haven for their homemade pies. This is also a perfect place to get picnic meals for bluebonnet trails. For tapas and a perfect date night, try 96 West. Smitty’s Cafe and Bakery has excellent sandwiches, chips, and decor! For gourmet coffee from around the country, visit Mescalito Coffe located inside Ballad of the Bird Dog on Alamo Street.
See the Fire museum and the Heritage museum
Brenham has two interesting museums which are worth a visit. The Brenham Fire Fighting Museum is a really cool place to visit with the kids. You can see a variety of antique fire engines that have been keeping the frontier town of Brenham safe from fires. In front of the museum, in a glass-enclosed building, you can see a historic horse-drawn steamer – the very first of its kind. The museum is a great place to learn about the fire fighting department of Brenham.
The Heritage Museum is a history museum located in downtown Brenham. The building itself is on the national register of historic places due to its construction in 1916 in the neoclassical style of architecture. It has several exhibits and artifacts about the history of Washington County and is a great place to understand the history of Texas. At the museum, you can see furniture, old photographs, and tools among other things.
Ride the Flying Horses Carousel
This one is just for the kids! Located in Brenham’s Fireman’s Park is the Flying Horses Antique Carousel. This carousel is one of the last surviving operational wood carousels and is said to be the oldest in Texas. You can read the story behind the carousel here. It is open to the public on weekends from March to October. Children under 12 years of age can ride the wooden horses for a nominal $1 fee. Elders and teens can accompany the child by standing near the horses.
Check out the historical Toubin Park
At Toubin Park located in the city of Brenham, you can see a system of historic cisterns. The park is located in the middle of Brenham and is a great excursion into the city’s past. At the park, you can see an underground cistern from the 19th century. Exhibits and displays around Toubin Park narrate how the cisterns were used to harvest rainwater for fire fighting in that era. There’s lots of Wild West local lore – complete with fires and gunfights – built into the story as well and visiting Toubin Park is a must for history fans.
Try the Farmers market and craft beer at Home Sweet Farm Market and Biergarten
Home Sweet Farm in Brenham has the perfect mix of fresh farm produce, craft beer, and live music! Along with beers, you can also try ciders and wines while nibbling on small plates. This is one of the city’s premier live music venues. They also often have food trucks parked outside the restaurant and are kid-friendly during the day. We loved the beer hall and backyard with picnic tables and games for kids.
Sample some more beers at Brazos Valley Brewery
The Brazos Valley Brewing Company is an independent brewing company located in Texas. It is located a block away from Downtown and is a great place to visit when in town. You can try some of their popular beers and seasonal brews which you can see here. They also have occasional live music and crawfish during the season. The brewery is family-friendly.
Enjoy a play or a musical at the Unity Theatre
For a long time, the Unity Theatre and Simon Theatre were the two main theatres in Brenham. The Simon Theatre is housed in a historic building and has Beaux-Arts Classical Revival style of architecture. It is designed by the Houston architect, Alfred C. Finn who also designed the San Jacinto National Monument. The building was commissioned by the prominent James Simon family of Brenham. Today, Simon Theatre has been converted into the Barnhill Center at Historic Simon Center and used for many events.
Unity Theatre continues to be the only theatre in Washington County. It has a wide variety of musical shows and dramas throughout the year and is located in a beautifully renovated warehouse. You can see classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Christmas Story, and other shows while on your visit to Brenham. For couples, our idea of a romantic weekend at Brenham is to stay at the Ant Street Inn, dine at Must Be Haven, and see a show at Unity Theatre.
Indulge in boutique shopping
There are many boutique shopping opportunities in Brenham. You can buy everything from scarves, hats, sundresses, blouses to even wedding dresses. There are also many kids boutiques where you can find adorable Texas or bluebonnet themed onesies and even period clothing. Some of the places to window shop include Anatomy, Hermann, The Canyon Chick, etc. Basically, we would recommend stepping inside whichever shop hits your fancy and trying on some fabulous clothes. Check out Ballad of the bIrd for unique home goods.
Tour historic homes including the Giddings Wilkin House Museum and Giddings Stone Mansion
Giddings Stone Mansion is a historic landmark in Brenham. Constructed in the Greek Revival style of architecture, it is one the national register of historic places. This mansion is huge and magnificent and is beautifully furnished. The Giddings Wilkin House Museum is the oldest standing home in Brenham. You can visit both the historic homes on a guided appointment only tour, the details which can be found here.
Spend time outdoors at the Hohlt Park
If you are spending a day or two in Brenham, do visit the city’s urban park – Hohlt Park. The park has many sports facilities including as well as an amphitheater. The park is spread over 85 acres and has volleyball and basketball courts, good walking paths, wooded trails, and more. It is perfect for family picnics, morning strolls, and for walking your dog.
Things to do near Brenham
Brenham is located in Washington County, which is known as the Birthplace of Texas. It was here that the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed at Washington on Brazos. The entire county has many historical sites and museums about Texas’s history as well as unique attractions like the Antique Rose Emporium. Here are some of our favorite things to do around Brenham.
Marvel at the Antique Rose Emporium
The Antique Rose Emporium located near Independence, Texas is an essential stop while visiting Brenham. This beautiful garden is a part-nursery, part-private garden and best of all is that it is free to enter! Spread over eight acres, the garden has everything from roses, herbs, perennials, cacti and succulents, and even wildflowers. The garden is beautifully tended and charming with ivy colored restrooms, quaint gift shop, striking garden ornaments, and interesting signs. We recommend spending at least an hour or two here, strolling in the many gardens and on your way out – don’t forget to take home a plant for the patio or backyard.
Visit the historic town of Independence
Independence, Texas is a small town with lots of history. The town was founded in 1835 and was home to Sam Houston and his family in the 1850s. There are many historic sites in Independence. Start your visit at Old Baylor Park where Baylor University, the oldest university in Texas was formed. Other historic sites include the Independence Baptist Church, Liberty Baptist Church, Sam Houston House, etc.
See the birthplace of Texas at Washington on Brazos
Washington-on-Brazos State Historic Site is located along the Brazos River. Early in the 19th century, it was a frontier town and part of Mexico. It was here that the Declaration of Texas’s Independence was signed on March 2, 1836. Start your visit at the Visitor Center where you can talk with rangers and get maps. You can also purchase history books, souvenirs, wildflower seeds, Texas maps, and more. At the park, you can see the historic Independence Hall where 59 elected representatives from across the territories declared independence, drafted the Texas constitution, and formed a government.
You can also walk across the trail to the river overlook and see the Brazos River. Along the trail, you can see many paintings depicting how the area would have looked in the early nineteenth century when a ferry was used to cross the river and trade with the territory of Louisiana. At the site, you can also see the Star of the Republic Museum – a history museum dedicated to Texan heritage through the centuries. You can see maps, manuscripts, textiles, and documents from that era.
Tour the Barrington farm and plantation to learn about homesteading
Located near Washington-on-Brazos state historic site, the Barrington Farm and Plantation is a great place to learn about homesteading life. The plantation was the home of Independent Texas’s last president, Dr. Ansel Jones. At the farm, you can see age-old cultivation and harvesting methods. Costumed guides will lead you inside the house where you can see period furniture and clothes from that era. You can participate in many of the homesteading activities including foraging for food, plowing for weeds, and cooking in the slave quarters to experience life in the 1850s in Texas.
Visit the beautiful Chappell Hill Lavender Farm
The Chappell Hill Lavender Fram is located just a few miles outside of Brenham in nearby Chappell Hill. Drive along the Texas Independence Trail from Chappell Hill to Brenham and you will come across the farm. Here you can cut your own lavender when the plants are in bloom. The farm looks beautiful when the lavender plants are in bloom and the hillside looks purple. You can also have a picnic at the farm and drink fresh lavender lemonade. The plants usually bloom in early spring and then in late summer, for current status check here.
Go wine tasting around Brenham
The Texas Hill Country is famous for its wineries and many of them extend as far east as Brenham. There are several good wineries which you can visit while in Brenham. Pleasant Hill Winery is a popular choice for its award-winning wines and wine tastings. The road to Plesant Hill Winery has many bluebonnets in spring. There are many more wineries located around Brenham. Some others worth a visit are Saddlehorn Winery, Texas Star Winery, and Windy Winery.
Camp and hike at Lake Somerville State Park
Lake Somerville State Park is a great Texas location for outdoor fun. The park has miles of hiking trails. It also has mountain biking and horseback trails. The state park is a great place to camp for families. Lake Somerville is great for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, and swimming. You can see more things to do here.
Feed the alpacas at Peeka Ranch
The Peeka Ranch is located a few miles outside of Brenham in nearby Burton. This is an alpaca ranch and you can pet, feed as well as buy alpacas here. The alpaca farm has over 100 alpacas and is a great place to know more about the animals. It is free to visit and family-friendly, making it an instant hit for families with kids.
Visit the Texas Cotton Gin Museum
The Texas Cotton Gin Museum is a unique attraction located in nearby Burton. So what is a cotton gin? It’s basically an engine that separates cotton fibers from its seeds. This museum has the honor of being the oldest operating cotton gin in the country. It is a national historic landmark and takes you back in time to plantation days when cotton was widely cultivated in the south. The Cotton Gim was built in 1914 and is over 100 years old, still maintained in great condition. At the museum, you can see a video of harvested cotton being separated – aka ginned – and pressed into bales. After seeing the video, you can go on a guided tour of the historic gin. Keep tow to two and a half hours for this attraction.
Have a fun family day at the Jersey Barnyard
For anyone looking to spend a day with the farm animals on an actual farm, Jersey Barnyard is the place to go. The farm has an interesting story – the cows that are featured in Blue Bell commercials all come from the Jersey Barnyard farm. Owned by the Frerichs family, this Jersey Cow farm has many things to do. On a tour of the farm, you can see the cows being milked and feed/pet barnyard animals like hens, rabbits, sheep, and goats. Kids love interacting with the animals and seeing the dairy operations. At the farm store, you can purchase raw milk, cheese, and free-range eggs.
Did you like our list of the best things to do in Brenham, Texas? Are you planning a visit for the next bluebonnet season? Got beautiful pictures of bluebonnets that you would love to share? Let us know in the comments!