Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Visit Brenham’s Historic Downtown
- 2. Washington-On-the-Brazos
- 3. Visit Blue Bell Creamery
- 4. Texas Cotton Gin Museum
- 5. Giddings Stone Mansion
- 6. Take in a Show at the Unity Theatre
- 7. Flying Horses Antique Carousel
- 8. Parks and Water Features in Brenham TX
- 9. Blue Bell Aquatic Center in Brenham
- 11. Walk through Toubin Park
- 12. Visit The Brenham Fire Museum
- 13. Explore the Brenham Heritage Museum
- 14. Wander Around Old Baylor Park
- 15. Eat BBQ in Brenham TX
- 16. Where to Get a Beer in Brenham
- 17. Wineries Near Brenham TX
- 18. Distilleries Near Brenham
If you’re looking for small town charm, Brenham Texas is a perfect family vacation destination. Located between Houston and Austin, this Texas country getaway is an easy drive from either airport. There are plenty of things to do in Brenham for visitors of all ages. In the spring, it’s a huge Texas bluebonnet destination and many families work a stop at the Blue Bell Creamery into their Texas road trip. 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. Visit Brenham’s Historic Downtown
With a cute downtown area filled with historic buildings, 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. You can also explore art galleries and coffee shops. The City of Brenham offers clean, air-conditioned downtown public restrooms located across from The Book Nook, a woman-owned bookstore that features a friendly, knowledgeable staff that makes kickass book recommendations.
Looking for more ideas on what to do in the area or just want to learn a little bit more about the history? Head over to The Barnhill Center at Historic Simon Theatre. Touring shows come through here but it also houses The Brenham and Washington County Visitor Center.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Stop by the Chamber of Commerce at 314 S Austin St. for maps, suggestions and a boatload of knowledge on things to do in Brenham and the surrounding area.
23400 Park Road 12
Washington, TX 77880
If you’re a native Texan you probably grew up hearing the phrase “Where Texas became Texas.” If you’re not, think of Washington-On-the-Brazos as the Texas version of Plymouth Rock. It’s 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, moments from downtown Brenham, the site includes a Visitors Center, gift shop, Independence Hall, the Star of the Republic Museum and walking paths along the Brazos River.
It also includes the Barrington Plantation, the home of the last President of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones. The plantation was actually named after Jones’ hometown of Greater Barrington, Massachusetts. Admission to all can be purchased in the Visitors Center.
She Buys Travel Tip: Do not underestimate the heat in Texas. Pack sun hats (these are the cutest ones) and extra water for your visit, especially if it falls during warmer months. Most of the plantation is outdoors and it gets hot!
3. Visit Blue Bell Creamery
1101 S Blue Bell Road
Brenham, TX 77833
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.
SheBuysTravel Tip: In the ice cream parlor seating area before you get to 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!
4. Texas Cotton Gin Museum
307 N. Main Street
Burton, TX 77835
Located in Downtown Burton, moments from Brenham, is the Official Cotton Gin Museum of Texas. Home of the oldest operating cotton gin in Texas, visitors are welcome from 10am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free for visitors who want to wander the exhibits and watch the explainer video.
If you want to dig deeper into the history with a presentation and guided tour, there’s a fee. Tours are offered at 10am and 2pm Tuesday through Saturday.
If you’re visiting in April, be sure to check out the annual Cotton Gin Festival to see gin and bale cotton demonstrations.
5. Giddings Stone Mansion
2203 Century Circle
Brenham, TX 77833
The Giddings Stone Mansion pops up on a lot of things to do in Brenham lists but does require advance planning if you’d like to see the inside. Tours can be arranged a minimum of 3-4 days in advance. It was the second home of J.D. and Ann Giddings. J.D. Giddings, transplants from Pennsylvania, purchased the original 320 acres for their elevated position during the yellow fever scare to avoid lower mosquito breeding grounds.
It was also the first house in Washington County with central heat and running water. Their daughter, Mary Louise, moved in with her husband and the house remained in the family until the 1970s. After that, it was donated to the Heritage Society of Washington County. They’ve renovated it and it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and a popular spot for weddings.
6. Take in a Show at the Unity Theatre
300 Church St.
Brenham, TX 77833
The Unity Theatre in Brenham puts on a wide variety of professional shows annually. This intimate theatre seats 125 and there isn’t a bad seat. The shows are scheduled well in advance so it’s easy to plan ahead for your trip. Pairing a show with a meal downtown creates the perfect Brenham evening.
7. Flying Horses Antique Carousel
Brenham, TX 77833
One of my daughter’s favorite features in Brenham is the Flying Horses Antique Carousel. It’s located in Fireman’s Park. This antique carousel features hand-carved wooden horses and is covered to protect riders from the sun and weather.
Brenham’s carousel is one of only five antique wooden carousels in Texas! The carousel is open on Saturdays, seasonally March 1-October 31, from 11am-4pm. 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 actually book the carousel for private rides. Learn more here.
8. Parks and Water Features in Brenham TX
Brenham can be great even as a short stop to break up a longer drive. Many people pass through this small town every year via I-290. Brenham’ is located between Houston and Austin at an interchange where folks need to take an exit to continue on 290. Travelers stop for a quick bite to eat or to let their kids run off some energy before continuing!
Brenham is filled with parks including Fireman’s Park. 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.
Public restrooms are readily available both at Fireman’s Park and at Henderson Park as well as in the library lobby.
A little bit down the same road is Hohlt Park where the amphitheater is located. Hohlt Park recently unveiled the Hohlt Crossover walking trail. This trail covers 5 acres of land showcasing different types of environments from bog to forest to savannah.
9. Blue Bell Aquatic Center in Brenham
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 the Facebook page before heading over. Day passes are available.
10. Murals in Brenham TX
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
East Commerce and South Baylor Street intersection
This one’s a personal favorite. It’s more of a standalone picture. It is so tall that it can be a challenge to include a person in the photo.
Tiger Eyes Mural
East Commerce Street between South Baylor and South Park streets
If you come here early in the morning before the parking lot fills, you’re likely to find people positioning their cars for photos. It’s a popular stop for the exotic car crowd.
The Brenham Mural by Anat Ronen
South Austin Street close to the intersection with West Alamo
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.
11. Walk through 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.
12. Visit The Brenham Fire Museum
Located in the heart of the historic 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.
13. Explore the Brenham Heritage Museum
105 South Market Street.
Brenham, TX 77833
This museum flooded soon after we moved to Brenham and I’m happy to report it is now open again Wednesday – Saturday from 10am-4pm. Housed in Brenham’s original United States Post Office Building, the Brenham Heritage Museum charges an affordable admission fee and children 12 and under are free.
The museum houses a varied and wide-ranging collection covering more than 10,000 years of history. You can learn about everything from World War I to baseball to Maifest and more. (More on Maifest in a minute.)
Special exhibits are also put on regularly. In fact, Brenham was selected as one of seven Texas communities to host the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibition, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”
14. Wander Around Old Baylor Park
Old Baylor Park 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 read scores of historical markers and panels about the history of Old Baylor. Visit near sunset to capture gorgeous golden hour photos.
15. Eat 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 the mac n’ cheese is spicy and to die for. Be aware: They do sell out. Check for menu and sell-out updates on Facebook. LJ’s recently added hours on Sundays – yay!
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.
She Buys Travel Tip: Want to up your game? Call LJs about a week before your trip and pre-order a vacuum pack of cooked brisket or turkey. Then enjoy it at home after your vacation.
16. 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. You can swing by the tasting room for a drink or grab a 6 pack or growler to go. Brazos Valley Brewing Company brews on-site and has an extensive patio with loads of outdoor seating and a play area for the littles. They offer some food and there’s always a rotating food truck parked out front.
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 Market if you’re looking for a few beers and music in a biergarten setting. Located right downtown, the 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 the Chappell Hill Texas area and is amazing. For non-imbibers, they have fresh root beer on tap. The root beer price includes one free refill. There is outdoor seating and the Facebook page will list live music events.
17. 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. Check Facebook for updates before you go.
Busted Oak Cellars in Carmine is fantastic and very close to Brenham. It is 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.
For more of my favorite wineries and a meadery, be sure to check out this Things to Do in Round Top article.
18. 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 storefront. 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. It’s open from 1-6pm on weekends. Double check hours here before heading out.
Events in Brenham Texas
Brenham has several events that are attractions in and of themselves. Here are some of the events and happenings that might draw you to Brenham. You can find even more on the Visit Brenham event calendar.
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 North 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.
I must admit upon moving to Brenham I didn’t quite get Manifest 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 region’s early settlers. As the oldest Maifest in Texas, the Brenham festivities happen the first weekend in May and 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.
You can learn more about Maifest through the online Maifest collections of the Brenham Heritage Museum.
First Fridays Farmer & Artisan Market
From April through September Brenham has a Farmers Market the first Friday of every month from 4-7pm. Located downtown around the Courthouse, there is always a wide variety of vendors selling produce, homemade goods and snacks.
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.
Nasreen's adventures started out as business travel. Working as a territory sales manager she covered 21 states during her tenure, traveling 3-5 nights a week. As she visited new cities and states, she always worked in a quick stop at a unique or iconic site. A travel writing career was born. When her father-in-law's cancer came back she started writing and consulting full-time around his chemotherapy schedule.
Traveling with her firefighter/paramedic husband, kids, friends and solo allows her to cover a variety of situations and topics. Her four kids (19 year old boy, 13 year old girl, 11 year old girl and 7 year old boy) are professionals at the cross country road trip. After 10 years in Texas, their family is back in the Northeast exploring both familiar and new destinations.
There she runs her own business providing go-to-market, sales strategy, podcast, and content marketing consulting for websites and B2B businesses. Whenever possible she writes for a variety of publications in the podcast, travel, and business space. Connect with her on LinkedIn to chat about travel, content, sales, and podcasts!