Halfway between Austin and Houston is a place filled with Texas history and unexpected discoveries.
You can two-step into the past, pet an alpaca, enjoy the local wines and get a scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor at Blue Bell Creameries. In Brenham, you’ll experience just about everything, except boredom.
Brenham is the county seat for this historic and scenic region and began with German immigration to the area in the 1840s. The county is very proud of its German heritage and demonstrates it vividly at the annual Maifest celebration.
Home of Blinn College, Brenham is the central hub of Washington County, providing access to 10 hotels and a wide variety of B&Bs and vacation rentals, with a budding arts and entertainment, and nightlife scene.
Explore the streets of historic Downtown Brenham to visit an array of specialty shops like Hermann’s – the oldest family-run furniture store in Texas – run by a 5th generation Hermann family member, and the modern general goods store, Ballad of the Bird Dog.
And if you enjoy books, stop at the Book Nook, a delightful independent book store with space for children to play. While walking downtown, don’t miss the oasis of our improved alleyways – you’re sure to be pleasantly surprised by our small-town charm.
You’ll also find a variety of Texas-inspired dining options.
From a vintage soda and ice cream fountain to a sweet shop; and from pizza and a home-cooking café, to South American cuisine – you’ll find great food and experiences with options for the whole family from these restaurants and more.
If music is your thing, an evening at 4 Star Concert Hall or Home Sweet Farm Market & Biergarten should be on your list of must-do’s, and if professional, live theatre is your thing, Unity Theatre is located downtown in a restored warehouse.
The 125-seat intimate theatre and 50-seat black box studio showcase a variety of professionally produced and staged plays and musicals throughout the year.
In addition, The Barnhill Center is a totally renovated 1925 Vaudeville Theatre offering concerts and movies, and unique meeting spaces for groups of 25 – 300!
Also in the heart of Downtown Brenham, more than a dozen street art murals are featured on the #BrenhamArtWalk.
The Texas Arts and Music Festival, held each October, has commissioned noted muralists from across the country, including Jeff Soto and Helena Martin, who have contributed two of the most photographed on the list.
The variety and quality might make you look around to see if you are really still in this authentic Texas small town! While steeping yourself in art and culture, check out other art offerings at the Downtown Art Gallery, Back Lot Gallery and Tegg Studio.
Special events in Downtown Brenham include the Hot Nights, Cool Tunes Summer Concert Series each Saturday in July, and for wine lovers, two not-to-be-missed weekends include the Uptown Swirl in January and June’s Summer Sip, when downtown shops are sampling a variety of wines from around the world.
And when the holidays roll around, the Lighted Christmas Parade is a magnificent tradition for kids of all ages.
Featured at one of Brenham’s outstanding parks – Fireman’s – is an antique carousel where you can ride a piece of history, or let your kids run off steam on surrounding playgrounds.
Brenham’s Fire Museum and Historic Toubin Park relate the colorful, sometimes tragic saga of life in the mid-to-late 1800s. Beneath Brenham’s streets is a State Antiquities Landmark, a large system of historic cisterns built in the late 1800s to store rainwater for public firefighting.
Enjoy the Wild West story of why these cisterns were built in this unique pocket park with an original cistern displayed.
Get to know how our forefathers lived by visiting two historic homes, owned by The Heritage Society of Washington County. The Giddings Stone Mansion is also the venue for the beautiful Christmas at the Mansion event held each November.
Brazos Valley Brewing Co., in a new brewing facility near Downtown Brenham, has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country, and once the new tasting room is completed, will be offering tastes of all their beers, including tap room-only experimental recipes.
Four wineries – Pleasant Hill, Saddlehorn, Texas Star and Windy – are dotted around the county and offer special tastings and fun events throughout the year.
In historic Burton, cotton farming once reigned and the old cotton gin – recognized by the Smithsonian – has been restored and attracts thousands of tourists each year to its annual Burton Cotton Gin Festival which takes place the third weekend each April.
Twice-a-day tours of the gin are available at the Texas Cotton Gin Museum and Visitor Center.
The Burton Railroad Depot will transport you back to the 1870s when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad stopped there. Mt. Zion Cemetery, located on the scenic Independence Trail, honors early settlers including noted Texas Ranger Captain Leander McNelly.
For live music, try the Burton Roadhouse or White House Tavern; great food is available at the Blue Willow Café.
In Chappell Hill, 10 miles east of Brenham on Hwy. 290, the Historical Museum illustrates the region’s history with fascinating exhibits and artifacts. Two major preservation projects, the Providence Baptist Church and its Parsonage, are found on Main Street, and arrangements can be made for tours of the two sites.
Chappell Hill Lavender & Berry Farm, a short distance north of town, offers a scenic hillside view of its lavender fields.
August’s Lavender & Wine Festival, in conjunction with Windy Winery, provides an opportunity to cut your own lavender (depending on the crop, of course) and to shop for a plethora of lavender-based products. Wine tastings, live music, crafts and demonstrations add to the fun.
This tiny town hosts the largest festivals in Washington County – the official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas each April and the Scarecrow Festival in October.
With several hundred vendors at each festival, add in live music and festival foods and the result is a great time for family fun.
Each festival draws huge crowds to town to shop, eat and welcome each season with a smile. Tent-lined streets are full of shoppers happy to escape big-city mass merchandise to enjoy unique street vendors and small-town life. The 4th of July parade is truly a fun and patriotic celebration of America’s birthday.
Small as it is, downtown Chappell Hill boasts a great restaurant, Bevers Kitchen, featuring home cooking and terrific pies.
In the village of Independence, in 1839, a Baptist church was established; its congregation still meets today. The Independence Baptist Church is now the oldest continuously operating Baptist church in the state.
This is where Sam Houston attended church and was baptized. Legend has it that following his baptism in the creek, Sam Houston said, “I pity the fish downstream.”
Houston’s mother-in-law was so thrilled with the transformation that she had a large iron bell created and presented to the church with gratitude.
The Texas Baptist Historical Center-Museum features this bell along with many other Early Texas history exhibits.
Independence is also home of the original site of Baylor University. The ruins of Old Baylor, the site of Baylor Female College, still stand, surrounded by a peaceful park and playground area renowned as one of the best places in the state to see bluebonnets in the spring. In addition, Windmill Hill (about a quarter-mile away) marks the site of Baylor College for Men.
The two sites are connected by a well-marked walking/driving trail and beautifully illustrated signage.
For sure, don’t miss a stop at Antique Rose Emporium located on an early settler’s homestead.
This 8-acre nationally renowned garden features romantic antique roses, native plants, old-fashioned perennials, herbs and wildflowers. Their Fall Festival of Roses draws presentations by noted speakers and displays of plants along winding garden paths.
The town of Washington holds a unique place in Texas history, and today you will find Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site on its original location. A replica of Independence Hall echoes with the voices of those 59 men who created the Republic’s governing documents.
Star of the Republic Museum perpetuates the memory of “Old Washington” through exciting cultural exhibits focused on the Republic period, along with various special events.
The period is also brought to life in living color at Barrington Plantation which features the home of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas. Costumed interpreters operate the plantation as if it were the 1850s, demonstrating the skills from that time period.
Visitors can spend time in the multi-million-dollar Visitor Center with its interactive exhibits and extensive gift shop, enjoy a picnic lunch on the beautiful park grounds next to the Brazos River and explore interpretive trails. It’s a must-stop for any Texas historian or history buff.
Plus, each year on the weekend nearest to March 2, the Texas Independence Day Celebration is held to recognize this pivotal era of Texas history. Other related activities occur throughout each year.
Just outside the historic site’s grounds, find a unique dining experience at R Place at Washington on the Brazos.
Housed in an early-day grocery store and with a dog-friendly back yard, menu items include barbecue, sandwiches, delightful Saturday night dining with live music, beer, wine, and hand-dipped Blue Bell. Such a treat!