Brenham, Texas, is perhaps best known as being the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, but so much more lies in the hub of Washington County. Located halfway between Houston and Austin in east-central Texas, the city of Brenham offers visitors authentic Texas history, shopping in the quaint downtown, good chow, and yummy sweets, just to name a few of its attractions.
The city is surrounded by grassy fields, oak forests, and acres of farmland. Depending on when you visit, you may see colorful Texas wildflowers, including the Texas state flower -- Texas bluebonnets. Your day will be filled with fun and is sure to be unforgettable. Here are several activities and attractions that will provide you a great day in charming Brenham
Pro Tip: If you're into Texas History, you'll get your fill in the Birthplace of Texas. If you have the time, you may want to venture out to the other cities that make up where Texas began many years ago (Burton, Chappell Hill, Independence, and Washington). To learn more about Texas history in Washington County, read Visit Brenham’s Brief History of Washington County.
Stroll Downtown Brenham’s Main Street District
Being in the center of it all in Washington County, there is a lot in Downtown Brenham. Take some time to wander the streets of historic downtown while marveling at the unique antique shops, art galleries, and charming historical buildings, then catch lunch at any of the tempting selection of restaurants. And, if you have a sweet tooth, stop by Bliss Candy Company for handmade confections located on South Market Street.
Pro Tip: On any given weekend, catch something special and be on the lookout for events happening in this part of the city.
Go Down Under To Visit Toubin Park
Beneath the streets of Brenham is a State Archaeological Landmark, a large system of historic artificial reservoirs for the storage of water -- also called cisterns. The cisterns were built in the late 1800s to store rainwater for public fire fighting. Private cisterns were also abundant throughout early Washington County, used for bathing, drinking, and cooking. Now you can take a tour to see the cisterns and learn how they are used and about present-day cisterns and how to harvest rainwater for your landscape, water features, livestock, and even for indoor use. Toubin Park is located in downtown Brenham and is a park plus a history lesson.
Order Up A Scoop of Ice Cream At The Blue Bell Parlor
Visit the Blue Bell Creameries Visitor Center for the company's historical information and a self-guided tour through the ice cream-making process. It will bring back some childhood memories! After that, take a walk outside to capture a photo of the old-time Blue Bell car before heading to the ice cream parlor to nab a scoop of ice cream for only a dollar. For that price, why not indulge in two scoops? My family is always excited to try the latest Blue Bell ice cream in the grocery store's freezer section. So, when my grandson and I visited Brenham for the day, this was our first stop. They also have a very charming gift shop inside the parlor.
Pro Tip: Believe it or not, the creamery is closed on the weekends.
Stroll Through The Rose Garden At The Antique Rose Emporium
If you love giving or receiving (or both) roses, you'll want to visit the beautiful rose gardens at the Antique Rose Emporium. It's a nursery that specializes in roses and has been in Brenham for over 30 years. Aww, fresh air and roses -- I can't think of anything more pleasant. Take some time to smell the roses! Explore the gift shop for amazing books and garden picks.
Pro Tip: The emporium is pet friendly!
Brenham Farmer And Artisan Market
The Brenham Farmer and Artisan Market features homegrown fresh foods and homemade products in Downtown Brenham (Baylor Street) on the first Friday of each month from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. There's nothing better than supporting the locals and a big bite of homemade fresh bread! I especially love finding handmade soaps at markets like this.
Take The Bluebonnet Scenic Drive
Bring on the rain and sunshine! Visiting Brenham in April is twofold. You get to do all the above and below, plus enjoy a beautiful scenic drive to see the gorgeous blankets of blue. It's an 80-mile loop from Brenham to Burton, through Independence, Washington, and Chappell Hill, then back to Brenham to see the Texas Bluebonnets. You'll also see many other wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, thistles, purple coneflower, and many more. Bluebonnet season is March through May, with peaks in April. Get your camera ready!
On the second weekend in April, the Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill, also known for being the Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas, offers live music, historical tours, all kinds of vendors, and good festival food. I'm sure you'll find all sorts of handmade bluebonnet-themed gifts.
Pro Tip: Oh, but don't pick the bluebonnets. Being the State Flower of Texas, it is against the law to pick them.
Cut Your Own Lavender At Chappell Hill Lavender Farm
North of Brenham is Chappell Hill Lavender Farm, where you can cut your own lavender during harvest season. The best time to visit the farm to view and cut the lavender blooms is usually April through June for the sweet lavender variety, then August through October for Provence lavender, but the farm is open through November. If time allows, pack a picnic and enjoy the fresh air and serene scenery. Be sure to visit the lovely gift shop that includes handmade gifts from the farm and by locals. You may even be able to pick other fruits if in season.
Pro Tip: Dogs are allowed on leashes.
Tour The Giddings Stone Mansion
The Giddings Stone Mansion is a Texas Historic Landmark located at 2203 Century Circle, Brenham. It's a magnificent example of 19th-century Greek Revival architecture with 11 rooms and two broad galleries that run the house's full length, both upstairs and downstairs. A separate building houses the kitchen, laundry, and servants’ wing. Massive Doric columns and wide verandas define the home’s exterior. For more information and to buy tour tickets, visit Giddings Stone Mansion.
Visit Barrington Living History Farm
Just outside Brenham in Washington is a history lesson to be told. At Barrington Plantation State Historic Site -- a living history farm where reenactments of the 1850s take place -- pull cotton, see oxen used to help mend the farm, and witness many other tasks that defined day-to-day life in the past. When I planned our day in Brenham, there were two things on my list that we had to do. One was to get ice cream (of course), and the other was to visit the Barrington working farm. I wanted my grandson to know as much about Texas history as possible. Well worth the trip. Try to plan your day here when the entire farm is at work. When we were there, only parts of the farm were operating. Visit their website to see when the oxen are working or when a class is being held. I think our visit would have been even more special had we got to see the oxen pulling the plows and the workers cooking over the stove.
Enjoy A Glass Of Wine Made With Texas Grapes
That's exactly what you can do at Pleasant Hill Winery, the oldest winery in Washington County. Be sure to ask for their award-winning wines made from only Texas grapes. And, while you're there, enjoy a tour of the 60-degree cellar and pick up a few wine gifts in their unique gift shop. Pleasant Hill Winery is also part of the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail. Open weekends only. Another favorite winery in Brenham is Windy Winery, where you can sip a glass of high-quality wines in many different ranges.
Grab A Beer At The Market And Biergarten
If you're hanging around in the evening, enjoy it at Home Sweet Farm Market and Biergarten with live music and the largest selection of craft beer in the county. Still hungry? See if they have any locally prepared meals left for takeout. I hear they sell out quickly. The Market and Biergarten is located in historic downtown Brenham.
Brenham is a thriving city, and with over 120 historical sites to see, your time will be well worth a day trip. If you decide to stay the night, there are over 40 charming and quaint bed and breakfast inns to choose from. Vacationing in Texas? Also read up on