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 bluebonnets — the state flower of Texas. Your day will be filled with fun and is sure to be unforgettable. Here are several activities and attractions that will provide you with a great day in charming Brenham.
The Birthplace Of Texas
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).
Located on the Brazos River about 20 minutes from Brenham, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is home to The Star of the Republic Museum, Independence Hall, and more. To learn more about Texas history in Washington County, read Visit Brenham’s Brief History of Washington County.
Things To Do In Brenham
1. Historic Downtown Brenham
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 the historic downtown while marveling at the unique antique shops, art galleries, and charming historical buildings. Then, catch lunch at any of the tempting restaurants. And, if you have a sweet tooth, stop by Thomas Craft Confections for handmade confections on South Market Street. Be on the lookout for events happening downtown on any given weekend.
Pro Tip: Here for the history? Located in the old post office, Brenham Heritage Museum covers 10,000 years of Washington County history.
2. 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 firefighting. 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 as well as a history lesson.
3. Blue Bell Creamery Tour
Visit the Blue Bell Creamery’s 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.
4. The Antique Rose Emporium
If you love giving or receiving roses (or both!) 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!
5. First Fridays Farmer & Artisan Market
If you happen to be there on the first Friday of the month, shop Brenham’s Farmer & Artisan Market on the Courthouse Square downtown. Vendors selling everything from fresh homegrown foods to homemade products line the streets surrounding Washington County Courthouse. 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.
6. See Bluebonnets
Scenic Bluebonnet Drive
Bring on the rain and sunshine! The benefits of visiting Brenham in April are 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 paintbrushes, thistles, purple coneflowers, and more. Bluebonnet season lasts from March through May, with peaks in April. Get your camera ready!
Pro Tip: You may have heard that it is illegal to pick bluebonnets since they are the Texas state flower. However, the Texas Department of Public Safety set the record straight, stating that “While there is no law against picking the state flower, laws do exist against damaging or destroying rights-of-way and government property.” So you can pick the flowers, just don’t do it on government property!
On the second weekend in April, the Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill, known as 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Barrington Plantation State Historic Site
Just outside Brenham in Washington is a history lesson to be told at Barrington Plantation State Historic Site. This living history farm takes visitors back to the 1850s. Pull cotton, see oxen used to help mend the farm, and witness many other tasks that defined day-to-day life over 150 years ago.
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. It was well worth the trip.
Pro Tip: 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.
10. Sample Local Wine
On the weekend, you can taste Texas wines made from Texas grapes at Windy Winery. From fruity to robust, the small boutique winery produces unique blends as well as classic varietals. Show yourself around the vineyard, which is located on a hill and provides beautiful Washington County views.
Pro Tip: Dogs are not welcome at Windy Winery.
11. Home Sweet Farm Market And Biergarten
If you’re hanging around in the evening, head to Home Sweet Farm Market and Biergarten in historic downtown Brenham for live music and the largest selection of craft beer in the county. Hungry? A food truck around the corner serves up grub.
Pro Tip: HSF Market, its Biergarten, and its food truck are all closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
12. Brazos Valley Brewing Company
Speaking of beer, Brazos Valley Brewing Company touts itself as a “Brenham institution of hops and barley.” Try locally-made beer named after songs, like “Mama Tried.” Be sure to order a Big “A” Pretzel with beer cheese to go with your craft beer. Open Wednesday through Sunday, BVB hosts weekly events including yoga, trivia, and live music.
Pro Tip: This brewery and taproom is both family- and dog-friendly.
Where To Stay In 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 several charming and quaint bed and breakfasts to choose from.