Deep in the heart of Texas, they’re celebrating life with pints of cold beer and bratwursts. Forget tacos, barbecue, and Texas chili; in New Braunfels, it’s Wurstfest time. For more than 60 years, people from around the world have gathered in the Texas Hill Country city, located midway between San Antonio and Austin, to celebrate its German heritage. This year’s Wurstfest happens November 4–13.
Why New Braunfels? Wurstfest’s history dates back to the mid-1840s when Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels led a group of German immigrants here. New Braunfels was named for the prince’s hometown of Braunfels in the German state of Hesse. Situated near the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers, New Braunfels offers beautiful natural landscapes, which helped the Germans settle the area. With thousands of people expected to pack the city of about 90,000 over the 10-day event, here are a few fun facts and tips to enjoy Wurstfest 2022.
History Of Wurstfest
In 1961, a local meat inspector thought it would be a good idea to create a festival to celebrate all things sausage. The city’s mayor agreed, and Wurstfest was launched. The first Wurstfest drew about 2,000 people, primarily from the New Braunfels area. Two years later, Wurstfest had grown in popularity and nightly events were hosted. In 1967, as the annual celebration grew, Wurstfest moved to Wursthalle in Landa Park. Wurstfest expanded to 10 days in 1968 and Myron Floren from the Lawrence Welk Show made his first appearance as a featured musical act. A new Biergarten was added in 1974 as the event continued to explode in popularity.
1. When Is Wurstfest?
New Braunfels’s version of Oktoberfest kicks off from 4–11 p.m. on November 4. Wurstfest then celebrates bratwursts, beer, music, and dancing daily through November 13. The party is hosted from 11 a.m.–midnight on Saturday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sunday, 5–10 p.m. from Monday–Thursday, and 5–11 p.m. on the final Friday.
2. Where Is Wurstfest?
Settling in Wursthalle at Landa Park, the fairgrounds near downtown New Braunfels has hosted Wurstfest for about 55 years. With Midway rides, fair games, beer tents, concession stands, and dance halls, Landa Park is the perfect site for the celebration.
3. How To Enjoy Wurstfest
If you’ve been to an Oktoberfest in Germany or across the United States, you’ll know what to expect. If this is your first Wurstfest, be prepared to have your socks knocked off. People — including police officers — dress in traditional German folk costumes, such as lederhosen and dirndls (dresses), enjoy pints of international and domestic brews, listen to music ranging from polka to rock-and-roll, and dance a few jigs. Enjoy a walk around the fairgrounds, taking in the sights and sounds of the festival. You’ll soon be welcomed into the fold and become an honorary resident of New Braunfels’s Wurstfest.
Pro Tip: Dress appropriately for the festival. Check weather forecasts to see if jackets are necessary. Wear comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be logging several steps during your visit. Of course, lederhosen and dirndls are strongly encouraged.
4. Where To Enjoy Music And Dance
Wursthalle is home to the largest section of the festival. You’ll find dance halls with dozens of bands performing polka and folk songs. People take to the dance floor and perform old-fashioned polka moves, as well as dance to their heart’s content. You’ll find bands in other outlets as well, including Das Grosse Zelt (The Big Tent), Das Kleine Zelt (The Little Tent), Stelzenhaus, and Stelzenplatz.
5. What To Eat At Wurstfest
With a name like Wurstfest, you know there will be plenty of bratwursts. In fact, if you’re so inclined, you’re likely to find an exhibit of someone making sausage. After that tasty view, head to Marktplatz — home to more than 30 food stands — and grab a traditional bratwurst. Or consider other morsels such as potato soup, Dusseldog on a pretzel roll, wurstkabob, goulash, and potato pancakes. You can also enjoy traditional fair food, including corn dogs, funnel cake, and sweet kettle corn. If you’re seeking out new dining options, look for a Reuben quesadilla, tamale pie, pork ribs, and onion schnitzel. While at Wurstfest, make sure to stop by the Naeglin’s Bakery stand, home to authentic German pastries and other treats. The bakery, oldest in Texas, also has a permanent location in downtown New Braunfels.
6. Best Way To Enjoy A Drink
Raise a pint and say, “Prost!” While Wurstfest is known for its German beers (it is a German festival, after all), plenty of American, Mexican, and craft beer will be flowing from kegs at the Biergarten and other tents around the fairgrounds. From a glass to a pitcher, you can purchase tickets online for your liquid refreshments, instead of standing in line to purchase them at the festival. You can even pre-purchase a 1-liter souvenir stein. Wine and White Claw, as well as bottled water and soda, are also available for purchase at Wurstfest. However, outside drinks aren’t allowed to be brought into Wurstfest.
7. Where To Enjoy The Carnival
Wurstfest’s Midway features a Ferris wheel, as well as slides and other rides suitable for kids of all ages. The Midway has grown from a couple of rides to more than a half-dozen. Open daily during the festival’s hours of operation, a ride on the Ferris wheel offers excellent views of the celebration. You can also check out the games located around the Stelzenplatz.
8. Best Way To Purchase Tickets
You’ll want to pre-purchase your admission tickets so you’re not spending time standing in line to buy them, instead of enjoying a drink or soaking in the atmosphere. Tickets are good for the entire day. Admission gets you into all the entertainment acts and shops. If you want to leave and come back on the same day, have your hand stamped before leaving.
Pro Tip: Wurstfest uses metal detectors at its entrances, as well as bag searches. Among prohibited items are weapons, drones, laser pens, chairs or stools, pets, radios or walkie-talkies, and flammable items. Service animals are allowed.
9. Where To Park
With limited parking available at Wurstfest — lines are long to find a parking spot on the grounds — you may want to either park downtown and take a short walk to the festival or consider parking near one of the area’s hotels and reserving a shuttle ride. Downtown New Braunfels has limited parking available, but if you arrive early enough, you should be able to find a spot.
10. Where To Purchase Souvenirs
Whether it’s a miniature beer stein or boot, or perhaps a Christmas ornament, Marktplatz is home to excellent souvenir shops. You’ll find plenty of gift ideas at the stores.
11. Explore Historic New Braunfels
With Wurstfest taking place during the evening, weekdays are perfect for exploring Historic New Braunfels. The city’s downtown is home to vintage architecture, classic businesses — such as Naeglin’s Bakery — and murals chronicling the area’s history from Native Americans to the Spanish influence and German migration. The New Braunfels train depot museum shares the city’s history, next door to a mural celebrating the city’s entertainment story. Walk through New Braunfels’s past at the New Braunfels Conservation Plaza, with a living history town including a vintage school, general store, farmhouse, and gas station.
For an entertaining day trip, head to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. With more than four dozen species of animals, most native to Africa (the ranch has an American bison), visitors can take a self-guided drive through the park or hop aboard an open-air cart for a guided tour. Pick up a bag of pellets to feed the animals alongside the ride. From giraffes to ostriches and wildebeests, the ranch is a terrific place to enjoy an African safari without leaving Texas. If you prefer underground tours, visit the neighboring Natural Bridge Caverns, where you can walk 180 feet into a cave on a guided tour, taking in views of impressive stalagmites, stalactites, and soda straws. Consider the combo tour, which combines the Hidden Passages Tour with the Discovery Tour for an impressive 90-minute experience inside the caverns. Natural Bridge Caverns also offers surface activities, including a zipline and rope course.
12. Where To Eat
New Braunfels is home to outstanding eateries. From coffeehouses and breakfast shops to casual upscale dining, the city has a diverse dining menu. One of my favorites is Alpine Haus, specializing in German cuisine (one of my preferred foods). With a variety of schnitzels (including wiener, rahm, and jager), rouladen, and a bratwurst platter, Alpine Haus is the go-to for German dining. It also has a variety of German beer, including my favorite — Bitburger. Of course, New Braunfels has a variety of places featuring American fare as well. Pat’s Place is a classic restaurant to visit and enjoy dishes such as a bacon cheeseburger and chicken-fried steak.
13. Where To Stay
With several national chain hotels, such as Courtyard by Marriott River Lodge and Best Western Inn and Suites, as well as local lodging, including Gruene Mansion Inn and The Resort at Schlitterbahn, you’ll have plenty of options for accommodations. We enjoyed our stay at the Prince Solms Inn, a classic boutique hotel located a few steps from downtown New Braunfels and Wurstfest.