The Texas Hill Country is known far and wide for its abundant vineyards, sprawling nature reserves, and gorgeous scenery. And while modern novelties like Schiltterbahn may attract a lot of attention, the region’s original charm comes from its history, when first-generation settlers and their families had the land to themselves. From historic battles to tall tales, these stories deserve to be preserved and told through the ages. Today, we wanted to point out a few especially interesting landmarks and attractions in the area that deserve a little spotlight!
1. Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX
The Historic Gruene Hall was built in 1878 and is Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall. This music venue sells out shows several times a week, providing some of the best music around (as well as giving young guns an opportunity to show off their skills...did we mention this is where George Strait got his start?). The 6,000 square foot dance hall has not changed much since its beginnings, with the iconic exterior still visible as you drive into Gruene. The Hall still hosts great shows like Two Tons of Steel (perfect for the swing dancers in your life), George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Willy Nelson, and current Texas country stars like Pat Green and Roger Creager. If you are planning a historic road trip through Texas, you can’t miss Gruene Hall!
2. Bergheim General Store and Post Office in Bergheim, TX
The Bergheim General Store and Post Office has been around since 1903, sitting right in between New Braunfels and Boerne. In fact, Bergheim is a German word: "berg" meaning “mountain” and "heim" meaning “home” (or rather, “a home in the hills”). A true-blue general store since day one, Bergheim General Store has everything you need for small town living, from school supplies to mechanical tools to clothing and more. This store is also the post office of Bergheim, making the owner also the postman...talk about true small town life! The Texas Country Reporter recently did a feature on the store, shining a well-deserved spotlight on this little Hill Country gem.
3. Cave Without a Name in Boerne, TX
The Cave Without a Name (just northeast of Boerne) has been recognized as a national natural landmark. Although the cave has been open to the environment for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it was available for public tours. This natural wonder features some of the most beautiful geological forms, including stalactites, stalagmites, and plenty of unique rock formations. You can check out the Cave Without a Name by asking for a tour or go to one of the concerts or performances hosted in the Throne Room during the month.
Fun fact: Back in the day, a small moonshine distillery was hidden in the cave’s uppermost cavern, started by a few savvy businessmen combating prohibition laws in the 1920’s!
4. Leanderthal Lady in Leander, TX
Now here is a Texas history lesson that dates back over 10,000 years! In 1982, several archeologists were doing a little digging in the Hill Country town of Leander when they came across the ancient remains of a female skeleton. The woman (who has been affectionately nicknamed “The Leanderthal Lady” is estimated to be one of the oldest and most complete human skeletons in all of North America (est. over 10,000 years).
5. The Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels, TX
Now here is a place that won’t seem like a history lesson if you ever visit. The building that houses the Phoenix Saloon has been around since 1871, hosting a slew of saloons (one of which is the original Phoenix). This building has a lot of quirky history, and that is why we love it. Here are a few fun facts about the historic building:
- In 1894, William Gebhardt invented chili powder here.
- The Phoenix Saloon was the first bar in Texas to offer service to women. Not only did they have service, but they had a ladies beer garden with bells in the trees and a deer pen.
- There was a parrot inside the bar that would say, “Have you paid your bill?” in German.
- Some say the Phoenix is home to some paranormal activity. Some customers tell tales of doors opening and closing, and the shadow of a man in the hallway. Find out for yourself!
- Although the original bar shut down years ago, it stayed true to its name. The Phoenix Saloon rose from the ashes in 2010, providing good drinks and a good time for all.
6. The “Cowboy Capital of the World” in Bandera
Known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera was the setting for cattle drives across the Western Trail in the 1800’s, one of the nation’s most vital routes to deliver livestock to the north. This made Bandera a true cowboy town, a culture that has continued to the present. Through careful preservation and special events like rodeos, chuckwagon dinners, and country music performances, Bandera still honors its authentic cowboy heritage.