Weekend in New Braunfels, Texas, one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: New Braunfels is in Texas Hill Country, one of the fastest-growing viticulture areas in the U.S. Tour some of the area’s 46 wineries or hit one of the 11 breweries along the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail (there are three in New Braunfels). www.texaswinetrail.com, http://hillcountrycraftbeertrail.com. The area is a birdwatcher’s paradise. New Braunfels is in the Central Flyway with 98.5 percent of the 338 migratory birds in North America having been recorded in Texas. Discover the nine Great Texas Wildlife Trails to spot the migration through December. http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wildlife/wildlife-trails/hotw.
Getting there: Nonstop Delta flights to San Antonio start from $246 round trip, based on 21-day advance purchases. New Braunfels is 32 miles northeast, or about a 45-minute drive. Austin is 48 miles north of New Braunfels, or about an hour drive. Nonstop Delta flights from $286.
Stay: Stays at the Hampton Inn & Suites include a hot breakfast (and weekday to-go breakfast bags), Wi-Fi and use of the gym-fitness center and a hot tub. Rooms feature both full desks and lap desks (for working on the bed). Join Hilton HHonors (it’s free) for rates from $90 a night. 575 Texas 46 S. 830-608-0123, http://hamptoninn3.hilton.com.
Eat: Naegelin’s Bakery, opened in 1868, is the oldest continuously operating bakery in Texas. The family-run shop specializes in strudel, pies, pastries and fruit or sausage-filled kolaches, a Czech breakfast pastry. Other favorites are the lebkuchen ($5.75 dozen) and pfeffernuesse ($5.25 dozen), spice cookies popular as a holiday treat in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. 129 S. Seguin Ave. 830-625-5722, www.naegelins.biz.
Experience: The state’s famous dance hall, Gruene Hall, was built in 1878, and not much has changed. The 6,000-square-foot hall with a tin roof and side flaps for open-air dancing hosts up-and-coming to big-name country, Americana and blues artists every day. Many shows are free. Ticketed events from $20-$60. 1281 Gruene Road. 830-606-1281, http://gruenehall.com.
Stay: Select guest rooms at the Marriott Courtyard River Village have private balconies with views of the Guadalupe River and Lake Dunlap. On site are a living room-style lobby, an outdoor courtyard, a seasonal outdoor pool and an exercise room. The Bistro offers breakfast and dinner options, an evening bar, and Starbucks coffee. The New Braunfels Marketplace for dining, entertainment and shops is a 15-minute walk. From $119. 750 IH 35 N. 830-626-4700, www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/satnb-courtyard-new-braunfels-river-village.
Eat: Find Texas-size burgers, world-famous onion rings and the best fried catfish ($10.45-$14.45) at Clear Springs Cafe, a former grocery store built in 1869. Local knickknacks adorn the walls and ceiling of this barnlike structure. 1692 Texas 46 S. 830-629-3775, http://clearspringsrestaurant.com/new-braunfels.
Experience: Take a half-mile tour 180 feet below the ground into Natural Bridge Caverns, underground chambers of towering stone monuments. A lantern is the only source of light on the 75-minute morning Lantern Tour; $24.99 adult, $14.99 ages 3-11. The 75-minute half-mile Discovery Tour runs every 40 minutes; $21.99 adult, $13.99 ages 3-11. On select nights throughout the Christmas season, the entire park is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. Holiday countryside hayrides, canopy zip lining to cavern caroling shows offered Dec. 10, 11, 17-23 at various prices. 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road. 210-651-6101, www.naturalbridgecaverns.com.
Stay: Rates from $175 at the Gruene River Hotel & Retreat include gourmet breakfast and evening wine. Located on the banks of the Guadalupe River, this hideaway is within comfortable walking distance to Gruene Hall for dancing and the Gruene historic district for shopping and dining. On site are a nature trail, game room and hot tub. 1235 Gruene Road. 830-643-1234, http://grueneriverhotel.com.
Eat: Enjoy a meal beneath old oak trees along the Guadalupe River at the Gristmill Restaurant, located beneath the water tower in the Gruene historic district. This multilevel eatery also offers indoor dining with river views, a stone fireplace and a beer garden. Popular menu items are South Texas fare like chicken-fried steak, fried or bronzed catfish, tomatillo chicken, pecan pie and fresh-squeezed lime margaritas. Entrees from $13-$24. 1287 Gruene Road. 830-625-0684, http://gristmillrestaurant.com.
Experience: The Guadalupe River is considered one of the top-rated trout streams in the country. Year-round fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout (18-inch minimums) is offered for beginners with expert advice on how to read the water, choosing flies, and tying knots. Full-day trips (eight to nine hours) aboard a 14-foot float raft include rods, tackle, lunch, snacks and beverages; $450 for one or two anglers. Half-day (four to five hours) float trips include rods, tackle, snacks and beverages; $350 for one or two anglers. Daily wader rental, $20. email@example.com, 830-625-4440, www.grueneoutfitters.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.