Things to do in Brenham Texas: The Cutest Small Town in Texas

Source: greatandlittle © 123RF.com

Source: greatandlittle © 123RF.com

Things to do in Brenham, Texas

As a teenager I watched Gilmore Girls religiously. I was Team Jess, practiced my witty verbiage and wanted to live in Stars Hollow. It took me years before I realized I was already living in a Texan Stars Hollow.

I was born and raised in Brenham, a tiny little town with a population of under 17,000 just an hour northwest of bustling Houston.

Brenham is quintessential small town Texas, with a beautifully restored historic downtown and green rolling hills in the surrounding countryside. Recent years have seen the opening of new restaurants and bars that even a big city hipster would enjoy showing off on their Instagram feeds.

This unassuming small town has a lot to offer for anyone willing to look, so come and spend the day in my hometown. There are so many fun things to do in Brenham, Texas!

A woman stands in front of a mural of two comic strip characters in Brenham TX

Where is Brenham

Brenham is smack dab in the middle of Houston and Austin on Highway 290. If you’re driving from one to the other, you’re driving through Brenham. So there’s really no excuse to not stop and spend the afternoon here! This central location makes Brenham an easy escape for anyone desperate for a day in the country.

Brenham is an excellent day trip from Houston for those craving some time in the country. For the other weekends where you can’t get out of town, here’s a list of the best Houston outdoor activities for a quick breath of fresh air.

What to do in Brenham, Tx

Growing up, I was always aware of the omnipresent three B’s of Brenham: Blue Bell, Beer and Baseball. Unfortunately for me, I never cared for the latter two B’s but Blue Bell and I have always been fast friends.

Blue Bell Ice Cream (the best ice cream in the world, if I do say so myself) may have put us on the map, but there are so many other things to do in Brenham, TX from brunch to bluebonnets (see what I did there?).

In this post, this Brenhamite gives you all the local favorites including how to see the famous bluebonnets, where to eat and how to spend a night out on the town.

Texas Bluebonnets | Source: Daniel Thornberg © 123RF.com

Texas Bluebonnets | Source: Daniel Thornberg © 123RF.com

Washington County: The best Place to see Bluebonnets

Texas’ official state flower blooms in full force each spring in Washington County, making Brenham the best place to see bluebonnets.

You don’t even need to have insider knowledge or a special map to find them, they bloom right in town in the fields off of Hwy 290. You’ll find them behind Home Depot and Wal-Mart and behind the Las Fuentes restaurant.

Bring your camera, a cute quilt and your human or fur baby to get the epitome of Texas photos. If you don’t have a picture of yourself surrounded by bluebonnets, are you even from Texas (proof that I’m a true-blue Texas below).

Please be respectful, don’t trespass into private pastures and never, under any circumstance, pick the flowers.

 
A small girl holds bluebonnets and flowers in brenham texas
 

When do Bluebonnets Bloom in Texas

Bluebonnets paint the fields of Brenham blue every spring. April will be the best month to see bluebonnets in Texas but it will depend on the weather that year.

Sometimes they bloom as early as March, or if it’s a cooler year they may bloom later and hang around into the early days of May.

Check the Brenham website’s wildflower watch to be sure. Brenham is near Houston but if you’re in Dallas, plan on visiting the Ennis Bluebonnet Trail.

Where to eat in Brenham Texas

Where to Eat in Brenham

There are so many great places to eat in Brenham compared to when I was growing up. Every time I visit home there is a new very tempting restaurant to try! Here are some of my favorites for lunch and dinner.

Where to have Lunch in Brenham

  • FUNKY ART CAFE | This cafe, located in the back of the Pomegranate store on Alamo Street, is a great spot for lunch.  They offer delicious salads, sandwiches, and wraps, including great vegetarian options.

  • MUST BE HEAVEN | This local classic on the corner of Alamo and South Douglas has been open as long as I can remember. Enjoy the 50's diner vibe with a sandwich and soup of the day. Don't leave without a slice of house made pie a la mode with a scoop of local Blue Bell Ice Cream.

  • BBQ | You can’t beat a good BBQ spot for lunch. Scroll on down a bit for my favorite Brenham BBQ joints.

Where to Have Dinner in Brenham

  • 96 WEST | 96 West is located just across the street from the courthouse. I love going for tapas and a glass (or three) of wine on their outdoor patio. They also have a killer brunch on the weekends!

  • BT LONGHORN STEAKHOUSE | Come here for dinner if you have a hankering for a steak (sirloin or chicken fried). If you're not hungry, at least come for a drink to see the massive, antique bar. It's stunning.

  • LAS AMERICAS LATIN CUISINE | Las Americas serves cuisine from across Latin America from tacos to pupusas. All of my friends have told me I have to go, so on a recent trip home I went but was nervous it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Fortunately, it 100% did. The food (particularly the cilantro heavy chicken arepas) was excellent!

Two trays filled with BBQ sausage and brisket as well as side dishes sit on a picnic table in Brenham Texas

Best BBQ in Brenham

TRUTH | Open 11 am until sold out, Friday-Sunday. Get in line early and be prepared to wait. We all know the meat is great (check out the photo above), however, the unsung hero here is the delicious homemade cake, so save some room for dessert! I’m partial to their jalapeno cheddar sausage but their massive beef ribs are a thing of beauty.

LJ’S BBQ | LJ’s is open from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 am until 6 pm or they sell out, whichever comes first. This is where the locals eat and many say rival Truth in quality, this is my dad’s favorite! They have all the greats you see at any BBQ joint plus delicious sandwiches and tacos (the way to my heart). Check their menu and read their story here.

NATHAN’S BARBECUE | Ain’t no fib about their rib. I grew up eating Nathan's BBQ. When I was in high school it was part of a gas station. I'd go multiple times a week to pick up dinner, placing our order at the convenience store cash register. It's grown since then and they've remodeled into a full-on restaurant.

This enormous beef rib at Truth is not for the faint of heart.

This enormous beef rib at Truth is not for the faint of heart.

Fun things to do in Brenham

Brenham isn’t your average small Texas town. There’s so much to see here including beautiful murals, hip boutiques and a piece of Texas history. Here are my favorite things to do in Brenham whenever I go home for a visit.

Hunt Out the Street Art Downtown

The Texas Arts & Music Festival takes place every October. Aside from the live music and film screenings, it also features artists painting some gorgeous murals and street art throughout downtown. Keep an eye out for the street art when you're downtown Brenham and choose your favorite!

Ask in the shops downtown (or in the tourist information, also downtown) for the brochure that has the map of all of the murals.

A woman stands in front of a mural of two armadillos in downtown Brenham TX

Visit the Blue Bell Factory

I've been going on tours of the Blue Bell factory since I was in first grade. It was the go-to field trip every year. What kid doesn't want to see ice cream get made? ICE CREAM!

I still love going for a visit, either to take a visiting friend or on my own for a scoop in the tasting room. Unfortunately, tours are only during business hours, Monday-Friday, when the factory is actually in production. This is such a great summer activity for families looking to entertain the kids and escape the heat!

An antique car sits on a brick patio in front of the Blue Bell Factory in Brenham Texas

Go Antique Shopping Downtown

For decades, people have been driving from Houston to Brenham in search of antiques, and downtown is still home to great antique shops today.

In Brenham’s historic downtown you’ll find shops selling antiques as well as cute boutiques and cafes. My favorite shops for treasure hunting are Today and Yesterday and Hermann’s Furniture.

Ballad of the Bird Dog

Let’s be honest, most shops in every small Texas town sell the same things. But Ballad of the Bird Dog (seen above) offers something completely different.

White washed rustic boards line a room of a store filled iwth antiques, jewelry and scarves in a small shop in Brenham Texas

This small shop sells high quality, unique pieces ranging from leather bags and vintage jewelry to perfumes and home decor.

It’s a bit on the high end price-wise, but everything they sell they have personally chosen for its quality. Many items are hand made by a Texan artisan so you get what you pay for here.

I picked up a gorgeous coral and silver cuff and a scarf (but had price not been an obstacle, I may have cleaned out the entire store!).

Mescalito Coffee

Inside Ballad of the Bird Dog you can find this hidden away coffee shop. Pick up a cappuccino or cold brew while you shop. There are coffee tables outside to rest your feet while you get your caffeine fix.

An antique bar in a coffee shop with coffee condiments like sugar and syrups sits next to a red espresso maker in the best coffee shop in Brenham Texas

Experience History at Washington on the Brazos

Washington-on-the-Brazos is the birthplace of Texas. The Texas Declaration of Independence was signed here and it plays just as important role in Texas history as the more famous Alamo in San Antonio.

This official Historic Site is worth a visit, especially if you’re exploring Brenham with children. Spend the afternoon at the expansive park, visit the Barrington Living History Farm, and tour the museum.

Home Sweet Farm is a cute spot for drinks with friends or bring the whole family. Check their website for their live music schedule to catch a show on their back patio.

Home Sweet Farm is a cute spot for drinks with friends or bring the whole family. Check their website for their live music schedule to catch a show on their back patio.

Brenham Nightlife

If you had told high school me that one day I’d be writing about the Brenham nightlife scene, I would have laughed in your face. Nightlife in Brenham?

You mean going to a movie at the 3 theater cinema, then getting a Route 44 at Sonic before driving the back roads all night?

Well, things have changed and grown (including the cinema, which now has 6 screens!). Brenham is home to bars with live music that are worth driving up from Houston.

They feature well-known musicians and local favorites alike. Here are some great things to do in Brenham for a night out on the town.

  • HOME SWEET FARM | This is my favorite addition to the downtown scene. It's a farmers market selling local produce with a patio featuring live music. They also have a pretty good wine list, which I love in a town that tends to lean towards beer. Check their schedule for live music performances.

  • FOUR STAR CONCERT HALL | I don’t think I’ve ever seen this building occupied before, so I’m thrilled to see it open and functioning as a concert venue in Brenham. Some great artists (including my favorite, Austinite Bob Schneider) have played here. Check their schedule to catch a show.

  • BRAZOS VALLEY BREWERY | If your one to search for local breweries every time you visit a new place and can't wait to try the new craft something or other, this is your place. NOTE: Brazos Valley Brewery is currently closed. A new location will open in September 2019.

Ant Street Inn is a great place to stay in Brenham

Where to Stay in Brenham

Want to turn your day in Brenham into a weekend in Brenham? There are some adorable B&B's filled with antiques in town, check these out:

ANT STREET INN | This is the BEST place to stay in Brenham! Admittedly, I may be a bit biased because I had my wedding at Ant Street Inn, but I would only have my wedding there if it were truly great, right?

This historic building, perfectly located downtown, was originally a general store. The store has become a reception hall and the offices upstairs are now guestrooms, decorated to the brim with gorgeous antiques. It's merely a bonus that the freezer in the communal kitchen is stocked with complimentary Blue Bell Ice Cream. Read the reviews on Tripadvisor here.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN AIRBNB | Rent an Airbnb to have the comfort of an entire apartment right in the heart of downtown. You can walk to all the excellent restaurants, concert venues, and antique shops. It's beautifully decorated (I want that bed!) and has excellent reviews at Superhost level. Check rates here.

HWY 290 | There are also a number of chain hotels like Hampton Inn and Comfort Suites on 290. They're very convenient if you're visiting from Houston or Austin and you always know you're going to have a nice stay at one of them.

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