Road Trips

Brenham – Big Skies, Blue Bell, and Bluebonnets

Brenham, was settled by a large and varied population of immigrants, The town has a claim to be the “birthplace of Texas.” A large portion of these people are of German origin who flocked to central Texas in the 1850s after the political upheavals in Europe in 1848-1849 – shortly after Texas became the 28th state in 1846.

The downtown is filled with historic architecture, great restaurants, shopping and unique boutique-type accommodations, most of which are housed in 18th Century buildings. Plaques commemorate historic sites and events in the city’s main street and square. One of my favorite vintage accommodations is the Ant Street Inn (ironically, on Commerce Street). The inn houses The Brenham Grill, which offers a wide variety of food in the lobby restaurant.  Many of the rooms in this inn are spacious with good views of the square and are full of beautiful antiques. Also downtown on Market Street is Brenham Fire Museum, a great slice of history and great place to entertain the kids.

A popular attraction in Brenham—lots of tour busses stop there—is the Bluebell Ice Cream Factory. A Texas institution since 1911, the creamery offers tours. The visitor center goes through the history and overview of the company and offers delicious samples. The gift shop is worth a visit.

Some annual events to consider in Brenham are the Bluebonnet Festival of Texas with more than 250 juried exhibitors with home décor, artists, craftsmen and delicious food; and the La Bahia Antiques show, which attracts dealers from all over the country.

We last visited a week before spring to see the first blossoming of fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers like the Indian Paintbrush, Prairie Verbena, and Indian Blanket that line the highways and carpet the hills. During the peak of “bluebonnet” season, the crowds will arrive.

Driving a bit north of the city, you will pass field after field of a mixture of these flowers along with goats, cows and rustic ranches, and in a few minutes will reach the Antique Rose Emporium. You can wander, free of charge, through the eight-acre nursery. The atmospheric garden is full of different breeds of roses, native plants and herbs. Listen to the birds and enjoy the breezes that pass through the windchimes. It is a beautiful spot to visit in spring and to bring home some botanical treasures. Try and catch the Spring Celebration weekend here in March with an artisan & vintage market. The celebration includes food trucks and garden demonstrations.

If you are driving to Brenham on Highway 290 from Houston, plan on making two stops. Frazier’s Ornamental Concrete in Hempstead is a one-of-a-kind collection of yard sculptures, fountains, and gifts. You can easily spend a good part of an afternoon there. We never leave without a concrete souvenir of our experience. Further up 290 is Chappell Hill. Its tiny main street has restaurants, galleries and shopping along with several historic markers. The town hosts an Art Walk in May.


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