The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country connects visitors of all ages with the area's natural and cultural history through elaborate displays and well-preserved artifacts that live on as bridges to the past. Both self-guided and guided tours explore the museum's expansive collection, which includes a cache of Native American relics, as well as an expansive outdoor display of farming equipment used and autographed by celebrity pioneers. Museum-goers can also weave through the collage of native plants lining the heritage garden, or investigate dinosaur tracks that have endured roughly 100 million years of changing seasons. After their journeys through time, visitors can retire to the outdoor picnic area or stroll through the onsite gift shop.
The horses at Hollow Tree Ranch trot around more than 20 grassy acres laced with streams, dotted with leafy trees, and imbued with wild country atmosphere. Here, skilled instructors guide beginner students during horseback-riding lessons. They place their pupils on the horse right at the beginning for hands-on instruction in saddling up and controlling a steed through trotting, weaving between obstacles, and riding over a log trail. They also combine equestrian training with group roping lessons, where they demonstrate how to coil, aim, and throw a lasso at targets such as an orange cone, a ground dummy, and a high-school bully. They run a one-week intensive day camp in horseback riding, tacking, and care, and regularly use equine therapy to instill communication skills, core muscle strength, and confidence in young people with disabilities.
At Paradise Fun Center, the gurgling waterfalls in two 18-hole mini-golf courses and the rustling of trees in the breeze provide the soundtrack for pleasant, family-friendly outings. Each course is riddled with zigzags, sharp turns, and challenges that don't rely on advanced levitation abilities. Batting cages accommodate fast- and slow-pitch practice, and go-kart racing quenches needs for speed, and a variety of arcade games are available. In between the fun and games, the center keeps energy levels elevated with candy, pizza, nachos, and ice cream at its snack bar, and a picnic area and party room are available for group outings.
For three days in November, the Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas Market brings Olde World Christmas spirit to New Braunfels. Vendors set up cheery red and green booths in the German-style holiday market, where they sell homemade wares such as aromatic roasted nuts, unique toys, vintage cameos, and homemade toffee. Nearby, authors sit ready to discuss their novels or sing their favorite Christmas carols at the on-site book fair and a jolly Santa eats breakfast with kids of all ages. To keep guests warm during the event, Sophie's Cafe serves up warm mugs of soup paired with sandwiches or tempting desserts.
Proceeds from the event benefit The Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which serves as the hub for immigration ship logs, photos, and documents of the first German Americans who found their way to Texas.
Marketplace Cinema's 12 screening rooms delight audiences with a rotating selection of Hollywood's latest cinematic confections. State-of-the-art Sony 4K projectors quadruple the number of pixels in each image, sharpening images of billowing explosions, tender kisses, and dolphin slap-fights. A kitted-out concession area includes delectable snacks as well as fermented libations for of-age patrons.
More than 500 exotic animals prowl, scamper, and crawl through their expansively recreated habitats at Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo. In the venomous-snake enclosure, the eyes and scaled hood of the monocled cobra hypnotize visitors, and a bright green temple viper camouflages itself among jade vegetation. Guests quake with curiosity as they watch the slithering reptiles' jaws clamp down on prey during feedings, or enjoy seeing bigger beasts getting their fill at the alligator and crocodile ponds. Patrons can interact with cuddlier critters at the petting zoo, where dozens of fluffy goats, alpacas, and llamas gather to tie-dye their coats. Elsewhere, cackles of hyenas reverberate throughout the grounds, spurring a pack of wolves to emit a more introspective sound by baying at the moon. Wizened tortoises bask in a field of lettuce and racing trophies as a duo of ring-tailed lemurs relax in their tire swing.