Beckendorf Gallery houses a gargantuan selection of storied prints by Texan artist Charles Beckendorf, whose dedication to detailing the flora and fauna of his native state continues to entice art enthusiasts after his passing in 1996. Bluebonnets and Gulley-Stone House ($25) depicts a humble abode against a backdrop of verdant hills, trees, and cobalt fields, and Bald Eagle ($35) illustrates the impact the iconic bird had on Telly Savalas.
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.
In 2009, Linda and Greg Racino were reaping the benefits of more than two fast-paced decades in the tech industry. Something was missing, though—creativity. So in February of that year the couple left behind the cold digital world for a brightly colored studio warmed by a blazing kiln. Lining their shelves with finished and unfinished clay and glass pieces, the Racinos today deal solely in creation. They guide customers through pottery painting and glass fusing—from picking out a blank bisque piece to arranging a unique design of glass pieces. Guests can also check out the calendar of events to learn about upcoming discounts and special projects, or to find out what day it is.
The engine's howl steadily builds as the Robinson R44 helicopter's blades churn with increasing velocity. Passengers look out of bubble windows and see grass whipping beneath. In a moment, the turf disappears, fading from view as the chopper lifts higher into the sky. So begins an aerial adventure led by experienced pilots Steve Van Buren and John Holler, who venture into the airways above Austin, San Antonio, the hill country, and central Texas. The air-conditioned copters—equipped with four-way communication that allows guides to maintain contact with passengers—glide through the firmament, as pilots obey all stop-sign-shaped clouds on their way to eye-catching views of sites such as historic Gruene. Crews also bring helicopters to clients for party rentals and assist landowners with predator control and game surveys.
On a regular day in New Braunfels, groups of 16 people can be seen pedaling down the street, perhaps drinking beer as they go. They aren't a crowd of irresponsible cyclists: rather, they're passengers on the PubCrawler of New Braunfels. With seating for a driver, 10 pedaling riders, and 5 other passengers on a rear bench, the pedal-powered bus rumbles along at leisurely speeds of up 5 miles per hour.
Though it's been used for events ranging from bachelorette parties to parades, the PubCrawler—true to its name—most often wheels out for pub crawls. For these outings, the bike embarks along scenic areas such as the historic Town Square, pausing only for drinks at up to three pubs. All rides are BYOB, but passengers are required to bring only glass-free containers, such as cans or an entire fermentation tank. On-board taps with ball or pin-lock connections also allow riders to tap into their own pony kegs.
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.