It’s time to put on your dancing shoes – or perhaps your dancing boots. Gruene Hall was recently named one of the world’s top 20 bars. That’s right – one of the best bars in the world. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world … well, you get the idea. Bogart references aside, it’s quite the accomplishment for this unassuming little bar deep in the heart of Texas.
Gruene Hall is located in Gruene, a small town that has been absorbed into New Braunfels, Texas. And this isn’t just any “gin joint” – Gruene Hall was built in 1878, making it the state’s oldest continually-operating dance hall. It is also the most famous, mentioned in several books and even used as a movie set (The 1996 film, Michael, starring John Travolta). Some famous names have stood on the Gruene Hall stage, including Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Little Richard, Bod Diddley, Merle Haggard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Many of country music’s biggest names got their start playing in the 6,000-square-foot dance hall that still has ads from the 1930s and ’40s prominently displayed on the walls.
Gruene Hall is located in the Gruene Historic District, which dates back to the town’s founding in 1845. The town was first settled by Henry Gruene, the son of German immigrant Ernst Gruene who ended up in New Braunfels by accident – he and his wife were headed for Fredericksburg when illness made them stop in New Braunfels. They liked the town and decided to stay, soon starting a family – Henry was their second son.
When Henry decided to strike out on his own, he needed plenty of land– so he headed just outside of New Braunfels in the area that became Gruene. He built an elaborate home, which is now the Gruene Mansion Inn. He planted his land with cotton and soon other families began to arrive, drawn by the lucrative cotton industry. Henry built several houses, a general store, and a cotton gin. Henry also decided to build a dance hall and saloon – Gruene Hall.
The town suffered a major blow due to an invasion of boll weevils in the 1920s and many of the businesses closed. By 1950, it was a ghost town – but that changed in the 1970s, when redevelopment and restoration of many of the town’s old buildings began. Through it all, Gruene Hall never closed its doors.
Today, Gruene is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the buildings still remain as a testament to Henry Gruene’s Texas town. It is a popular tourist destination and is considered part of New Braunfels, a rapidly-growing city located between San Antonio and Austin.
Named for a town in Germany, New Braunfels was founded in 1845 by German immigrants. The town still celebrates its German heritage with an annual Wurstfest and Wassailfest. Its location along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers – famous for tubing – make the city a popular tourist destination. It is home to the original Schlitterbahn water park – considered the number one kid-friendly destination in Texas and the world’s best waterpark. Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort New Braunfels contains – among its many rides – the Master Blaster. This uphill water coaster is habitually named the best water ride in the US. It is six stories tall and over 1,000 feet long with twists, turns, major plunges, and a unique uphill climb propelled by water jets.
Historic districts, river fun, the world’s best water park, and one of the top 20 bars in the world – it’s no wonder New Braunfels has grown by nearly 70 percent in the last decade. If you’re ready to make this dynamic city your home, start your search for New Braunfels apartments today. Once you settle in, make one of your first stops the historic Gruene Hall – it has changed very little in the 130-plus years since it first opened its doors, and this amazing little bar proves that even as time goes by … some things remain the same.