Summer Fun

So, you want to run away from home?

THREE HUGE reasons why you should head to Brenham and Washington County this summer!

Reason #1  -  Amazing, Delicious, BBQ from Texas’ best Pit Masters featured on Brenham’s BBQ Trail

Reason #2 - FAMILY FRIENDLY GRAPE-STOMPING FUN AT LOCAL WINERIES

Pleasant Hill Winery  - Experience “Crush for Fun”, offered four consecutive weekends in July and  August. You get to pick the grapes and stomp “Lucy-style” and put your footprints on a T-shirt.

Windy Winery - the Harvest Grape Stomp offered weekends in July and August is summer classic fun with picking and squishing grapes … and of course, making purple feet T-shirts!

More wine tasting and micro brews

Saddlehorn Winery - Escape to the picturesque countryside of Burton, TX to sip and savor award-winning wines. Open daily.

Texas Star Winery  - Nestled in beautiful Chappell Hill, enjoy award-winning wines in a charming tasting room or out under the trees.

Brazos Valley Brewing Company - Located a block from historic Downtown Brenham, this independent craft brewery is a ‘must do’ while here.

#3  FESTIVAL FUN FOR EVERYONE

 

July 4th Picnic at Barrington Plantation  - Experience an 1850s style Independence Day celebration! Musket firing, toasts and a reading of the Declaration of Independence will commemorate the day. Bring your own picnic basket, and enjoy al-fresco dining.

 

Hot Nights, Cool Tunes  - Saturday evenings July 11, 18 and August 1st; Bring your lawn chair and gather around the historic downtown square to listen to the sounds of live music and walk through the classic car show. Admission and parking is FREE!

 

 

Summer Sip  - August 8th; stroll through unique shops in historic Downtown Brenham while tasting signature drinks offered by local merchants.

 

Chappell Hill Lavender and Wine Fest - August 8th; fields of lavender provide a beautiful backdrop for this annual event that features tastings, crafts, music, demonstrations and a place to unwind.

When you’re ready to run, make Brenham your finish line!

The Temporary Normal

Who would ever guess that now when someone refers to ‘The Good Old Days,’ they are indicating a time in our history that began just eight short weeks ago. They are reminiscing about a time before an invisible, scary virus turned lives upside down ... when life as we knew it suddenly changed.

Lucky that in Brenham we know a thing or two about combining the past with the present so that we can enjoy ‘The Good Old Days’ again without too much fear or anxiety. In fact, we are pretty proud of offering friends, family and visitors a way to experience the past while enjoying modern and clean conveniences.

Just take a stroll through Downtown Brenham and you’ll see beautiful examples of combining old and new. Exterior walls of well-preserved historic buildings are adorned with beautiful contemporary murals created by renowned artists from around the country.

And, while you are out walking in the fresh air (on our uncrowded small town streets), feel free to pop into one of our friendly shops. You’ll find convenient hand sanitizing stations, not only to keep your hands clean but to give you peace of mind in knowing that we take your well being seriously. Our merchants look forward to seeing you again, but know it’s important to maintain small numbers in their shops for the health of everyone. You won’t get any hugs (not that they won’t want to) but, you’ll feel a genuine Texas friendliness and see a lot of warm smiles ... albeit some behind masks ... and that’s okay!

Throughout our area, dozens of restaurants have worked diligently to provide an environment that respects social distancing while serving some of the best food you’ll put in your mouth. Mexican, Barbecue, American or Gourmet ... doesn’t some good comfort food sound perfect right now? Whether you opt to dine in or order take out, we think you’re going to love biting into something that’s not another one of your own home cooked meals! Seriously!

We want you to fill your days in Brenham with fun and laughter and a feeling of safety. You can be secure in staying overnight knowing our lodging has been scrubbed to the max. Our hotels, including our downtown boutique hotel, Ant Street Inn, have established extreme cleaning protocols to sanitize and prepare rooms to ensure your stay is pristine so both your mind and body can relax during your stay in our area.

So, when you feel ready to take a break from home ... head our way ... we are ready for you.

We miss you and can’t wait to show just how much!

Bluebonnets and Beyond

It seems that we barely finish ringing in the New Year before people begin to ask us ‘How’s the bluebonnet crop this year?’

It’s a true obsession. A rite of passage. A Texas tradition carried on throughout countless generations. Almost a primal need to find the perfect spot to plunk down your babies, both human and fur, to ensure the bluebonnet season (and said family members) have been preserved in history. No other wildflower will do, it must be bluebonnets for a true Texas bluebonnet baptism ... no disrespect meant ... but sometimes it does feel almost as important.

Let’s be honest, finding a giant field of bluebonnets is like walking into a picture painted by the hand of God. There really is nothing like it, especially if we are lucky enough to experience a ‘Super Bloom’... oceans of bluebonnets as far as the eye can see ... cascading wave after wave, adorning our fields and hillsides.

However ... what if the Spring doesn’t give us a Super Bloom, or perhaps you miss the blooming peak by a week ... but you still NEED that bluebonnet fix.

No worries ... all is not lost!

Take a moment and look around. It’s beautiful here, regardless of Super Blooms. Really beautiful, with so much to take in and enjoy ... beyond the bluebonnets.

Wildflowers are everywhere, in every color and are ever changing depending the time of spring or summer you visit our area. Multi-colored phlox carpet the earth, then bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and wine cups reach for the warm spring sun and Indian blankets and coreopsis let us know that summer is in full swing.

Wildflowers can be amazing tour guides in Washington County. They can lead you to places and experiences both expected and unexpected.

A favorite stop for bluebonnet hunters is Old Baylor Park in Independence. Centuries old, graceful oak trees gently shade the area where old Baylor Female College once stood. Situated just off Highway 390, it’s a perfect location for travelers who have driven the scenic highway to relax and take photos.

While there, take a look around and you’ll discover hidden sites. The Independence cemetery is nearby where you’ll gaze on a treasure of old graves that lie beneath mounds of wildflowers that seem to understand they are gracing our ancestors who are at rest beneath. Truly a beautiful and historical place.

Texas Baptist Historical Museum welcomes visitors to discover the area’s past. This is where Sam Houston attended church ... you can even see where he carved his initials in the pew!

 

 

 

 

 

Plan your visit around the lunch hour and come hungry! The Independence General Store (circa 1900) serves the best hamburgers around. Grab your sodas and longnecks from the coolers and order at the counter. Then, head out back and enjoy the breeze on the raised deck while waiting for your burger. No doubt you’ll be visited by the resident goat who will meander up the wooden stairs and peer through the gate to check for any leftovers ... and he’s usually not disappointed ... there’s always a bite or two left to share. Forgot to mention this is a casual affair, no tie needed. Ha!

Time to walk off lunch. Luckily, just five minutes up the road you’ll find the Antique Rose Emporium. This eight-acre botanical garden center offers views from every angle and antique rose varieties of all types ... not to mention a ton of native plants. It’s the perfect place to take a walk and breathe in the fresh air while surrounded by nature.

There’s so much to do and see, you’ll want to plan a weekend ... or a few days to take it all in!

Chappell Hill’s Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas, Burton’s Cotton Gin Festival, and Brenham’s Cool Nights, Hot Tunes all land on the same date this year, April 18th. Enjoy the festivals by day and head to downtown Brenham that evening for a free outdoor concert under the stars, around the courthouse square. It doesn’t get more fun or more Texan than this ... it’s great fun for the whole family.

Super Bloom? Only time will tell. Super Fun? Definitely … come exploring all the sites and sounds our area has to offer. There’s no better way to unwind, relax and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us in Brenham and beyond.

See you soon!

Riding the Salt Grass Trail

It’s rodeo time in Houston.  Every March, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ gears up for a month of BBQ, rodeos, world-famous performers, livestock shows, auctions, and much, much more.  Kicking off this month-long celebration are the 12 trail rides that begin in February and come in from all over Texas.  But it’s the Salt Grass Trail Ride that is the “Granddaddy of Them All” which got its start back in 1952 in Brenham.

Reese Lockett was a Brenham boy who had made it big.

His rodeo abilities got him movie roles where he became friends with Gene Autry and Will Rogers. He traveled to England to perform in a wild west act for the King and also staged annual rodeos at Madison Square Garden.  He eventually returned to Brenham to work in the banking industry and own a men’s store downtown.  In 1934, he was elected mayor and held that position for the next 28 years (minus a 6-year hiatus).  While mayor, he “maintained” his cowboy status by living on a large ranch and helping organize both the Texas Prison Rodeo in Huntsville and the Houston Fat Stock Show.  But it was a trip to the Orange Bowl game in Florida resulting in cancelled flights home that evolved into the Salt Grass Trail Ride.

After he finally made it home from Florida, a few friends were talking, and Lockett vowed to “never make another trip where I can’t ride home on my horse.”  One of Lockett’s friends asked him to be an Arena Director of the Houston Fat Stock show and he was reminded of his vow.  Yet another friend thought it would be great publicity for the rodeo if Lockett rode his horse to Houston all the way from Brenham.

On January 30, 1952, Reese Lockett, Pat Flaherty, E.H. Marks, and John Warnasch left Brenham with a chuck wagon and followed the pioneer cattle drive trail, known as the Salt Grass Trail, to Houston.  Along the way, 13 other people joined the journey and drew more publicity than those four men ever expected.  In a few short years, the ride grew to over 2,000 riders. It continues every February; the 103-mile journey still marks the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with over 20 wagons from the Salt Grass Trail riding in the parade in Downtown Houston.  Lockett was the trail boss of the Saltgrass Trail Ride from 1952-1969.  This year, the ride will begin on February 21st in Cat Spring and arrive at the parade in Downtown Houston on February 29th.  The Salt Grass Trail Ride has become a family tradition for many.  Today there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren riding alongside their parents and grandparents on the week-long journey.

Lockett had a huge impact not only on the formation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ but in Brenham and Washington County as well.  He was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of Blinn College, and as a former Maifest King (wife Hester was a Maifest Queen) he was always a part of the annual Maifest Association Celebration.

In honor of all his contributions to Brenham and Washington County, a statue by Edd Hayes, titled “Ready to Ride,” was installed near City Hall in Lockett Plaza on September 11, 2001.  I took a personal interest in Mr. Lockett’s story since I started riding Salt Grass back in 2005 when my step-sister got me involved.  I ride with wagon 21, The Rounders (who formed in 1973), and look forward to it every year.  Due to volunteering at the BBQ Contest with the Houston Rodeo, I only get to go for the weekend.  It’s always terrible weather.  It’s a lot of work, with late nights and early mornings moving rigs to the next camp. Riding all day wears you out pretty quickly but, MAN! is it ever fun.  The late nights by the campfire created a bond with people who started out as strangers but grew to be some of the best friends I have.  The kind of people who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, no matter the situation.  With today’s modern conveniences, camp looks a lot different than when Mr. Lockett rode.  I have to say, although I really wish I could’ve ridden once back in the early days, I greatly appreciate the campers and trailers of today instead of the bed rolls and tents of yesteryear.  I moved to Brenham in 2012 and Mr. Lockett’s statue is not too far from my house.  I drove by it for YEARS not knowing who he was or why he even had a statue.  If it hadn’t been for working at the Visitor Center, I would’ve never known about our little “connection.”

Thanks to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™, the Saltgrass Trail Ride Association, and the Texas State Historical Association for detailed information.

Finding Holiday Magic in Brenham & Washington County

This is my favorite time of year … waiting and anticipating the first cold snap of the season … when the air turns crisp, leaves begin to float gracefully to the ground, coffee tastes better and animals and children alike seem to get a boost of extra playfulness. It’s magical.

Sounds a bit like the opening of a Hallmark movie, but … it is real. Brenham and Washington County can’t be replicated. This is true Texas. Unapologetically Americana. Authentic.

Fall wouldn’t be complete in Brenham without candy-littered streets from the annual homecoming parade, including of course, homecoming queen hopefuls waving from convertibles. It doesn’t get much more Americana than this, right?

October boasts creatively dressed scarecrows posed in front of Downtown Brenham shops. Each one lovingly put together by dozens of schoolchildren and individuals alike, who have put their hearts into these straw creations, in hopes of winning one of the many prizes. Local spirit and pride are reflected in each entry.

Our community of Chappell Hill, located just 15 minutes east of Brenham, throws its annual Scarecrow Festival. This popular event draws huge crowds to its tiny town to shop, eat and welcome the season with a smile. Tent-lined streets are full of holiday shoppers, happy to escape big city mass merchandise to enjoy unique street vendors and small-town life.

November continues the holiday spirit with Christmas at the Mansion, a home tour and Christmas fair held at Brenham’s beautiful Giddings Stone Mansion. The mansion’s exterior and eight rooms will feature different holiday themes, designed and decorated by Jennifer Hermann of Hermann Furniture.  There is inspiration at every turn.  Self-guided tours are available all weekend and even two separate seatings for a special lunch on Saturday (reservations required).

Antique Rose Emporium’s 32nd Annual Fall Festival of Roses is a favorite outdoor experience in November. Breathing in the cool rose scented air while taking in spectacular blooms and learning how to care for them is a unique seasonal event not to be missed.

And, what we’ve all been looking forward to all year long … the Christmas Stroll and Lighted Parade in Downtown Brenham … an event that will melt the heart of even the worst Scrooge. Downtown Brenham comes to life with residents and visitors mingling on the streets and throughout the shops. No crowded malls here, just a hometown atmosphere of genuine Christmas spirit. Brenham’s Downtown shopkeepers dazzle and surprise unsuspecting visitors with unique finds. Inside some of the antique architecture, new hip ventures are alive and well and waiting to be discovered.

The Stroll is kicked off with the tree lighting ceremony where onlookers are serenaded by a Girl Scout choir singing carols. As night continues to fall, the parade begins. Beautifully decorated and fully lit floats, marching bands, horses and dancers parade through Downtown, all to the delight of friends, family and visitors. And of course, the man of the hour SANTA makes his grand entrance to the squeals of excited children lining the streets, frantically waving to him as he passes by, perched atop a Fire Truck.

People passing, children laughing, meeting smile after smile … doesn’t just happen in a song or a Hallmark movie. It’s in Brenham, Texas and Washington County … where It’s a Wonderful Life!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself!

Photos by: Natalie Lange