It’s a dicey proposition, living in a picturesque, easily accessible town in the Texas Hill Country—in my case, Boerne. On the one hand, our population swells significantly on temperate weekends, meaning we locals relinquish our usual haunts to the visiting hordes. Plenty of folks who start out as tourists come back to stay—enough to cause an 86 percent rise in population between 2000 and 2012. And though I was one of those latecomers, I was hoping like everyone else that they’d close the gates behind me.
But, oh, on the other hand! We get to live where the cypress-shaded Cibolo Creek runs through the middle of town, past impeccably preserved limestone homes dating to the latter half of the 19th Century. And we’re within strolling distance of a dozen charming antiques stores and more gourmet eateries than a burg of 12,000 residents should ever expect to support.
We know the ag students whose animals are shown at the Kendall County Fair, the girls who run for the Miss Berges Fest Court each June, the Boerne High quarterback, and the kid who bags our groceries. Half the town convenes at the plaza for the homecoming rally, and, boy, do we love our parades.
Like many towns in the Hill Country, Boerne was founded by German freethinkers—intellectual immigrants who believed in democracy, religious freedom, and the abolition of slavery. We still celebrate our German roots, including with the Abendkonzerte summer series—oompah music made by the Boerne Village Band, thought to be the longest continuously performing German band outside of Germany. And as hokey as it may sound, our slogan—“the best of Hill Country living”—is pretty darn accurate.
Of the buildings erected 160 or so years ago, one that remains is the center structure of Ye Kendall Inn, a lodging and event destination on the north side of Main Plaza with views of the winding Cibolo. Its three dozen rooms and cottages are each one-of-a-kind, charmingly Victorian in feel while still comfortable. As with the Crescent Quarters Inn just up the street, Ye Kendall Inn’s location offers ideal accessibility to the town’s shopping district as well as the walkways alongside Cibolo Creek. On the north end of Boerne and just a couple of miles from downtown is Namaste Retreat, which offers a completely different type of experience for larger groups seeking a serene gathering place along the Cibolo.
Part of the beauty of Boerne is in its ease of navigation; get Main Street and River Road down pat and you’re set. Depending on the weather—and the quality of your shoes—it would be reasonable to expect to park on a Friday and not need your vehicle until it’s time to go home on Sunday afternoon.
Come on the second weekend of any month and enjoy Market Days at downtown’s Main Plaza, where—rain or shine—live music plays while vendors sell their art, jewelry, handcrafted items, and collectibles. Also, Second Saturday Art and Wine offers complimentary transportation by trolley with stops at five of Boerne’s downtown art galleries. Each gallery provides complimentary wine and hors’ d’oeuvres; to recap, that’s a free event with free transportation, free wine, and free food.
Also on the weekends, join the lo- cals who flock to the Farmer’s Market at the Cibolo each Saturday morning, held at the historic 62-acre Herff Farm. (The market closes for January and February.) Local fruits and vegetables, honey, salsa, all-natural dog treats, indoor and outdoor plants, and eggs are for sale, and there is usually live ac-oustic music and cooking or gardening demonstrations. Adjacent—but requiring a short drive to the entrance—is the Cibolo Nature Center, with 100 acres of trails where you can walk off your breakfast kolaches or have a picnic.
Boerne is also home to two stand- out natural attractions: Cave With- out a Name and Cascade Caverns. Both offer guided tours and moderate temperatures that hover in the mid-60s year-round. Come in July and you’ll want to sneak away from your tour group, establish an underground bunker, and stick around until fall.
Just a half-hour east of Boerne in the town of Bulverde, the Tejas Rodeo Company hosts National Professional Rodeo Association-qualifying and Open Pro rodeos on Saturday nights, every month but December and February. The venue also offers live music on Thursday through Sunday year-round. The Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon is on site, plus a mechanical bull and an extensive outdoor area for two- stepping and lassoing lessons; kids can sign up for the mutton-bustin’ (aka sheep-riding) rodeo event as well. An evening at Tejas Rodeo offers myriad photo opportunities and is as fun for true Texans as for out-of-state guests.
The Boerne restaurant scene is also a major draw for visitors, both regional and national, but be aware that many of the eateries close Mondays or Tuesdays and have hours that change with the seasons to accommodate the ebb and flow of tourist traffic, so plan ahead. With that in mind, there are several places that are consistently good.
Though it’s only a few years old and Czech, not German, Little Gretel is as much a part of the Boerne dining scene as any other place in town. Charming without being kitschy, Gretel serves up fresh, eclectic dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch for both hearty eaters and those seeking lighter fare. Also worth considering: Bear Moon Bakery & Café for its breakfast buffet, lunch, and truly delicious pastries; for stellar breakfast tacos just off the beaten path, try Mary’s Tacos.
Situated in the geographic center of town is 259 Home Market Bistro, a charming café and home décor shop that attracts plenty of locals and visitors who need to refuel at lunchtime before continuing on their quest for antiques. Other never-fail spots for lunch are the Peach Cafe, where everything is made fresh daily and the homey menu is supplemented by chalkboard specials and not-to-be-missed desserts; and Dodging Duck Brewhaus, perfect for a late bite eaten al fresco while admiring the geese and ducks wandering around River Road Park across the street. If your late lunch morphs into happy hour, all the better.
For lunch or dinner with the kids, Boerne features two standouts: burgers-and-shakes staple Soda Pops Patio Grill, host of popular hot rod and motorcycle shows a couple of times a month; and The Dog and Pony Grill, a hot dog-and-burger joint worthy of the short drive for its friendly service and play area.
Sans kids, start with a glass of wine at The Boerne Wine Company and then walk to either The Creek Restaurant, with its patio overlooking the Cibolo, or Cypress Grille, where the menu is upscale but the atmosphere couldn’t be more relaxed and friendly. Or get out of downtown and head to the much-lauded Welfare Café, where the menu reflects German and Hill Country cuisine, and there is a commitment to sustainability.
With all we have to see and do here in our little patch of the Hill Country, you can spend a weekend or a week. Or, if you’re like my family, set down roots and hang around for longer.