Better by a Country Smile

Tour Blue Bell, buy Italian-designed clothing, and attend the theater in historic Brenham.
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Photo by Stirling Kelso

If ice cream is your religion, then Brenham is Mecca. On any given day, up to two thousand people visit the Blue Bell Creamery (1101 South Blue Bell Road, 800-327-8135,, the birthplace of every true Texan’s favorite frozen treat. Cheerful guides spice up the tour with fun facts—Blue Bell is sold in twenty states, and most cookies and wafers are made in house—while ushering guests through elevated hallways overlooking mixing and packing rooms. The tour clocks in at a third of a mile long with two flights of stairs, which means you shouldn’t feel guilty devouring the generous helping of ice cream served at the end.

Though Blue Bell put Brenham on the map, the town of 16,000 on Highway 290 offers more than a double scoop of Homemade Vanilla. Its historic downtown is one of the state’s most charming, lined with chic shops, creative restaurants, red-brick inns, two impressive theaters and, of course, a handful of ice cream parlors.

The visual and cultural draws are not just a stroke of luck—though Brenham’s location, halfway between Houston and Austin, makes it a popular weekend destination for city dwellers. The town owes much of its allure to Jennifer Eckermann and Brenham’s Main Street Board. Since 1999, Brenham’s downtown has been a part of the Texas Main Street Program, an official historic designation that allows the city to

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