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A weekend trip to Brenham means bluebonnets, BBQ, Blue Bell and a drive to the birthplace of Texas

A weekend trip to Brenham means bluebonnets, BBQ, Blue Bell and a drive to the birthplace of Texas
The bluebonnet blossom in Texas’ Washington County makes for scenic drives on back roads during spring. (Washington County Convention & Visitors)

Visitors to Brenham, Texas, must understand that bluebonnets are spring flowers that proliferate here each season in fields and pastures. Blue Bell, on the other hand, is the hometown ice cream first made in 1907. Folks here are fiercely proud of both. After a nationwide recall of the ice cream last year because of a deadly listeria outbreak, locals rallied in support of the frozen confection, their town's year-round attraction. Although the "We proudly support Blue Bell" posters aren't as prolific as the flowers, they're still plentiful. The tab for two at Ant Street Inn: $160 for one night, excluding taxes, and $35 for dinner at Nathan's BBQ.

The bed

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Ant Street Inn in Brenham, Texas, invites guests to lounge on period furnishings.
Ant Street Inn in Brenham, Texas, invites guests to lounge on period furnishings. (Jay Jones)

The 15 antique-filled rooms at Ant Street Inn (107 W. Commerce St., Brenham; [979] 836-7393, www.antstreetinn.com) are themed after the mostly Southern cities — think Natchez, Miss., New Orleans and Savannah, Ga. — from which their period furnishings came. The century-old, block-long building, beautifully renovated by owners Suzy and Keith Hankins, who purchased it in 2011, contains not only the hotel but also the Brenham Grill, which serves cooked-to-order breakfasts to guests. Weekend rates from $160 include breakfast and single-serving cups of chocolate and vanilla ice cream from a freezer beside the guest rooms.

The meal

Nathan's BBQ in Brenham is a favorite for Texas barbecue, such as this chicken and sausage platter with side dishes.
Nathan's BBQ in Brenham is a favorite for Texas barbecue, such as this chicken and sausage platter with side dishes. (Jay Jones)

Texas wouldn't be Texas without its legendary barbecue, and in Brenham, locals head for Nathan's BBQ (1307 Prairie Lea St., Brenham; [979] 251-9900, www.nathansbbq.com). Guests grab a tray and order from the menu on the wall behind the steam tables. For the uninitiated, employees are happy to slice off samples of their slow-cooked meats, including beef brisket, pork butt, locally made sausage and, of course, ribs. A two-meat dinner costs $12.25; three meats cost $13.95. That includes two sides such as baked beans, broccoli salad, macaroni and cheese and black-eyed peas.

The find

The lazy back roads of Washington County get busy on spring weekends as visitors, many of them from Houston 70 miles away, flock to the country to witness the annual bluebonnet blossom. The fields are full of flowers, with prime viewing from mid-March to mid-April, depending on the weather. The local visitor's bureau shares current conditions on its website, and its tourism brochure contains a map denoting some of the most scenic drives. Order one online or by calling (888) 273-6426. The wildflowers also abound about 20 miles north of Brenham at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site (23400 Park Road 12, Washington; [936] 878-2214), where Texas rebels in 1836 declared their independence from Mexico.

(Paul Duginski)

The lesson learned

Tours of Blue Bell Creameries, which used to be a highlight of visits to Brenham, are indefinitely suspended as the company rebuilds — a process that includes testing its treats before distribution. However, try to stop by the ice cream parlor (1101 S. Blue Bell Road, Brenham; [800] 327-8135) on a weekday. A giant scoop costs just $1.

Blue Bell Creameries’ tour center in Brenham boasts a classic delivery truck but no tours for now. You can buy $1 scoops at its parlor.
Blue Bell Creameries’ tour center in Brenham boasts a classic delivery truck but no tours for now. You can buy $1 scoops at its parlor. (Jay Jones)
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