Day Trips

The Prince Solms Inn looks like it could be the oldest continuously operated inn in Texas, as the innkeepers claim. But inside the weathered, yellow brick New Braunfels building, the ambiance radiates a simple elegance that can only be claimed by the best bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Built in 1898, the two-story inn has kept up with modern conveniences while maintaining a Victorian atmosphere. Electricity has replaced gas lamps and the plumbing has been moved indoors. The parlor inside the front door still has a living room feel, and the skylight over the staircase, which once opened to let out the summer heat, still fills the inn with soft light.

A recent renovation replaced faded wallpaper and gave the 10 rooms a new look and new names. The rooms range from spacious, two-room suites to ones that are small, but comfortable. Most are upstairs, surrounding the brightly lit stairwell. At the top of the stairs, a breakfast of fresh coffee, juice, fruit, and muffins awaits the guests.

In the basement, the Wolfgang's Keller restaurant is filled with candlelight; a piano player tinkles the ivories. The chef who prepares breakfast for the inn also serves up delicious portions of German and French cuisine for evening meals. Named for Wolfgang Mozart, the Keller has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in Texas.

Entrance to the restaurant is by a narrow stair in the inn or the basement entrance off of the patio. The patio and courtyard are picturesque spots at which to enjoy a quiet morning or evening. Carmen Morales, the innkeeper, said the courtyard has hosted many weddings.

There are lots ways to spend a weekend at the inn a block from downtown's Main Plaza. The Comal River and the exciting tube shoot at the old mill in Landa Park are less than a block from the inn. Wursthalle is a short distance away. Schlitterbahn Water Park has opened a new addition across the bridge from the inn and downtown. Access to floating down the Guadalupe River and Gruene, Texas, are less than 10 minutes from the inn.

Usually on the third weekend of the month, the inn sponsors a whodunit party for guests. The Murder Mystery Weekend package begins on Friday evening in the courtyard with the director, Donna Trail, handing out characters. Whether you are visiting with a group or as a couple, it's easy to join in the fun.

Trail says every mystery weekend is different. "Usually, there are at least a couple of people that really get into it and carry the action," she says.

Besides choreographing the action, Trail wrote four of the mystery scripts, which are actually more like character sketches. There are no lines to learn, only characters to create. This is improvisational theater at it finest, Trail says.

After a buffet and introductions, Friday night visits to Gruene Hall are free. Saturday is time to shop for costumes or float down the rivers. The party begins at 5pm in the parlor. The guests, some dressed in extravagant costumes, have a "town meeting," then a social with hor d'oeuvres and punch gives the characters a chance to mingle.

Suddenly, a victim falls to the floor. Someone in the room is guilty of murder. After a bowl of pink punch, the party is poised to take off. The victim returns to the party to officiate over his own murder trial as each guest takes the witness stand. At the end, everyone sits on the jury. Trail says that usually three out of 20 players guess the murderer. After the trial, everyone retires to supper at Wolfgang's Keller.

The Prince Solms Inn is in downtown New Braunfels at 295 E. San Antonio St., west of IH35 and one block south of Seguin Ave. Room rates range from $50 to $125, 800/625-9169. For information on the New Braunfels area, contact the chamber of commerce at 210/625-2385.

Coming up this weekend...

Night in Old Fredericksburg celebrates the town's German heritage with music, food, and horse racing at Market Square and Gillespie County Fairground, July 14-16. 210/997-6523.

Heritage & Ecology Day at the courthouse in Blanco honors the cultural and natural history of the area, July 15. 210/833-2211.

Coming up...

Shakespeare at Winedale begins its 25th season this year by offering three different plays Thu-Sun at 7:30pm and matinees Sat & Sun at 2pm, July 27-Aug 20. The historic buildings on the grounds will be open before each performance. Reservations are encouraged because some performances sell out early. 409/278-3530.

- Gerald E. McLeod

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