{ DESTINATION }

KICKING BACK IN FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS

By Wendy van Diver
Photos Courtesy of Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau

IN THE HEART OF TEXAS HILL COUNTRY, about 70 minutes north of San Antonio and 90 minutes west of Austin, the town of Fredericksburg, Texas is a wonderful place to kick back and stay awhile. Founded by German pioneers in 1846, the charming community offers visitors an intriguing blend of culture, history, unique shopping, outdoor adventure, and noteworthy wine. I write this as I greet the morning on the last day of my first visit, softly rocking in a dew-soaked hammock to the tune of a neighboring rooster’s throaty call. 

I strongly recommend adding a few days in Fredericksburg the next time you head to Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin. Or heck. You could just come to Fredericksburg and make a week of it. It’s really that good.

A Sunday House in Fredericksburg | Marc Bennett
A Sunday House in Fredericksburg | Marc Bennett
Christmas on Main Street | Trish Rawls
Christmas on Main Street | Trish Rawls
Das Peach Haus | Steve Rawls
Das Peach Haus | Steve Rawls

GERMAN HERITAGE
The first thing to appreciate about Fredericksburg is its roots. It is an American Dream town, born in a time when life was rough in Germany and people were willing to sever ties with family and a way of life to “go for it” in the Texan wilderness. Today, Fredericksburg continues to honor its unique heritage in many ways, including numerous restaurants serving German cuisine in the downtown Fredericksburg National Historic District. This is the center of town, highlighted by an expansive Marktplatz, featuring the newly renovated Vereins Kirche, the site of many popular festivals all year long. Each Christmas, this pretty block is bedecked with a stunning 26-foot-tall Christmas Pyramid, imported piece by piece from Germany. Plan to grab a pastry at a German bakery and dine on Jagerschnitzel on Main Street at some point during your stay.

You’ll also want to dedicate at least an hour to the Pioneer Museum Complex, a collection of authentic structures preserved from the early 1900s. Designed so you can direct your own tour with the help of a map and brief audio presentations at each stop, the Pioneer Museum does a great job of bringing those early days to life. One of the unique buildings is an authentic Sunday House, used by early settlers on weekends when they came to town to conduct business and attend church. A typical Sunday House had only one downstairs room with a lean-to kitchen and sleeping quarters that were only reachable by an outdoor stairway or ladder.

National Museum of the Pacific War's George H. W. Bush Gallery  | Marc Bennett
National Museum of the Pacific War's George H. W. Bush Gallery | Marc Bennett

THE NATION’S HISTORY
Fredericksburg is also home to the six-acre National Museum of the Pacific War, a 55,000–square-foot exhibit space featuring three galleries. As the only museum in the continental United States solely dedicated to telling the story of World War II in the Pacific, it does a thorough job with interactive displays, short films, personal artifacts, and more. Take a guided tour and expect to be overwhelmed at times. There is so much information here that two-day passes are an often-purchased option. In my personal experience, I was exhausted after my two-and-a-half-hour visit, but I can’t wait to get back for more. “Hold your horses,” you might ask. “How did a Smithsonian-level museum come to be in Fredericksburg, Texas?” Well, Fredericksburg just happens to be the hometown of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet during World War II. One of the three galleries is named after another Texan, our 41st President, George H. W. Bush, who flew a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber during the war.

Speaking of United States presidents, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park lies not far away. This beautiful piece of land tells the story of our 36th president from his ancestors until he was laid to rest on the grounds. Although the Texas White House was recently closed for extensive renovation, visitors still have access to LBJ’s boyhood home and other engaging exhibits.

Statue of the Peace Treaty at Marktplatz | Steve Rawls
Statue of the Peace Treaty at Marktplatz | Steve Rawls

SHOPPING LOCAL
Long loved by Texans for its oodles of unique shops, Fredericksburg has more boutiques than you might imagine. They’re all independently owned because they’re located in a National Historic District, and franchises and chain stores are not allowed. Consequently, you’re guaranteed an incomparable shopping experience. Here, the focus is on clothing, jewelry, home décor, gourmet foods, and pieces of art. If you want to step off the main drag and mingle with local residents, there’s the Warehouse District, just south of Main Street along Lincoln Street as well as Llano and Washington Streets. You’ll find trendy, industrial chic shops offering an array of items. Browse Black Chalk Home + Laundry and stop at Woerner Warehouse for breakfast. August E’s is one of the best spots in town for a gourmet dinner, with sushi, akaushi steak, and themed menus such as Thai Tuesdays—a local favorite.

Road to Enchanted Rock | Steve Rawls
Road to Enchanted Rock | Steve Rawls

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
Geologically speaking, the Fredericksburg area holds many wonders, including Enchanted Rock, a sheer giant granite dome, which is just part of a 20- by 12-mile-long batholith situated about 18 miles out of town. It opened as a state natural area in 1978 and serves as a mecca for archeologists, rock climbers, hikers, and picnickers. On a clear day, you can climb the short-but-steep Summit Trail to admire 360-degree views of the peaks and valleys of Texas Hill Country. At night, the pitch-black sky makes it one of the best public places for stargazing in Central Texas.

Cycling is also popular here, where the county’s rolling, lightly traveled backroads beckon. You can rent a bike or sign up for a guided cycling tour at Hill Country Bicycle. Owned by Lisa and Adam Salladin, who know the local roads like the backs of their hands, the shop provides everything you could possibly need, including electric bikes. Ask them to take you to Luckenbach so you can see the bar made famous by a classic country hit by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

Fischer & Wieser Culinary Adventure Tasting Room
Fischer & Wieser Culinary Adventure Tasting Room

WINE COUNTRY
This undulating terrain is also home to an established wine country producing world-class wines. In my three-day visit, I was able to stop at several wineries offering a compelling assortment of varietals and blends. You can work a winery or two into your itinerary each day. Stop into a tasting room between shops on Main Street. Make lunch reservations at a vineyard as you return from a hike and try local wines in the restaurants and wine bars. They can ship wine to California, so order a case of your favorites, or join a wine club. Each time you receive a wine shipment you’ll be reminded of the wonderful time you spent in Fredericksburg, the town with a Texas heart and a German soul.

For more information, see visitfredericksburgtx.com.

Ololo guest house
Ololo guest house
Cycling along the backroads | Steve Rawls
Cycling along the backroads | Steve Rawls

Plan Your Trip

WHEN TO GO
Pretty much anytime is good, but each spring, the hillsides surrounding Fredericksburg alight with bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Mexican Hat. Late summer marks peach season, and autumn is time for Oktoberfest! As Christmas approaches, there are festive ways to celebrate all over town.

WHERE TO STAY
Ololo
stayatololo.com

Hoffman Haus
hoffmanhaus.com

The Lodge Above Town Creek
thelodgeabovetowncreek.com