If you have a “been there, done that” attitude about weekend getaways in the Hill Country, you’ve obviously forgotten how fabulous springtime in Fredericksburg can be. There’s so much to do and see in this Hill Country hamlet that each visit brings pleasant surprises.
Combining quiet charm and exciting entertainment options, Fredericksburg (population, approximately 9,000) offers visitors more fun than most major cities. There’s no shortage of choices when it comes to fine dining, fascinating attractions, great lodging and boutique shopping. Besides, the Hill Country is arguably the most beautiful part of Texas, and there’s nothing like a Sunday drive down lanes lined by bluebonnets and a hearty German meal to set the world right.
This little town has long been a favorite of San Antonians, for it takes little more than an hour to get there, and the flavor of this old German settlement and the barbecue-basics of the whole Fredericksburg scene are as refreshing as iced tea on a hot afternoon. With mild Texas weather autumn through spring, it’s always the right time for a Hill Country road trip, so Fredericksburg is worth revisiting.
GERMAN SPOKEN HERE
While the area has ties to early American Indian tribes, Fredericksburg and Gillespie County are most closely associated with their German heritage. However, according to Gillespie county records, the first known area residents were the Tonkawa Indians. By the 19th century, Comanches and Kiowas had also moved into the area. It wasn’t until 1846 that European immigrants arrived. That year, a man named John O. Meusebach led a group of 120 Germans to the site of Fredericksburg. The town would become one in a series of German communities between the Texas coast and the Hill Country.
Today, the influences of both the American Indian and German heritage live in the hearts and homes of Fredericksburg residents. Apparent in the food, art, architecture, music and legends of the area, both cultures continue to influence and inform the people of Fredericksburg, ensuring that the traditions and stories continue for generations to come.
STAY AND PLAY
Because Fredericksburg is such an easy weekend getaway destination, it is home to hundreds of bed and breakfast inns, country houses, cabins, “Sunday Haus” stays and more, and each offers a unique experience for visitors.
An unusual place to stay is the Trois Estate at Enchanted Rock, a Santa Fe-meets-Mayan-style village just 16 miles outside of town on the way to the famous batholith, Enchanted Rock. The estate is home to a fine restaurant, a wedding chapel, an underground grotto/swimming pool, a full-service spa, several shops, a saloon/theater venue, special event salons, a well-stocked wine cellar, comfortable private lodgings, quiet courtyards and even a nifty cap gun museum housing the largest cap gun collection in the world.
While you’re there, spend the cool morning hours climbing Enchanted Rock. This is a good hike for the whole family, as it is just challenging enough to be fun, yet easy enough that even youngsters can do it. Enchanted Rock is a National Natural Landmark and a State Natural Area consisting of 1,644 acres on Big Sandy Creek, about 16 miles north of Fredericksburg. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Tonkawa Indians believed ghost fires flickered at the top, and they heard weird creaking and groaning, which geologists now say resulted from the rock’s heating by day and contracting in the cool night.” Centuries later, the rock still is a place with a sense of mystery and fascination for many.
Another place with a special allure is Settler’s Crossing, a 35- acre estate with seven private historic guesthouses featuring fireplaces and 18th- and 19th-century country antiques. Just minutes from Fredericksburg off Highway 290 on Ranch Road 1376, Settler’s Crossing is on the road to Luckenbach, the onehorse town that Hondo Crouch bought and Willie, Waylon and the boys made famous with a hit country song in the 1970s.
Couples wishing for a quiet getaway can stay close to town in an enchanting little cottage. Allen’s Log Cabin sits under shade trees in a quiet residential area about a mile from town. If you want to be within walking distance of the shops, restaurants and wine bars, the Austin Street Retreat offers charming individual guest cottages, too.
Gastehaus Schmidt reservation service is a good resource online or in person if you’re looking for a place to stay. Just walk into their downtown office to see photographs and find information on each property available. They’ll even give you a key and a map to most places so you can let yourself into your little hideaway.
Fredericksburg is probably best known for two things: shops and bluebonnets, and you’ll find plenty of both there this spring. Main Street is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, biergartens, bakeries and more. There are two wine bars, cigar shops, workshops of local craftsmen, wine-tasting rooms, art galleries, antique stores, candy and fudge stops and coffee shops.
One special find is Chocolat, a home to the delicate creations of chocolatier Lecia Duke, who went to Switzerland to learn the fine art of making liquor-filled chocolates.
Another popular morning stop is the old Dietz Bakery. But don’t sleep in: The bread they make each morning, and most everything else, sells out by about 9 a.m. Other popular shops include those that feature lavender products from local farmers, wine from area wineries and crafts by local artisans.
Fredericksburg and the nearby town of Stonewall are also known for the fabulous fresh peaches grown there and sold at roadside stands beginning in May and into the summer.
MUSEUMS AND MORE
The Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War, the Pioneer Museum, the Vereins Kirche Museum, Gish’s Old West Museum, the Trois Cap Gun Museum and the Fort Martin Scott Historic Site are just a few of the many interesting and educational offerings in Fredericksburg. Also not to be missed is the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in the nearby town of Johnson City, where nature and wildlife guided tours and walks will be offered most Saturdays in May. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about the history of this nation and this area through fascinating exhibits and hands-on programs offered at these museums and historic sites. Coming up is a Pacific combat living history program on May 24.
THE BEST “WURST” MEAL EVER
So many sausages, so little time: With just a weekend to stay in Fredericksburg, one often finds that there just aren’t enough meals in the day to enjoy all the great restaurants. Because the German fare found there is divine, Der Lindenbaum restaurant is always a good choice for a traditional meal of Wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, hot German potato salad and cucumber salad. The desserts are exceptional, too.
Another popular spot for casual family dining is Friedhelms Bavarian Restaurant. For a rather sweet start or end to your shopping day, stop in the Rather Sweet Bakery, which has earned national acclaim in publications like Oprah’s O magazine. For fine dining at night, try Bonterra. Its chef trained and worked in fine restaurants under famous New Orleans chefs.
LOVELY IN LAVENDER, WONDERFUL WITH WINE
For years, Fredericksburg has been on the “wine trail” with a string of wineries along the highways and byways of Gillespie County and beyond. With wineries scattered across the countryside like wildflowers in the hills, and with many offering tours, wine-tasting events and overnight lodgings, Fredericksburg is still a hot destination for oenophiles (wine lovers). However, it’s also a prime place for those who love the sweet fragrance of lavender.
The Lavender Trail comprises about 10 separate lavender farms throughout the Texas Hill Country, with several calling the Fredericksburg area home. Because the Hill Country soil is similar to that of Provence and good for growing grapes and lavender, lavender farms and wineries have found success and popularity with visitors. Buy fragrant lavender products such as sachets, soaps, laundry liquid, potpourri and more, or take the children and cut your own lavender fresh from the fields. Many visitors come to take photos, just as they do in the fields of bluebonnets in the spring.
Take a special tour of the lavender farms during Fredericksburg’s Lavender Fest and “Lavender Trail: Farm to Table,” which takes place on May 17-18. The trail continues with events and open houses through June 30. Even local restaurants will take part in the fun by serving foods infused with locally grown lavender.
One of our favorite stops is Becker Vineyards, just a few miles outside of town, as it provides a perfect one-stop spot for tasting some of the finest award-winning wines in the Texas Hill Country and seeing some of the most beautiful lavender. Becker’s 10,040-square-foot winery is located in a reproduction 19th-century German stone barn surrounded by grazing quarter horses, peach orchards and fields of native wildflowers and lavender. With 46 acres of French vinifera vines, Becker Vineyards generate eight different available varietals, including Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
The three-acre lavender field behind the winery is the creation of Becker Vineyard owners Richard and Bunny Becker, who were inspired by the lavender fields they saw on a trip to Provence. They returned to plant 10,000 lavender plants in 1998. “It was beautiful to see the lavender fields in France. The scent of lavender was everywhere, and the color was extraordinary,” Richard Becker recalls.
The blooming season for the lavender typically occurs in May and June. The plants can be viewed year round, and guests are encouraged to experience the field during their visit to the winery. But lavender isn’t the only plant to enjoy at Becker Vineyards. In 2006 the Beckers planted red poppies and bluebonnets in the surrounding fields. These plants bloom April through May.
WILD ABOUT WILDFLOWERS
Another popular stop is at Wildseed Farms just seven miles outside Fredericksburg on Highway 290. Here, beautiful fields of flowers in bloom each spring provide a perfect backdrop for family photographs. There are also a live butterfly exhibit, known as The Butterfly Haus (www.wildseedfarms.com/hundredso _native_texas_butterf.htm) and an area called The Meadows, which are the trial plot and research fields. Visitors can buy wildflower seeds or specialty items like jellies, jams, salsas and marinades to take home, or they can order by catalog. Wildseed Farms often offers other family-friendly events throughout the year, such as a gourmet Chili Pepper and Salsa festival in the summer. Coming up May 17 is its Wild about Texas “Harvesting our Texas Bounty” dinner tour.
WOW, WHAT A POWWOW!
Of course, neither wine nor wildflowers nor lavender is a great surprise for visitors who have been to Fredericksburg. One thing that might be is the big Fredericksburg Inter-Tribal Powwow held annually — this year on May 9. Admission is free, and the public is welcome to come and see dancers wearing elaborate American Indian feathered costumes.
REVISIT AN OLD FRIEND
Whether it is the great food, the natural beauty of the area or the friendly people there, something always keeps folks coming back to Fredericksburg. Isn’t it time you revisited this old friend?