New Yorkers have the Hamptons, their go-to weekend getaway spot, much cooler than Manhattan’s concrete jungle and a favorite escape each summer. On the West Coast, folks flee the urban sprawl to cruise the California wine country, places like Sonoma and Napa, where they enjoy wine tastings, farm-to-table restaurants and bed and breakfast inns. But folks in San Antonio have the best escape of all a quick one-hour traffic-free drive to Fredericksburg.
This historic German settlement, tucked away in the breeze-friendly Hill Country, is a favorite destination of visitors from all over the state and offers a restful retreat from the commotion of city life. But not everyone goes to Fredericksburg simply to sit in a rocker and eat the juicy little peaches for which the area is famous. Fredericksburg offers a great many options year-round for active families, romantic couples and adventurous singles. Each year, the area is home to more than 300 festivals and special events, and fun everyday activities fill the local calendar, such as winery tours, the lavender trail, scenic wildflower drives, “Sunday Haus” private lodging options, boutique shops, art galleries and studios, day spas and both Pedernales State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park nearby. With fine dining, local wines, live music, educational museums and more, Fredericksburg makes visitors want to return often or stay a lifetime. In this quiet town of 10,600 residents, deer crossings are the only traffic spots to consider. Historic limestone structures, old Texas churches, a broad main street, fudge shops, state parks, outdoor recreation opportunities and more make Fredericksburg the ultimate Texas getaway destination.
On the first Friday night of every month, Fredericksburg’s downtown starts hopping with its First Friday Art Walk (the next ones happening Sept. 6 and Oct. 4), where friends meet to visit, browse galleries, talk to local artists, watch art demonstrations, nibble on snacks and sip wine. Just strolling down the sidewalk takes time, as Fredericksburg offers an array of local shops, art galleries and studios along its downtown streets. Galleries open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and feature a full day of art events, so allow plenty of time to visit as many as you can.
Shops with fine furniture and design elements are popular here, so it’s only natural that Fredericksburg is home to the Texas Mesquite Art Festival, to be held Oct. 11-13 in the downtown Marktplaz (marketplace) square. There you’ll see collections of sculptured wood, including large furniture made entirely from mesquite, as well as unique craft and gift items, all carefully carved from mesquite.
Roll out the barrel
October in Fredericksburg offers so much more than mesquite arts, of course. Founded in 1846 by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach, the commissioner general of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, or the “Noblemen’s Society,” Fredericksburg proudly celebrates its German heritage year round — and what better way to do that than with a big Oktoberfest celebration each autumn? Much like those held in Germany and in cities worldwide, Fredericksburg’s Oktoberfest is a big event held annually during the first weekend in October (Oct. 4-6). The weekend festival is a community celebration of family entertainment and features three stages of German polka and “oompah” music, art and crafts, children’s activities in the “Kinder Park,” a German biergarten (beer garden) tent, and even an Oktoberfest Vineyard area showcasing local wines. A big chicken dance on Main Street is sure to bring a smile, along with the town’s annual domino tournament. Authentic German food, cold brews and sodas, and nonstop music are all part of the festivities.
But you don’t have to attend Oktoberfest to get a sense of Fredericksburg’s German roots. From the historic buildings of hand-hewn white limestone and local lumber, to the town’s clean streets, waiters in lederhosen and signs with German names on nearly every business, an Old World style still prevails in Fredericksburg. Many children still call their grandparents Oma and Opa, and German words easily commingle with English on the tongues of old-timers. Year-round, the town offers authentic German fare in local restaurants like the inviting white limestone Der Lindenbaum restaurant on Main Street, where wiener schnitzel, jaeger schnitzel and bratwurst are always on the menu. Aldorf Biergarten is another fine spot to sample good German eats. Under the same ownership since 1985, Aldorf’s sits along Main Street in a limestone building dating back to 1847, but its main draw is its shady outdoor biergarten. Many men make it their waiting spot while wives shop downtown. They may wait a long time, for there are more than 150 shops in Fredericksburg.
Shoppers, collectors, antique buffs and local “pickers” are also sure to enjoy Fredericksburg Trade Days, which take place the weekend of the third Saturday each month (Sept. 14-15 and Oct. 15-16) with 350 vendors and six barns of antiques, clothing, jewelry, furniture and more. Trade Days also hosts a tented biergarten, live music and over 50 varieties of beer.
Sweet on Fredericksburg
Foodies also love Fredericksburg, and not just because it has great beer and sausage and 94 restaurants. It also is home to several German bakeries, including the oldest continuously operating business on Main Street, the Fredericksburg Bakery, founded in 1917. Those with a sweet tooth also adore another Main Street shop, Chocolat, offering handmade liquid -filled chocolates and other delights. There are also local ice cream and fudge shops, coffee bars and pie shops. And with fine dining at farm-to-table eateries like August E’s, the Farm House Bistro and others, as well as wines, cigars and appetizers at Lincoln Street Wine Market, epicureans will feel right at home. They’ll also love the annual Fredericksburg Food & Wine Festival, to be held this year on Oct. 26, featuring a taste of the Hill Country’s Texas Wine Month Trail. The area is home to 20 wineries and five wine tour companies, and there’s even a wine shuttle on Saturdays that allows winery guests to imbibe a bit and not drive.
Sunday Haus style
Fredericksburg is perhaps best known for its enchanting little cottages or Sunday Haus lodgings. Home to more than 400 bed and breakfast inns, Sunday Haus and hotel options (many children- and pet-friendly and most boasting WiFi), the area welcomes weekend visitors. A block off Main Street sits the romantic Austin Street Retreat, a trio of spacious stand-alone cottages. Outside town, Settler’s Crossing, set on 22 acres of tree-lined, sheep-filled meadows, offers enchanting Pennsylvania Dutch-style houses, many with fireplaces and outdoor patios, just a few miles north of Luckenbach, Texas’ famous “ghost town” watering hole. A unique small hotel near the county airport is the stylish aviation-themed Hanger Hotel, designed to look like a WWII aircraft hanger from the 1940s. Its piano bar and art deco soda-fountain-style diner are also worth a visit.
Stay a little longer
Fredericksburg is not just attractive to weekend visitors and wildflower lovers who drive the Willow City Loop in search of bluebonnets in spring, or those who visit local lavender farms in June. Many city dwellers are moving to Fredericksburg, seeking Texas-sized ranch houses, small second-homes and sprawling golf communities in the area. Expat Austinites, who call the town “Fred” for short, are finding it an ideal place to live or spend long vacations. Movie producer Lynda Obst (Hope Floats and Sleepless in Seattle) is but one city slicker who left the fast lane for a slower pace in Texas. “This is my perfect life,” Obst told Texas Monthly. “A little house in Austin with weekends in Fredericksburg.” Many who come to the Hill Country love places like Boot Ranch, where homestead estates are carefully planned to preserve the area’s natural beauty. Surrounded by 25-mile vistas, waterfalls, ponds, trees and green pastures, Boot Ranch even features a Hal Sutton-designed championship golf course.
So whether you escape to Fredericksburg for a weekend or a lifetime, it always makes a perfect.