A heartfelt “Willkommen” greets visitors to Fredericksburg—a reminder of the German emigrants who came to Texas in the 1840s and settled the community. The welcoming spirit and Old World influence can be seen about town in architectural styles, music and culinary traditions, as well as in the lively character of its people.
Authentic German restaurants and specialty markets (with names like Das Peach Haus and Opa’s Smoked Meats) are a testament to Fredericksburg’s proud heritage, but the once struggling farm town has grown over time into a hip destination with a worldly flavor. An hour’s drive northwest of San Antonio, Fredericksburg offers museums, galleries, boutiques, biergartens, wineries and scenic parklands.
The unique blend of Texas heart and German soul appeals to visitors: the town’s population of 11,000 swells to 20,000 most weekends with art and antique lovers, foodies and outdoor enthusiasts. Springtime is especially popular with the Texas Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Poppies and other wildflowers in bloom. Peak season is mid-March through April, but Fredericksburg offers a colorful palate of year-round attractions.
History and Culture
Life on the range for the early German settlers is depicted at the Pioneer Museum Complex in Fredericksburg, featuring a schoolhouse, log cabins and a Sunday House—a tiny, quaint cottage built by farmers who typically lived in rural areas and used their Sunday House when they came into town to conduct business and attend church.
Fredericksburg is surrounded by many cultural attractions including the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, home of the “Texas White House.” A tour of the home and LBJ ranch offers a glimpse into the life of the 36th United States president, who conducted much of the nation’s business from his Texas home. The expansive park presents another look at 1800s Texas-German farm life at Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farmstead, with demonstrations of cooking, sausage making, canning and sheep shearing.
Home to the late U.S. Navy Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Fredericksburg has a unique museum dedicated to all who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. The National Museum of the Pacific War is a six-acre complex with multiple features: the George Bush Gallery, the Japanese Garden of Peace, a Memorial Courtyard, and a newly expanded Pacific Combat Zone exhibit. It can take many hours to see all the exhibits, some of which are quite moving, so admission tickets allow split visits.
Art, Wine and Flowers
A hub for artists and collectors, Fredericksburg boasts more than 20 galleries and studios representing many genres including landscape, western and impressionist paintings, contemporary art and sculpture. Gallery hopping is especially popular during First Friday Art Walks with artist receptions, demonstrations and sampling of Hill Country wine.
Named by Wine Enthusiast one of “Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations” in 2014, Texas Hill Country produces award-winning wines from favorite grape varietals including Petit Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier. Wine lovers can take an urban wine walk and discover a variety of Texas wines at downtown tasting rooms, and countless boutique wineries along the Wine Road 290 are open for visitors. Two standouts for informative presentations and fun wine/food pairings are Kuhlman Cellars and Four Point Cellars, offering tasty hors d’oeuvres and local cheeses to accompany the wines.
Wildflowers thrive along roadsides and among granite outcrops in the Hill Country’s diverse habitat, but the best place to view them up close is Wildseed Farms, the largest working wildflower farm in the country. The charismatic owner, John Thomas, (fittingly called “Poppy” by his grandchildren) encourages visitors to roam and enjoy the field paths, and he recently collaborated with Wedding Oak Winery for wine tasting at the farm. Flower and wine lovers can also follow the “Wine and Wildflower Trail” hosted by the Texas Hill Country Wineries.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, just outside of Fredericksburg, is a gem of a park with a massive granite dome and surrounding hiking trails. One can also hike to the top of the rock on the Summit Trail for a 360° view of the Texas Hill Country. High cliffs on the side of the dome are popular with rock climbers, and the park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, with excellent stargazing opportunities on scheduled evenings.
Hill Country is known for excellent cycling in the scenic rolling countryside on quiet, paved country roads, originally farm roads. Information for guided and unguided rides is available at Hill Country Bicycle Works. Cyclists will definitely use their gears on the popular route that loops by Luckenbach, the live music hub made famous by Waylon Jennings’ and Willie Nelson’s 1976 classic country hit.
A Medley of Flavors and Great Stays
One of Fredericksburg’s finest German restaurants, Der Lindenbaum, certainly has a homeland feel with its cozy interior and robust selection of schnitzels and German beers. But in addition to classic German fare, Fredericksburg boasts a selection of cuisine including Tex-Mex, Caribbean, Italian and Hill Country farm-to-table favorites. Burger Burger is the place for a true Texas-size burger made with grass-fed beef, and for lovely patio dining, Navajo Grill features quail, lamb and seafood in a contemporary fusion of Mexican and Creole flavors. For a food/wine pairing experience with the largest selection of Texas wines, foodies should head for Cabernet Grill.
Fredericksburg and surrounding Gillespie County offer a variety of unique accommodations—from country log cabins to bed & breakfasts, restored guesthouses and luxury inns. For cozy chic, take a Sunday House cottage at Fredericksburg Herb Farm, or stay in the historic log cabin at Das Peach Haus next to the specialty foods boutique. The Splendid Inn is a design showcase of eclectic home décor, and Blacksmith Quarters and Hoffman Haus offer elegant cottages with inviting outdoor space. For downtown convenience, the newly restored Cameron Inn and Main Street B&B are in the heart of Fredericksburg’s walkable historic district and the museums, restaurants, shops and tasting rooms. It is an impressive 15-hour drive to Fredericksburg from Chattanooga, or try the American Airlines nonstop Chattanooga to Dallas flight from $275 and rent a car to the hill country. The charm of this destination is surprising and well worth the trip.
Story by Ann N. Yungmeyer
Photography courtesy of the Fredericksburg CVB