There are very few places you can go for a weekend getaway that truly have it all. Want to go gallery hopping, wine tasting or rock climbing? Do you love history, architecture, and culture? In Fredericksburg, Texas you can have all of that with a ruggedly beautiful landscape and Texas hospitality.
Located deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, this attractive German town has become a top destination with visitors from all over the world. It’s the ideal place for travelers who wish to commune with nature, rest their eyes on a star-filled sky, or history buffs wishing to delve deeper into the legendary state of Texas. In Fredericksburg, it’s possible to imagine you’ve “gotten away from it all.”
Why Go To The Texas Hill Country Now?
Southern Living, Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Texas Highways are just a few of the publications that have featured the Texas Hill Country in the past year. Go now, while there’s still plenty of wide-open space and a tasting at one of the many wineries is only $12.00.
What’s the story?
Fredericksburg was settled in the mid-1800s by German immigrants looking for a better life. Most were highly educated and brought their music, literature, and art with them. Today, decedents of these pioneer families still live in the area.
To really get an idea of what the pioneer life was like in and around Fredericksburg, visit the Pioneer Museum. There are eight buildings–some are original homes, barns, and businesses, located on the museum grounds. Each structure contains artifacts of the era and some have recorded audio telling the history of the building. A self-guided tour will take about an hour –or take as long as you like.
From the museum website
“The Pioneer Museum will immerse you in the stories of the people who built this unique community. As you visit the Museum you will travel from the 1840s to the 1920s, pausing to imagine the early settlers’ struggles to survive and preserve their German way of life.”
Touring the Museum provides the opportunity to delve deeper into the history of Fredericksburg. I learned a thing or two and some of it was quite eye-opening. But I won’t spoil it for you– I’ll let you discover it on your own.
Where to Stay
Fredericksburg has the largest variety and number of rooms of any place in the Hill Country– from hosted guest houses and B&Bs, to self-catering rooms and private homes.
The Inn on Baron’s Creek
308 S. Washington
The Inn on Baron’s Creek is a 90-room hotel with a spa, heated saltwater pool, and pretty walking trail around the creek. All rooms are either queen or king suites and come with wireless internet, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, and a flat-screen television in both the sitting room and the bedroom.
Additionally, there are seven private guest rooms with creek views for those wanting a cozier ambiance. Best of all, you’ll be within walking distance of Main St. You can park your car and not drive again for the remainder of your stay.
Buffet-style breakfast is served each morning beginning at 6:00 am. I love to get up early to take photographs and normally, there is nothing open for hours, so this was a bonus. I was able to grab something quick to eat and still have plenty of time to capture those early morning light images. I also found the staff super helpful with information about activities, driving directions, and restaurants.
Room rates average around $139 per night, but do book in advance; holidays, festivals and weekends book up early.
What To Do
Go gallery hopping
Spend the day ambling down Main St. exploring the shops and galleries.
Fredericksburg has gained a reputation as a destination for southwest art, but you’ll also find contemporary art, photography, sculpture, and a lot more.
There are too many galleries and shops to list them all but I’ve included a couple of suggestions here.
RS Hanna Gallery on Llano St. features original works by acclaimed artists in oil, watercolor, bronze, and wood. The gallery is located in an authentic limestone pioneer home.
208 S. Llano St.
Located in an original Sunday house built in the late 1800s, Agave Gallery features only Texas artists. There’s also a live sculpture studio where you can watch the artist at work.
208. E. San Antonio St.
Texcetera – Permanently closed 2020
207 N. Nugent Ave
Texcetera is a fun art gallery curated by Ann Bradley who previously owned one of the most successful galleries in Fredericksburg. I like her mix of art, jewelry, pottery and sculpture. And need I say only Texas artists are featured.
Texcetera is in Johnson City about 20 minutes east of Fredericksburg off Hwy. 290
Visit the Texas White House
During Lyndon B. Johnson’s time as the 36th president of the United States, he managed to spend a lot of time at his ranch in Texas. Hence, the ranch house became known as the Texas White House.
A free pass for driving through the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park can be obtained at the Visitor’s Center in Johnson City. The drive is marked by signs along the way explaining Johnson’s interest in cattle, ranching, and the environment. At the end of the drive, you’ll find the house that was referred to as the White House, an airplane hanger and landing strip, and Johnson’s boyhood home.
Guided tours with a park ranger can be arranged there. As you exit the end of the driving tour you’ll see the family cemetery on your right under a nice stand of old shady oak trees.
For an FAQ with park hours, fees, and more visit the website .
Discover the Architecture
There are over 700 historically significant buildings in Fredericksburg. Take a guided walking tour. The tour includes thirty of those buildings which I’m sure you’ll find much more manageable.
You can also take a self-guided tour down Main St., simply read all the plaques adorning the wonderful old structures.
If you prefer the guided tour, it begins and ends at the Visitor’s Center
Don’t miss Hondo’s a classic limestone building on Main St. originally owned by writer and humorist, Hondo Crouch. His daughter still owns the building. You’ll see signs of Hondo’s sense of humor everywhere and Hondo’s is one of the few places in town that has live music every night. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Get Close to Mother Earth
Many people travel to the Hill Country for one reason– to visit the pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock. Found on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological district, Enchanted Rock contains over 400 archaeological sites.
All kinds of outdoor activities can be enjoyed here, but be sure to arrive early. It’s a popular place and the park limits the number of daily visitors. If you plan to spend time hiking or climbing, make sure you’ve got the right gear, especially shoes. For more information on Enchanted Rock visit the Texas parks website.
Enchanted Rock has been the object of many myths and legends – the native Indians believe it to be mystical and spiritual.
Drive the Willow City Loop.
The Willow City Loop is one of the prettiest drives anywhere and I should know. I’ve driven California’s scenic central coast and the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. It’s a beautiful drive that will take about an hour or two depending on how fast you go. During peak seasons (spring and fall), you will find a line of cars and even some tour buses. Try to go during the week or early in the morning before everyone else is up and at it. This is a private ranch road and the residents ask that you do not stop or trespass on the property. Be respectful and enjoy!
From Fredericksburg take Hwy. 16 north to the Willow City exit. Follow the signs.
One Of The Top 10 Wine Destinations In The US
I was surprised to learn that Texas has the second largest American viticulture area (AVA) in the USA, and is number five in overall wine production. Who knew? Wine Enthusiast recently rated it “One of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations In The World.” I’m telling you– go now.
Wineries to visit
Hye, TX 78635
Calais is Benjamin Calais, a Frenchman turned Texas winemaker. Benjamin brings his French sensibilities to winemaking and the results are winning awards. Tastings are by appointment only. The atmosphere is bare-bones but fun and informative as you taste some of the best wines in Texas. It’s easy to drive right by Calais as there is no fancy winery or big outdoor space. Look for the French flag.
William Chris Vineyards
Hye, Texas 78635
William Christ is located in Hye on Highway 290. They’ve just added a modern and beautiful tasting room for club members with expansive views of the vineyards. There’s also outdoor seating for guests who purchase a bottle. All tastings are by appointment only. William Chris makes wine from a variety of grapes, most grown on their estate vineyards. Every year new grapes and wines are added but the regular offerings include Mourvedre, Sangiovese Bordeaux blends, and Petite Verdot. Enchante’ is their Flagship wine and is a Bordeaux blend.
Torre di Pietra
10915 Hwy. 290
Permanently Closed 2020
Torre di Pietra has a very interesting history with a Spanish influence dating back to the 1800s. Owner Ken Maxwell built his tasting room of sandstone instead of the usual Texas limestone, giving the winery a more European flair. He’s also doing some pretty interesting things with his grapes which he’ll tell you about if you book the recommended vineyard tour.
Ken’s sense of humor is everywhere, especially the wine labels. Check out Midnight Nymph, a lush, fruit-forward red, made with 96% Primitivo grapes, and Dirty Girl, a fun white wine with a slight effervescence. The tasting room and vineyards are located on Hwy. 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City. Torre di Pietra has live music every Saturday night.
2916 Upper Albert Rd.
This award-winning winery is located just off Hwy. 290 on a hilltop with panoramic views over the Pedernales River Valley. There’s a lovely tree-shaded deck where you can relax while enjoying a glass of one of their benchmark wines. Owned and operated by a sixth-generation Texas family, Pedernales Cellars practices sustainable farming in order to keep the land and wine pristine for generations to come. Pedernales Cellars was named a Top 10 Winery by National Geographic in 2014.
464 Becker Farms Rd.
Becker produces a large variety of wines in the Rhone, Bordeaux, and Burgundian style. They also have an amazing array of retail items for sale from wine kitsch to tee shirts and products made from their own lavender farm.
Becker Vineyards has been featured in Wine Spectator and Food and Wine Magazine. Go late April to early May for the lavender harvest. Open daily.
US Hwy. 290
4.0 is a collaboration of three Texas wineries: Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. This is a very different tasting room experience. The interior is very new, modern and airy, while outside, there are tables with umbrellas scattered about.
There’s also a selection of cheeses you can buy or sample.
Have you tried any of these wines?
Emma and Ollie
607 S. Washington
The manifesto at Emma and Ollie is rooted in keeping tradition alive, the environment clean, and serving food that makes people happy – at least that’s my interpretation. Chef and co-owner Rebecca Rather is an acclaimed pastry chef, so expect desserts made with real sugar and butter, just like your grandmother did.
Emma and Ollie is open five days a week for breakfast, lunch, and Sunday brunch. I went for lunch and tried one of the specials – chicken enchiladas with a sour cream tomatillo sauce and black beans. Delicious. I saved some for later and ordered one of the giant chocolate chip cookies to go. Most of the desserts are old school recipes like lemon bars, Hello Dollies, pecan tarts, and enormous cookies. This is one of the best places in Fredericksburg so it’s always busy. On weekends you will definitely need a reservation.
Old German Bakery
The Old German Bakery is open for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week; arrive early and expect to wait. Everyone raves about this place so I decided to give it a try for breakfast. Since they specialize in German food it seemed only right to order a German pancake and sausage. The website says everything is made from scratch. To me, the pancake was tasteless without syrup, and chewy. The sausage, likewise, lacked flavor. Maybe it was just a bad day; plenty of folks swear by this place. If you’re curious and don’t mind waiting, check it out.
803 E. Main St.
Navajo Grill serves unique “southern style cuisine” in a lovely rustic setting. There’s an outdoor patio with a covered option if the elements are a deterrent. A popular dish is the cedar plank grilled salmon with kale quinoa side. The salmon was perfectly cooked but if you are on a low- sodium diet ask them to hold the salt.
316 E. Austin St.
Can’t go to Fredericksburg without eating German food? Try Otto’s. It was recommended to me several times and had consistently good reviews on every site I checked– it’s German food with a modern spin on it.
902 S. Adams
For breakfast try the Eggs Benedict or, a gluten-free or vegan option. Sunset Grill is also noteworthy for it’s art deco design in a town full of turn-of-the-century German architecture. Service is friendly and you can recharge your iPhone while you’re eating.
If you don’t own a convertible, rent one, put the top down, and enjoy the clean air and big Texas sky.
There’s only one way to see the Hill Country and that’s by car. You can fly into Austin or San Antonio, but you’ll still need to do some driving.
I drove this crazy cute Mazda Miata convertible.
Driving a convertible is an exhilarating experience and even more so driving on a stunning country road, with the air blowing your hair back and the scents of nature: cut grass, fresh-turned soil, cattle poop. Ok, maybe cattle dung is not so aromatic, but it is part of the experience. The nice thing about the convertible top on the Miata is that it takes less than a minute to put it up if it begins to rain. Pretty convenient. I confess I also enjoyed the comments and looks I got driving this sexy convertible.
From Dallas you can take either I-35 or Hwy. 281 or Hwy. 16. I-35 is the least scenic and potentially the most traffic. I’d avoid it unless you are traveling non-peak hours. 281 is a better choice. If you have a little more time, Hwy. 16 is the most picturesque.
From Austin take Hwy. 290 W.
From San Antonio take U.S. Interstate 10 N.
Fredericksburg isn’t only Main St. Take a detour down any of the side streets and discover boutique wineries, antique stores, and intimate bistros.
When are you going?
My trip to Fredericksburg was partially sponsored by Visit Fredericksburg. and Mazda.