There are very few places you can go for a weekend getaway that truly has it all. Want to go gallery hopping, wine tasting, or rock climbing? Do you love history, architecture, and culture? In Fredericksburg, Texas, you can do all of that and more, but don’t plan to spend less than 36 hours!
Located deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is an attractive German town that has become a top destination for visitors from all over the world. Travelers who wish to commune with nature, spend time star-gazing, and history buffs who wish to delve deeper into the legendary state of Texas, will find they can have all of that and a healthy serving of Texas hospitality.
Why Go To Fredericksburg, Texas 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 Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country. Now is the perfect time to visit, but the Hill Country is developing quickly; people come for a visit, then decide to stay.
Discover Fredericksburg’s History
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 get an idea of what 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. Allow at least an hour for a self-guided tour. Your admission allows you to stay 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 In Fredericksburg
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.
Cotton Gin Village
2805 S State Hwy 16
An atmosphere of rustic luxury, the Cotton Gin Village offers a feeling of getting away from it all just a couple of miles from Fredericksburg’s busy Main St. It’s a unique property comprised of seven individual log cabins and one “big house,” all built in the late 19th century in Kentucky and Tennesse. That’s where the rustic part ends. Inside these cabins, the decor is Texas country but the amenities are modern and plush.
The Fredericksburg Inn and Suites
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, a coffee maker, an 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 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 In Fredericksburg
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, these are just a few suggestions.
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.
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. many of the buildings have markers with history and descriptions.
If you prefer the guided tour, it begins and ends at the Visitor’s Center located at 315 Austin Street just behind the Museum of the Pacific War.
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. Hondo’s is one of the few places in town that has live music every night. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Outdoor Activities Near Fredericksburg
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.
Visit Lady Bird Municipal Park
The Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park is a 330-acre treasure, and it is just three miles from the center of Fredericksburg. You’ll feel like you’re much farther away, though.
There are nature trails, picnic spots with shaded pavilions, tennis courts, a seasonal swimming pool, BBQ pits, playgrounds, a nature trail; there’s even a creek that meanders through the park. It’s a good place for a hike, a run, a picnic, or just to get outside in nature.
The Vista Loop Trail is a very easy hike/walk and takes less than an hour, though you could take as long as you like. There are many distinct habitats found along the trail showcasing the diversity of plants, grasses, insects, and birds. A small section of the trail has been modified to be handicap accessible. This section includes a geology section, butterfly habitat, and bird feeding area.
The park is open daily until 10:00 pm. Admission is free. The park is accessible to everyone and you do not need to be in great shape to enjoy all the park has to offer.
Drive the Willow City Loop.
Another fun thing to do when visiting the Hill Country is to drive the Willow City Loop. It easily competes with other gorgeous routes I’ve driven like California’s scenic central coast and the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. It 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 so try to go on a weekday. This is a private ranch road and the residents ask that you do not stop or trespass on the property. Be respectful and enjoy!
The Hill Country Is 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, the Hill Country AVA. It 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. As of 2020, there is now a sign marking the entrance to Calais. When I went last year there was only a 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 at 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
UPDATED OCTOBER 2020
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.
In 2014 they introduced a new line of wine called Kuhlken-Osterberg. It is a high-end red wine made with only wine per vintage, and specifically from Portuguese varieties such as Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cao, and Touriga Nacional. It is available only as part of the Collector’s Club wine club.
2020 updates include a remodeled tasting room, more food options, and soon, a permanent food truck.
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.
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. You can also sample local cheese and sausages.
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.
Where To Eat In Fredericksburg
Emma and Ollie
607 S. Washington
The manifesto at Emma and Ollie is rooted in keeping the 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 and 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.
If you can’t go to Fredericksburg without eating German food and really, why would you, 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 its 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.
How To Get To Fredericksburg
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 quiet 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, I take I-35 south to the Highway 29 turn off in Georgetown. Head west on 29. You can also take 281 south or Highway 16 south. All routes are about 4 hours and 30 minutes without stops. The more scenic route is Highway 16.
When are you going?
My trip to Fredericksburg was partially sponsored by Visit Fredericksburg. and Mazda.