June 4, 2015
Hidden in the fresh, breeze-friendly Texas Hill Country, just an hour northwest of San Antonio, Fredericksburg is a historic German settlement and favourite place for a city escape. Offering a retreat from the commotion of city life, not to mention the heat, Fredericksburg is a popular weekend getaway destination for San Antonio locals and Austinites, as well as visitors from across the globe. It’s an ideal place to find peace, quiet, and a real sense of rest, but there’s more to do there than just sitting in a rocker, watching the sunset, and eating the juicy little peaches for which the area is famous.
Year round, people visit Fredericksburg for its festivals, shopping, outdoor recreation and relaxing rual atmosphere. The area is home to more than 300 annual festivals and special events, and everyday activities include winery tours, meandering along the lavender trail, enjoying scenic wildflower drives and more. With romantic “Sunday Haus” private lodging options, boutique shops, art galleries and studios, day spas, and both Pedernales State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park, as well as the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site nearby, Fredericksburg is an ideal holiday spot.
This quiet Texas town of 10,600 residents, settled in the 1800s by German immigrants, is home to historic limestone structures, Old World-style churches, a broad main street, surprisingly special little museums and other enchanting attractions. The larger rural area in which the town is set is equally charming, with high hills, sprawling vistas, patches of colourful wildflowers, large outcroppings of granite and limestone, a rambling river fed by clear springs, oak trees, peach tree orchards, vineyards and more.
On the first Friday night of every month, Fredericksburg’s downtown hosts a First Friday Art Walk, where friends meet to visit, browse galleries, talk to local artists, watch art demonstrations, nosh on snacks and sip wine. Just strolling down the sidewalk takes time, as Fredericksburg has more than 150 original boutiques, shops, art galleries and studios along its downtown streets, and beyond.
If you’re looking to visit Fredericksburg, consider planning your trip to coincide with the town’s big Oktoberfest celebration. Held annually during the first weekend in October, it’s a community celebration of family entertainment featuring three stages of German polka and “oompah” music, art and crafts, children’s activities, and even an Oktoberfest Vineyard area showcasing local wines.
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, the odd waiter in lederhosen and many businesses with German names, an Old-World style still prevails in Fredericksburg.
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. Altdorf Biergarten is another fine spot to sample good German eats.
Shoppers, collectors, antiques lovers and local “pickers” are also sure to enjoy Fredericksburg Trade Days, which take place over the weekend of the third Saturday of each month, with 350 vendors and six barns of antiques, clothing, jewellery, furniture and more. Trade Days also involve a covered beer garden, live music and about 50 varieties of beer.
Fans of antiques also like Fredericksburg and favour shops like Carol Hicks Bolton AntiqÃ¼ités (formerly Homestead & Friends). Interesting old pieces and clever new objects fill this enormous space on Lincoln Street. From vintage textiles to French and European antiques, taxidermy animals to pottery, garden items, and art from 15 different countries, this funky shop is nothing if not intriguing.
Another great find? Vaudeville offers a design-centric space on the first floor, an art gallery on the second, a French bistro, eclectic gourmet market and wine cellar in its basement and a fine-dining eatery, “Supper Club”, in its courtyard and in the wings of the historic building that houses it.
And lovers of art will like InSight Gallery on West Main Street, which features the works of some of the finest painters and sculptors working in landscape, figurative, impressionistic, still life, wild life and Western art.
Fredericksburg is famous for its German bakeries, including the Old German Bakery & Restaurant on Main Street. Those with a sweet tooth will adore another Main Street shop, Chocolat, which offers 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, Otto’s German Bistro, Vaudeville and other restaurants, as well as wines, cigars and appetizers at Lincoln Street Wine Market, epicureans will feel right at home.
This autumn, don’t miss the annual Fredericksburg Food & Wine Festival, featuring a taste of the Hill Country’s “Texas Wine Month Trail.” The Fredericksburg area has more than 20 wineries and five wine tour companies, and there’s even a wine shuttle on Saturdays that allows winery guests to drink without dooming one of the party to the role of designated driver. Our favourite stop? Becker Vineyards, which has a world-class wine-tasting room and offers tours of the winery.
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 child and pet-friendly), the area is perfect for weekend visitors. A block off Main Street sits the romantic Austin Street Retreat, a trio of spacious stand-alone cottages. Also nearby is Allen’s Cabin, a pioneer-style cabin that guests adore. Outside town, Settler’s Crossing – set on 22 acres of tree-lined, sheep-filled meadows – has enchanting Pennsylvania Dutch-style houses, many with fireplaces and outdoor patios, and all 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 diner are also worth a visit. The Trois Estate at Enchanted Rock is also a favourite local spot, offering a spectacular Santa Fe-style village that’s home to a bed and breakfast with impressive views of Enchanted Rock and the Hill Country. It’s also home to a Cap Gun Museum with the world’s largest collection of antique cap guns and mid-century children’s wild west memorabilia.
Fredericksburg’s not just attractive to weekend visitors and wildflower lovers who drive the Willow City Loop or visit Wildseed Farms in search of bluebonnets in spring, or those who visit local lavender farms in June. Many folks are moving to Fredericksburg, finding it an ideal place to live or spend long vacations. Whether you’re hoping to visit Fredericksburg for a weekend or for a lifetime, it’s the perfect great Texan escape.
Header image © Janis Turk
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Are you planning to visit Fredericksburg? Have you spent time in this corner of Texas? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Janis Turk