06 Sep Wanderings: Hill Country Haven: Fredericksburg, Texas
At 176 years old, Fredericksburg, Texas, is still abuzz with youthful enterprise. This small historic town located some 70 miles north of San Antonio is estimated to draw more than 1 million tourists annually.
In the mid-1800s, a delegation was sent to Germany to promote the region and encourage European settlement. To entice residents, the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas promised each immigrant a plot of land in town and 10 acres farther out. Some 120 Germans seized the opportunity, and thousands more followed.
Named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, Fredericksburg was founded on May 8, 1846. Since then, historians have meticulously preserved records, architecture, and the Texas-German dialect. “Fredericksburg has a Texas heart and a German soul,” describes Dave Schafer, a guide for Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg.
Today, the community’s 11,000 residents consist of pioneer descendants, transplants from other Texas regions, and out-of-staters. All are attracted to the area’s 100-plus wineries, fruit and produce stands, thriving restaurant scene, and lively shops.
To get your bearings, consider taking a tour by trolley. Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg picks up guests from the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau and guides them on a 75-minute ride through the downtown Historic District and to Civil War sites along the Fredericksburg Battlefield.
Afterward, stop inside the Visitor Bureau’s Visitor Information Center to pick up a Walking Tour map and continue to explore on foot. Downtown has been designated an official historic district by the National Register of Historic Places, and the map points out 30 historic structures on Main Street.
While touring the historical sites, take time along this 1-mile strip of 19th-century Western and German-style buildings to visit the antique stores, eateries, art galleries, and boutiques. Find Texas apparel at the Barefoot Campus Outfitter. Visit Flying Cow, a venture selling homemade balms using cow tallow, new to downtown Fredericksburg. Or pick up an award-winning cooking sauce, salsa, jam, appetizers, or other culinary accouterments at Fischer & Weiser on Main. Over the last 50-years, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods has been a theme park for food and wine, with an orchard, cooking classes, peach farm, and the newly opened Dietz Distillery, which makes gin and fruit brandies.
Another culinary creation is Quintessential Chocolates, which is known for liquor-filled chocolates. Learning from European masters, owner Lecia Duke perfected a thin candy shell that encapsulates the liquor so that it does not evaporate or seep into the chocolate coating. Since 1984, she has produced approximately 300 different types of fillings that include spirits, coffees, cocktails, and non-alcoholic fruit nectars.
In Fredericksburg, the adaptive reuse of 19th- and early 20th-century buildings has meant that former theaters, hospitals, and banks get a new lease on life. In the Warehouse District, industrial facilities are transformed into interior design temples. Blackchalk Home and Laundry is a chic home décor boutique operating in a former 1920s laundry. Carol Hicks Bolton Antiqüités occupies more than 30,000 square feet with bedding, linens, decorative wares, and antiques sourced from Europe and beyond.
Blocks away, galleries stay relevant with Western and contemporary art. InSight Gallery represents numerous award-winning artists working in landscape, figurative, Impressionism, still life, wildlife, and Western art. Gallery 330 specializes in contemporary realism and Impressionism. The Good Art Company displays works by 28 artists, including ethereal landscapes by acrylic artist Robin Hegemier. And Charles Morin Fine Art specializes in vintage, mid-century, and contemporary Texas paintings and sculptures.
In Fredericksburg, boutique inns offer accommodations with artistry and architectural bravado. Located off a country road, HoneyTree consists of five luxury treehouses on 10 acres of scenic Texas Hill Country. Owners and young parents Katie and Jacob Rhodes built and furnished the abodes over the past four years. The bungalows are curated with plants and comfy couches, with record players in some and deep soaking tubs in others. The Vine on Middle Creek is the region’s most recent modern farmhouse bed and breakfast, with six porch-framed contemporary cottages surrounding the main house. And the newly remodeled Hill Country Herb Garden offers a different spin with 14 quaint storybook cottages, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a spa.
Unusual and thematic lodging is widespread in Fredericksburg. A fan of WWII aviation? On the site of an airfield, the 50-room Hangar Hotel, built to resemble a WWII hangar, is filled with USO memorabilia, airplane photos, and custom 1940s furnishings. Take in more knowledge of the era at the nearby National Museum of the Pacific War. And for some, being ensconced among 18th- and 19th-century art and antiques is pure bliss, and Settlers Crossing offers that slice of heaven. Sitting on 35 acres, the sprawling estate offers seven historic guesthouses, each with different backstories. Meanwhile, lovers of all things Swiss will find their calling at Barons CreekSide. Among the 26 acres of hand-built cottages are a dozen Swiss log cabins that used windows and doors from the owner’s 250-year-old family farmhouse in Switzerland.
Restaurants, just now bursting on the scene, offer innovative cuisine, with many focusing on regional flavors with a twist. Eaker Barbecue, for example, features southern Texas-style barbecue with a Korean flair, such as gochujang pork ribs with a side of homemade kimchi. Not far, customers drool over panko-crusted lobster tails at swanky Sage Restaurant & Lounge, which includes a secret speakeasy. And contemporary Western-themed Hill & Vine is a casual, art-filled hangout that delivers modern Texas entrees made with local ingredients.
And of course, authentic German food is a mainstay. One of Fredericksburg’s most popular haunts is Otto’s German Bistro. Guests savor the farm-to-table fare featuring dishes like duck schnitzel, and top their meal off with a chocolate torte.
As a travel destination, Fredericksburg continues to evolve while retaining its German heritage. Gutsy entrepreneurs delivering new places to eat, sleep, and shop are backed by a welcoming community. Given these influences, the next 176 years look more promising than ever. So there’s every reason to clink glasses and proclaim in German: “Prost!”
ACTIVITIES AND INFORMATION
Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau
Fredericksburg Trolley Tour
National Museum of the Pacific War
Artisans — A Texas Gallery
Charles Morin Fine Art
Fredericksburg Good Art Co.
Hill Country Herb Garden
The Vine on Middle Creek
Hill & Vine
Otto’s German Bistro
Sage Restaurant & Lounge
Barefoot Campus Outfitter
Blackchalk Home and Laundry
Carol Hicks Bolton Antiqüités
Das Peach Haus
Fischer & Wieser on Main