For an authentic taste of Texas Hill Country — as well as the delicious fruit of the Texas Wine Trail — look no further than Fredericksburg. Just 70 miles west of Austin, this heritage community was settled by Germans in the 19th century and retains its old world charm even today. Filled with unique shops, casual and sophisticated restaurants, a profusion of wildflowers and friendly people, Fredericksburg is the perfect weekend getaway for Central Texans — and much more than just another sleepy little town.
What to do
An entire day can easily be spent wandering the shops and galleries on Main Street, or you might hop on a bicycle to pedal among the wildflowers or to nearby Enchanted Rock. In fact, if you love cycling, you may want to check out Fredericksburg's first Texas Gran Fondo Bicycle Tour, happening on April 5. This new cycling event invites enthusiasts to discover the Texas Hill Country on an unparalleled road course, choosing a personal challenge of 100 miles, 65 miles or 36 miles.
Of course, the grape is king in this region, and you can taste wine at area vineyards such as Becker, Torre di Pietra and Grape Creek. In fact, Fredericksburg is one of the top wine destinations in the U.S. Try a Texas Wine Tour, or meander through the newly developed Wine Road 290 yourself. Several special wine road events are scheduled throughout the year. Coming up June 21 is Vino al Pastor and on July 19 enjoy the Chili and Chillin' event. Or meander along the delightful Wine and Wildflower Trail, happening April 4-20.
If you are a history buff, visit the Vereins Kirche Museum in the Fredericksburg National Historic District for a taste of German folklore. Nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site offers a look inside the “Texas White House” and ranch of the 36th U.S. President. The National Museum of the Pacific War is the only institution in the country dedicated to the story of the Pacific Theater in World War II. Recently expanded, the museum offers a new George H.W. Bush Gallery with a multimedia presentation and historical artifacts.
What to eat
For a small town, Fredericksburg is a culinary delight. Gourmet restaurants such as August E’s, Navajo Grill, Rock House and Austin’s dish up creative cuisine for the most discerning palate. There are plenty of casual and lunch spots as well; try El Milagro Twenty Twelve, or the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, the oldest brewpub in Texas serving up craft beer and offering a traditional biergarten in the back.
The town also knows how to celebrate its food. The Fredericksburg Crawfish Festival is going on Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25. This annual party features activities for the whole family including lots of great Cajun food, live music, crawfish races and a creole brunch with a special appearance by Chef John Russ of the renowned Lüke San Antonio.
If you really want to get hands-on, Fredericksburg is a great place to take cooking classes. Jacque Rudman offers a variety of classes, from “feast of flavors” culinary delight samplers to “haute and healthy herbs” with ingredients picked straight from the chef’s own garden. Private group sessions can be arranged with recipe and menu development for a customized adventure.
What to splurge on
Part of any good getaway is treating yourself, and there is no better place than Fredericksburg’s newest destination spa, Fredericksburg Herb Farm. Done in the old "Sunday Haus" style, the buildings were done by local artisans.
"The Sunday Haus was a concept for people coming in from the country and enjoying the weekend attending church and then picking up supplies for the rest of the week," says owner Dick Estenson. "Each one of the 14 cottages is done in an architectural styling of the original Sunday Haus. We also have the old 1884 rock house that is now being restored into its original rock condition."
The 5,000-square-foot facility offers pampering of all types, and the Farm Haus Bistro will replenish you with garden-fresh food. You can enjoy a massage, facial or more at the day spa, or retreat entirely in one of the new guest cottages.
When to go
Any time of year is nice in Fredericksburg, whether in summertime when you can refresh at a nearby watering hole or during the light-filled winter holiday season. But spring is magical, with wildflowers in bloom and the best weather of the year. The Hill Country Wine & Music Festival (April 26) is a winner, bringing together together libations, vibrations and great Texas food in a celebration of Texas traditions at Wildseed Farms.
From April 30-May 4, check out the Hill Country Film Festival, a five-day independent film event created to celebrate and showcase filmmakers from Texas and around the world. In 2013, HCFF screened more than 50 independent films, both short and feature length, and hosted filmmaker interviews, discussion panels and festival parties.
The July 4th celebration is also big, with a community parade and fireworks, and other celebrations in nearby Luckenbach. From spring through summer, you can't go wrong with Fredericksburg as a nearby weekend escape.