Fredericksburg, Texas is a foodie and outdoor enthusiast’s dream with a rich history to boot.
It’s easy to fall in love with Fredericksburg. Historic buildings house hip eateries, boutiques, art galleries, and wineries. Friendly shopkeepers holler “Y’all come back now, ya hear?” and nature is close at hand. This small town (pop. 11,245) located between San Antonio and Austin is known for wine, shopping, and German heritage, but also boasts great recreational opportunities in the Texas Hills. Here’s how to roll in this family-friendly city.
Partnership Disclosure: I was hosted by Fredericksburg – The Texas Hill Country and partner businesses, but all words and opinions are my own.
Day 1: Eat all the things, then (try to) bike them off
Sunshine dances on the water outside my room at Fredericksburg Inn and Suites. While a morning dip is tempting, my stomach reminds me that kolaches await at Java Ranch Espresso Bar and Cafe. What is a kolache? A Czech fruit, cheese, or sausage (the latter is a modern variation) filled pastry – and popular Texas treat. I pair a sausage kolache with a large Americano coffee, and order a piece of pecan pie for good measure because it’s Texas and I’m on vacation. Apparently, I say it wrong; it’s puh-cahn, not pea-can. “You’ve gotta slow it down in Texas,” a local in line teases.
Taking his advice, I amble over to Marktplatz (market square), at the heart of Main Street. Children’s laughter rings from the playground while I check out Vereins Kirche, a unique, octagonal building that served as the town’s first church and school.
Next stop is the Pioneer Museum to uncover Fredericksburg’s colorful past. On a guided tour of the grounds, I learn how Fredericksburg came to be. Before the town, named for Prince Frederick of Prussia, was founded in 1846, John O. Meusebach, Commissioner-General had to secure more funding, negotiate a peace treaty with the Comanches, and sort out the land claims for German settlers. Pioneer life was tough, but the pioneers were tougher.
- If you visit the Pioneer Museum: Sign up for a guided tour to learn more about Fredericksburg’s history. Visiting with kids? Children will enjoy visiting the chickens and schoolhouse and participating in a scavenger hunt.
Lunch time calls for Burger Burger, home of Fredericksburg’s best burgers. Their homemade buns, ⅓ pound grass-fed beef patties, and hand cut fries live up to their reputation! Amply fueled, I’m ready for a biking adventure.
“Cycling is the best way to experience the beautiful countryside in Fredericksburg. You will see beautiful views, animals such as deer and turkey, and in the spring time you can take in all the wildflowers,” Josh Allen of Jack and Adams Bicycles shares as he sets me up with a rental bike. Fredericksburg’s roads are wide and quiet, perfect for carefree riding. They’re also cleverly named. If you look at a map, the first letters of the streets running west/east across Main Street, spell “ALL WELCOME” and “COME BACK.” We visit rustic St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, grand Old St. Mary’s Church, cross Baron’s Creek, pass acreages where antelope graze, and ride by log, stone, and mortar gingerbread houses built by pioneers. (If you’d like to go further, there’s great riding in the Texas Hills, where many famous cyclists have trained.)
Fredericksburg’s pioneering spirit lives on through local business started generations ago. From its humble beginnings as a peach farm with a roadside fruit stand, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods now produces 70 award-winning products that are shipped worldwide. Fredericksburg Peach Preserves remain a best seller to this day (but chefs in the test kitchen are always coming up with new creations). “Peaches are to Texas what Cabernet Sauvignon is to California,” Mark Weiser says at Das Peach Haus, Fischer & Wieser’s restaurant.
Pecans are also a big deal here. “Texas is number two for growing pecans,” explains Olan Tisdale, founder of Fredericksburg Pecan Company. How do you tell if a pecan is good? “It oughta snap.. should be full when you squeeze it, you should see oil.” I pick up a shelled Cheyenne pecan, crack it in half, and savor it. With pecans so fresh, it’s no wonder the pecan pies are so amazing here.
After eating my fill of pecan samples, I still have room for a delicious schnitzel at Otto’s German Bistro, where meals are made with locally-sourced ingredients and the menu changes weekly with the seasons. I then return to my hotel and go for that long-awaited swim! It’s such a treat to stay in short sleeves all day and swim outside in December!
Day 2: Explore the Gems of Gillespie County
The smell of fresh baking greets me as I walk in to Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery & Deli. While I study the extensive coffee menu, shop owner John Dubea presses a sample of homemade Mexican vanilla ice cream into my hand. “We eat ice cream year round here,” he smiles. The creamy ice cream melts in my mouth while 50s music plays on the juke box. As I dig in to a pecan sticky bun dripping with caramel, locals in the next booth ask where I’m from and if I’ve been to Enchanted Rock yet (more on that below). Somehow, I manage to keep up my side of the conversation without making too much of a mess.
I spend the morning at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where the 36th President of the United States was born, attended elementary school, lived with his wife, Claudia (known to Americans as “Lady Bird”) and their children, and was buried in 1973. The ranch remains very much the same as it looked in the 70s. Hereford cattle and stands of live oaks dot the landscape and the original buildings remain.
Park Ranger Mike Ryan shares stories about LBJ’s life as he shows us Air Force One, the Texas White House (temporarily closed until further notice), 300 year old Plateau Live Oak under which many meetings with world leaders were held, and Friendship Stones where notable guests left their handprints. It’s an amazing look at the life of a President.
Next door, across the Pedernales River, I step back in time at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farmstead. Interpreters in period clothing show what life was like for German settlers in the early 1900’s. I follow the aroma of fresh-baked cookies to a farmhouse where I’m invited to try some and learn how the house was built and how pioneers made a living. With authentic buildings and top notch tours, it’s a popular spot for school field trips.
Lunch finds me at Stout’s Tratorria at Grape Creek Vineyards, an award-winning winery only 15 minutes from town. I pair a ribeye steak with a rich Cabernet/Syrah, then cross the cobblestones in front of the Tuscan Villa, and gaze across the estate at row upon row of grapevines. Beyond the vineyard, the Texas Hills roll towards the horizon. After a tour of the vineyard, I am treated to a barrel tasting. This unique experience allows a deeper understanding of how wine gets certain flavors.
On the way back to Fredericksburg, I make a detour to iconic country music destination, Luckenbach, founded in 1849. Put on the map by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s song Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love), you can expect to hear live music at “the bach” every weekend (purchase tickets in advance). As the picker circle jams in the saloon, I take in the chill vibe and quirky decor: license plates, signs, patches, and old photographs cover the walls. Kids will enjoy dancing, sitting on the cow, finding license plates from across the country, and looking for the resident rooster.
David’s Old Fashioned Pit BBQ is the place to go for slow cooked ribs and homemade buns. Afterwards, catch the sunset at Cross Mountain Park (10 minute walk to the top of the little peak). In December, check out the beautiful Christmas decorations downtown.
Day 3: Discover Downtown Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock Natural State Area
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 25 minutes north of Fredericksburg, is a must-see destination. The massive pink granite dome, remnant of an ancient volcano, rises 425 feet (130 m) above the Texas Hills to an elevation of 1,825 feet (556 m). Named “Spirit Song Rock” by local indigenous people, it was thought to be haunted because of the strange crackling noises it makes. Although geologists determined this phenomenon is due to the granite contracting as it cools at night, the rock still captures visitors’ imaginations. Hike the Loop Trail (4.5 miles) or Summit Trail (0.7 miles) for the best views and go early or midweek to avoid the crowds at this popular park; park closures by 9 a.m. are common on weekends.
If you’re not an early riser, take a vintage trolley tour around town. Fredericksburg Trolley offers 1 hour 45 minute tours of historic downtown and the Fredericksburg Battlefield daily at 10 am. Hop on at the Fredericksburg Visitor Centre. Reservations recommended.
Grab lunch at Pasta Bella Restaurant where the service is as wonderful as the food. Vegan and gluten-free options available.
Next, walk a couple blocks to the state of the art National Museum of the Pacific War. Established in 1967, this 6.5-acre complex recognizes the contributions of “the men and women who fought during WWII with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, and Fredericksburg native.” While the exhibits, interactive displays, and videos are superb – and moving… bring tissues – the Pacific Combat Zone’s Living History Program (temporarily suspended due to COVID-19) is mindblowing. The 1.5 hour program is a battle re-enactment complete with WWII flame-thrower demonstration. Not recommended for children under six due to loud noises.
Texans call Fredericksburg “the shopping town.” While you’re downtown, find the perfect gift or something special for yourself at one of the following shops:
- Black Chalk Home & Laundry: Unique home decor and gift boutique in a gorgeous historic (laundry) building.
- Hill Country Outfitters: Women’s and Men’s clothing for all your adventures. “You have adventures to live. We’re here to help.”
- The Grasshopper: American-made and imported gifts and jewelry on Main Street.
If you like art, West Main Street is home to four art galleries:
- Gallery 330: Curated collection of art specializing in contemporary realism and impressionism.
- Visit one of the newest art galleries on West Main street featuring fine art, sculptures and serigraphs from private collections.
- RS Hanna Gallery: Fine art gallery features over 30 artists from across the US.
- Artisans – A Texas Gallery: Local fine art, crafts, and furnishings created by over 80 artisans and craftsman.
- InSight Gallery: Western art by award-winning artists in the historic 1907 Schwartz Building.
After dinner, watch a show at Fredericksburg Theater Company. With performances ranging from Beauty & The Beast Jr. (by the Freddyburg Youth Theatre) to Mama Mia, there is bound to be something everyone in your family will enjoy!
Fredericksburg, Texas will capture your heart with its diverse recreational, cultural, and culinary experiences. Check out these upcoming events and start planning your trip!
May to October 2021: Watch millions of bats emerge from an abandoned railway tunnel at Old Tunnel State Park.
October 1-3, 2021: Oktoberfest
December 3, 2021: Light the Night Christmas Parade and Afterglow
Where to Stay
Fredericksburg Inn and Suites is your cozy home away from home, just one block off Main Street, on 5 acres along Barons Creek. With spacious rooms and suites, two pools, and a hot tub, you can relax after a day of exploring Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country!
For More Information
Discover more fun things to do in Fredericksburg at Visit Fredericksburg, Texas.
Fredericksburg is located 70 miles west of Austin, and 70 miles northwest of San Antonio.