Fredericksburg, Texas

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, about an hour northwest of San Antonio, the small town of Fredericksburg beckons visitors with shopping, dining, wineries and charm. Founded in the mid 19th century by German settlers, Fredericksburg – though proudly Texan – wears its German heart on its sleeve.

Willkommen

Fredericksburg

The Vereins Kirche at Fredericksburg’s Marktplatz
Photo: Rawls

At the Marktplatz, in the center of town, the Vereins Kirche (Society’s Church) Museum is a 1935 replica of the town’s first public building. This octagonal landmark structure houses a variety of artifacts and photos detailing the history of the area; including a mammoth tusk, prehistoric stone tools, a German bible from 1665, and an unusually-shaped axe used during the construction of the original Vereins Kirche.

Fredericksburg

The Weber Sunday House
Photo: Julie Kalan

Cute miniature houses, known as Sunday Houses, are another interesting Fredericksburg sight. Sunday Houses date back to the town’s early days, when some of the more well-to-do farmers from the countryside built tiny weekend homes in town. They would travel into town on Saturday morning, do their shopping and socializing in the afternoon, sleep one night at the house, go to church on Sunday morning and head back to their farms that afternoon. Sunday Houses typically had one room, a lean-to kitchen, an outdoor staircase or ladder leading up to a half storey attic/sleeping loft and a covered front porch. On the grounds of the Pioneer Museum complex, visitors can size-up the Weber Sunday House. Several Sunday Houses have been turned into guest lodgings, so you can even spend a few nights in one of these cosy homes.

Local Boy Leads the Fleet

Even though the Pacific Ocean is nowhere near Texas, the National Museum of the Pacific War is here in Fredericksburg. This seems like an odd location for the museum, until you learn that Fredericksburg is the hometown of WWII hero Navy Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The 6.5 acre complex, encompassing the George H.W. Bush Gallery, the Admiral Nimitz Museum, and the Pacific Combat Zone, includes state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and a wealth of artifacts, including a Japanese two-man submarine that took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hondo’s on Main

This small town offers up dozens and dozens of dining choices. Choose from bratwurst and beer, specialty burgers, Texas BBQ, and more. I dined at Hondo’s where their theme is “Texas Music! Texas Food! Texas Fun!”. Here, whitewashed walls meet a lofty wooden roof, and a tiny stage – that hosts bands every Wednesday through Sunday and doubles as a storage area when not in use – anchors the far end.  At this self-serve restaurant, you order at the bar, located by the front, and then pick-up your meal through a doorway to the left of the stage. My table shared a Three Crunchies platter featuring generous portions of curly Q potato fries, onion strings and fresh fried parmesan potato chips, served with a Creole, “Fireball” Ranch and Dijon Ranch dipping sauces. For my lunch I opted for Hondo’s BBQ Sandwich, a delicious Texan slow-smoked, sliced beef brisket served on a toasted sourdough bun.

Aside from the thoroughly enjoyable food, Hondo’s has another claim to fame. The restaurant is named in honour of Hondo Crouch, a man who became a local celebrity when he co-purchased the nearby town of Luckenbach in the early 70’s. As self-appointed Mayor of Luckenbach, a town whose residents could be counted on one hand, Crouch began drawing visitors with regular live music and events like the Luchenbach World’s Fair. Shortly after Crouch’s death, Luchenbach gained its greatest notoriety when, in 1977, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson topped the music charts with Luchenbach Texas. Learning about this musical link will surely have country music fans singing that iconic line, “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys”.

A Darling Main Street

Fredericksburg

Some of the beautiful creations at Hand Carved Candles & More
Photo: Julie Kalan

Be warned – a walk along Fredericksburg’s Main Street is apt to have you excessively using words like quaint and darling. The street itself is surprisingly wide for such a small town. This is thanks to the early town planners’ wish to provide enough space for a team of oxen pulling a wagon to turn around in the center of town. Main Street is lined with simple, yet architecturally interesting, one and two storey buildings that house a selection of over 150 practically perfect shops. Along with over a dozen art galleries, you can find antiques, jewelry, clothing, Christmas ornaments, home furnishings, German imports, leather goods, stationery, toys, homemade preserves, candy and fudge on Main Street. You can even step back in time at Dooley’s, an authentic five-and-dime store that has been a stalwart fixture of Main Street since 1923.

Waxing Romantic

Two of my favourite shops sell candles. The first, Circle E Candles is located in an old bank building. The side walls are lined with seemingly endless wooden shelves filled with a rainbow of coloured candles – all hand poured at a local factory. They offer several candle sizes but the real embarrassment of riches comes from their over 50 ambrosial fragrances. Even the old bank vault is brimming with perfumed deposits! The second shop, Hand Carved Candles & More is a family business that transforms candles into beautiful centerpieces – right before your eyes. Watching Sheila Suggs craft her artistry is mesmerizing. Her gentle cuts and graceful twists manipulate coloured layers of wax and in minutes transform into intricate and sometimes whimsical works of art.

Fredericksburg

The Texas Hill Country Wine Region has
produced a plethora of award-winning wines
Photo: B. Mistich

Raise a Glass

The Hill Country Wine Region of Texas is the second most visited wine region in the United States, after Napa valley. In the last decade or so, the area’s limestone based terrior has produced enough world-class award-winning wines to garner serious respectability. Along Fredericksburg’s Main Street, wine lovers can sample outstanding local wines at nine tasting rooms. From the sophisticated dark granite counter top and hammered metallic ceiling at the Grape Creek tasting room to the cheery southwestern turquoise saloon and boutique of the Fiesta Winery tasting room, each reflects its own distinctive brand.

Fredericksburg

Wines at the family-owned
Pedernales Cellars
Photo: Julie Kalan

Straight to the Grape

Just outside Fredericksburg is the famed Wine Road 290, where fifteen of the over thirty regional wineries can be found along a 45 mile (70km) stretch of US Highway 290. Each of the wineries offers a variety of tastings and tours. You may choose to have a designated driver in your group, or opt for either the weekend-only shuttle or ride along with one of the many Wine Road tour companies. Traveling with our designated driver, my group headed east along the Wine Road to Pedernales Cellars. This boutique winery has achieved a reputation for excellent Viognier and Tempraniollo varietal wines. With Julie Kuhlken, Design and Communications Director, we wandered through the wine-making facilities and the underground barrel cellar while learning about the family business and the prestigious awards their wines have been winning. Our wine tasting included two whites, a rosé and three reds all from 2014 and 2015 vintages.

Fredericksburg

The Texas Chocolate Wine Experience at
4.0 Cellars
Photo: Julie Kalan

The next stop, 4.0 Cellars, was on the way back towards Fredericksburg. Unlike the other wineries along the Wine Road, 4.0 Cellars is a collaboration of three farther-a-field Texas award-winning wineries – Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery and McPherson Cellars – in a fourth location. You can choose from three regular tasting menus, or try their Texas Cheese or Texas Chocolate Wine Experiences. At a long boardroom-style table, each of us sat in front of a white paper place mat adorned with six glasses red wine and a small box of locally handmade chocolate truffles. The place mat identifies each wine and the appropriate truffle to pair it with. Cheers!

Wildflowers

Along Highway 290 you can also find the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. My Fredericksburg visit didn’t coincide with the Wildseed Farms blooming season, but if you plan to visit between March and October you will surely find endless beauty in this 200 acre garden.

Travel Planner

A visit to Fredericksburg makes a great day trip when in San Antonio, Texas. You can easily extend your visit with local accommodations numbering over 1100 hotel and motels rooms, and more than 450 B&B/guesthouses. For information on lodging, dining, attractions and more, visit: www.visitfredericksburgtx.com  or call 1-888-997-3600.

Pioneer Museum: www.pioneermuseum.net

National Museum of the Pacific War: www.pacificwarmuseum.org

Hondo’s: www.hondosonmain.com

Circle E Candles: www.circleecandles.com

Hand Carved Candles: www.handcarvedcandlesfbg.com

Pedernales Cellars: www.pedernalescellars.com   (830) 644-2037

4.0 Cellars: www.fourpointwine.com    (830) 997-7470

Wildseed Farms:  www.wildseedfarms.com