To say my relationship with Texas is strained would be an understatement, but I can’t deny the beauty and charm of the Hill Country! In this three-part series, I’ll be a tourist in my own part of the world (currently). I’ll introduce you to Fredricksburg, Johnson City and Luckenbach, and Gruene and Wimberley.
Get your cowboy boots on.
I won’t get too country, promise.
Austin and the surrounding area has boomed in the last decade. I used to say I was from there and would get a puzzled look. Now people from all over will smile, give me an air guitar, and a knowing nod. Or they’ll shoot finger guns into the air and say yeehaw. I’m still not sure how to respond.
So it’s no surprise our other hidden treasures are being found out. As well they should. Though new crowds can annoy me (see an travelling as an introvert). I’m happy people are finding out Texas isn’t all John Wayne and rowdy cowboys.
Introduction to Fredricksburg
Meet Fredricksburg, the unofficial capital of the Hill Country. Many visitors are surprised at how diverse Central Texas is – geographically and ethnically. Here, old German charm meets Southwestern flair here. And it’s a delightful mix.
Fredricksburg (or Friedrichsburg) was founded in 1846 by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach. He and other Germany immigrants were drawn to the area because of its abundance of natural resources and easy access to water. Settlers received a plot in town and 10 acres each outside of it. It’s retained its German heritage to the modern day. However, the German Texas dialect is dying out. Learn more about this fascinating history via the Texas Almanac or German-Texas Heritage Society.
Today, Fredricksburg is a weekend destination for shoppers, history and art nuts, and wine enthusiasts. Throughout the year various events, like Oktoberfest, attract people from all over.
I’ll zip through some of the major attractions here and nearby.
What to See in Fredricksburg
Sometimes I still can’t wrap my head around this one. The National Museum of the Pacific War is located deep in the heart of Texas. Not California or DC. Fredricksburg. The reason? This is the hometown of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. And his whole family history is a microcosm of the German Texan experience. You’ll see their name everywhere.
In six acres of the museum, you’ll find vehicles that were used during the war, interactive exhibits, and an overwhelming amount of information. For many, it’s a highlight of Fredricksburg.
I recommend parking up somewhere and walking up and down Main Street. Most of the sites are there. And you’ll likely find yourself stopping and soaking in the interesting architecture and bizarre gift shops.
There’s a bevvy of gift shops, home decor, anything canned, and handmade crafts. If you’re looking for unique gifts with class (or not) – this is a perfect location to find a treasure.
Lots of items are food related. Check out Rustlin Robs and try something new like jalapeno peanut butter or chipotle pomegranate sauce. Skip the ghost peppers unless you’re a masochist.
Fredricksburg and the surrounding area is host to an ever-growing amount of wineries, cideries, and breweries. Many of them have tours and tasting. Ask your host for their opinion – there are too many for me to choose from! But, I really enjoyed The Mandola Estate & Vineyard – now it’s The Duchman Winery.
A few miles outside of town is the famous Enchanted Rock. An enormous granite dome that dwarves the surroundings. It’s a giant pink granite pluton batholith (thanks, wikipedia).
It’s no wonder it’s inspired many legends for thousands of years. It’s a sacred location to many tribes, so do treat it with respect. Don’t litter or be a jerk – actually, don’t do that anywhere.
If you have the time, definitely hike it. Or camp there. (If you don’t have the time a quick drive by and picnic is good, too!) Go early in the morning to beat the bigger crowds. Remember, even though it’s windy and may seem cool in the morning, bring water. There’s no shade up here and the glare is intense.
It’s stunning from the top, too. The views are worth the hike.
When to Go and Other Tips
Visit in Spring if you can! Texas springs are delightful. You’ll likely see the famous bluebonnet covering the hills and turning them into lakes. Everything is green and the dreadful summer heat is often at bay. (If a Texan says you get used to it, I suspect they’re lying. Lying and covering up for their eternal dread of the next hellish sweltering summer. Ooor, maybe I’m projecting.)
You’re going to need to hire a car. And remember even if things look close on a map there’s a chance it’s a lot farther away. Driving distances are a bit different here. The Hill Country Trail is worth looking at if you need some pit stops. In the next two parts, I’ll list my favorite stops. (Y’all come back now, y’hear. Sorry.)