The Texas Hill Country has long been a top destination for weekend getaways in the Lone Star State. And in recent years, it only seems to be getting hotter—and that's not just a reference to rising summer temperatures. Kissed with a heavy dose of German heritage, Fredericksburg is perhaps the epicenter of the Hill Country fuss with charming shops and cafes housed in historic buildings along Main Street; its growing list of outdoor activities, alluring accommodations, and delicious restaurants; and a perpetually growing list of nearby wineries.
But with each new year, this weekender town has seen its fair share of shops, restaurants, and attractions come and go, balanced with a few time-honored staples of the community proving that while some things change, some things always stay the same.
Main Street Shopping
Start by acquainting yourself with Main Street. The bulk of the good shopping is between Washington and Milam Streets with a few lone boutiques found just off the side streets. Some of the best shops for home wares include Phil Jackson's Granite & Iron Store with custom high end furniture, HouseWine offering a selection of rustic furnishings with a wine bar in the back, and the vintage-chic Red. For clothes and jewelry, stroll through Jabberwocky and the Haberdashery for country-chic fashion or Root for a more contemporary Texan look. Hill Country Outfitters has just about anything the outdoor adventurer could need, and the iconic James Avery has a wide selection of sterling silver jewelry.
First Friday Artwalk
Art lovers will love the growing array of galleries along Main Street with everything from painting and sculpture to photography and ceramics. If you're timing is right, you can take advantage of the First Friday Artwalk through town. These leisurely evenings allow you to stroll through town enjoying art exhibits, live music, and local wine as all participating galleries stay open until 8 pm.
National Museum of the Pacific War
History buffs should check out the National Museum of the Pacific War, a sobering tribute to the story of the Pacific battles of World War II. Originally the Admiral Nimitz Museum, named for Admiral Chester W. Nimitz who halted Japanese military advances after Pearl Harbor, the museum's 45,000 square-foot complex, which houses Japanese airplanes, tanks, and guns, now includes the George Bush Gallery, Plaza of Presidents, Veterans' Walk of Honor, Japanese Garden of Peace, Pacific Combat Zone, and the Center for Pacific War Studies.
For a little outdoor activity, you can't beat Enchanted Rock, a great granite dome rising 1,825 feet from the ground about 16 miles north of Fredericksburg. Once considered a spiritual holy ground by Native American tribes in the area, the massive batholith is part of the 624-acre Enchanted Rock State Park that is traversed daily by day hikers and weekend campers year-round. It's a steep climb to the top, but the hike to the summit isn't too difficult for the average day hike. And for those interested in more technical climbing, the rock also features a few faces to test the above-average skill level. A word to the wise, be sure to arrive early as park officials close the entrance once the parking lot is full in an effort to help preserve the natural resources of the area.
Whatever you do, don't forget the wine. Texas is the fifth largest wine producer in the country and most of it can be found in the Hill Country. There are more than 20 wineries along the 30-mile stretch of road between Johnson City and Fredericksburg alone. The question simply becomes which are the ones not to miss?
For award winning Tempranillo and Viognier, two of the top grapes for the Texas climate, you won't be disappointed with a stop at Pedernales Cellars, which lies on a windy little road just off of 290. You'll also find that Hilmy Cellars, Becker Vineyards, and Torre di Pietra Vineyards are doing great things to represent what Texas grapes can produce.
But no wine tour is complete without a stop at 4.0 Cellars, a relatively new addition to the Wine Road 290 that combines some of Texas' powerhouse winemakers (McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Lost Oak Winery) who hail from more remote parts of the state in one spacious tasting room. Here, you can taste a number of wines from all three wineries in one convenient stop.
Dining in this Hill Country town always draws a healthy debate. You can find good grub at just about any of the German-style beer gardens along Main Street, but if you're looking for something a bit more inspired, your best options are the contemporary Southern cuisine at Navajo Grill, the avant-Asian-fusion of August E's, or big Texas-style comfort food at the Cabernet Grill.
Where to Stay
Bed and Breakfast fanatics will love the myriad options available in this veritable B&B mecca. Book at Gastehaus Schmidt for a taste of the best. But for those that want something a little more, check out one of the 14 new Sunday Haus Cottages at the newly renovated Fredericksburg Herb Garden. Each private cottage offers your standard amenities in a country-comfortable setting with the added bonus of fresh pastries delivered to your front porch mailbox each morning. Sister property Hangar Hotel stands like something out of the 1940s in the style of a World War II aviation hangar. Though built from the ground up just a few years ago, the Hangar Hotel is is an homage to a romantic time in American history with an adjoining classic soda-fountain diner and an old fashioned "Officers Club" bar.
Photo Credits: Main Street Shopping: Courtesy of Haberdashery; First Friday Artwalk: Courtesy of InSight Gallery; National Museum of the Pacific War: Japanese Gas Mask and Rifle by John W. Schulze Attribution-NonCommercial License; Enchanted Rock: Enchanted Rock by J.B. Hill Attribution-NonCommercial License; Wine Trail: A Visit to Becker Vineyards by Katherine Lynch Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License; Dinner Debate: Courtesy of Cabernet Grill -- Texas Wine Country Restaurant; Where to Stay: Courtesy of Hangar Hotel