Our mirthful story begins in the small town of Fredericksburg, Texas, during the 12th month of the year. Everywhere, tiny lights sparkle and sugary smells waft from bakeries and candy shops. Bundled in red and green scarves and sweaters, wide-eyed children skip down Main Street, tugging tightly on mom's and dad's hands. Rosy-cheeked carolers stroll door-to-door, humming tunes of the season.
But this is no fairy tale. You can feel the Yuletide spirit of Christmas enfold Fredericksburg. This town in the heart of Lone Star country remains a place where residents two-step to "O Tannenbaum" and kick up their boots to "Jingle Bells." It's also a thriving village of German heritage. Enjoy the flavors of kolaches (yeast buns filled with fruit or sausage), and turn your head at the occasional Willkommen (the Bavarian greeting).
The Christmas Store sells Texas holiday ornaments year-round.
The best part of our narrative? It takes place a quick sleigh ride (an hour) from Austin and San Antonio. An easy getaway from home, Fredericksburg sets the scene for a merry-- and easy--little Christmas.
Rockin' Around the Tree
You'll be jolly in a jiffy after participating in some of the special festivities around town. The main attraction of the season is Weihnachten In Fredericksburg. This three-day extravaganza, starting December 5, provides what every fantastic fable needs. Enjoy a lighted parade down Main Street, have pictures made with Santa Claus, marvel at a gingerbread house display, and wander through a Christmas Tree Forest of more than 60 decorated firs.
For the musical score of our tale, catch the Sauerkrauts, a German/Texan band, perform a Christmas revue at Fredericksburg Brewing Co. at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. You can buy tickets ($12.50) at the door, but they sell out quickly.
If you want to celebrate the reason for the season, set aside time for a "Christmas Journey." The members of Bethany Lutheran Church perform this free drive-through living Nativity starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 12, and Saturday, December 13.
Getting Nuttin' for Christmas
We're convinced Santa winters on a nearby ranch to do all of his shopping in the Hill Country. "Fredericksburg is known for its shopping. That's why Christmas is so great here," says local Lynn Brammer. She's right.
Shops line Main Street, offering antiques, artwork, jellies, sausages, souvenirs, clothing, furniture, and more. Start with a visit to The Christmas Store where it's December year-round. Load up on an exclusive Christopher Radko Texas ornament, stocking stuffers, and fun holiday decorations.
Newcomer boutique Jolie Peche, sister to the well-known tearoom and shop The Peach Tree, sells women's fashions and accessories. For fluffy kitchen towels and a nice assortment of cookbooks (plus the best cheese sticks known to Texans), walk over to The Peach Tree.
The cowhide stockings shaped like cowboy boots ($29-$49) are our favorite finds of the season. Buy them at Slick Rock Designs, a Hill Country-style furniture store. Texas-shaped leather coasters make great Lone Star State stocking stuffers.
Pudding and More
Chomp on bratwurst in lieu of Christmas turkey, chug a mug of ale instead of the traditional cup of nog, or feast on a thick steak with your cornbread dressing. This is sure to be a gastronomically adventurous fairy tale.
If you dine at only one spot, make it Rather Sweet, a funky bakery and cafe opened by pastry chef Rebecca Rather. This small eatery features Big Hair Meringue Tarts, sinful chocolate cakes, and kolaches. Rebecca even makes her own version of the MoonPie. For lunch, bite into chicken pot pie, King Ranch Casserole, chicken and dumplings with green chiles, or enchiladas. Each entrée starts at $6.95. On Friday and Saturday nights, Rather Sweet opens its doors for dinner. You can order mouthwatering dishes such as Fried Oyster Nachos and Crab & Shrimp Cheesecake.
The Nest, located in a quaint old house less than a half mile off Main Street, offers a more upscale dining option. Go for the fillet of beef with bordelaise sauce and turnip mashers ($25), seared scallops ($18), or roasted rack of lamb ($24.50). For Italian favorites, try Pasta Bella Restaurant.
No trip to Fredericksburg is complete without sampling some German vittles. Dietz Bakery, Der Lindenbaum, Friedhelm's Bavarian Inn, and the Old German Bakery & Restaurant are the places for kraut and brats.
A Long Winter's Nap
When it's time to place your kerchief on your head, you want a warm bed in a nice room. Visions of sugarplums appear when you slumber at one of the five suites at Austin Street Retreat, right off Main Street. The original structures are more than a century old, but they are equipped with modern-day amenities such as telephones and televisions. For instance, Kristin's room features a high-beamed ceiling, limestone walls, and comfy down-filled furnishings--all overlooking a courtyard. Its bath sports slate floors and a tub so large that Santa could comfortably soak his cares away.
If you'd rather stay farther from the center of town and long for a true Texana experience, we've got the place for you. Once a dairy, the Chuckwagon Inn offers a taste of the Southwest, both in the country-style rooms and the hearty breakfasts. The Mustang Bunkhouse offers tin-covered walls and a leather toilet seat cover. The bed in Miss Becky's room has a headboard made from an old picket fence. Larry Bill's room features a kitchen that looks like the end of an old chuck wagon.
"You get an old-fashioned Christmas in Fredericksburg," says local Jennifer Petsch. With a holiday celebration this enchanting, you're sure to live happily ever after.
SANTA'S LIST OF TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some numbers to help you out. We've checked it twice.
Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau: 302 East Austin, Fredericksburg, TX 78624; (830) 997-6523, 1-888-997-3600, or www.fredericksburg-texas.com.
To reserve a room at Austin Street Retreat, contact Gastehaus Schmidt Reservation Service, 231 West Main Street; (830) 997-5612 or toll free 1-866-427-8374. Rates: start at $135. A two-night minimum is required on event weekends. For more information: Visit www.austinstreetretreat.com.
Chuckwagon Inn Bed & Breakfast: 1156 Farm Road 2093; (830) 990-2777 or www.chuckwagoninn.com. Rates: start at $130 and include breakfast.
This article is from the December 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.