Located in Texas Hill Country, the quaint town of Fredericksburg, Texas, is comfortably nestled between the popular tourist destinations of San Antonio and Austin, and is worth a weekend stopover the next time you're traveling deep in the heart of the Lone Star State. Fredericksburg, once known for its dominance in the agriculture industry, isn’t just another dot on the Southern region of the map. Far from it. This tiny town (population of about 11,000) is dripping with old-world customs and traditions and authentic German roots, dating back to 1846 when it was founded by German immigrants and settlers.
But present-day Fredericksburg’s charm lies not only in its natural, unpretentious scenery, but also in the city’s uncanny ability to maintain its dual German-Texan heritage. And the inspiration is uniquely obvious, from the city square in the heart of Fredericksburg to the sprawling vineyards and beirgartens. For a dose of wanderlust and adventure, it doesn’t get much better than a town where you can practically smell Oktoberfest in the air, year-round. To fully discover this hidden gem and get a glimpse of its small-town aura, here are eight ways to take in Fredericksburg like a local.
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1. Climb Enchanted Rock.
An incentive for reaching the peak of this pink granite dome is the breathtaking view of the Texas Hill Country that awaits you at the top. Just a short 20-minute drive outside of Fredericksburg brings you to the enormous batholith that’s part of Enchanted Rock State Park, which was once Native American sacred grounds. Outdoor enthusiasts can also engage in hiking, picnicking, and overnight camping at the state park.
2. Visit the Pacific.
Probably the last place you'd expect to hear detailed accounts and witness bona fide relics of World War II in the Pacific is in this little Southern Texas town. But alas, history is waiting to be explored in Fredericksburg’s National Museum of the Pacific War. In its vast gallery space, patrons can watch live re-enactments of battle scenes, participate in interactive exhibits, and view tanks and aircrafts used in the war.
3. Stay in Fancy, German-Style Digs.
Despite its small-town status, the city of Fredericksburg boasts more than 300 lodging accommodations, including historic hotels and even a “Bed & Brew.” The local favorite Fredericksburg Brewing Company offers an adult retreat, with an in-house brewery downstairs to grab a quick nightcap before retiring upstairs to your room. Another Fredericksburg stalwart is the Hangar Hotel, a boutique hotel reminiscent of an airport hangar that features aviation memorabilia and captures the “Swing Era” novelty of the 1940s.
4. Tour the “Texas White House.”
Before the “Southern White House” became a thing this year, there was Former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s expansive ranch in Stonewall, Texas, which is approximately 20 minutes from Fredericksburg. The tall Texan, in typical Southern fashion, often hosted barbecues there for foreign dignitaries in the 1960s. Today, the 8,000-square-feet Ranch is now open for ranger-guided tours through restored rooms on the ground floor.
5. Sip Your Way Along the Wine Trails.
They don't call Texas “wine country” for nothing, where a bevy of vineyards and tasting rooms are stretched along Hill Country to provide the ultimate happy hour experience. Hosting more than 30 wineries off the beaten path between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, this dainty town is one of the most-visited wine destinations in the country. In fact, one wine road hosts 18 award-winning wineries for the perfect wine-touring weekend getaway.
6. Pluck Some Wildflowers.
Unlike most floral fields where you can look but don't touch, you can pick your own bouquet at Wildseed Farms, home to the largest wildflower farm in the country. This family-owned and operated countryside escape has more than 200 acres of wildflower fields and a beautiful butterfly garden.
7. Stroll through Main Street.
Shops and tourist attractions may come and go, but one aspect of Fredericksburg has stood the test of time, and that’s the German influence found on the storefronts up and down historic Main Street. In addition to stores, art galleries, and artisan gifts and treats, the epicenter of Main Street is the Markplatz. You can even see “Wilkommen” (translation: welcome) signs on full display throughout town, where a shop owner may greet you with a cheerful “Guten Tag,” otherwise known as good day or good afternoon. It doesn’t get more genuine than that.
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8. Indulge in German Food and Biergartens.
Of course, it wouldn’t be authentically Fredericksburg without Tex-Mex cuisine, schnitzels, sauerbraten (German pot roast), and German beer gardens. And you can find delicious food and handcrafted spirits at more than 70 restaurants in Fredericksburg, including upscale eatery Cabernet Grill and German specialty restaurant Der Lindenbaum.