We are smitten with Texas Hill Country, and have been since our first trek through six years ago. Our favorite town in Hill Country is the quaint community of Fredericksburg, Texas, which is nestled in the hills west of San Antonio and just 30 minutes north of I-10.
Founded in 1846, and settled by immigrants overflowing from nearby New Braunfels, Fredericksburg is steeped in a rich German heritage which is dominant in their style of buildings, celebration of festivals, and offerings of authentic restaurant fare. With just over 10,000 residents, Fredericksburg exudes the small town atmosphere, but their phenomenal shopping, rich history, and varied outdoor activity opportunities mimic that of a much larger municipal. We love the provincial feel while still having our days be full of memorable experiences.
The destination that initially drew us to Fredericksburg that first year was the National Museum of the Pacific War. This world class museum complex encompasses the Admiral Nimitz Museum, the George H. W. Bush Gallery, multiple memorials, and the Pacific Combat Zone, all of which are designed to instruct and inform visitors about World War II.
Guests will particularly enjoy the Pearl Harbor room with its chronological events timeline and mock torpedoes skimming underfoot, as well as the living history reenactments at the offsite Pacific Combat Zone which make for a memorable experience. The museum’s extensive gift shop offers up some great gift and souvenir ideas. Tickets for the museum are good for two consecutive days, and include in-and-out privileges so you can head on out to Main Street and have a fabulous lunch experience at one of the many restaurants available within blocks of the museum, then return to take in more of the exhibits. www.pacificwarmuseum.org
Also, while you are visiting the museum, be sure to stop across the street from the main entrance and peruse the Fredericksburg Visitor’s Center where you will find friendly and knowledgeable locals that are happy to help you with any questions, directions or suggestions.
The Pioneer Museum is located right on Main Street (it is difficult to get lost in Fredericksburg), where the free Vereins Kirche Museum offers a compact, but informative, overview of the early pioneer history of the area. Next-door, the affordable Pioneer Museum is a three-acre property that is home to nine historical, period-furnished structures. Guests enjoy a restful visit to the grounds while learning what life was like for the German immigrants that settled the Fredericksburg area. www.pioneermuseum.net
In the town of Fredericksburg, you cannot miss Main Street. “The Magic Mile” of Main Street begins just east of the National Museum of the Pacific War, and ends at the Marktplatz (at Vereins Kirche) to the west. Lined with quaint boutiques located in historic buildings, and tempting eateries with courtyard seating, a walking tour of the Magic Mile is popular with visitors of all ages.
Take time to peruse the numerous galleries, relish tempting pastries, and rustle up some grub at Rustlin’ Robs Texas Gourmet Foods. Rustlin’ Robs may not be considered gourmet by all, but it is surely memorable. Specializing in all things condiment, this is THE place to purchase Texas-sized flavors for your foods, and they even offer samples. Our personal favorites so far have been Trailer Trash Hot Sauce, and their Hot Bavarian Mustard. This is a great place to pick up some souvenirs for yourself, and as gifts.
Fort Martin Scott was the first military outpost to be established in the western parts of Texas, and was later used by the Texas Rangers. Today this site is owned by the City of Fredericksburg, and admission is free to visitors. Numerous structures of the fort’s original 21 buildings have been, or are in the process of being, restored and the fort is open for self-guided tours. Informative plaques are placed throughout the park. Our favorite was the last display where we learned that Captain James Longstreet (later General Longstreet in the Civil War) was one of the fort’s commanders. www.ftmartinscott.org
Fort Martin Scott is located next to the new Ranger’s Heritage Center, which will be home to the future Texas Ranger Museum when it opens in 2016. It will be the only museum about Texas Rangers that is actually owned by, run by, and benefits the Texas Rangers.
Located 18 miles north of Fredericksburg, Texas, Enchanted Rock State Park is the destination for you if nature, hiking, and that top-of-the-world feeling is a rush! Enchanted Rock is a fun and relaxing destination with many options for activities depending on your stamina. All visitors will enjoy picnics in the shade of the treed lower grounds, naturalists will appreciate the numerous small wildlife and the bountiful flora of the forested areas, and hikers will relish the unique trails that lead around, and to the top of, the multiple domes.
Namesake of the park, Enchanted is the largest dome at 425 feet. While that may not seem like such a tall peak to those of us hailing from mountainous areas, the incline is covered in just six-tenths of a mile and on solid granite. Admission is $7 for people 12 and older, or waived with a Texas State Parks Pass. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/enchanted-rock
Another unique nature destination is the Old Tunnel State Park. This half-mile walking trail is the perfect place to view the evening emergence of the up to 3 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats who call this abandoned railway tunnel home. Informative displays are located along the trail, and nightly educational programs are offered. A viewing platform is located adjacent to the parking lot for those people who are not able to, or not wanting to, traverse the trail at dusk. Open to visitors from May to October, admission is $5 per person, exact cash only. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/old-tunnel
The Lyndon B Johnson State Park and adjoining national historic site is both beautiful and educational. Just minutes east of Fredericksburg, this acreage can easily fill a day with discovery. The LBJ State Park offers huge parking lots perfect for RVs, and this location is a fee-free park. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lyndon-b-johnson
Once you drop off your big rig, you can tour the visitor’s center and learn about President Johnson’s life and legacy. After enjoying lunch under the huge oak trees shading the picnic area, drive down to the Sauer-Beckman Living History Farm where period-costumed docents will share what it would have been like to live on this working farm, which operates as it would have 100 years ago.
Once the farm is toured, savor a beautiful drive to the LBJ National Historic Site whose entrance is just a few miles down the road. The grounds of the historic site are located on the Johnson ranch, where cattle and exotics are still raised. While there, you can visit the Johnson family cemetery where President Johnson and his wife are buried, and even tour the lower level of his “Texas White House” home. Be sure to stop by the show barn and check out the livestock where baby goats were roaming the barn during our visit, and our little ones ended up playing with them for nearly two hours. www.nps.gov/lyjo/index.htm
Wildseed Farms is a popular destination for snowbirds. This working wildflower farm grows and harvests wildflowers on 1,000 acres in Texas, 200 of which are located just 7 miles east of Fredericksburg on 290. During a visit to the Wildseed Market Center, you can see the farm staff at work, walk the trails lining fields of wildflowers, and even create your own bouquets in their “pick your own” gardens. At the specialty shops on the grounds, you are sure to find gorgeous wildflower-themed treasures, and can even purchase Texas wildflower seeds to take back home with you. www.wildseedfarms.com
Try to time your visit on a weekend when the Fredericksburg Trade Days are happening across the road. You can find a schedule of dates for this huge eclectic vendor fair at www.fbgtradedays.com/events.html
If your visit to Fredericksburg happens to be in the spring, you simply must drive the Willow City Loop. Texas Hill Country is famous for their bluebonnet blooms, and people drive from hours around to view them. April and May are prime time for viewing. Tip: Weekends can be bumper to bumper, so try to do the drive during the week.
To enjoy the Willow City Loop, take Hwy. 16N (Llano Street) out of Fredericksburg. After 13.3 miles, take a right onto RR1323, then 2.79 miles to Willow City and turn left on Willow City Loop. All lands on this road are private, so please stay on the road and in your vehicle for the next 13 miles as it winds through gorgeous, but rugged Texas Hill Country. Where the Willow City Loop reconnects with 16, turn right to head back to Fredericksburg.
Otto’s German Bistro offers up a unique night on the town destination. Featuring locally sourced foods in the preparation of their German dishes, the menu may vary from visit to visit, but is sure to tempt and please the most picky of palate. www.ottosfbg.com
Clear River Pecan Bakery is a fun, upbeat diner that serves refreshing salads, delicious deli sandwiches, display case after display case of fresh baked pastries, and 30 varieties of rich, stand-in-line-worthy, Fredericksburg-made ice cream. www.icecreamandfun.com
Located just a block and a half off of Main Street, Opa’s Market and Deli offers affordable take out boxed lunches that feature their locally made and smoked meats and sausage. Whether or not you try their take out, purchasing some of their flavorful smoked sausages from any of the local grocery stores is a must. www.opassmokedmeats.com
Where to stay
Fredericksburg RV Park is the place to put down jacks if you will be touring the area. Attracting a more mature crowd, this park offers a seasonal pool, free Wi-Fi, well manicured grounds and maintained facilities, and large pull-through sites. www.fbgrvpark.com
Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park is a popular campground with RVers, and is very family friendly. With roomy sites, free Wi-Fi, and affordable weekly and monthly sites, it’s a great place to stay while you slow down the traveling pace and really explore Fredericksburg. This campground is located near the LBJ State Park, and is adjacent to the Lady Bird Johnson Park and swimming pool. www.fbgtx.org/index.aspx?NID=343
Located 5 miles south of Fredericksburg, the Oakwood RV Resort is another family-friendly choice for your stay. This park features a large pool, treed acreage, and a rural setting. Be sure to specify if you would like a fire ring for campfires as not all sites have them. www.oakwoodrvresort.com.
Fredericksburg, Texas has been a favorite destination of ours for years. With all of the engaging activities, enjoyable stops, palate-pleasing foodie ops, and the welcoming atmosphere of the locals, we think that it will quickly become a favorite of yours as well.