Busting Texas Myths in Fredericksburg, Texas Hill Country

Texas Bluebonnets - credit Fredericksburg CVB

Texas Bluebonnets – credit Fredericksburg CVB

Like any Canadian who has travelled, I’ve been questioned about the myths that people from other countries believe to be quintessentially Canadian. Some common ones I’ve come across: all Canadians speak fluent English and French (I wish), everyone loves poutine (of course!), and north of the 49th we live at least part of the year in igloos (what can I say?).

It’s not unusual to have a stereotypical expectation of a destination. So when I decided to take a trip to Fredericksburg, a small city of 11,000 people, located in the Gillespie County of Texas Hill Country, I have to admit I was expecting a dry, desert landscape filled with tumbleweeds, longhorn cattle, steakhouses and cowboys/girls.

A big, beautiful Texas Longhorn - credit Kate Robertson

A big, beautiful Texas Longhorn – credit Kate Robertson

When I instead found a city surrounded by lush green surroundings and vineyards and brimming with culture–over 150 boutiques, more than 20 art galleries and studios, all kinds of restaurants, and German heritage–I couldn’t have been more surprised.

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German History

Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 by Hans von Meusebach when Germans were leaving their home country to avoid political upheaval, and Texas was seen as a land of limitless opportunity. Be sure to do a walking tour of the National Historical District, where you can see 700 historically significant structures, from fachwerk, traditional German timber-frame style buildings, to the beautiful white-ish Texas limestone civil war buildings.

Vereins Kirche - historical building in the centre of the Marktplatz - credit Kate Robertson

Vereins Kirche – a historical building in the centre of the Marktplatz – credit Kate Robertson

In the middle of the Marktplatz, is the octagonal Vereins Kirche (Society Church), a replica of the original built in 1847, which served as a church, school and community centre, next to the maibaum (maypole), used for traditional May Day celebrations.

Learn more about the history at the Pioneer Museum, where you will find 100s of artifacts and a collection of authentic structures from the German pioneer days, like the unique “Sunday house”. Because many Fredericksburg residents initially lived on farms, they built these one-room houses with a sleeping loft for a place to stay when they would make the trip to town on Saturdays to go to dances and then church on Sunday morning.

There’s even such a thing as Texas German, a dialect spoken by the German descendants, although I was told that the language is near extinction with the younger generations, hence a recent movement to preserve it.

Der Lindenbaum, one of the many German restaurants in Fredericksburg - credit Kate Robertson

Der Lindenbaum, one of the many German restaurants in Fredericksburg – credit Kate Robertson

Another reminder of Fredericksburg’s German heritage is the numerous German restaurants scattered about the town, like Der Lindenbaum on the main street, where they serve up traditional German specialities like schnitzel, sauerbraten and bratwurst. The newly opened Alstadt Brewery, where they brew only German-style beer, is another nod to the German roots.

Peaches, Wine and Bluebonnets

If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of a Texas Peach. Well, Fredericksburg is the peach capital of Texas, and roadside peach stands line the roads from May through August.

Das Peach Haus - Courtesy of Fischer & Wieser

Das Peach Haus – Courtesy of Fischer & Wieser

For some one-stop shopping, visit Fischer & Wieser’s Das Peach Haus. This speciality food company grew up out of the peach orchard that was planted out back 91 years ago. Now, along with peaches, they sell hundreds of products like jams, pasta sauces, and mustards. Over recent years, they have also opened a wine-tasting room and started a culinary adventure experience where you can join a cooking class to learn how to elevate local ingredients.

Amazingly, the Texas Hill Country, where they cultivate vines suited to heat and drought (like tempranillo), is the second busiest wine tourism destination after Napa Valley. Fredericksburg is the epicentre, and you can visit more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms.

Texas Hill Country grapes - credit Blake Mistich

Texas Hill Country grapes – credit Blake Mistich

Thanks to former First Lady and Texan Lady Bird Johnson, who was passionate about protection and beautification of the natural landscape, the area around Fredericksburg is filled with herb farms, lavender and wildflower fields. During wildflower season (late March-April), you will see masses of bluebonnets (the state flower), Indian paintbrush and poppies. Wildseed Farms, just outside of Fredericksburg, is the largest wild seed producer in the United States, and here you can see 200 acres of fields of colourful flowers.

Wildflower fields at Wildseed Farms - credit Kate Robertson

Wildflower fields at Wildseed Farms – credit Kate Robertson

Hiking and Biking the Countryside

Cycling Grapetown Loop Road - credit Kate Robertson

Cycling Grapetown Loop Road – credit Kate Robertson

With its rolling hills and panoramic views, Hill Country is considered to be the cycling capital of Texas.  In Gillespie County alone, there are 805 kilometres of quiet, paved country roads.

Rent a bicycle from a shop like Hill Country Bicycle Works in Fredericksburg (they have e-bikes if you don’t want to work too hard), then drive out of town to Luckenbach, where you can park your vehicle.  From here, cycle the Grapetown Loop Road over creeks, past old limestone homesteads and alongside lovely green fields filled with sheep, cows (and I did see a Texas longhorn) and horses.

Luckenbach Post Office - credit Kate Robertson

Luckenbach Post Office – credit Kate Robertson

After the two-hour ride, you’ll be ready for a beer, and back at Luckenbach Saloon, you’re in luck (okay, this is classic Texas, but it was one of my favourite stops). Made famous by outlaw country music and Waylon and Willie’s 1976 classic hit (and yes, they really did perform here), all there is to Luckenbach is the saloon, a post office, and the famous 1880s dance hall, where they still hold regular concerts and festivals.

For more outdoors, head over to nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to hike the vast, pinkish granite exfoliation dome.  One of the largest batholiths, an underground rock formation uncovered by erosion, in the United States, the dome rises 150 metres above the surrounding landscape. Parts of the trail are steep, but it takes less than an hour to reach the summit, and the 360-view of the green fields and forests of the Hill Country from the top make it well worth it. Definitely a good spot to contemplate the inaccuracies of stereotyping.

Hiking the trail at Enchanted Rock - credit Kate Robertson

Hiking the trail at Enchanted Rock – credit Kate Robertson

 

 

Fredricksburg Texas Travel info:

  • Most major airlines fly into San Antonio. From there, rent a car and make the 1 to 1.5-hour drive to Fredericksburg
  • Fredericksburg has over 1,000 short-term rental and B&Bs with a local flavour. I had a room with a fireplace (Texas nights can get chilly) at Lodge Above Town Creek and loved its Texas ranch-meets-antique décor, as well as the fact it’s located only one block from the main street, making for easy exploration of the historical downtown.  Other perks are that they have an outdoor pool, and every morning a cute little breakfast basket is waiting at your door
  • Fredericksburg has three busy seasons: late March-April for wildflower season, fall which is grape harvest time and Oktoberfest, and Christmas when the streets are decked out with lights and decorations
  • For more info on activities, go to visitfredericksburg.com

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