Fredericksburg is everything you’d expect in Texas and nothing like it at all.
HEADER IMAGE: (Clockwise from to left) Steve Rawls, Robbyn Dodd, Robbyn Dodd, Trish Rawls
First settled in 1846 by Germans looking to escape the bondage of continental Europe, Fredericksburg, for its small size of 10,000, has contributed two giants of twentieth century history. It was home to Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet during the Second World War, and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Texas White House” is 15 minutes east of town. Fredericksburg has exceptional museums and attractions while maintaining a small town feel with a distinct German sensibility.
Arriving at Fredericksburg via the San Antonio international airport, the first thing you notice is the German flag flying next to the American and Texan flags. The buildings are constructed of yellow stones that makes them look like they are straight out of the film 3:10 to Yuma, but there’s also a sense of elegance and a European, yet sill American, feel to the place. For convenience stay at the Fredericksburg Inn & Suites, located two blocks from Main Street. Everything in Fredericksburg proper is no more than 20 minutes on foot.
Unlike other parts of the United States Fredericksburg has retained the culture of its founding citizens. If you want German food try Opa’s. It’s a cute little butcher shop that sells traditional German sausages, made in store, and stocks treats straight from Germany. If you are looking for a German-style breakfast, the Old German Bakery & Restaurant with its very German chef serve German-style pancakes that will humble any appetite along with American classics like biscuits and gravy. For a German-style lunch or dinner, Der Lindenbaum serves traditional dishes like Schnitzel and Currywurst, which rival Berlin for authenticity. The decor will make you forget you are in the U.S.
For another unique German experience visit Das Peach Haus. Sitting on the outskirts of town, it is owned by Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, a local, family-owned company that’s famous across the United States, Mexico and Canada for its sauces — the award-winning Raspberry Chipotle sauce is fantastic! Das Peach Haus is Mark Wieser and Case Fisher's tribute to their earlier business producing jellies and preserves behind their family’s peach orchard. The facility’s Adventure Cooking School teaches German-style cooking using Fischer & Wieser Specialty foods products. The classes are taught in a high-tech environment with a professional chef.
The great foodie spots continue with Otto’s German Bistro that offers authentic German food like Schnitzel plus fusion-based cuisine, like their German gnocchi dish. The food is excellent and the owners take immense pride in their German and vintage wine collection, available at affordable prices. They also make great German-style deserts like chocolate cake.
There are plenty of historical related activities. The Pioneer Museum, located right on the main street, is an excellent place to get acquainted with the unique and interesting history of the town. The masterpiece though is The National Museum of the Pacific War, built it Fredericksburg because its native son, Chester Nimitz, led the American fleet during the war in the Pacific (Second World War). It is a world-class institution and par none in terms of excellence. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and take great pride in their work. The museum is detailed enough for any historian to enjoy and yet the exhibits are easy enough to grasp for those who know very little about the war. Inside the museum there are tanks, float planes from the Imperial Japanese Navy, helmets, uniforms, weapons and other historical items, along with more patriotic items like the flag assembled by American POWs after their long and brutal captivity in Japanese camps.
Two blocks down the street there’s another hanger of items including a full-sized PT boat similar to the one JFK served on during the war, and a Grumman Avenger bomber identical to the one George Bush senior flew during his war service. A few meters away, the museum has recreated a battle ground for hosting reenactments that the public can view for a small fee. The museum is one of the best, most impressive military museums in North America, perhaps even in the world.
Just outside of town is Lyndon Johnson's famous “Texas White House”. It is one spot that is a must-see for anyone travelling to Fredericksburg. A National Historic Park, it is also a working farm with cattle that descend from President Johnson's herd. The residency has deep historical significance: Johnson spent almost a quarter of his presidency here in Texas. You can see Johnson's small jet plane and hanger, as well as the runway and secret service booth outside of his house. Johnson's residence stands proudly and there is a garage with his famed Lincoln convertibles and amphibious car. It is also possible to view the school Johnson attended as a child and the spot where he signed his first education bill. The Johnson family’s grave plot is on the property and one can pay their respects at LBJ’s and Lady Bird Johnson's tombstones. The park includes a living history site that shows what it was like for a turn-of-the-century German American family during the First World War era. Reenactors are everywhere weaving yarn, baking cookies, and farming using only tools that existed 100 years ago.
Fredericksburg is also home to a large wine culture which is experiencing a renaissance. Becker Vineyard's is a family-run estate that has a tasting room right on Main Street. If you like red wine their Ranger Hays blend is definitely worth trying but if white wine is more your style, the Viognier is wonderfully refreshing and flavourful.
Heath Sparkling Wines, located about five minutes outside of town, is also a good option. Serving multiple different sparkling wines in a modern tasting facility that feels like a sommelier training facility crossed with the set of a James Bond 007 film. The tastings sessions are informative and each wine is paired with an accompanying food. Right next door is sister company, Grape Creek Vineyards. Their onsite restaurant, Stout’s Trattoria, has gourmet meals with complex flavours. The backdrop of vineyards is romantic and makes you feel like your are in Italy.
If you want to relax after some exhausting wine tasting, Farm Haus Bistro at the Herb Farm is a good place for brunch, lunch or dinner. The Herb Farm also has well-furnished, adult-only cabins that make a great alternative to a typical hotel room, while still within walking distance of Main Street. If you go, plan to take advantage of the 5000 square foot spa.
The art galleries in Fredericksburg are wonderful and have some truly lavish works including many Frederick Remington-like paintings of the west and elegant bronze statues of cowboys riding broncos. The galleries take great pride is displaying local art. Gallery 330, Artisans — Texas Gallery, The Frederiksberg Good Art company, the RS Hannah Gallery, and the Insight Gallery all sit along Main Street, one can spend hours taking in the works.
About a kilometer down the street lies Studio Massaro, a new gallery in a small house run by namesake Catherine Massaro. The gallery offers funky, modern takes on western themes. Massaro's more diverse modern art portfolio is worth checking out.
A close walk from the art district in town, just off the main street, is the Warehouse District — a shopping area full of unique antiques. Look at BlackChalk Home & Laundry for imported goods like Moroccan rugs, silks scarves, and leather products. Carol Hicks Bolton Antiques offers some very unique pieces that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere, like icons from the Orthodox Church and revolutionary-era French flags. Another shopping option worth checking out is Gathered & Good, a boutique vintage store, just down the street from the Fredericksburg Inn & Suites, that mixes antiques with upscale home furnishings. If all the shopping is making you feel hungry, Bejas is a great spot on Main Street offering authentic Mexican chips, dips, burritos and a very tasty Cuban sandwich. If you’re looking for something sweet, the Pritzer Sweet Shop delivers both American cookies and German classics like chocolate cupcakes and sweet pretzels.
Luckenbach, Texas is a good place to go if you want to catch some country music. The country store is worth a visit just to meet Virgil who works behind the counter. With his suspenders and cowboy hat, he is my idea of the stereotypically Texan and he never misses an opportunity to crack a joke. Luckenbach is famous for being the hang out of Willy Nelson. Today, Luckenbach continues to host daily country shows, with a rustic bar to serve the audience and an open-air square-dancing hall with a large stage. It really gives off the Texas vibe that is portrayed in movies and on television.
If you don’t want to venture outside of Fredericksburg to catch a show, dine while listening to music at the Western Edge Kitchen and Cocktails. Located on Main Street, it’s a very popular spot with the locals and you are guaranteed to see some country classics live.
Fredericksburg is an interesting place, overtly German while also proudly Texan. The main street is charming and feels like Munich in Texas Hills Country. With attractions like Luckenbach, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, the monumental National Museum of the Pacific War, great wine tasting sites and a great selection of restaurants and shops, there’s definitely something for everyone. Just Go . . . Jetzt gehen!
Photos by: In order of appearance Marc Bennett, National Museum of the Pacific War, Mckenzie Donovan, Blake Mistich, Mckenzie Donovan, Marc Bennett, Fredericksburg CVB.