It is electrifying to discover a destination that sets itself apart from the usual well-traveled, ‘been-there-done-that’ vacation fare. Fredericksburg, Texas, definitely qualifies as one of those discoveries. Located in Texas Hill Country, where the rugged mounds of soil are cloaked in granite and limestone, and the Southern drawl is thick enough to butter your waffle, it is an easy, well-worth-it drive from either San Antonio or Austin.
And while the shoot ‘em up days of Texas may have quieted down a tad, a visitor can still create a lot of damage charging down the ‘Burg’s’ main street with a holster full of credit cards. With 150 specialty shops to saunter in and out of, in gloriously sunny 80 degree Texas weather, a girl can truly believe there’s a shopping god. It’s a veritable alphabet of shopping categories, from art, to collectibles, fashion to furniture, delicate butterfly and rose scalloped linens, homemade chocolates, upscale home accessories, western stationary, and of course, tooled and line-dance crafted cowboy boots and hats. What makes the outlay of cash most enchanting is the fact that a lot of the shops are housed in authentically restored 18th century buildings. It’s amazing how chic it feels to shop in historical elegance with nary a big box store in sight.
“And we didn’t forget about the men,” Dick Estenson, owner of the Fredericksburg Brewing Company says. “We thought there should be a place for men to come and enjoy a beer while their wives and girlfriends shopped.” To that end, the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, Texas’ oldest brewpub, offers an array of award-winning brews, including the Hauptstrasse Helles beer, a Gold Medal winner in 2008. And, even better, sidewalk consumption of a cold one is legal and oh, so civilized.
Once you’ve shopped and sated your thirst, you can indulge your artistic side with a visit to the ‘Burg’s many exceptional art galleries and artisan shops. In fact, if your visit coincides with the first week of any month, make sure to take in the First Friday Art Walk. The Whistle Pik Gallery features one of Texas’ most beloved painters, G. Harvey, who created the Smithsonian Dream to celebrate the illustrious institution’s 150th anniversary. Terry Jones, at Artisans at Rocky Hill, creates stand-out iron sculptures by incorporating guns within his pieces, including a Saturday Night Special. Jones, who rescues guns from three area police stations, says he uses the guns in his sculptures to, “change something bad into something good.”
Travel the short jaunt out of town to savour Wildseed Farms, a must for photographers with definitive macro lens. I thanked my lucky stars that I had one as I tip-toed through the tulips, picked my way through the lavender and zoomed in on the mighty rich-hued Bluebonnet, Texas’ state flower. A massive field of red poppies, as far as the eye could see, tossed their heads in the breeze to a chorus of trills and tweets from passing song birds. Not only can you pick your own bouquet of stunningly colourful wild flowers, you can then congratulate yourself with a cold brew at the farm’s Brewbonnet Biergarten.
There are many places to dine in the Fredericksburg area, but the preeminent meal for me was dinner at The Farm Haus Bistro, a 19th-century house full of ambiance and charm. My Amberjack fish entrée was kissed with fresh herbs from the Bistro’s garden, the palette-cleansing button-scoop sorbets were homemade, and the crusted orange rum cake had me scraping my fork across the plate looking for crumbs. The Herb Farm’s Nature Spa, whose motto is, “Where Heaven Sings,” is tranquility at its finest, with relaxation rooms, a sun patio and traditional Japanese-style rice paper doors.
Wearing off all that beer and food can be done with a solid hike up the gargantuan pink granite Enchanted Rock, which rises 425 feet above ground. The walk up its sheer-vaulted face is punctuated with several sightseeing marvels. Cacti, with their pastel yellow and soft pink roses, sprout randomly from rock crevices. Rock fractures house pools of water with teensy fairy shrimp darting madly back and forth. The view from the top affords a brilliant view of the lush Texas Hill Country side.
Night time is Luckenbach time! Made famous by both Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker (Viva Terlingua), Luckenbach, (population 3), with its 1849 general store, saloon and dance hall, is a tie-dyed, sultry, musical way to celebrate a Texas evening.
Y’all come back now, ya here!
Farm Haus Bistro www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com
Nature’s Spa www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com/spa
Artisans at Rocky Hillwww.artisansatrockyhill.com