There’s a picturesque German town tucked away in the most unlikely of places: Texas Hill Country. Founded in 1846, Fredericksburg is celebrated for its charming Main Street, which is lined with more than 150 antique shops and boutiques, as well as breweries, wineries, and loads of Deutsche-style flair. Unsurprisingly, German cuisine and beer gardens are ubiquitous, but you also will find bistros and upscale restaurants, cozy inns and bed and breakfasts, outdoor activities, and beautiful historic homes. Break out your lederhosen, and don’t worry about language barriers -- the natives speak both English and Texan.
Activities: Get your bearings by ambling around town and seeing the 80-plus homes and structures in the National Historic District. (The Visitor Information Center downtown has a helpful self-guided walking tour map, if you need it.) Then visit the Fredericksburg Farmers Market or go antiquing and Christmas shopping. For outdoor fun, hike at one of the many Hill Country parks, rock climb at Enchanted Rock -- a 640-acre pink granite dome -- and other rock formations, or ride horseback at Circle K Trail Rides or Spotted Pony Trail Riding Services. There’s also fishing, birding, and bicycling.
Museums and Tours: Brush up on your presidential history at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, in the country home of the former president that was known as the “Texas Whitehouse.”
Eats: The Auslander Restaurant & Biergarten is a local institution with an enormous global beer selection, live music on weekends in the biergarten, and down-home German food. Get the German Snack -- with grilled sausage, sauerkraut, cheddar, and Swiss on pumpernickel bread -- and anything (or everything) from the sausage and schnitzel section of the menu. For fine dining, farm-to-market fare, August E’s is the place. Chef Leu Savanh entices diners with his nouveau Texas cuisine, featuring dishes such as quail breast wrapped in bacon fruit chutney; roasted beets, squash, and broccolini drizzled in mint honey; and a wild game menu that includes boar, nilgai, black buck, and sika deer. Finally, Farm Haus Bistro at Fredericksburg Herb Farm, situated in a stone building that was constructed in the 1890s, is just plain tasty. Here, stone-baked pizzas might feature local sausage and white truffle oil on a rosemary crust, with other dinner options ranging from pastas and steaks to pork tenderloin and chicken pot pie.
Drinks: The Fredericksburg Brewing Company has beer lovers covered (figuratively), both in the main dining area and the covered (literally) air-conditioned biergarten, where thirsty travelers can get one of the six housemade beers on tap. Or try more local brews at the Pedernales Brewing Company, which has classic and German-style beers. There are even $10 tours on Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Many visitors also come to town to visit the more than 20 wineries in the area. Tours and shuttles make getting to the vineyards and tasting rooms safe and easy.
Stay: It’s worth the short two-mile drive off Main Street to stay at The Hangar Hotel. For a reasonable $149 to $189 per night, this 50-room boutique hotel is adjacent to a working airfield and is designed to resemble a WWII airplane hangar. With an observation deck for watching planes take off and land, plus ‘40s-era decorative touches -- including bomber jacket-covered club chairs in the rooms and public areas -- the hotel is a destination in and of itself. Vintage planes often are on display near the taxiway, and you’ll find plane memorabilia throughout the property. Also onsite is a diner and a bar called Officer’s Club. Note that the hotel does not allow pets or children under 18, but guests with or without planes are welcome.
Getting There: Fly into Austin Bergstrom International Airport and drive approximately 100 minutes via Highway 71 East and US 290.