SHOPPING AND CROWDS COME TO mind when you hear "Fredericksburg." There has been so much hoopla about this Hill Country hamlet turned antiques shopping magnet that some say they avoid the place all together. But there is so much more to this charming spot than shopping—of course, there's some truth to the hype.
The best way to avoid the typical Hill Country special is to stay in an atypical bed-and-breakfast. Fredericksburg has its share of B&B's, but most are on the frilly side (read: doilies). So when I wanted to book a place for the weekend, I called Gästehaus Schmidt, a company that does most of the reservations for B&B's and guesthouses in town. I asked the cheerful receptionist for a place that wasn't frou-frou, and she had the perfect recommendation, which I snapped up. My husband, Kit, was leery before we arrived, but once we surveyed the small house—actually, two stories and large enough to sleep at least eight comfortably—we knew we had a keeper. Everything else was easy.
On our first morning, I got up early and walked along Main Street to window shop, assessing the wares so that I wouldn't have to contend with the throngs later in the day when the sidewalks were lined with people. This proved an excellent tactic, and I was able to get my shopping done in a reasonable amount of time—not including browsing, which means looking wistfully at furniture that I have no intention of purchasing. While many of the retail stores that line this retail drag seem somewhat similar in terms of merchandise, a few stand out such as the Homestead, which offers everything from fabric and garden supplies to furniture and linens. I spent a lot of time browsing in this three-story space.
Kit met me a little later for lunch. German food prevails in this town, but that doesn't mean you can't find a place that offers hamburgers or pasta. We opted to sit outdoors at one of the Biergartens and sip on cold draft beers while people-watching and enjoying a snack or two. Once sated, we headed back home and decided to relax in our back yard and read while our food digested. (Hint: In Fredericksburg you don't have to be on the move all the time.) That afternoon we decided to take a drive, and there is no better place to go in the area than the Willow City Loop, which is about fifteen miles north of town. The loop is a thirteen-mile stretch of road that offers breathtaking views of the Hill Country. (During April, the wildflowers draw big crowds.)
Another nice day trip—in the opposite direction—is to visit Becker Vineyards, which was established in the early nineties. After a tour of the vineyard, you should stop in the tasting room to sample deep reds and soothing whites (the outdoor patio is a nice spot to enjoy a little vino and cheese and look at the beautiful grounds). Not too far away is the small town of Luckenbach (surely, you've heard the Waylon Jennings song of the same name), which has a dancehall and a post office but that's about it. The drive to this small blip on the map is worth it if only to say you've been there, done that.
While there are plenty of places to eat dinner in Fredericksburg, we prefer to head out to the Hill Top Cafe, about ten miles west of town on US 87. Here you'll find delicious Cajun and Greek food tempered with live entertainment—as in a guy playing the acoustic guitar while you eat. This is a place where you'll enjoy spending the whole evening.
The highlight of our trip was a daybreak hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. Climbing to the summit of the huge pink granite dome—it is 425 feet above ground—isn't for the weary; be sure to take an ample supply of water to stay hydrated. On our way up, we passed lots of other couples who had the same idea. There's nothing like watching the sun come up from this high up; we could see for miles and miles. Unfortunately, we didn't pack a breakfast and our growling stomachs indicated that we needed sustenance, so we made our way down and back into town, where there are plenty of bakeries that offer delicious German pastries. If only things were this simple—and wonderful—every day.