By Nancy Foster
The quaint and picturesque city of Fredericksburg, Texas is often referred to as a place right out of a Hallmark movie, and its unique appeal makes it an ideal holiday visit! Due to its world-class museum, historic elements, unique shops, restaurants, attractions, lodging options and the Texas Rangers Heritage Center, the tourism industry is booming. There’s also a thriving wine industry and a plethora of events to suit every age. Visitors flock here from all over the world, and many make it a point to come during the holiday season. The community raises the bar on nostalgia, receiving accolades as one of the nation’s best small towns for Christmas in the south. For good reason.
It was German Baron John von Meusebach who chose the area as a potential settlement for German immigrants back in 1846, naming the wild Texas frontier settlement after Prince Frederick of Prussia. The terrain offered good ranching opportunities with its easy access to two creeks and the Pedernales River, but it also brought turmoil to the new settlers who endured years of skirmishes with the local Comanche tribes. From 1848 to 1853, Fort Martin Scott served as the first U.S. Army outpost built on this rugged expanse. Long since abandoned, the present-day 10-acre city-owned complex offers visitors opportunity to view remnant outbuildings including the original guardhouse and two replica Officer’s Quarters buildings. Fredericksburg can be applauded for its historic preservation efforts. There are over 80 points of historical significance in the National Historic District alone. Locator maps can be obtained at the Visitors Center at 302 E. Austin Street.
If you’ve ever been to Germany during Weihnachtszeit (Christmas season), Fredericksburg will conjure up memories of Deutschland’s ancient town squares and festive downtown flavor. This is how the city looks and feels from November to January when a nip in the air likens it to a Dickens theme. For sure, it has a lot of appeal for every age.
Stops you won’t want to miss include Marktplatz, the city’s foremost park, centered by the Vereins Kirche, an octagonal-shaped building and site of the first school and church. It is here where most of the holiday activities occur, anchored by a beautifully-decorated 30-foot metal-framed tree and authentic German Christmas pyramid sure to bring in oohs, aahs, and lots of Instagram photos.
Fredericksburg’s Christmas Nights of Lights runs Tuesday, November 21 through Sunday, January 7 and includes music and Christmas carols beginning at 5 p.m. and a 10-minute audio program on the city’s heritage that leads into the nightly countdown as dazzling lights transform the Marktplatz. To add to the fun, rent skates and enjoy outdoor ice skating (Eisbahn) at Marktplatz where proceeds go to charity.
On Friday, December 1st at 6:30 p.m., the long-awaited illuminated Night Christmas Parade, highlighted by the appearance of Santa and Mrs. Claus, runs between Washington and Bow Streets. Pack a lawn chair or opt for bleacher seats. Fredericksburg-texas.com
VISIT WITH SANTA AND THE TEXAS RANGERS
On Saturday, December 2nd at the Texas Rangers Heritage Center, a free holiday-themed event will be highlighted by greetings from Santa Claus. (Read more about this special event in this issue.) While on the grounds, stop by the Texas Ranger Ring of Honor, the Campanile Bell Tower, and several larger-than-life bronzes.
MORE SIGHTS TO SEE
-National Museum of the Pacific War, a Smithsonian affiliate since 2021, celebrates the military career of Fredericksburg native Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who played a significant role in WWII in the Pacific Theatre. It’s also a great place to shop for military-themed books, posters, caps, and authentic model airplanes.
-Admission to the “must see” Pioneer Museum gains you entrance to ten historic buildings including the Vereins Kirche Museum at 100 W. Main Street. pioneermuseum.org
-Wear some comfortable shoes for A Walk through Time at the 64th Annual Historic Home Tour on November 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Take in the preview party on November 17 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.) Events are held at the museum’s 1855 First United Methodist Church Sanctuary & Social Hall.) Five types of period homes will include pioneer rock or stone homes, Victorian, mid-century and modern styles. pioneermuseum.org/home-tour.
-The Holiday Market, sponsored by the Gillespie County Historical Society, will be held in the Sanctuary and Social Hall adjoining the pioneer museum grounds. Twenty vendors will be on hand to tempt you with specialty goods.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
The old-world influence permeates the entire Fredericksburg community, especially at holiday time. Most shops are gaily trimmed and many feature seasonally-themed products and goods.
Fredericksburg is well on its way to being recognized as a significant component of the Texas Wine Country and you’ll find more than 60 area wineries and tasting rooms to explore. Most tasting rooms are decorated beautifully and make for a great stop to sample and stock up.
Looking for great German-style beer? A visit to Altstadt brewery is a must! This grand European style brewery provides tours, live music, fine food, and of course, world-class beer, all in a Bavarian-inspired environment. Or, opt for Altdorf Biergarten. This classic German beer garden with a shady patio serves tap beers, traditional dishes and eclectic fare.
As far as dining is concerned, there is no shortage of locally-run cafes and restaurants in the city, and many feature menu items with a German touch. If you’ve never tried authentic German Schnitzel, add this to your “must do” list for an unforgettable feast.
One iconic eatery is the Old German Bakery & Restaurant. People line up for plates of authentic German meals including flavorful schnitzels, succulent beef rouladens and hearty bratwurst plates. Don’t leave without a stop at the pastry and bread shop and take home some freshly-baked German pastries, breads, kolaches, and even fabulous stollen (available only during the Christmas season.)
Gaining a reputation for its inventive menu is Hill & Vine, open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch with temptations including a Cornbread & Biscuit Box for starters, Chicken Schnitzel and a fork-tender Angus Ribeye. No reservations accepted, so come early.
Local bands play at many local eateries, including Pioneer, Fredericksburg’s newest bar and live music venue, and there’s also a dance floor, so come for the evening. For more cultural enjoyment, plan an evening (or two) to take in the live holiday-themed performances at Rockbox Theater. The classic Nutcracker will show on December 8, 9, and 10, followed by Tomaseen Foley’s “A Celtic Christmas” on December 15th with Irish music, song and dance based around a 1940s Christmas in Ireland. The Dallas String Quartet will astound you with a special performance on December 17th at
3:00 p.m., and enjoy some Christmas merriment on December 22nd when the 3 Redneck Tenors SPEC-TAC-YULE-AR regale audiences with a down-home holiday concert. For New Year’s Eve merriment, ring in 2024 with A Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd by Lone Star Skynyrd. rockboxtheater.com
MECCA FOR SHOPPERS
For those who love to shop (and who doesn’t, especially at holiday time!), make sure to allow an hour or two to browse through dozens of unique shops, boutiques and galleries, many within walking distance of the historic district. If you like to buy “Made in Texas” gifts, whether for yourself or for others, you won’t run out of options. Foodies will love the decadence at Quintessential Chocolates. Choose among spirit, wine, fruit nectar, or coffee-centered filled chocolates (think Irish Cream Liqueur or Cranberry Pecan White Chocolate Bark) in attractive boxes. For dog lovers, stop in to Dogologie and find everything for your favorite pup including Red nose reindeer sweaters, cushy sleeper beds and Texas-themed dog collars. For the gift they won’t return, visit Circle E Candles and choose among hundreds of aromatic candles and accessories perfect for anyone on your list. At Opa’s Smoked Meats (open since 1947), fabulous gift boxes with handmade smoked sausages and meats will delight the foodies on your list. (tip: Opa’s Sausage Sampler is a sure-fire hit). At Texas Jack’s Wild West Outfitter, find classic western attire, boots, belts, hats, jewelry, revolvers, rifles and replica guns housed in one of Fredericksburg’s historic buildings. Wildseed Farms is just a short drive from downtown and offers gifts for any gardener or nature-lover on your list. Their spacious gift shop also features dozens of seed packets ready for next year’s plantings. Head to Das Peach Haus by Fischer & Wieser and roam their beautiful showroom for jams, jellies, salsas, sauces and more. A unique event will occur on November 30th that would delight anyone who has a love for cooking. Register for an unforgettable culinary adventure at their Open Fire Cooking Experience and learn the magic of outdoor cooking led by renowned grill master/chef Al Furgoni. Featured will be the hearty and magical blend of Argentinian, Texan, and Italian flavors that come to life over an open fire. (jelly. com)https://store.jelly.com/products/guest-chef-fall-series-open-fire-dinner-with-al-furgoni-november-30-2023
STAY A WHILE
To immerse yourself in the true holiday experience, stay for a night (or two). Fredericksburg has numerous lodging options including chain hotels, B&Bs, RV camping, guest houses, boutique inns, and locally-owned motels. You’ll even find a few “Sunday houses” reminiscent of 19th century Fredericksburg when German settlers drove from remote ranches to town for church or supplies and built a small place for brief stays. If you want a very cool place to stay, check out a few of Fredericksburg’s super unique accommodations.
The Hangar Hotel, just three miles south of downtown at the Gillespie County Airport, is a comfortable 50-room property built with the exterior appearance of a 1940s WWII hangar. This adults-only hotel features décor with airplane memorabilia and USO history, an Officer’s Club Lounge, tastefully-appointed sleeping rooms, and an adjacent vintage-themed diner that fuels you up with hearty breakfast choices and freshly prepared luncheon salads and sandwiches, all with views of the runway. Many guests from all over Texas travel here for a quick fly-in getaway. hangarhotel.com
Another choice sits just five miles from the heart of the city. Want to boast to your friends that you stayed in a gigantic wine barrel? Four of these individually-themed cabins tucked into a rustic setting may be just what you want for a quiet retreat. winebarrelcabins.com.
At the edge of downtown on West Main Street are Wine Country Cottages. Book early and choose among 13 distinct cottages or cabins including The Tank House built around an original water tank, the 1846 Loeffler-Weber Cabin which was the first Sunday House in Fredericksburg, and the cozy Bodega, complete with hot tub. stayfredericksburg.com
Want rustic, yet luxurious, romance with history? The Wild Ram Cabin established in 1847 is located on 2.5 acres just three miles east of Fredericksburg. The authentic, well-appointed cabin features all of life’s modern conveniences and more. As the sun sets and the stars appear, enjoy sipping a glass of complimentary wine while star gazing from your private saltwater system hot springs hot tub. The cabin even features an infrared dry sauna! Enjoy the sunrise and the sounds of nature while sipping your morning coffee from the front porch swing. It’s the quintessential Hill Country experience and is highly recommended. Available through VRBO.
Another stunning and “must see to believe” bed and breakfast is located just 20 minutes north of downtown Fredericksburg. It’s considered one the most unique, enchanting properties in the entire Hill Country. The Trois Estate at Enchanted Rock is an old world village that you will not find anywhere else. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then checking out their website to plan your future stay is an absolute must. Troisestate.net
With all these fabulous events, attractions, restaurants and shopping opportunities, engaging with the locals is probably going to be the most notable experience you’ll have in Fredericksburg. Expect to find Texas-friendly, helpful folks always eager to offer even more advice and make you feel welcome.
Make some time this holiday season and take a trek to the enchanting city of Fredericksburg. It’s an easy one hour drive north of San Antonio and a 90-minute drive west of Austin. For further information, head to visitfredericksburgtx.com