Destination on the Rise: Fredericksburg, Texas

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The charming weekend retreat long-loved by locals is now calling audiences from far beyond Hill Country’s borders.

In the heart of Hill Country, less than two hours from both Austin and San Antonio, sits a town founded by an 19th-century German baron, and named for Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia. Over the 100-plus years since, Fredericksburg had held on to its Teutonic charm, becoming a top weekend spot for antiquing, relaxing at B&Bs, and enjoying bratwurst and beer at eateries like the Old German Bakery and Restaurant and The Auslander Restaurant and Biergarten. In the 1970s, Fredericksburg became a convenient base for exploring the vineyards and wineries that had started popping up in the area. Today, there are over two dozen wineries in Hill Country—dubbed one of the best wine travel destinations by Wine Enthusiast magazine—along with lavender and fruit farms, artisan product stalls, and more; visit in October, officially “Texas Wine Trail Month,” to enjoy a roster of special grape-themed events, tours, and tastings.

But in the last couple of years, as both Austin and San Antonio have grown beyond their borders, there’s been an under-the-radar shift happening in Fredericksburg. Entrepreneurs and chefs priced out of the larger cities have set-up shop here, while the children of some of the original Hill Country vintners are returning home—many armed with viticulture degrees—to take things to the next level. In mid-2013, husband-and-wife team John and Evelyn Washburne—who’d moved back to town following stints in larger cities—teamed up with chef Adam Yoho to create Otto’s German Bistro (316 E. Austin St.; 830-307-3336; ottosfbg.com), which puts a modern spin on German classics using locally sourced ingredients, then pairs them with cutting-edge cocktails and biodynamic and organic wines. In 2015, the trio turned the colorful house next to Otto’s into the family-friendly Tubby’s Icehouse (318 E. Austin St., 830-307-3026; tubbysfbg.com), where locals flock for creative tacos (including a goat vindaloo), pulled pork sandwiches, and Michelada-flavored paletas.

Late-2015 also saw the arrival of several new drinking spots, further catering to an expanded—and increasingly more savvy—clientele; as Otto’s John Washburne explains, it’s not unusual these days to see “working cowboys drinking Tempranillo and Riesling alongside musicians, billionaires, and winemakers” at the spots around town. Along Main Street, Pontotoc’s Weingarten (320 W. Main St.; 512-658-0023; pontotocvineyard.com) and Narrow Path Winery (113 E. Main St.; 830-992-1404; narrowpathwinery.com) joined the nearly dozen other tasting rooms forming the downtown urban wine trail, while the Coop’s (607 W. Main St.; 830-992-3192; thecoopfbg.com) expansive back garden has become a favorite for drinks and live music. A short drive along Wine Road 290 brings you to Armadillo’s Leap Winery (6266 E. US-290; 830-998-3590; armadillosleap.com), a quirky, accessibly priced off-shoot of the established Pedernales Cellars; the covered patio in the back offers a great perch from where to sip bubbles against a scenic Hill Country backdrop. Meanwhile, brew fans can follow the Texas Hill Country Craft Beer Trail (also launched in late-2015), which includes local makers like Fredericksburg Brewing and Pedernales Brewing Company. And in late-2016, the Scripps family will open Altstadt, a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art brewery using equipment imported from—where else?—Germany.

Once all the eating and drinking is done, lay your head at one of the town’s indie inns and B&Bs. Set on five acres just off main street, the fresh, farmhouse-y Hoffman Haus (from $135; 608 E. Creek St.; 830-997-6739; hoffmanhaus.com) offers a mix of rooms, suites, and cottages; the latter reflect the architectural history of the area, moving from German dogtrots (or breezeways) to log cabins and classic Sears & Roebuck homes. Owned by a trained chef, the inn delivers complimentary gourmet breakfast to guests each morning, and hosts wine events and cooking classes focused on flavorful vegetarian and vegan options—an unexpected twist, deep in the heart of Texas.