Is it hokey? Or is it history? It’s hard to tell at first glance in Fredericksburg, Texas, at least when you come for Oktoberfest as we did a year ago. This October festival means that Main Street, with its nineteenth century houses is bedecked with Texas state flags and German ones. It means rowdy polka music, German beers for parents and an introduction to the sour delights of sauerkraut for the kids. Our kids said the name was apt, but it didn’t mean they didn’t enjoy experiencing the pungent cabbage treat.
We spent a lot of time exploring Texas on our last trip, and from the Big Bend to the riverboat glitz ofSan Antonio and the sky scrapers of Houston, there is a lot to see. Fredericksburg is a quintessential American find, with everything from a naval museum to comfy motels with no chain affiliations.
Our kids loved the beautifully maintained Main Street, which made an excellent early morning family stroll before the crowds came out to invade the antique shops with a vengeance. Even better was early lunch in the friendly Main Street German restaurant, Der Lindenbaum. Take a pause and a photo under the intricate carved wooden facade above the entry, and then enjoy the nutcracker collections and tin ceiling while ordering a tasty sandwich or two. The friendly owners brought our kids the first of their sauerkraut samples, gratis. The schnitzel, a house speciality, was truly awesome. Parent caveat: schnitzel and a German pilsner for lunch, and a hot Texas day, makes napping seem awfully appealing, but your kids may not comply.
After lunch came a trip to the Admiral Nimitz Naval Museum. Why a tribute to the water so far from the ocean? Well, we discovered the town is the home town and birth place of Chester Nimitz, commander of World War II’s Pacific fleet. We were impressed by the extensive displays of weaponry and Naval knowledge, and frankly even more so by the even handed treatment of Japan. We were able to share with our kids a nicely open minded look at why Japan entered the war. The Admiral Museum is located in the historic Nimitz Hotel which was once owned by Nimitz’ grandfather. Outdoors the Plaza of the President serves as a tribute to American presidents, ten in all, who served in the armed forces.
Just outside of town, you’ll find another striking monument: the enormous rock face of pink granite known as Enchanted Rock. If you go at twilight, you’ll be treated not only to a spectacular sunset reflecting on the rock and heightening its color, but a terrific star show. With no street lights and a relatively high elevation in whats known as the Llano Uplift region, you can point out the big and little dipper to the kids and still be close to town. We could even see the white blanket of stars that make up the milky way. If camping is your thing, this area has a pleasant, and uncrowded campground with bathroom facilities.
We opted to stay in town at the comfortable Frederick Motel right on Main Street. While not fancy by urban standards, it was clean, spacious, and incredibly child friendly. The manager on staff gave my kids a ball to play with – with the caveat not to toss it around inside the room.
Another great looking option is Sunday Haus Cottages located on a charming herb farm. We loved exploring the garden environment, and we had a lovely meal at the Farm Haus bistro, where organic ingredients with an emphasis on vegetables was truly enjoyed. Dining was outdoors, and the chef was extremely accommodating to the many different diets of our party. The cottages, though small, looked luxurious, and the name comes from small city houses built by outlying German settlers to use when they came to town from ranches or farms to attend church on Sunday.
The next morning we drove a short way out of town to explore the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, which contains an early 1900′s German Farm. Park staffers portray early settlers in the Texas Hill Country, acting out chores such as cow milking, cooking, and garden tending. The park was not over crowded when we were there, and the kids were able to get a little hands on cow-milking action and taste a carrot fresh from the garden. There are also walking trails throughout the park, many of them pleasantly shaded. Also on site is the LBJ ranch, and while we did not take it, there is an auto tour available to follow.
Instead we opted first for a stop at a roadside farm stand. The Hill Country part of Texas surprised us with its bevy of fruit farms and wineries. We had some completely awesome blackberries which we were assured were fresh picked. That didn’t completely satiate us however, so we returned to town for another tasty German lunch: this time at the Fredericksburg landmark The Ausländer Restaurant and Biergarten. The prize here was German chocolate cake that was amazingly decadent and delightful. The kids got to burn off a lot of enjoyable energy dancing to the oompahpah style band on the outdoor patio.
A family at an adjoining table recommended yet another tourist draw in the region: Luckenbach Texas. Not so much a town as a tiny enclave, and one of the oldest settlements in the country, this 1849 Trading Post was established by a German settler who helped win Texas’ independence and set up the large general store still standing here. It’s fun to explore, stocking a variety of unusual items, penny candy, kids toys, and inexpensive souvenirs such as key rings in the shape of Texas. Family friendly country music is offered at night; we enjoyed a concert by Stoney LaRue, before returning to historic Main Street.
Fredericksburg Texas – Touring Hill Country; Tots & Travel, Family Vacations & Reviews
By Genie Davis, 8/2/11