Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fredericksburg, Texas

A visitor to the Texas Hill Country needs to pay a visit to Fredericksburg to make the journey complete.

Fredericksburg’s history, like so many things in the hill country, is both based and intertwined with the strong German influence of the region. Today, it is without a doubt, the most visible and important town representing the German history of the area. Coming in from the east, if you stop at all the interesting places along U.S. Highway 290, you might never make it to Fredericksburg.

If you are a history buff, then once you drive into Johnson City, the highway almost literally becomes the history of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life. His birthplace, the first school he attended, his grandfather's home, the LBJ Ranch and Texas White House, his grave and that of his wife, "Lady Bird," are located near Stonewall. The Johnson family ancestral settlement and his childhood home located in Johnson City, along with the prior mentioned Stonewall sites, are all on the way to Fredericksburg.

Vineyards, wineries, peach orchards, and pecan trees are found on both sides of the highway. Peaches can be purchased at fruit stands in season, along with locally grown berries, nuts, and vegetables. The various wineries have tasting rooms and wine sales. Several places sell homemade peach ice cream. I don’t need to describe how well that goes down on a hot day.

Closer to Fredericksburg is a place to visit called Wildseed Farms, which touts itself as “The Largest Working Wildflower Farm.” And speaking of wildflowers, traveling on Highway 290 during the spring when the wildflowers are blooming is magnificent, and once seen, will not be forgotten.

Just on the eastern edge of Fredericksburg is Fort Martin Scott. The fort was one of the early military posts on the Texas frontier, and now provides the visitor a view of U.S. Army life long ago. The fort is named after a soldier who was killed during the War with Mexico in the late 1840's.

If you are the type of person that likes to stop and look at everything (and we know who we are, don’t we?), don’t expect to stop at every interesting point, historical site, and market along the highway and still think you’re going to make it through everything Fredericksburg has to offer in one day. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour for most of the trip, but that won’t help you. But that’s okay, because Fredericksburg has plenty of lodging, including Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

The historic area of Fredericksburg lies along both sides of the highway, and it would be hard not to appreciate the old historic buildings and covered sidewalks, even if you’re not an architect or historian.

Fredericksburg is also the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, and you can visit his birth home, which is now home to Grace’s Art Gallery. The National Museum of the Pacific War is also located in Fredericksburg, given the obvious historical tie to Admiral Nimitz.

Most folks visit Fredericksburg to shop. Unlike a lot of so-called tourist towns, this is not a place to pick up cheap t-shirts. The shopping in Fredericksburg is diverse, and interesting, and includes any number of shops selling antiques, books and maps about Texas, artwork, and, clothing. Vegetables, fruits, and other foods, preserved in Mason jars, are also for sale. In my opinion, some stores are a bit pricey, but you are certainly free to browse. The shop owners, like most people in the hill country, are very friendly.

There are a lot of fine restaurants in Fredericksburg, with a lot of delicious German-oriented food. If you are not a fan of that, then anything you would normally order is readily available and quite good. You can also enjoy live music while savoring a drink at several places around town, and there are various festivals held throughout the year.

Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. But, this should be fair warning if you are planning to visit. Unless you are the kind of person that doesn’t stop at anything and just hurries past things to say you’ve been there (and you know who you are, don’t you?), slow down, take a couple of days, and experience the highway into and around Fredericksburg. You won’t regret it.

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