In normal times, thousands of Texans head to the Hill Country every weekend to swirl, sniff, and sip the great bounty our state’s wineries produce. The Fredericksburg region is such a hit, in fact, it's the nation's second most-visited wine region next to Napa Valley. Recently, however, those tasting rooms have been closed due to the state's efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19.
What does a wine region do when wineries are closed? Lucky for those who still want to escape to the Hill Country, Fredericksburg offers more than just grapes (and not to worry, wine lovers, there are still plenty of opportunities to stain your teeth purple).
Lace up those hiking boots and head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Hiking the 1,800-foot pink granite rock has long been a favorite activity of nature lovers, with its popularity only increasing as people look for more ways to spend time outdoors. The park offers more than eight miles of hiking trails, guided hikes, rock climbing, bird watching, and picnic spots. It's also one of two Texas state parks to be designated as an International Dark Sky Park. Because of its popularity, visitors will now need to make a reservation through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s online system.
If cycling is your thing, the Fredericksburg area has hundreds of miles of quiet country roads to explore. You can rent a bike from local shops (try Hill Country Bicycle Works or Jack and Adams Bicycles). Routes can be challenging—it's not called the Hill Country for nothing—so those looking for a slower-paced, meandering ride should stick to the neighborhoods near Main Street.
Want to spend the afternoon outdoors without putting any muscle into it? Head to the postage-stamp-sized town of Luckenbach, Texas. The town Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson made famous is 15 miles from Fredericksburg. Grab a seat at the socially distanced picnic tables, crack open a Lone Star tall boy, and listen to the local talent that takes the outdoor stage for an acoustic concert.
Fredericksburg’s German roots run deep. For a glimpse of what it was like to live in Fredericksburg long before the advent of modern living, stop by the Pioneer Museum to follow the journey of the German immigrants who founded the town from 1846 to today.
Ten original buildings sit on the museum’s grounds. Visitors can walk through an original homesteader’s limestone home built in 1869; the one-room school housed used to educate students until the second half of the 20th century; a bath house where frontier’s men would get a shave before heading to the western frontier; and a typical log cabin built in the 1880s.
The buildings are decorated with period furnishings. Stepping through the tiny one-room homes without air conditioning, electricity, or internet is likely to give you gratitude for your shelter-in-place dwelling.
Five blocks east is a more somber museum. The National Museum of the Pacific War is the only museum in the U.S. solely dedicated to telling the story of America’s involvement in the Pacific during World War II. All aspects of the war—from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima—are shown with multimedia displays, hundreds of photographs, artifacts, and a replica battlefield with tanks, foxholes, and troops.
The museum is housed in the boyhood home of the Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who oversaw the Allied efforts during the war. The museum’s original building was once an inn built in 1852 by the admiral’s grandfather.
Just because tasting rooms are closed, doesn’t mean you can’t taste local wine. Wineries are selling bottles to-go. Visitors can purchase bottles to take back to their accommodations and create their own wine tastings. Becker Vineyards posts virtual wine tasting videos on their social media outlets, and Pedernales Cellars allows visitors to set up a self-serve picnic on their lawn. Call your favorite winery to see what they're allowing and not allowing.
And don't forget Fredericksburg's fine restaurants. Otto’s German Bistro, Chase’s Place Cocktail + Kitchen, and the Cabernet Grill each have extensive wine menus full of local selections—we strongly suggest making reservations due to limited seating capacities.