“Lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand,” the familiar tune from The Eagles filled the space in my car on my drive down to Fredericksburg, Texas. As I sang along and belted out, “Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy,” I dialed up the volume and felt my foot press harder on the gas.
Getting on down the road, I spotted plenty of fresh peach stands and after passing a few, I made the stop. One bite of the juicy Fredericksburg Peach and I was wondering why I hadn’t been down here before. Just off the highway, Behrend’s Orchard also specializes in homemade peach ice cream. Take it from me, this sweet treat is divine, and one scoop will leave your mouth watering for more in the Texas heat.
Less than two hours from Austin or even closer from San Antonio, in Fredericksburg I found a tranquil environment that encourages restoration and relaxation from the ever ‘on duty’ technical world we are acclimated.
I arrived on a Sunday on purpose because the popularity of this darling place is gaining, and the highway can get congested. My hosts at Barons Creekside were warm and authentic from the moment I drove in. The resort’s creator and owner Daniel Meyer’s intent is to provide a place where people can unwind, recharge, enjoy nature and each other. “We notice our guests from the time they arrive until the time they leave,” Daniel said. “When they first check in everything about them usually is hurried. They drive in a rush, they walk fast and their body language is rushed. As the time passes during their stay, we gradually see them start to slow down. They drive slower, walk easier, and even speak in a more relaxed tone.”
After a few short hours at Barons Creekside I began to breathe in this slower pace and exhale the stresses that are beyond my control and above all else, can wait. With whispering Willow trees enveloping and swaying underneath the stars at night, the noise of busy traffic and constant “go-go-go” quickly became a thing of the past. The quietest place I have been inside to date is in a recording studio where the sound is taken down to 15 decibels. The Hilltop Chalet at Barons Creekside runs a close second at night, with only the swooshing of the trees and the chirping of nature’s friends in the distance.
Nature plays an integral role in this Swiss-inspired Hill Country resort. Tame non-flying ducks swim up and down the bubbling creek, the owner’s four cats roam the property and greet the guests. (Yes, you can let them stay in your cabin if you like) Currently a roadrunner family patrols all 26 acres, and songbirds sing from atop the trees. Numerous whitetail deer, armadillos, squirrels, a few raccoons, and gray foxes have been known to frequent the landscape.
I had the pleasure of visiting with Daniel and Deborah on the patio of their own cabin in the heart of the resort. A very personable couple, by the time you leave you won’t remember not knowing them. Originally from Switzerland, Meyer retired at the age of 44. He traveled all over the world and spent time in many places before, in just one night falling in love with the Texas Hill Country and deciding that Fredericksburg would be his home and the place he would build his dreams.
Utilizing historic elements of his own 250-year-old Swiss farmhouse and finding talented Texas cabin builder Joey Johns as well as actual Swiss craftsmen, he set out to build his dream village, one cabin at a time. Meyer owned a large Swiss farmhouse in scenic Lucerne that was condemned for demolition. He had the historic windows and doors carefully removed and placed in two 40-foot shipping containers bound for Texas.
Each of the cabins are intricately designed with reclaimed wood and many, many personal touches that make them feel like a home that was built specifically for whomever stayed in it. Little treasures like guest books where you can leave notes about how you enjoyed your stay; hand selected decor; and board games to play (again getting at least your mind off the grid, even if your footprint must stay) set Barons Creekside far apart from their friendly competitors.
By Monday morning I was ready to explore. With two courses, Fredericksburg has your Hill Country golfing needs met. Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course covers 6,686 yards, Par 71 design. The course has 46 bunkers and water on 10 of the 18 holes. Opened in 1991, Lady Bird was originally a 9-hole course. Thanks to over $2 million in renovations, the current 18-hole course offers variety and a challenge on scenic Hill Country land.
The Easter egg for golf here is found at Boot Ranch. A private club and family retreat, Boot Ranch provides a welcoming, family-centric lifestyle community. You’ll be hard pressed not to find something to do here, even if it’s too hot to play. On 55,000 square-feet, a clubhouse and village complex encompasses a 4.5 acre pool, sports campus, Hal Sutton-designed golf course and a 34-acre practice park.
Fredericksburg is as rich in history as it is in charm and local museums offer a plethora of factual information. The National Museum of the Pacific War is a 6-acre, 3 museum complexes dedicated to poignant reminders of the sacrifices of war. Interactive exhibits and macro-artifacts will enthrall the youngest to the oldest visitor.
The Pioneer Museum in downtown Fredericksburg features historic homesteads and buildings, that depict what life was like in the daily lives of German pioneers in the Texas hill country. A one-room schoolhouse, log cabin and a bath house are among the artifacts and architecture preserved on land that time hasn’t forgot. Included in this tour, the Admiral Nimitz Museum is the flagship of the complex. A Fredericksburg landmark, the building that houses this museum was once the old Nimitz Steamboat Hotel.
On day two of my stay in Fredericksburg, I stopped by the Chamber of Commerce visitor’s center where I found everything I needed to know about the right spots to seek out. I was also given a tour of Fredericksburg’s newest business, Aldstadt Brewery.
Scheduled to open later this summer, the 120-acre, old world destination features a fine dining restaurant, brewery tours and a beautiful venue perfect for an elegant Texas Hill Country wedding or corporate event. Banquet and Events Manager Cass Whitton said Peter Koestler is the Brewmaster at Altstadt Brewery. “Peter is a native German and graduate of the Brewing and Beverage Technology Program at Technical University Munich,” she explained. “The direct-fire Kaspar Schulz brewing system that we implemented was discovered by Altstadt’s founders in a pre-WWII Bavarian brewhouse.”
With polished illuminating copper plated Rolec kettles, the Mash, Lauter and Wort digital brewing system provides cutting edge technology with a state-of-the-art laboratory and quality control testing equipment. “We have two fermentation tanks and four horizontal lagering tanks,” Whitton continued. “Altstadt’s premium German-style beers are carefully made using only four ingredients – hops, barley, yeast and artesian spring water – under the direction of our world-renowned German Brewmaster using the finest hops, barley and yeast imported from Germany.”
Aldstadt will offer three distinct beers: Alt, a rich and malty, brewed with caramel and darker malts that create its amber color. Using authentic Altbier yeast imported from Germany, Alt provides subtle toffee notes on the nose and finishes smooth. A German-style brew, Kolsch originates from the town of Cologne. Light in color and known for its clean, crisp flavor that finishes with a subtle hop aroma for a perfect blend of hops and malt. Aldstadt’s signature beer, Lager is a noticeably malty yet a light and clean-finishing beer that is perfectly balanced by its imported Noble hops grown in Hallertau and cold fermenting yeast from Weihenstephan, Germany.
There is a definite difference in how wine is made in Texas Hill Country vs. California. Grape Creek Vineyard does a fantastic job of explaining the process. There are more than two dozen vineyards and wineries in the area that offer tastings and tours daily. With a tasting that consists of nine palatable wines not including the three served straight from the barrel, I’d suggest scheduling this tour late in the afternoon, right before dinner.
Among the many choices for dinner, The Navajo Grill is a chic dining experience. I enjoyed the salmon, which was accompanied with béarnaise buttery sautéed asparagus and petite potatoes that were as perfect as baby bear’s bed. If chocolate martinis are in your scope of delectable drinks, you must have one here.
On my third day I was on my way back from attempting to climb to the top of the Enchanted Rock, in the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (the largest pink granite rock with an impressive view) I spotted a few vintage cars from the highway that led me to a place where all of your muscle car dreams can come true: Street Dreams. Established in 1999, Street Dreams is a dealer of classic and vintage vehicles. Even if you’re not in the market for a vintage car, it’s worth the stop to see the inventory, which includes, among many, a 1929 Ford Model A pickup, a baby blue ‘55 Ford Thunderbird and a ‘57 Chevrolet 210 in pristine condition.
Lunch was on my agenda after the early morning spent at Enchanted Rock and Street Dreams. My host family at Barons Creekside had recommended the Airport Diner for a good lunch with an entertaining atmosphere.
“This is the G.I. Jive, Man Alive…it starts with the bugler blowin reveille over your bed when you arrive Jack, that’s the G.I. Jive,” a classic 1940’s Johnny Mercer song blowed from the upper tier of the Hanger Hotel as I arrived next door to the Airport Diner.
Set in a classic 1940’s diner-style, the Airport Diner and Hangar Hotel are immediately adjacent to the Gillespie County Airport aircraft parking ramp. From the booths you can watch airplanes and other aircraft come and go while enjoying a “Bomber Burger” and a chocolate malt or any of their daily Blue Plate specials.
The Diner is not just a place to grab some food, but a unique atmosphere to relax and enjoy a good meal while reliving the past. You never know what you might see take off or land outside the window.
I was looking for something calming after a big day at the Enchanted Rock, Street Dreams and the Airport Diner. Back on Main Street, close to my cabin at Barons Creekside, I found what I was searching for in the Japanese Garden of Peace. Part of the Pacific War Museum, the Japanese Garden of Peace was a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States, in honor of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
As you enter the garden you will see a replica of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Marshal-Admiral Togo’s garden meditation study. It was built in Japan, disassembled and shipped to Fredericksburg, where it was reassembled (without nails) by the same craftsmen who created it in Japan.
Many of the elements in this classic Japanese garden are symbolic: the black and white stones in front of the study represent the balance of nature — yin and yang. The raked gravel symbolizes ocean waves where stones and plantings stand in for Pacific islands. The flowing stream tells the story of a single raindrop returning to the ocean. With flags and plaques along its walls honoring our servicemen and women, this garden is as quiet as it is peaceful.
On my way out of Fredericksburg the following day, there was much more that I wanted to see and do and as I shared with the kind people of Barons Creekside, I had a premonition that there wouldn’t be enough space to cover this charming historical town and all that it offers. That said, these are the highlights of the best of the best in Fredericksburg.
I’ll leave you with a slightly altered ending to that familiar Eagles tune, “Come on baby, don’t say maybe. Fredericksburg may save you. You may lose and you may win, but you may never be here again. So, open up and drive on in and take it easy.”
By Michelle Keller