If you think naval heroes grew up in port towns, watching ships as a kid and longing to go to sea, think again. One of America’s most famous WWII naval heroes, Adm. Chester Nimitz, grew up in Fredericksburg, Texas, a town in the heart of Hill Country, the heart of the Lone Star State, where the largest body of water, the Gulf of Mexico, was several hundred miles away.
Fredericksburg, founded by German immigrants in 1846, has Town Creek, of course, but it hardly qualifies as the bounding main. What the town and the region has to offer, though, is some of the most beautiful scenery in Texas. A place of rolling hills with year-round lush greenery and a profusion of wild flowers lining the roads in spring, Hill Country not only gave us a great naval hero, but it was also home to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who is buried near the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall.
Things to See and Do
Hill Country stretches from Crocket County in the west to Austin in the east and from the southern end of the Panhandle in the north to the Mexican border. It is a great place for the outdoorsman, with numerous rivers, creeks, and small lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming, and a paradise for bird watchers and bird hunters.
The region is also a repository of much of the history of Texas and America, with a number of heritage museums and festivals, as well as structures from the state’s past. In Austin, for instance, history buffs can check out the dome on the state capitol building, which is taller than that on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. If you visit in the spring, you won’t want to miss South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the top live music festivals in the world, but Austin is a great place to visit any time for music. It is, after all, the Live Music Capital of the World. In Fredericksburg is the National Museum of the Pacific War, which features the career of Adm. Nimitz and displays showing the American and Japanese battles in WWII. New Braunfels, south of Austin, has the Schlitterbahn Water Park, billed as the top water park in the world. And, of course, the Alamo in San Antonio is a must-see.
Shopaholics will go wild at the shops in Austin and San Antonio, ranging from small handicraft and antique shops to top-of-the line boutiques and department stores.
Food and drink is another great reason for visiting the region. Towns like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels brew some of the best German and Czech beer on the U.S. side of the Atlantic, and it’s served German-style in large steins. In addition to the Tex-Mex cuisine that one would expect to find, gourmands can also dine on schnitzel and sauerkraut, or almost any other national cuisine you could imagine, and the servings are all Texas-size.
Airports in Austin and San Antonio are served by a number of American airlines, and from either city most of the region is anywhere from an hour to a four-hour drive, and car rentals are available at the airport. Driving is a treat, with some of the best roads in the U.S. and beautiful scenery along every one of them.
Where to Stay
Where you decide to stay in Hill Country depends on your budget and planned activities. Staying in Austin or San Antonio and taking driving tours is, of course, one option, but you might also want to stay in one of the historic smaller towns in order to more fully appreciate what the region has to offer.
Once you’ve decided where you want to stay, online booking is available.
I have to admit to a preference for Fredericksburg as a place to stay, because of the history and the great German beer. When I visit, I usually stay at the Texas Hill Country Hotel, which is located one mile from the historic downtown area, making it easy to walk to places like the National Museum of the Pacific War. You can’t beat the prices, which start at $90 for a double room.
Texas Hill Country Hotel
1220 N. U.S. Highway 87
Fredericksburg, TX 76624