The Texas Hill Country stretches from Austin to San Antonio to further west with gently rolling hills and beautiful sunsets. Within this area that some call “God’s country,” other quaint towns and cities are worth a visit of their own. A little over an hour’s drive from Austin, these Texas treasures offer small-town hospitality, as well as the best of local shopping and high-end cuisine.
Locally called the unofficial wine and cuisine haven of the Hill Country, Fredericksburg is a pretty hour and 45-minute drive from the state capital. The seat of Gillespie Country, this charming town is known for its German roots, local festivals, and fresh peaches. On any weekend night, its German restaurants, breweries (like the picturesque Altstadt), upscale dining establishments, or the dance floor at the Crossroads Saloon and Steakhouse are frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Walk down the bustling main street of Fredericksburg and you’ll come across dining and shopping suitable for every taste. Haberdashery has an eclectic selection of colorful clothing for women, while Vaudeville’s home goods and décor will appeal to urban and rural dwellers alike. Vaudeville also boasts a high-end bistro. Or have lunch and tea at the famous Peach Tree, a local staple. A visit to the Nimitz Museum is a must for any history buffs. The area also is well-known for its many wineries featuring Texas grapes.
Just north on Highway 16, beyond the world-famous Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, is Llano, Texas. Self-described as the “Deer Capital of Texas,“ this small town nestled around the Llano River was established in 1865. The county seat for the eponymous district, Llano has a walkable courthouse square and a friendly atmosphere.
Although Llano is a small town, it has world-class dining options. Cooper’s Bar-B-Que is famous for its Texan take on old-fashioned pit bar-b-que and certainly worth a stop for any meat lover. Badu 1891 is a historic hotel that has been recently remodeled into an upscale restaurant and bar. Spend a peaceful summer weeknight on the patio or a weekend evening smoking cigars and listening to live music. Speaking of live music, the nearby Cherokee Creek Music Festival each May draws talents like Don Henley and Dwight Yoakam to this tiny town of 300. In the autumn, catch Cherokee’s six-man football team for the most riveting game of high school football in Texas.
Thirty minutes north of Llano is the “Pecan Capital of the World”: San Saba, Texas. With a population of just over 3,000 people, San Saba has recently had a major investment to renovate and develop its downtown area. Home to the famed Harry’s Boots, the main thoroughfare is well-worth a visit to see rows and rows of brand-new cowboy boots. Local retail establishments like J.C. Campbell Mercantile and San Saba Soap Co. are flourishing. Book a night at the upscale Dofflemyer Hotel and have light lunch at Oliver Pecan Co. before enjoying a tasting at Old Man Scary Cellars or Wedding Oak Winery.
All three towns are steeped in history and experiencing a renaissance with new economic efforts beyond the traditional ranch and agriculture industries. Fredericksburg, Llano, and San Saba offer visitors the opportunity to relax, refresh, and see the stars come out in full force every night.