For those with tight purse strings and a bun in the oven, here’s how to pull off a three-day getaway to Fredericksburg, Texas.
By April Cumming, Photos by Randal Rankin and courtesy of The Fredericksburg Herb Farm
Finding time for a vacation is challenging enough for the single, independent and willfully employed among us. Imagine the struggle of trying to do so with a newborn. Less than a week after learning I was pregnant (Insert 16 weeks of morning sickness here.), I was already plotting where I wanted to go and how long I wanted to be gone for my “babymoon.” For those unfamiliar with the term, think of a babymoon as part extended date night with your significant other and part last vacation as a free woman.
I had hopeful thoughts of a seven-night escape to the white-sand beaches of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where I would immediately forget about any work or commitments back home and proceed to soak in the sun as I lie poolside, flipping through glossy magazines and ordering one alcohol-free beverage after another. It would be week of pure, unencumbered bliss.
It would also, I quickly reminded myself, be a week of hearing from my bank—or, at the very least, my conscience—as I made one ridiculously high charge on my credit card after another.
“Play it smart,” I told myself. “You have a baby on the way. Cabo can wait.”
So, I switched gears, setting out a budget I would be happy to spend on a babymoon and decided to spend three days and two nights reveling in my favorite Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, Texas, instead.
Do you remember the Food Network show $40 a Day, hosted by Rachael Ray? Here’s how my attempt at savoring moments while still being scrupulous played out.
Reason No. 137 why I love Austin is that you remarkably don’t have to drive far at all to find yourself surrounded by bucolic rolling hills, horse pastures and scenic vistas. Fredericksburg is just a short two-hour drive west of Austin, which means the trip can be done on less than a tank of gas.
In the spring, it’s easy to get distracted by the roadside peach stands and wineries offering free tastings, but we made our trek out in the fall—a few uncharacteristically cold days for a Texas fall, might I add.
Regardless of the season, though, there are two pit stops you must make on the way into town: Circle E Candles, where you can sniff scents like honeysuckle and Country Morning (my favorite) to your heart’s content, and Wildseed Farms, where you can wander through undulating fields of wildflowers and row upon row of native plants and succulents.
Setting foot on the grounds of the Fredericksburg Herb Farm is much like walking through a come-to-life Southern Living magazine garden spread. Precious cottages painted in pastel blue, green and yellow—each with their own mailbox, jasmine trellis and set of rocking chairs on the front porch—circle the property’s herb garden, gift shop, bistro and spa. It’s the epitome of an oasis. A surreal wave of calm starts to sink in while weaving through the crushed-granite garden paths. The only interruptions are the sound of water fountains gurgling and farm cats purring as they come out of the woodwork, quite literally, seeking a few pats of attention.
Although only 400 square feet each, the cottages—referred to as Sunday Haus cottages in reverence to their German origin—supply everything a mom-to-be could need. King-size bed and plush settee: check. Comfy robes and socks: check. TV, fridge, microwave and coffee mugs: check. Bath products sourced from the spa: check. Pebble-stone shower and stained concrete floors: check and check.
At night, step out onto the porch, listen to the windmill creak and caw, and feel a cool breeze lift up from Barons Creek, lulling you to sleep.
Pro tip: Save $40 a night by renting a cottage on a weekday compared with renting one on the weekend.
I have two words for you, and you would do well to take them into account when booking your getaway: prenatal massage. This was my first experience being both pregnant and getting pampered, and I’m not going to lie: It’s the good life. It’s a 10 out of 10, highly recommended. You deserve it, right? I mean, you are growing a human.
Once inside the candlelit room at the farm’s onsite Nature’s Spa, my massage therapist let me select which essential oil I wanted to use (I chose a combination of lavender and eucalyptus.), guided me to a table topped with a heavenly heating pad and walked me step by step through the prenatal massage process, the main difference being that you lie on your left side for 30 minutes and then on your right side for 30 minutes, a body pillow tucked between the legs, never spending any time on your stomach.
Knots and neck kinks all worked out, I groggily walked toward the outdoor seating area (Another perk of staying here on a weekday: There’s a good chance you’ll have the spa all to yourself.) and was greeted with a Champagne flute filled with chilled grapefruit juice.
It had been six months since I last sipped anything out of a Champagne flute, so admittedly, I felt pretty darn posh chilling out on the patio, collecting my thoughts and imagining how much my life was about to change with a baby on the way.
Fine diners beware: When it came to eating out, we sought out the most budget-friendly establishments in Fredericksburg, establishments like Tubby’s Ice House, where, on our first night in town, we feasted on chips and salsa, green chili queso, loaded pulled-pork queso fries (Did I mention I was pregnant?) and black-bean-and-kale tacos. My cravings for salt, carbs and cheese fulfilled, we then ventured to a spot we had seen earlier in the day, The Stable Cocktail Bar. It was a drizzly evening and the intimate stone cottage, decked out in white holiday lights, looked like a scene from a Thomas Kinkade painting. We saddled up to the bar, ordered a mocktail and a glass of red wine and took in all the horse- and polo-themed décor. Come to find out, the owner, who just happened to be sitting across the bar from us, was the founder of a polo club near Austin. He splits his weeks between Austin and Fredericksburg. That’s an idyllic way of life, I thought, imagining what it would be like to live in one of the town’s storybook-like cottages.
The next morning, we took heed of the bar owner’s recommendation and stopped in for kolaches and donut holes at Hill Country Donuts for sustenance for our half-hour drive out to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where we soaked in our weekday solidarity and hiked the Loop Trail, a moderate 4.5-mile trek around the perimeter of the park’s namesake pink granite dome. Compared to visiting on a weekend, when the park occasionally runs out of campsites and parking spots, the only other humans we saw on a Wednesday morning were a flock of middle-schoolers on a class field trip.
After a quick change of clothes back at our cabin, we headed into town for dinner at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, where we realized Fredericksburg has a genuine way of, in just a matter of days, making you feel like a local. As we looked up from our dinner—fried pickles and a soft pretzel with beer cheese to start, followed by a brick-oven pizza and German schnitzel—we spotted a couple we had seen sitting across from us at the bar the night before.
We reserved the following morning for what is, most unquestionably, the town’s main tourist attraction: strolling around historic Main Street and stopping in all the shops.
But first, cinnamon rolls. I couldn’t shake the desire for one topped with lots of sugary frosting and found salvation at the Old German Bakery & Restaurant. I reminded my boyfriend as I brushed some lingering icing off my lips that it doesn’t take much to make me happy as long as cinnamon rolls and coffee are somewhere in my immediate future.
While I could easily offer a list of the best shops to see in Fredericksburg, I fear the uproar that would ensue by excluding those destinations loved dearly by others. Selecting your favorite shopping haunts in Fredericksburg, after all, is as subjective as someone recommending their favorite TV series. Not only is it hard to narrow down the list, but chances are there are a few places I’ve never even heard of that are equally worthy of scouting out.
However, I will say it’s hard to go wrong stopping into Dogologie (a pet lover’s paradise), Remember Me Too (a home-décor gift shop) and Earthbound Trading Company (a comfy-clothing and jewelry store).
Before you head back home, be sure to #treatyoself to a gift from your shopping shenanigans, even if it’s just a small something, like a hand-knitted scarf, to remind you of your babymoon.
Oh, and for sanity’s sake, treat yourself to some caffeine for once and order an iced Americano to go at the Old West-themed Java Ranch Espresso Bar & Café. You can thank me later.
Two-night stay at Fredericksburg Herb Farm: $318
Prenatal massage at Nature’s Spa: $115
Enchanted Rock State Park admission: $12
Food and drink: $120
Tip and tax money: $45
Gift to self: $20
*$660 is the exact cost of a one-night weekday stay at Esperanza, the resort I would want to stay at in Cabo San Lucas. That’s without factoring in airfare, ground transportation or food and beverage expenses.