Let me preface this by saying that I really don’t like camping at all. But, since we became parents, we found it’s a good way to spend time together as a family. And since I get outvoted 2-1 on whether or not to go camping, I just suck it up and go. Sacrifices, right?
When the subject of camping comes up, I make sure that I weigh in enough to know that we’re not going to just be sitting around “staring at each other.” In the summer, there better be a lake or stream nearby — or maybe even a pool, if the campground is swanky enough. In this beautiful pre-spring we have here in Austin, I like to take advantage of the fact that we have one of the top wine-producing regions in the U.S.: the Texas Hill Country. So, for our last camping trip, we made our way west on 290 toward Fredericksburg.
We set out on a Saturday morning to the Jellystone Campground just outside of Fredericksburg. This is seriously the nicest campground/RV Resort at which I’ve ever stayed. They have plenty of little cabins if you’re not tent-inclined; a warm saltwater pool; a giant bouncy pillow for the kids; a fenced-in dog park; game room with billiards, ping pong, board games, shuffleboard, pinball and air hockey; family movie nights; visits from Yogi Bear and his crew and a bathroom that was nicer than most hotels. If this is how we’re camping, sign me up!
As much fun as it was to enjoy Jellystone, we had bigger plans to consider, namely burgers. If you’ve never been to Alamo Springs Café, put that on your bucket list right now. The winding drive on RR 1376 is well worth it for homemade big-as-your-face burgers, beers, onion rings, fries and decadent dessert. With beverages being self-service, you almost want there to be a ½-hour wait so you can relax on the porch with a cold Lone Star. Bonus points if you can solve the cap puzzle.
On the way back to Fredericksburg, you’ll see a huge parking lot and wonder what’s going on. That, my friends, is Luckenbach, TX – where “everybody is somebody”. Luckenbach is a small hamlet of wooden buildings including a dance hall and general store. There’s usually live music, and a bar nearby. What I love most about the Hill Country is everyone’s willingness to give you alcohol on a sunny day. There’s also a spot for the kiddos to take a photo on a giant longhorn named Tumbleweed.
We headed back to the campground and spent the evening playing ping pong and board games. We had planned on making dinner at our campsite but we were still too full from the burgers, so we made s’mores instead. Everyone wins!
After an aggravating night of sleep – I just can’t sleep while camping – we debated our plans for the next day. Though hiking Enchanted Rock sounded fun, it didn’t quite appeal to someone who barely slept the night before. Not when there are wineries around.
Our first stop was Torre de Pietro. After sitting on the sunny patio for a glass, we headed to Fat Ass Ranch and Winery. I have to say that the name of this winery is greatly misleading. The ass in question – Frito – was pretty normal-sized. You can feed him if you ask the tasting room staff for carrots. What I loved best about this winery was the outside décor. Every part was made of upcycled junk, for lack of a better term. The restrooms were in an old grain silo, the benches were tricked out from old truck tailgates and the corner booth used to be the back of a bus. Easily the coolest place to let the kids hang out, feed a donkey and enjoy some weekend sangria.
Our last winery was Hilmy Cellars, my favorite on 290. We’ve stopped there before, and it’s a little different every time. They’re always adding on and improving. The latest addition is a wood-burning pizza trailer located on the deck. They serve up homemade pizzas and empanadas. Be vigilant as you eat, though, because Bella and Simon – the Great Pyrenees dogs – will make themselves at home right underneath your feet. In addition to the dogs, you’ll encounter guinea hens, peacocks, chickens and even a baby goat while visiting Hilmy. Lucy and I almost stole the baby goat in question, he was so cute and soft!
The best part about Fredericksburg is how close it is to Austin. You could easily do a fun winery tour in the span of an afternoon. Or be one with nature – and Yogi Bear – while camping out.