Hill Country Wineries

When most people think of Texas, they think of cowboys, cactus and Cadillacs – not grapes. But the Lone Star State is a major wine producer, and the Hill Country, with its robust Provence-like limestone and hot South African–style climate, has become the state's most productive wine-making region. Today, these rolling hills are home to more than 50 wineries, with the largest concentration of vineyards found around Fredericksburg, primarily along Hwy 290.

Most larger wineries are open daily for tastings and tours. Many also host special events, such as grape stompings and annual wine and food feasts. Smaller wineries are typically open during set hours on weekends, but by appointment on weekdays. Local visitor bureaus stock the handy Texas Hill Country Wineries Guide & Map, which summarizes the wineries and pinpoints their locations (or visit www.texaswinetrail.com).

You could leave the driving to someone else with Fredericksburg Limo & Wine Tours, which offers limo tours or more affordable shuttle van tours. For a list of tour operators, check www.wineroad290.com, which covers wineries along US 290 and provides a map of their locations.

Scenic Drive: Wildflower Trails

You know spring has arrived in Texas when you see cars pulling up roadside and families climbing out to take the requisite picture of their kids surrounded by bluebonnets – Texas' state flower. From March to April in Hill Country, orange Indian paintbrushes, deep-purple wine-cups and white-to-blue bluebonnets are at their peak.

To see vast cultivated fields of color, there's Wildseed Farms, which is 7 miles east of Fredericksburg on US 290.

For a more do-it-yourself experience, check with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) Wildflower Hotline (800-452-9292) to find out what's blooming where. Taking Rte 16 and FM 1323, north from Fredericksburg and east to Willow City, is usually a good route. Then again you might just set to wandering – most back roads host their own shows daily. At visitor centers, look for the Texas Wildflowers pamphlet from Texas Highways magazine. It identifies Lone Star flowers and provides routes for scenic wildflower drives.