A destination that stacks up
Quirky and charming shipping-container hotel is Fredericksburg’s cutest new escape
One of Fredericksburg’s newest overnight accommodations takes the shipping-container building trend to the next level.
Odonata Escape, opened by Austin residents and husband-and-wife duo Davis and Mary Susan Gilmer in late 2020, is a secluded vacation compound created from several brightly painted, cargo-worthy shipping containers.
Located on 15 acres just 4 miles north of Fredericksburg’s busy Main Street, the rooms — eight of them in total — come with their own front decks, mini kitchens, and cozy window-side nooks for reading or relaxing. They also come with a lot more space compared with the trendy (and tight) one-container accommodations popping up around Texas.
“I wanted big showers and king-size beds,” says Mary Susan, adding that the design process was a lot like building Lego bricks. “We actually went and bought some Legos and spread them around the dining room table. You can’t just willy-nilly put the containers wherever you want. Once you cut the hole for the window or door, there’s no going back.”
It was during the design process that the Gilmers realized the durability of shipping containers.
“They’re low-maintenance, which is why people put a bunch of stuff in them and ship them across the ocean every day,” Mary Susan says.
All rooms are made from 2 1/2 containers each and surround a neatly landscaped common area anchored by a large fire pit and Adirondack chairs. A working hayfield the encompasses more than 10 acres provides a backdrop for nighttime stargazing and firefly shows, and sipping wine by the fire at night is practically a guest requirement.
The name Odonata comes from the word’s Latin meaning: “dragonfly.” Davis says he and Mary Susan wanted the accommodations to be colorful, eye-catching, and whimsical — something that would lend itself to repeat business.
“I would stay in a yurt — once. I would stay in an Airstream — once. Those may be really nice but don’t really lend themselves to repeatability,” says Davis.
With names like Happy Boho, Tranquility, Lone Star, and Rosa, each room has a different personality, with décor to match. As more folks discover the destination when seeking lodging to explore the Hill Country wine trail, the Gilmers are finding that repeat customers want to stay in a new room with each visit.
In the Lavender room, the bed skirt is made from purple floral drapes Mary Susan bought for her first condo, when she was in her 20s. The Shangri La room is adorned with Asian pottery from Davis’ mother’s travels. Guests will find an homage to midcentury modern in the Groovy room and Southwestern artwork and Santa Fe vibes in the Ristra room.
“I’m kind of quirky,” says Mary Susan, who admits to being a fabric hoarder. “I have no white walls in any house — nothing against that. And Davis’ mom traveled the world and has so much stuff. It just makes me feel good to use all of this stuff and turn it into something so beautiful.”
Also on the property is an 1880s stone farmhouse the Gilmers have renovated into meeting and dining space for up to 18 people. Called the Porch House, the amenity comes with a full kitchen that serves as a communal meeting spot for large groups.
Three hot new Fredericksburg places to hit
Regular visitors to the Hill Country’s most popular town have their favorite wineries, eateries, and local attractions. But there’s always something new brewing (or fermenting, as it were). Here are a new restaurant and new bar to check out, and a fantastic exhibit to view before it ends soon.
Hill & Vine
Located where the landmark Peach Tree restaurant, tea room, and gift shop sat for 49 years, Hill & Vine opened this summer with a bit of skepticism from Fredericksburg locals. After all, could anything possibly replace the beloved Peach Tree? Owner Jesse Barter has proven that the answer is yes. Wait times for his “farm and ranch show” (the sign above the open kitchen broadcasts the phrase) can be lengthy, as word has spread about the restaurant’s fun, modern vibe and delicious Texas-centric menu. Barter formerly managed Fredericksburg’s 4.0 Cellars (now Texas Wine Collective) for seven years, so he knows the market and Texas wine.
The menu is all Texas, from the Gulf shrimp campechana and watermelon salad to the chicken schnitzel and the “roadside fried pies” made with local peaches. Fun fact: Texas 1015 sweet onions are used for the restaurant’s popular onion rings, and this particular onion is also the official state vegetable of Texas. (Barter’s grandmother helped lead a program at Texas A&M to develop the onion variety.) Hill & Vine is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch Saturday and Sunday.
Chase Guthrie and his wife, Tara, opened Chase’s Place in an old corner house in Fredericksburg’s historic district, just one block off busy Main Street — unintentionally right in the middle of 2020’s pandemic. The cozy space for craft cocktails has since become a busy local favorite. It’s easy to envision becoming a regular here, where a dark-wood setting and well-stocked shelves of spirits greet guests upon arrival. In addition to martinis, classic cocktails, and Chase’s imaginative drink specialties — like the Story of the Ghost, made with ghost-pepper-infused tequila — the bar offers a concise food menu of sharable plates, salads, oysters, shrimp and grits, and weekend chef’s specialties. Cocktail service runs from 4-10 pm and the kitchen is open from 5-9:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday.
“The Art of Fredericksburg: 175 Years”
Coinciding with Fredericksburg’s 175th anniversary, a special art exhibit is on display at the George H.W. Bush Gallery inside the National Museum of the Pacific War. Called “The Art of Fredericksburg: 175 Years,” the exhibit features more than 50 pieces of original art created by nearly 30 artists from the Fredericksburg area. The artwork spans 175 years from Fredericksburg’s founding to present day. Guests will see a variety of media, including watercolors, sketches, oil paintings, and even a full-size clay sculpture of the posh Lady Bird Johnson sporting a camera, handbag, and her signature smile. The exhibit is on display through September 19 and admission is free.
Odonata Escape, 186 Grasshopper Ln., Fredericksburg, odonataescape.com. Rates range from $127 per night during the week to $231 per night on weekends.