I love themed hotels, and the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas has a special one: This hotel is designed to resemble a World War II airplane hangar. Adding to the authenticity is its location right at the Gillespie County Airport.
“It turned out the theme was very good for Fredericksburg,” said Dick Estenson, who, along with his wife Rosemary, owns the Hangar. The military connection works – Texas has lots of bases, and Fredericksburg is the home town of Admiral Chester Nimitz, leader of the Pacific fleet in World War Two. Estenson, himself a pilot, is also a former NASA engineer.
What makes a stay at the Hangar so fun is all the historical touches. World War Two era art, pinups and newspapers hang on the walls. My room had a funny faux rotary phone. The Officers’ Club is a handsome, old-fashioned room, with green wallpaper trimmed with dark red, a big fireplace, and lots of wood grain. This is the place to come for a full bar, to lounge in a big red leather chair or play chess or billiards.
Fancy a fly-in wedding? The event facilities are done up in full tiki style, a look introduced by the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood in 1934. Tiki culture grew throughout the ‘40s and reached its zenith in the 1950s. Think tiki statues, lots of little lights, and fake birds. It may sound tacky, but it’s lots of fun. An indoor theater marquis allows couples to see their names together in lights. An outdoor tiki bar perches at the edge of the runway.
The Hangar’s biggest draw is for pilots. “This is one of the few places you can park a plane a few feet from where you’re staying,” Estenson points out. But aficionados of other types of vehicles also love this hotel. Lots of car and motorcycle clubs hold their shows here. “We’ve had 160 Boxters lined up on the runway,” Estenson said. My last morning at the Hangar, Corvette owners were setting up for a car show.
The Hangar Hotel opened in 2003. The following year, the Estensons opened a 1940s style diner. “We researched the theme a lot,” Estenson said, adding that many enterprising young ex-GIs came home and turned old rail cars into one-man restaurants. The diner – with gleaming chrome bar stools, 1940s music playing, and watercolors of World War Two planes – is swamped on weekends.
“In the aviation community, we talk about the $100 hamburger,” Estenson said. Pilots spend $95 in fuel to buy a five dollar hamburger. But for aviators, it’s worth it; the journey is just as important as the destination.
When I checked in, I asked the front desk worker if there was a gym. “We have a runway,” she said. “You can run.” I wasn’t sure if she was serious or just making a pun. But the next morning I went out and ran off to the side of the runway, where planes can park. This is a nice, flat running surface. You just have to watch out for planes.
However, it’s more common around the Hangar plane watch from rows of rocking chairs. It’s strangely soothing to sit and watch planes come and go, and is a popular pastime among guests. This plane-centric hotel fills a special niche. Says Estenson, “The Hangar is well known among aviation people all over the world.”
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations and meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.