Play Festivals and Events

12 Best Austin Events: Can’t Miss Gigs to Add to Your Calendar

There’s always something to do in Austin. Thanks to all that Texas sunshine, this city hosts incredible festivals and outdoor events all year round. And Austin is full of over-achieving local venues — frommuseums to movie theaters to coffee shops — that are in an unspoken contest to see who can bring the quirkiest events to town every month.

All these eccentric Austin events help keep Austin weird, but they also help keep our art and music scene alive and thriving. On any given weekend, you can likely find at least one festival, one fundraiser, a niche performing arts event, and about a bajillion live music shows.

We’ll help you navigate the Austin events scene by sharing the five best festivals that come to Austin each year. Plus, we’ll share our favorite local haunts that host amazing events every month (and in some cases every night of the week). Mark your calendars for these annual festivals, then check out a few local venues’ event pages to decide what to do in Austin this weekend.

5 Can’t-Miss Austin Events

women dancing together at festival

Austin has never heard of a “festival season” — in this city, the festivals keep coming all year round. While Austin has multiple festivals every month and they’re all a good time if you’ve got nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, only a few of Austin’s festivals are worth going out of your way for. Here are our favorite annual events to pencil into your schedule.

1. SXSW

The biggest event of the year SXSW Austin isn‘t just one festival — it‘s three. This mega event includes a film festival, music festival, and comedy festival, plus conferences and exhibitions dedicated to technology and the arts.

SXSW lasts 10 days and takes place at venues all over Downtown Austin. Conferences are held at the Austin Convention Center. Film screenings are held at the Convention Center and some of the best movie theaters in Austin, including Violet Crown Cinema, Rollins Theater, and the Alamo Draft House. And musical performances are held at some of Austin’s best live music venues.

The festival takes place in March each year, and it brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city. You can get tickets on the SXSW site starting in August of the previous year.

2. Austin City Limits Music Festival

This live music festival is second only to SXSW in terms of its size. (Pretty impressive considering this is just one festival, and SXSW is three!) The Austin City Limits Festival features over 130 artists playing on nine different outdoor stages in Zilker Park. It takes place across two weekends in October of each year.

With artists from across multiple musical genres, including rap, hip-hop, pop, rock, and country, the festival attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year. Tickets go on sale as early as December of the previous year on the Austin City Limits Festival website.

3. Austin Food + Wine Festival

The biggest event of the year for Austin foodies, the Austin Food + Wine Festival features chef demonstrations, wine tastings, talks, open flame grilling, a taco competition, and so much more. Chefs from some of the best restaurants in Austin come out to cook or present at the event.

The festival takes place at the beginning of November, and in previous years, it’s been hosted at Auditorium Shores or Republic Square Park. Tickets go on sale as early as September, and they often sell out. So, book early. Sign up for updates on the festival’s website to be one of the first to know about ticket sales.

4. Pecan Street Festival

This twice annual festival happens once in the spring and once in the fall, taking place in May and September, respectively. Unlike the other events we’ve listed here, the Pecan Street Festival is free. It’s an arts and crafts fest, and music fest held in Downtown Austin.

To take part, just head to Old Pecan Street (now E 6th Street) on festival day. The event takes place on E 6th between I-35 and Brazos Street. Tents line both sides of the road, selling handmade crafts and festival food, and there are free performances on the festival stages.

5. Rodeo Austin

This event offers a glimpse at the Austin of old. It’s an old-fashion county fair with carnival rides, food, rodeo performances, and live music. It‘s one of the best and biggest ProRodeo events in the U.S. And in addition to the carnival, there‘s also a livestock show, along with agricultural and educational programming for kids.

The Austin Rodeo is scheduled for March of each year with ticket sales starting in January.

7 Austin Event Venues That Host Awesome Events Year Round

woman singing into a microphone

In addition to Austin’s show stopping annual festivals, this city is full of world-class live music venues, indie theaters, and eccentric art programming. Local spots serve as culture curators all over the capitol of Texas, hosting everything from cabaret to ballet to book readings. Here are the event pages to check if you’re looking for something to do in Austin this weekend.

1. Moody Center

This massive arena is the place to go for major touring events coming through town. Located on the University of Texas campus, the Moody Center hosts concerts, comedy tours, and even monster truck rallies. You can see what’s coming to Austin next on their site.

2. The Far Out Lounge

This live music venue on South Congress Ave. hosts different musical performances every night of the week. Check out their events page for the latest updates.

3. Ballet Austin

If you want to see some high-brow culture in Hill Country, head to the Long Center to take in some classical performing arts. Ballet Austin performs five shows each year, including full-length classical ballets and modern contemporary ballets.

4. Empire Control Room

This music venue is a no frills blackbox with a bar in the middle. They bring in top local and national musical performers, especially in the punk rock, alt rock, and reggae spaces. Past performances have included Code Orange, Sean Kingston, and Kairos. They also host Resound Presents shows at this venue. Check out the upcoming shows on their events page.

5. BookPeople

For members of the local literati, BookPeople hosts book clubs, readings, and author Q&As. If you’re looking for a family-friendly event, this indie bookshop also has readings with children’s authors. You can find the complete list of upcoming events on their site.

6. Cork & Barrel

This trendy pub in Round Rock is a maze of different spaces, including a beer garden and wine cellar. They host events on the outdoor patio a few times each month.

7. Kick Butt Coffee

For eclectic events in a laidback coffee shop, head to Kick Butt Coffee. They host everything from burlesque shows to kids’ karate graduations. (Don’t worry — they’re not on the same day.) This spot also has a variety of niche open mic nights, including a comedy night, ukulele night, and rhyme schemes night. Upcoming events are listed on their homepage.

Make Every Weekend an Event

austin events: multicultural group of friends with musician

Between Austin’s non-stop festival season, and its endless array of local shows, you could attend a different Austin event every weekend.

Major national tours come through the city and play at the Moody Center. Plus, local bands and niche national bands perform at our amazing live music venues. And our coffee shops, book stores, and pubs host eclectic performances and cultural events.

So, bust out your calendar, and sync it with your favorite venue’s event calendar. And while you’re at it don’t forget to set alerts and reminders for Austin’s annual festivals. The city may be rich in events, but the best ones often sell out.

To find more fun things to do in Austin, Texas, head to ATX Guides.

Author
Shari Leflerlowres
Shari Lefler

Shari Lefler is a writer, traveler, and condiment enthusiast. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her dog and throwing shade with her cat.

Learn more about Shari