2016 Austin festival guide
It seems the festival wristband has become a staple of Austin fashion. We live in a city boasting scores of indoor, outdoor, high-cost, low-cost, food-packing, music-blaring festivals — with hardly a free weekend to spare.
This year, once again, we’ve rounded up a list of festivals and other major entertainment events. Are we missing one? Email email@example.com and we’ll add it to our list.
Frontera Fest, continues through Feb. 13. Austin’s original new theater showcase centers on the Short Fringe, a nightly showcase of new performances, all 25 minutes or less. The Short Fringe continues through Feb. 13 at Hyde Park Theatre. The Long Fringe — which features new plays at 90 minutes or less — starts Monday and continues through Jan. 31 at Ground Floor Theatre.
Print Austin, continues through Feb. 15. The Austin visual arts community showcases fine art prints at various locations. There will be a print expo and bin sale Feb. 6 at Canopy, located at 916 Springdale Road.
Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, Jan. 22-24. Artists, vendors, performances, after-parties and the best in body art at the Austin Convention Center. Single day passes go for $20.
Freescale Presents Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, Feb. 14. Both the marathon and half marathon begin at 7 a.m. at Second Street and Congress Avenue, winding through hills and shaded trees south to Ben White Boulevard and then back to Lady Bird Lake, the Allandale and Hyde Park neighborhoods, the University of Texas campus and the Capitol complex.
OUTsider, Queer Multi-Arts Festival and Conference, Feb. 17-21. The art and burlesque festival returns for the second year to the Salvage Vanguard Theater, with the theme “Sex in Public.” Lectures and panels will also take place throughout the five days, as well as a tour of “sexy sites” along Manor Road.
Jugglefest, Feb. 26-28: The 23rd annual three-day event includes workshops, games, demonstrations and shows featuring juggling, unicycling and related circus arts at the Texas School for the Deaf on South Congress Avenue.
Carnaval Brasileiro, Feb. 27. The samba beat takes over the Palmer Events Center for a one-day celebration of all things Brazilian. Tickets: $38 in advance, plus $3 online service charge; $45 at the door.
Explore UT, March 5. The biggest open house in Texas begins at 11 a.m. and continues through 5:00 p.m. as the public gets to know the local university. Fossil Digs, fossil identification and other free activities will be at the Texas Natural Science Center, 2400 Trinity St. There are also open houses for high school juniors and seniors and more than 400 demonstrations and activities for all across campus, including a scavenger hunt and walking tours.
Zilker Park Kite Festival, March 6. This festival always helps kick off spring, with hundreds of kites floating above the great yard of the city. And there’s no admission fee. Pets are welcome.
South By Southwest, March 11-20. Film, Interactive and Music conferences and festival.
Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo, March 12-26. Since 1938, the rodeo has been raising money for youth scholarships. It features the world’s fifth-largest indoor, regular season ProRodeo. But there’s much more, including a carnival, activities and entertainment. Past musical performers included Willie Nelson, Maroon 5 and Lady Antebellum. The popular (and free) Cowboy Breakfast is scheduled for March 4 at the Long Center. Prices for the ProRodeo and concerts vary. Gate admission is $8 for adults, free for 2 and younger. Parking $10 per vehicle. Events are at the Dr. Charles W. Graham Western Heritage Center, 9100 Decker Lake Road, and at the Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane.
Mexican American Experience 2016, March 16-17. The two-day free festival featuring music showcases from Tejano to Latin rock returns to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
St. Patrick’s Day Festival, March 17. Lots of music, food and dancing make this one of spring’s most lively events.
Pan Americana Festival, March 18-19. The free two-day festival, which launched in 2011, at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center features Latin alternative artists.
Annual Texas Independence Day Parade & 5K, TBA. The 5K run up Congress Avenue starts at 8 a.m., followed by a parade at 9:30 a.m., a noon ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda and a 2 p.m. ceremony at the Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum.
Texas Relays Weekend, March 30-April 2. The massive high school and college track meet at UT draws thousands of fans from around the state, creating a festival-like atmosphere in downtown Austin.
Austin Urban Music Festival, April 1-2. The two-day event at Auditorium presents a family-friendly alternative to club-centric Texas Relays Weekend festivities. Soul band Maze featuring Frankie Beverly will perform this year.
Honk!TX, April 1-3. The free festival brings street bands from around the country to Austin for a series of horn-heavy, family-friendly happenings in public spaces.
Texas VegFest, April 2. One of the largest vegetarian festivals in the state, at Fiesta Gardens for its fifth year, showcases veg-friendly chefs and food products. With food, entertainment, children’s activities and cooking demos.
Zilker Garden Festival, April 2-3. Includes the annual flower show, live music, lectures, kids events, food and beer garden. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10 adults, $4 children. Parking $5. 2200 Barton Springs Road.
NOLA, Texas Food and Music Festival, April 3. The new event at Cedar Park Center features music from Dr. John, Leon Russell, Cowboy Mouth and others plus New Orleans-inspired celebrity chefs. $28.25 (children younger than 11 free).
Fusebox Festival, April 6-10. The contemporary arts and performance festival brings artists from around the world into Austin for trailblazing theater, concerts, dance events and exhibits — and just about any combination thereof. This year, Fusebox packs it all into a dizzying five days.
Euphoria, April 7-10. The electronic music and jam band festival returns to Carson Creek Ranch.
Statesman Capitol 10K Health & Fitness Expo, April 8-9. Pick up your race packet and check out the health and fitness vendors on hand from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center. The race is April 10, beginning on South Congress Avenue at the Ann Richards Bridge and finishing at the Auditorium Shores Main Event Lawn.
Lone Star Round Up, April 8-10. A celebration of hot rods and vintage cars — with plenty of music, art and shopping — at the Travis County Expo Center.
Spring Plant Sale & Gardening Festival, April 9-10. This annual event takes place at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. It features tours, lectures, book-signings and more.
Old Settler’s Music Festival, April 14-17. Roots and Americana music plus camping, workshops and children’s activities.
Mack, Jack & McConaughey, April 14-15. Combines star power of Mack Brown, Jack Ingram and Matthew McConaughey for a benefit with entertainment.
Austin Fashion Week, April 15-23: Local and national designers come together to celebrate and showcase the latest in fashion with runway shows, trunk shows and parties. Austin Fashion Awards are also presented.
Austin Reggae Festival, April 15-17. A long-standing favorite on the Austin festival calendar, the spring celebration of mellow music and laid-back vibes is also the largest fundraiser of the year for Capital Area Book Bank of Central Texas. Lineup for 2016 forthcoming, and tickets go on sale Feb. 1.
BP MS 150, April 16-17. Thousands of cyclists pedal 180 miles — yep, that whole 150-mile thing undersells this ride — from Houston to Austin in a two-day fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The ride finishes in front of the Bullock Texas State History Museum with a street festival.
Moontower Comedy and Oddity Fest, April 20-23. Comedy blow-out hits a number of venues, including the Paramount Theatre and Cap City Comedy Club. Performers include David Cross, Anjelah Johnson, Martin Short, Maria Bamford and Kevin Smith.
Texas Burlesque Festival, April 21-23. Forbidden Fruit sponsors this celebration of all things erotic, featuring burlesque and vaudeville performances. $10-$60. Marchesa Hall & Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road.
Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 22-24. The city’s premier food festival, presented by C3 Presents and Food & Wine Magazine. The festival brings in some of the country’s top chefs for cooking demos, afternoon and evening tasting events and the chance for attendees to mingle with culinary royalty. This year the fest reverts to its two ticketing options (Weekender and All-In passes), eliminating the a la carte options for the evening festivities.
Buda Wiener Dog Races, April 23-24. The title of this 19th annual event says it all. If the running of the dogs is not enough for you, the event includes cooking competitions, a washer tournament, arts and crafts booths, and more. At Buda City Park.
Louisiana Swamp Thing & Crawfish Festival, April 23. For its 22nd year, enjoy Louisiana zydeco and Cajun tunes and crawfish from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, 305 S. Congress Avenue. $20 cash at gate; kids younger than 8 free.
Austin Earth Day Festival, April 23. This fest in the Mueller neighborhood featuresoutdoor activities, speakers, music and food.
Sunset Valley ArtFest, April 23. It’s the 10th anniversary of this free arts festival with outdoor activities for kids and live music at the Burger Center parking lot.
Umlauf Garden Party, April 28. The 25th annual celebration of art and culture at the garden near the intersection of Barton Springs and Robert E. Lee roads.
Hill Country Film Festival, April 28-May 1. The Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg continues its steady growth.
Art City Austin, April 29-May 1. For its 66th year, Art City Austin will return to the Palmer Events Center, where it launched in 1950 — featuring wall-to-wall art that supports local museums. Family-friendly activities and performances on site, including live music on the Black Fret Stage.
Levitation, April 29-May 1. Formerly known as Austin Psych Fest, this electronic music experience returns to Carson Creek Ranch featuring iconic artists, including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys performing “Pet Sounds.” Also announced are Lee “Scratch” Perry and Brian Jonestown Massacre, as well as other international artists.
Eeyore’s Birthday Bash, April 30. The 52nd annual celebration of all things Pooh continues in Pease Park. Starts at 11 a.m. and lasts until dark.
Untapped Festival, TBA. Inaugurated last year, this one-day event celebrates craft beer and live music in the beautiful pastures and rolling hills at Carson Creek Ranch.
National Wildflower Week, May 2-8. The annual celebration at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, May 4-8. This festival exhibits films from around the world made by or about Latinos and indigenous communities. Special programs include Emergencia, the festival’s youth component, as well as Hecho en Tejas, which highlights Texas-made films. All films are presented in English and/or subtitled.
Lone Star Jam, May 7-8. The Texas music festival has expanded to two days on the LBJ Library Lawn at the University of Texas at Austin. Past performers have included Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Cory Morrow and Jack Ingram.
Pecan Street Festival, Spring, May 7-8. Party central on weekend nights, East Sixth Street goes all family-friendly a couple of times a year, when kiddie trains and other rides whirl and twirl around more than 600 participants and activities including artisans, musicians, a petting zoo and booths full of things-to-eat-on-a-stick.
Maker Faire Austin, May 7-8. Inspiration for makers of all ages.
West Austin Studio Tour, May 14-15, 21-22. After years of the successful East Austin Studio Tour, organizers launched the West Austin version. Where’s West Austin? This event covers anywhere east of MoPac Boulevard, west of Interstate 35, south of U.S. 183 and north of Ben White Boulevard. See the studios of participating artists, gallery spaces and pop-up exhibits in this free self-guided tour.
Austin Sketch Fest, May 24-29. Each Memorial Day weekend for the past three years, scripted comedy has kicked all the crowd-working stand-ups and on-the-spot improvisers off Austin stages in celebration of finely crafted comedic vignettes performed by local groups and national sketch comedy outfits alike.
Kerrville Folk Festival, May 26-June 12. Established in 1972, the Kerrville Folk Festival is the longest continuously running folk fest in North America. With three weeks of performances, camping, music workshops, seminars, hiking and more. Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett have performed at past festivals. There’s also a shorter festival on Labor Day weekend.
Life Time Tri CapTex, May 30. Athletes compete in super sprint, sprint, Olympic distance and relay triathlons in downtown Austin. The event also is the host site of the USA Paratriathlon National Championships. Event includes a fitness expo.
O. Henry Museum World Championship Pun-Off, TBA. Get ready to meet some wordsmiths at this 39th annual event that takes place at 409 E. Fifth St.
Blues on the Green, TBA. KGSR’s summer-long free concert series takes place every other week on the Great Lawn at Zilker Park. This year’s lineup is not yet out, but the final concert of the season usually showcases several acts playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival just a month later.
X Games Austin, June 2-5. Extreme athletes will compete in events including skateboarding, BMX, motocross and rally for its third year at the Circuit of the Americas. Music also plays a big part — past performers have included Kanye West, Pretty Lights and Gary Clark Jr.
ATX Television Festival, June 9-12. Honoring all things TV, with pitch competitions, panels, special screenings and more. This year’s festival includes an “Everybody Loves Raymond” reunion, a writers room reunion of “The Shield” and a retrospective for legendary TV producer Norman Lear.
The Republic of Texas Biker Rally, June 9-12. Things go “vroom” when this fest comes to town. Most events happen at the Travis County Expo Center, but the fun spills out across the city, including the popular opening night parade on Congress Avenue and organized rides.
Keep Austin Weird Fest and 5K, June 25. This fest in downtown Austin features music and food, sure. But the real focal point is a wacky 5K run featuring participants dressed as everything from Willie Nelson to a mystical unicorn. Along the way, they belly flop down a Slip n’ Slide, throw back shots of adult beverages and sample tiny pies.
Austin African American Book Festival, June 25. The 10th annual event that seeks to promote empowerment through literature will take place at the Carver Museum & Cultural Center and the Carver Branch Library.
Austin Chamber Music Festival, TBA. Pushing the boundaries beyond a typical chamber music festival, this multiweek lineup of concerts takes place in recital halls, as well as live music clubs, and includes new music ensembles, jazz groups, string quartets and trios.
Classic Game Fest, July 30-31. A festival celebrating retro video games, including free arcade machines, costume contests, live game music and tournaments at Palmer Events Center.
Austin Ice Cream Festival, Aug. 20. A family-friendly event at Fiesta Gardens marks its 10th year, with ice cream tastings and other events.
Bat Fest, Aug. 20. It’s the 12th year of celebrating the creatures that live underneath the Congress Avenue bridge. With musical acts, food, drinks and crafts. 4 p.m. until midnight.
Austin Pride, Aug. 27. The festival returns to FiestaGardens, followed by the parade through downtown.
Out of Bounds Comedy Fest, Aug. 30-Sept. 5. A weeklong celebration of improv, stand-up and sketch comedy with more than 500 performers.
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, TBA. The best salsa and hot sauce makers in the state convene at Fiesta Gardens for the annual contest, which draws thousands of pepperheads who come to sample some of the spiciest salsas around.
Kerrville Fall Music Festival, Sept. 2-4. A condensed version of the much longer spring festival, combining music with a showcase of Central Texas wine.
Eastside Kings Festival, Sept. 8-10. A celebration of blues, gospel and jazz music at clubs across East Austin.
Fantastic Fest, Sept. 22-29. What began in 2005 as a small festival for film geeks has grown into the nation’s largest genre film festival. In addition to films, the fest focuses on fun and outrageous events, including the Fantastic Debates, which feature oral and physical arguments between members of the film world, and Fantastic Feud, a beer-soaked battle of the brains. The festival champions little-known titles from around the world — Japan and Scandinavian countries always seem to have strong showings — as well as lauded artistic endeavors. Also includes Fantastic Arcade, which showcases indie video games.
Wizard World Comic Con & Gaming Austin, Sept. 23-25. Geeks aplenty at this cosplay-friendly celebration of superheroes, gaming, horror and comic books. Guests include actors Bruce Campbell and “The Crow” creator James O’Barr.
Pecan Street Festival, Fall, Sept. 24-25. The fall edition of the Sixth Street festival.
Texas Craft Brewers Festival, Sept. 24. Texas brewers unite at Fiesta Gardens to offer the best in the state’s craft beers.
Utopia Fest, Sept. 29-Oct. 2. Enjoy music and campingout under the stars
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 and Oct 7-9. Along with SXSW, ACL Fest is one of Austin’s biggest music events, with about 75,000 people attending daily each year. Though it’s not known for helping to launch emerging acts, festival organizers C3 Presents have consistently booked some of the most popular performers in the business, including Eminem, Kanye West, Coldplay and the Eagles. The festival now includes two weekends. Early-bird passes are already sold out for 2016, and regular tickets and the lineup are due to be announced in late spring.
Fredericksburg Oktoberfest, Sept. 30-Oct. 2. A celebration of the Hill Country town’s German heritage, with lots of oompah, beer and food.
Texas Teen Book Festival, Oct. 1. Authors, activities, panels, signings and more on the St. Edward’s University campus.
Austin Film Festival, Oct. 13-20. AFF has separated itself from other film festivals by emphasizing screenwriters.
Livestrong Challenge Austin, Oct. 16. More than 4,000 cyclists will take to the streets in this 20th annual bike ride and fundraiser to benefit the Livestrong Foundation. Riders pedal distances between 20 and 100 miles, starting and finishing in downtown Austin. At the finish line, each cancer survivor gets a yellow rose. A post-event party follows the ride.
Formula One, Oct. 21-23. The U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas track east of Austin and various parties downtown draw racing fans from around the world. A decrease in state incentive payments has many people wondering how long the race will stay in town.
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, TBA. The festival will return with a mixture of touching, bawdy, informative and funny titles.
Wurstfest, Nov. 4-13. The New Braunfels 10-day salute to sausage is a massive celebration of German culture through music on multiple stages, food, beer, dancing, carnival rides and special events along the Comal River. It has continued to grow since its start in 1961, attracting musicians and fans of German culture from all over the world. Children 12 and younger are free.
Texas Book Festival, Nov. 5-6. More than 200 authors from around the world descend on Austin for the largest salute to writing each year in Texas. Events take place inside the Capitol, as well as on the surrounding grounds and nearby venues. texasbookfestival.org.
Travis Heights Art Trail, Nov. 5-6. A multimedia community art event created by the neighborhood artists of Travis Heights, featuring 40 artists, 10 authors, the Travis Heights Elementary School art program and more.
East Austin Studio Tour, Nov. 12-13, 19-20. It’s the celebration that made a neighborhood a creative destination for Austin — and arguably made East Austin a trendy hot spot for restaurants, clubs and loft-living, too.
ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24. About 20,000 runners chug 5 miles around downtown Austin — many dressed as turkeys, Native Americans, chefs or pilgrims — to alleviate the guilt of the traditional holiday feast. Run starts at 9:30 a.m.
Austin Celtic Festival, TBA. A celebration of the Celtic people at Fiesta Gardens.
Austin Polish Film Festival, TBA. The festival usually features a theme and can serve as a nice introduction to lesser-known filmmakers.
Fun Fun Fun Fest, TBA. FFF hit downtown Austin in 2006 and now includes a well-curated selection of eclectic music, comedy, food and action sports.