USA

The Best Festivals in Texas

by Paul Joseph  |  Published July 12, 2017

The sprawling Lone Star State looms large on the USA’s southern border. The Texan landscape is as varied as it is vast, with its sandy coast, sun-dappled pine forests and rolling rocky plains. Discover sun-baked South Texas for magnificent bird-watching and the historic Spanish missions, or try the sweeping Panhandle Plains in the north, named for their shape. On the Gulf Coast, where barbecue is the dish of the day, you’ll find the Padre Island National Seashore teeming with wildlife.
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A fallen road-side sign in Texas (Photo: DClemm via Flickr)

An area of this size has its fair share of festivals, particularly in its dynamic city hubs, such as Austin, Houston and Dallas. Enjoy everything from craft beer celebrations to arts festivals, plus all the rodeo shows you might expect. Here’s our rundown of the best Texas festivals taking place through the remainder of 2017.

July 2017

Wholistic Festival

Here’s a great event for those in need of a little TLC. The Wholistic Festival is all about ways of looking after yourself a little better, offering health guidance for mind and body from all sorts of angles. Every third Sunday of the month, over 70 exhibitors are on hand to promote the benefits of practices such as astrology, reflexology, tarot, crystal healing and various types of massage. You can also enjoy lectures from experts in their field. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about techniques that can help you rebalance your spiritual and physical wellbeing – what’s more, it’s free to attend. WHERE Holiday Inn International Hotel, San Antonio WHEN 23 July

Wholistic Festival

A promotional poster for Wholistic Festival shows a festival-goer deep in solitude (Photo: Wholistic Festival)

Messina Hof Harvest Festival

Wine-lovers in Texas, this is right up your street. This year the Bonarrigo family are celebrating the 40th anniversary harvest festival of their award-winning Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, and they’re expecting to see their largest crop to date. Customers old and new are invited to celebrate the occasion, kicking off with the Moonlit Harvest at the end of July and followed by a series of events exploring the winemaking (and wine drinking) process. You’ll have the chance to get stuck in, picking grapes, squishing them underfoot, following behind-the-scenes tours or enjoying one of the extra-special dining events. Check out the calendar and grab those tickets. WHERE Messina Hof Winery & Resort WHEN Dates through July & August

Messina Hof Harvest Festival

A bird’s-eye view of Pyrmont Festival (Photo: Visitors to the Messina Hof Harvest Festival enjoy the fruits of their labour)

August 2017

Austin Ice Cream Festival

Given its popularity, it is perhaps surprising that there aren’t more ice cream festivals around the world. But one place that can never be accused of neglecting the universally loved frozen dairy dessert is Austin. Each year, the Texan city hosts the Austin Ice Cream Festival, where visitors can come and delight in a huge variety of ice cream from both local and national ice cream makers. But there’s more to the event than delicious frosty indulgence – there’s also live music across two stages, a climbing wall, water gun target practice, a dunk tank and a whole range of other kid-friendly activities. Stick round after dark and you can also enjoy an atmospheric movie in the park. Tickets for the festival are priced at $15 and children under 8 go free.WHERE Fiesta Gardens, Austin WHEN 12 August

Austin Ice Cream Festival

Mouth-watering treats awaiting a buyer at the Austin Ice Cream Festival (Photo: Austin Ice Cream Festival)

Capital City Black Film Festival

One of the fastest growing film festivals in the region, the Capital City Black Film Festival brings screenings, special events and plenty more to the city of Austin, offering visitors the chance to experience the varied works of artists and filmmakers of colour from across the globe. Now in its 5th year, the festival provides something for everyone, including celebrity meet-and-greets, director talkbacks, networking, educational workshops, film screenings, actor panels, parties and red carpet celebrations. WHERE Austin Convention Center, Austin WHEN 17 – 20 August

Capital City Black Film Festival

Film lovers in front of a wall of movie posters at the Capital City Black Film Festival (Photo: Capital City Black Film Festival)

Anime Fest

The Japanese animation art-form of Anime has in recent decades grown from a niche interest to a full-blown cultural phenomenon. In Dallas, its stratospheric rise is celebrated at AnimeFest, where visitors can come and learn about Anime, meet like-minded enthusiasts along with professional and amateur Anime artists, attend workshops, listen to panel discussions peruse hundreds of tables of merchandise and generally immerse yourself in this fascinatingly creative – and often subversive – artistic genre. Extra-curricular activities include dance parties and a formal Masquerade Ball. Single Day passes are available on the door, or you can book online from August 11th, with tickets priced at up to $50 a day. WHERE The Sheraton Hotel, Dallas WHEN 17 – 20 August

Anime Fest

Festival-goers dressed for the occasion at Anime Fest (Photo: Anime Fest)

Highland Village Balloon Festival

There’s something magical about watching a hot-air balloon drift gently across the sky that harks back to a bygone era – and if you’re also enamored by such a vision then this festival is guaranteed to please. Run and organized by volunteers from the Highland Village Lions Club, it is a multi-day charity event that sees multiple hot-air balloons ascending into the sky or glowing all at the same time, creating a captivating kaleidoscope of colour. Be sure to bring your camera, as this is truly a sight to behold. Visitors can also take flight themselves by joining a tethered balloon ride. Back on ground level, there’s live music, arts and crafts, a classic car show, raffle prizes, great food, and a dedicated kids’ zone. The festival is free to enter. WHERE Unity Park, Highland Village WHEN 18 – 20 August

Highland Village Balloon Festival

Hot air balloons lined up on the grass at Unity Park at the Highland Village Balloon Festival (Photo: Highland Village Balloon Festival)

Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

Anyone that attended the inaugural edition of Out of Bounds in 2002 will be blown away by how it has grown – not to mention delighted that its much-loved miniature golf tournament has remained a key feature on the schedule. Today it has blossomed into a truly international event, held across 7 days, 6 venues and featuring over 500 performers and 130 shows. Comedy talent from across the world now descend here each year to perform improvised acts, sketch-shows, podcasts and stand-up. There’s also a strong emphasis on local talent, with a number of now-distinguished Texan names having passed through Out of Bounds during their rise to the top. Notable headline acts set to appear this year include Dave Hill (‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’), Katie Rich (‘Saturday Night Live’) and Marcella Arguello (‘@midnight’). All-festival passes are priced at $139 and include after parties and discounts on food and drinks. WHERE Venues across Austin WHEN 28 August – 4 September

Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

A stage performance at the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival (Photo: Jay Mahavier)

September 2017

Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival

There’s a saying that to get to know a place and its people, you must first eat their food. In Texas, of course, no food represents the culture more than authentic southern-style BBQ. Then there is Blues music, another cherished Texan tradition, and if you combine the two you get the Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival, a 3-day event that attracts over 20,000 music and food lovers from all over the world. Taking place on Labor Day, some of America’s most revered chefs congregate to rustle up tangy, smoking hot barbecue food against the harmonious backdrop of top quality blues and rock music. Tickets start at $10. WHERE 1951, L. Don Dodson, Bedford WHEN 1 – 3 September

Westfest Czech & Polka Festival

Amble into the downtown area of West and before long you’re likely to notice the numerous Czech bakeries, gift shops and antique stores dotted along its streets. Not for nothing is the city known as the Czech Heritage Capital of Texas. Celebrating the Czech culture that is so deeply ingrained here, the annual Westfest Czech & Polka Festival has been a regular feature on the city’s events calendar since 1976 and continues to draw large crowds. Offering a friendly welcome to all-comers – Czech or otherwise – visitors can enjoy authentic Czech food, arts and crafts, live music and energetic polka dancing. There’s also a horseshoe tossing tournament, carnival rides and a plethora of family-oriented activities. Proceeds from the event go to local community causes. Entry for adults costs $10 and kids under 6 go free. WHERE West Fair and Rodeo Grounds WHEN 1 – 3 September

Westfest Czech & Polka Festival

Traditionally dressed women pose for the camera at the Westfest Czech & Polka Festival (Photo: Alvin Soukup)

Brewmaster Craft Beer Festival

Texas’ craft beer sector continues to grow apace and this 3-day festival amply demonstrates its vibrancy. Held over Labor Day weekend on the island city of Galveston, the event appears regularly on lists of the top beer festivals in the US and it’s little wonder why. Featuring over 400 craft beers along with wine samplings, educational seminars and live music, it is a veritable paradise for lovers of the amber nectar. Look out for the Nach-Yo Ordinary Tequila Tasting event on Friday night, the Texas Brewery Tasting Tour and the BrewHaHa Grand Tasting on Saturday, and the Brew B Que on Sunday. Tickets start at $30 for a day ticket including entry to a tasting session and rise up to $165 for a VIP all-access three-day pass. WHERE The Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center, Galveston WHEN 1 – 3 September

Brewmaster Craft Beer Festival

Crowds raise their arms in unison at the Brewmaster Craft Beer Festival (Photo: Brewmaster Craft Beer Festival)

National Cowboy Symposium

However many Western movies we may have watched, it is difficult for those of us from outside America to appreciate how deeply ingrained cowboy culture is in Texan life. This annual festival is designed to celebrate and preserve this rich tradition for future generations of Texans as well as spreading awareness to new audiences. The event hosts a rich programme of events and activities, including live entertainers, poetry and storytelling, western writers and authors’ panels, film and movie screenings and seminars, a Youth Wild West Day, horse-handling demonstrations, Native American Indian activities and presentations, exhibits of Western artworks and merchandise, and much more. Watch out for the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-Off, which is always a major highlight. Day passes begin at $15 for adults and $6 for youths. Children go free. WHERE Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, Lubbock WHEN 8 – 10 September

National Cowboy Symposium

A horse drawn carriage transports visitors during the National Cowboy Symposium (Photo: National Cowboy Symposium)

Harker Heights Food, Wine & Beverage Festival

Texas is a wine destination unlike any other, with lavish scenery, breathtaking views, warm small towns and beautiful parks. Situated on Texas’ eastern borders is Harker Heights, one of the region’s most vibrant towns and offering an array of cultural activities. One of the most popular events on its cultural calendar is the Harker Heights Food, Wine & Brew Festival, which each year sees Texas chefs gather and invite guests to pair exquisite dishes with their favorite glasses. Over 100 Texas wines and craft beer combine to create the ultimate culinary experience. Early Bird tickets are priced at $25, or you can pay $30 on the gate. Tickets for children aged 13 or over are $10 and kids aged 12 or under go free. WHERE Harker Heights Community Park, Harker Heights WHEN 9 September

Harker Heights Food, Wine & Beverage Festival

A sign promising tantalising food at the Harker Heights Food, Wine & Beverage Festival (Photo: Harker Heights Food, Wine & Beverage Festival)

Fort Worth Oktoberfest

The German tradition of Oktoberfest has spread like wildfire across the world and the Fort Worth edition, which brings a mouth-watering slice of Germany to Texas, is celebrated with as much fervour as anywhere. The star of the show is inevitably the authentic German food and craft beers, which can be eaten and imbibed in traditional pop-up biergartens dotted throughout the festival venue. There’s also live music, dancing, Dachshund races, clothing and souvenirs, and plenty more. Tickets cost $5 for entry on the Thursday only, $10 for the Friday or Saturday and $15 for a 3-day pass. If you purchase tickets online you get a free stein. Kids under 12 go free. WHERE The Shack at Panther Island Pavilion, Fort Worth WHEN 21 – 23 September

Fort Worth Oktoberfest

A game participant at the Fort Worth Oktoberfest (Photo: Fort Worth Oktoberfest)

Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival

Don’t be fooled by the name – the only grapes available at this popular annual festival are in the form of locally produced red wine. Taking place on the streets of Downtown Bryan, the event’s 11th annual edition will feature over 25 of Texas’ most renowned wineries along with craft beer breweries, live music, a steak cook-off, artisanal food vendors, and a dedicated Kids Zone. A cornerstone of the city, the festival also serves as a major boon for Bryan’s economy, drawing visitors from across Texas and beyond. Admission to the festival is free, though tickets must be purchased for Wine Tastings, Beer Tastings, the Saturday Night Steak Dinner, the Sunday Brunch and the Kids Zone. WHERE Downtown Bryan WHEN 22 – 24 September

Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival

A couple enjoying a drink at the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival (Photo: Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival)

St. Elias Mediterranean Festival

Austin may not be the most multicultural of Texan cities, but it sure knows how to put on a show of solidarity with its non-indigenous residents. Dating all the way back to the 1930s, making it one of Texas’s longest-running festival, the St. Elias Mediterranean Festival is an all-embracing celebration of Mediterranean culture, heritage and food, encompassing the cultural traditions of Greece, Italy, Lebanon and many other neighbouring Arabic countries. Now in its 85th year, the event takes place in the grounds of the St. Elias Orthodox Church where it never fails to captivate visitors with its performances of live Greek and Arabic folkmusic and dancing, market selling a diverse range of gifts and goods, mouth-watering Greek cuisine, and plenty of kids’ activities too. Admission tickets are available for a $5 donation. WHERE St. Elias Orthodox Church, 11th ST between Trinity and Red River WHEN 29 – 30 September

Elias Mediterranean Festival

A young girl having her face decorated at the St. Elias Mediterranean Festival (Photo: St. Elias Mediterranean Festival)

October 2017

Bailando Dance Festival

Bailando International Dance Festival is an annual celebration of dance that introduces a variety of dance forms to visitors and locals, offering master dance classes and opportunities for aspiring choreographers to show their works, as well as evening dance concerts for the public. Initiated in September 2000 as part of Corpus Christi Concert Ballet’s Dance Initiative, the event provides South Texas with culturally diverse works of dance performed by companies throughout North and Central America. This year’s festival will also feature professional dance companies Ad Deum, Ballet Austin, Danza Universitaria de Costa Rica, and NobleMotion. WHERE Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center WHEN 5 – 7 October

Bailando Dance Festival

The Ad Deum Dance Company in full flow (Photo: Bailando Dance Festival)

Waco Cultural Arts Festival

The Texan city of Waco is the setting for this popular 3-day festival, which has been running for over 10 years now with the express aim of fostering a deep-seated understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity. Comprising several distinct events, including WordFest, DanceFest, ScienceFest and Africa FilmFest, the event offers something to suit ever taste and preference. There’s live art demonstrations, live music, and a rich programme of theatre and dance performances from local and national poets, filmmakers, dancers and musicians. Hands-on activities for all ages make it an immersive experience for visitors and there’s evening entertainment too. Entry is free for all-comers. WHERE Indian Spring Park & Waco Convention Center, Waco WHEN 6 – 8 October

Lone Star Book Festival

Children ride extravagantly adorned bikes during the Waco Cultural Arts Festival (Photo: Waco Cultural Arts Festival)

Floresville Peanut Festival

The humble peanut may be a staple of many American households, but few people who enjoy it as a snack are aware of its importance to Texan agriculture. Known as the peanut capital of Texas thanks to its fertile soil where peanut plants grow in abundance, the city of Floresville plays host to an annual festival that celebrates its most precious crop. The family-friendly event features plenty of peanut-themed activities, not to mention food including peanut brittle, homemade peanut butter, peanut cookies, roasted peanuts and peanut-flavoured ice cream. There are also a Grand Parade, live music by up-and-coming bands, a street dance, a beer garden, a raffle, arts and crafts vendors and – as if the festival isn’t eccentric enough – a ceremonial coronation of Queen Tunaep (peanut spelled backwards). Admission is free. WHERE Downtown Historic Floresville WHEN 10 – 14 October

Floresville Peanut Festival

Participants line up alongside a large peanut-shaped float at the Floresville Peanut Festival (Photo: Floresville Peanut Festivall)

Austin Fermentation Festival

The annual global market for fermented food and beverages is valued at more than a billion dollars and there is growing awareness of the health benefits of the fermentation process on a number of food items. Building on the growth and success of this sector, the Austin Fermentation Festival is an educational event that celebrates all things fermented. The event plays host to a number of hands-on workshops along with a huge range of fermented food and drink samples for visitors to sample, including dishes served up by local chefs. There’ll also be live music, a silent auction and film screenings of the 2017 documentary ‘Fermented’. Festival proceeds go to the Texas Farmers’ Market Farmer Emergency Fund. Doors open at 10am with workshops running from 10.30am through to late afternoon. WHERE Barr Mansion, Austin WHEN 22 October

Austin Fermentation Festival

Purveyors selling fermented produce at the Austin Fermentation Festival (Photo: Roxanne Rathge)

November 2017

Texas Gospel Music Festival

An extensive line-up of gospel groups and solo performers will once again feature at this year’s Texas Gospel Music Festival. Featuring three separate sessions across two days, visitors can come, listen to and worship with some of the genre’s most renowned names, including The Erwins, Collingsworth Family, Legacy Five, Greater Vision and Mark Trammell Quartet. The evening sessions will also include a ‘Finale’ bonus with the Brotherhood Tour featuring Booth Brothers & Ernie Haase & Signature Sound and the Cathedrals Family Reunion with past Cathedrals alumni around the piano. Individual session tickets are priced at $30 and on-site lodging is also available at an extra cost. WHERE MacGorman Performing Arts Center and Chapel, Fort Worth WHEN 2 – 3 November

Texas Book Festival

When it comes to books, you can never be too young to start immersing yourselves in their magical world. In fact, statistics show that the more books in a household, the better the life chances of the children who live there. Each year the Texas Book Festival plays a key role in inculcating young and old alike with a passion for all things bookish with this two-day literary celebration. The event features a rich programme of readings, panels and book signings, along with cooking demonstrations, live music, local food trucks, children’s activities, and plenty more. Organised by more than 1000 volunteers, the festival is free of charge and open to all-comers. WHERE Texas State Capitol WHEN 4 – 5 November

Texas Book Festival

Panellists giving a talk at the Texas Book Festival (Photo: Sara Reyes via Flickr)

Houston Turkish Festival

Two days of fun-packed entertainment and sumptuous cuisine await you at this popular annual festival. Doners, pilafs and homemade pastries will be just some of the mouth-watering dishes on offer, while the festival helps keeps the energy pumping with Turkish music performed by a number of local bands, Turkish folk dance groups and belly dancing. There’ll also be a Grand Bazaar featuring 20 booths and stands selling handmade crafts and souvenirs, all reflecting and celebrating Turkish culture. On-site parking is available underneath the festival grounds for $10 WHERE Jones Plaza, Houston WHEN 4 – 5 November

Houston Turkish Festival

Traditional dancers at the Houston Turkish Festival (Photo: Kinjo Yonemoto via Flickr)

December 2017

Tamale Festival Houston

The traditional Mesoamerican dish of tamale is the inspiration behind this vibrant one-day Texan festival featuring dozens of local chefs and pop-up ‘taquerias’ – Mexican restaurants specialising in tacos. Designed to celebrate Houston’s rich diversity, the star of the show is undoubtedly tamale. Complementing this delicious dough-based food that is traditionally steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf will be a wide range of local craft beers, art exhibits, food-eating competitions, live music, stand-up comedy and plenty more besides. General Admission tickets are $20, with doors open from 12pm to 10pm. WHERE Navigation Esplanade, Houston WHEN 2 December

Central Texas Teen Comic Con

Created to give youngsters the chance to meet and interact with popular authors and illustrators, this graphic novel and comic convention is a major draw with comic and animation lovers across Texas and beyond. Open only to those aged 12 – 19 (and accompanying adults), there’s author/artist speaker panels, autograph sessions, workshops, art competitions, and even a Cosplay fashion show. There’s also shop selling a wide range of books and artworks. Food and drink is available for purchase on site or you can bring your own. WHERE Round Rock High School, Round Rock WHEN 2 December