USA

The Best Festivals in Texas

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated November 6, 2018

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.

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 due to take place in 2019. And remember, for 2020 festival dates, keep checking the official websites.

Denton Black Film Festival

Held over five days, this popular film festival brings together some of the best artistic showcases of Black storytelling. Built around amazing cinema, the festival is unique from many others in that it also features music, spoken word/poetry, art and more. The event shares these stories – including traditions, ideas and experiences – in a multitude of ways, and as a way of bringing the African-American experience to life and allowing guests to experience Black culture in an immersive and engaging way.

Denton Black Film Festival

Two participants at the Denton Black Film Festival share a joke (Photo: Denton Black Film Festival)

LOCATION Campus Theatre, 214 West Hickory Street, Denton DATES 23-27 January

ZestFest

Anyone with a penchant for the hotter things in life is invited to indulge in a fiery food experience as ZestFest brings together the spiciest exhibitors and products from around the country for one sizzling weekend. The ultimate party for bold and flavourful food enthusiasts, the event features cooking demos by celebrity chefs, live music, interactive contests and thousands of bold food samples. It also provides an opportunity for companies to showcase their wares in front of both consumers and key industry players

ZestFest

Packed crowds at ZestFest (Photo: ZestFest)

LOCATION Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Boulevard, Irving DATES 25-27 January

Kerrville Renaissance Festival

The Kerrville Renaissance Festival is an immersive family friendly experience which takes you to a land of fantasy and fun that will live on in lasting memories. Enjoy entertainment such as viking demonstrations and magical escape artistry, stroll the shops filled with quality hand made products, and partake in playful games and delectable foods with the whole family. Nestled in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, the festival is celebrating its third year in 2019. Find them on Facebook to keep up with new additions and participate in their weekly ticket giveaway. For more information visit www.KerrvilleRenFest.com.

Kerrville Renaissance Festival

The viking reenactment at Kerrville Renaissance Festival.(Photo: Randy Maness of Olive Image Photography)

LOCATION River Star Arts & Events, Park Hill Country DATES 25-27 January; 2-3 February

Big-Little ComedyFest

Showcasing improve, sketch and stand-up acts from both the local comedy community and across the rest of the country, this week-long festival is a mirthful extravaganza featuring performances, workshops and plenty more. Founded in Michigan in 2010, it has since moved to its new home in San Antonio, Texas and has grown and grown, offering a platform for emerging talent as well as attracting some of the biggest and most established names on the comedy circuit, and providing locals and visitors alike with plenty of belly laughs in the process.

Big-Little ComedyFest

Animated performers at Big-Little ComedyFest (Photo: Steve Rogers Photography)

LOCATION Bexar Stage, San Antonio DATES February

Texas Lunar Festival

The Chinese New Year is a hugely important annual landmark and thanks to the state’s vast Asian population, Texas is a great place to be when it comes around. Each year thousands of people from across Texas descend on Houston to celebrate the Asian Lunar New Year. The emphasis is on Asian culture, but there are also plenty of reminders of the impressive diversity that can be found across the world. Expect live stage music, dancing, food, and more.

LOCATION Southern News Group site, Houston DATES 2 February

Ennis Czech Music Festival

Texas has a large Czech community and many of them live in the city of Ennis. To celebrate their heritage, the annual Ennis Czech Music Festival puts on a full day’s celebration featuring great music, dancing, food, drinks, and much more. Polka bands performing traditional Czech music will take centre stage, while everyone comes dressed for the occasion in their authentic Czech kroj. There’s also a kid’s zone to keep your little ones entertained. Be sure to sample some Czech classics while you’re there, including Klobase and Sauerkraut.

Ennis Czech Music Festival

A musical show during Ennis Czech Music Festival (Photo: Ennis Czech Music Festival)

LOCATION Sokol Activity Center, Ennis DATES 9 February

Asian Festival

Two live stages featuring regional musical talent, fun-packed parades, Asian-themed games and a huge range of kids’ activities is just some of what to expect at the Asian Festival in San Antonio each February. This is a magical time when San Antonio’s Asian community comes together to celebrate together and educate those less familiar about the cultures and traditions that spread from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim.

LOCATION Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio DATES 9 February

Central Texas Teen & Kids 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.

LOCATION Round Rock High School, Round Rock DATES 16 February

Prison City Film Festival

Named after the quirky factoid that the town of Huntsville is home to multiple prisons, this action-packed film festival features a diverse mix of screenings, including films, shorts, documentaries, music videos, and trailers, along with special presentations, Q&As, open discussions, receptions networking events, and more. The event’s finale comes in the form of a spectacular PCFF awards ceremony, where films across a variety of category submissions go head to head for the prestigious baubles that are up for grabs.

Prison City Film Festival

A crowd gathers outside the Old Theatre during Prison City Film Festival (Photo: Prison City Film Festival)

LOCATION Old Theatre, Huntsville DATES 27 February–2 March

Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas

One of Texas’s biggest and best musical festivals take place over 5 full days in the downtown district of Port Arthur each year. There’s an impressive three stages, on which national, regional and local performers showcase their musical gifts, with a wide variety of genres represented, including Top Forty/Pop, Jazz, Cajun/Zydeco, Blues, Country, R & B/Soul, Rock, Rockabilly and Variety. Other activities include parades, carnival, games, and plenty more.

LOCATION Downtown, Procter Street, Port Arthur DATES 28 February-3 March

Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff

Now into its 8th year, the Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff attacts thousands of attendees who come to celebrate the fellowship of the city’s Jewish community with a day of food, live entertainment, contests, and family friendly activities, while raising funds for local non-profit Jewish organisations. Among the main highlights are a moonwalk, climbing walls, balloon artists, a jalapeno eating contest and raffle.

Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff

Revellers serve up a fiery treat at the Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff (Photo: Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff)

LOCATION Congregation Beth Yeshurun, 4525 Beechnut Street DATES 3 March

Texas Storytelling Festival

Stories brimming with humour, honesty and a whole lot of heart take centre stage at this annual festival, whose modus operandi is to entertain, inspire and lift appreciation for the places you’ve lived or dreamed of. The festival’s humble beginnings – when a mere handful of storytellers and listeners gathered together – have given way to a fully-fledged celebration of the humble art of storytelling. Today the event continues to grow, drawing visitors and participants from Texas and far beyond, while also hosting educational and engaging workshops on how to tell stories.

Texas Storytelling Festival

A musical performance at the Texas Storytelling Festival (Photo: Texas Storytelling Festival)

LOCATION Venues across Denton DATES 7-10 March

North Texas Irish Festival

Celebrating the rich musical, dance, and cultural heritage of Irish and other Celtic influences across the United States, the North Texas Irish Festival has been captivating revellers for over three decades. Indeed, renowned bands such as Jigsaw and The Irish Rogues can trace their roots directly to the first edition that was staged back in 1983, and many more acts will be hoping for the same trajectory following their inaugural festival performance in 2019. There’s also plenty of food and drink to enjoy while you tap your toes to the music.

North Texas Irish Festival

A blast of the bagpipes during the North Texas Irish Festival (Photo: North Texas Irish Festival)

LOCATION Fair Park, Dallas DATES 8-10 March

South by Southwest Festival

One of the world’s biggest annual festivals, South by Southwest is an all-embracing celebration of three of the major creative arts – film, music and comedy – focussing on the growing ability of digital and interactive technologies to bring these mediums to life. Artists, industry professionals and fans from across the globe descend on Austin for the event, which has grown from just one-night to a week-long whirlwind of events and activities designed to shine a light on both emerging and established talent in the creative fields.

SXSW Festival

A guitar performance at South by Southwest Festival (Photo: kris krüg via Flickr)

LOCATION Venues across Austin DATES 8-18 March

Texas Indie Fest

Taking place during the South by Southwest Music Week, this 4-day showcase of nascent musical talent from across the world. The 2019 edition will be the 9th year for the festival, and is already promising to be better and better than ever, showcasing up to 50 emerging artists, including full electric and acoustic acts, hailing from far and wide. Performers are given 30 minute slots complete with a stage and full professional production and backline included in order to grab the attention of fans and industry insiders alike.

Texas Indie Fest

A stage performance at Texas Indie Fest (Photo: Texas Indie Fest)

LOCATION Texas Mist, Austin DATES 13-16 March

Beats x Beers Festival

Part of the annual SXSW Music Festival, Beats X Beers has become a hugely popular event since its inaugural edition in 2015. Among the notable musical figures to perform over the past four years have been Zaytoven, Trae Tha Truth, Tokyo Jetz, Zoey Dollaz, Rico Recklezz, and Bia. As well as the festival itself, the influence of Beats X Beers extends far beyond, billing itself as an all-embracing lifestyle brand centred round music culture, serving as a creative hub that’s open to all-comers.

Beats x Beers Festival

Crowds gathered at the Beats x Beers Festival (Photo: Beats x Beers Festival)

LOCATION Austin DATES 15 March

San Antonio Folk Dance Festival

This long-running, family oriented, intergenerational festival includes a three-day workshop with teaching sessions, dance parties and a ticket to the event’s flagship concert performance. Activities for youth and adults immerse attendees in the love and advocacy of folk dance where one can gain a new appreciation for other cultures. As for the performance concert, it typically showcases up to 14 different cultures through live music, demonstrating the talent and energy of local performing folk dance groups, plus special guests.

San Antonio Folk Dance Festival

An elaborate dance show at San Antonio Folk Dance Festival (Photo: San Antonio Folk Dance Festival)

LOCATION Our Lady of the Lake University & International Folk Culture Center, San Antonio DATES 15-19 March

ABC Kite Fest

The ABC Kite Fest is one of Austin’s most beloved, family-friendly traditions. The festival boasts day-long activities for all ages, including the traditional kite-flying contest and showcase, a fun run and MossFest, and a children’s music concert. Soar into spring and join thousands of Austinites for a free, all-day event filled with kite making, flying and gazing.

Texas Storytelling Festival

Kites litter the sky during the ABC Kite Fest (Photo: Ben Porter Photography)

LOCATION Zilker Park, Austin DATES 31 March

Tequila, Taco & Cerveza Festival

Strolling mariachis, lucha libre wrestling matches, water pong, live bands and DJs, and enough mouth-watering Mexican treat to shake a sombrero at are just some of the delights awaiting you at this fun-filled annual festival. More than 40 brands of tequila will be on offer along with a seemingly never ending procession of taco trucks serving up every variation of the tasty tortilla-based snack that you can imagine.

Tequila, Taco & Cerveza Festival

Dancing crowds during the Tequila, Taco & Cerveza Festival (Photo: Tequila, Taco & Cerveza Festival)

LOCATION Corpus Christi DATES March

Texas Sand Fest

The largest Native-Sand Sand Sculpture Competition in the US, Texas SandFest is an action-packed, internationally recognised, three-day family event that draws sculptors and tens of thousands of visitors from around the world each year to the city of Port Aransas on Mustang Island on the Texas coast. There’s amazing sand sculptures, food, live music, and kids activities, along with shopping for jewellery, arts & crafts, clothing, furniture, souvenirs & more.

LOCATION Beach Marker 11, Port Aransas DATES 26-28 April

Festival of Food & Wine

The sizeable grounds of the Texas Maritime Museum play host to this action-packed Memorial Day weekend celebration with a well-attended gastronomic extravaganza. Visitors to the event can enjoy a wide variety of wines of the Americas, plus food, demonstrations and specialty food concessions. Live bands and entertainment make the event even more lively and fun.

Festival of Food & Wine

Visitors chat over drinks at the Festival of Food & Wine (Photo: Festival of Food & Wine)

LOCATION Texas Maritime Museum, 202 Navigation Cir, Rockport DATES 25-26 May

Children’s Art and Literacy Festival

The perfect way to introduce your kids to the magic and wonder of art and literature, this busy festival welcomes visitors and invites them to attend dramatic presentations, special performances, art activities and much more. Highlights include a Storybook Parade and Artist Talk, along with book readings, costumed characters, art activities, animals, magic shows, balloons and movies.

LOCATION Historic Downtown Abilene DATES 6-8 June

Rockport Art Festival

Artists from across America showcase their works in a variety of styles – both analogue and digital – at this juried fine arts event. Since 1969, the festival on Aransas Bay has made Rockport the best place to be on the Fourth of July weekend, with high-quality artists, live music, a kid’s activity tent and more. All proceeds benefit the Rockport Center for the Arts.

Rockport Art Festival

Art displayed at the Rockport Art Festival (Photo: Rockport Art Festival)

LOCATION 210 Seabreeze Drive, Rockport, DATES 6-7 July

Highland Village Balloon Festival

Run and organised by volunteers from the Highland Village Lions Club, this multi-day charity event sees multiple hot-air balloons ascending into the sky or glowing all at the same time, creating a captivating kaleidoscope of colour. 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.

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)

LOCATION Unity Park, Highland Village DATES 16-18 August

Animefest

The Japanese animation art-form of Anime has 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.

Animefest

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

LOCATION The Sheraton Hotel, Dallas DATES 16-19 August

Brewmasters 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.

Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival

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

LOCATION The Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center, Galveston DATES August

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 producers. 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.

Austin Ice Cream Festival

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

LOCATION Fiesta Gardens, Austin DATES August

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, this annual festival has been a regular feature on the city’s events calendar since 1976. Offering a friendly welcome to all-comers, visitors can enjoy authentic Czech food, arts and crafts, live music and energetic polka dancing.

Westfest Czech & Polka Festival

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

LOCATION West Fair and Rodeo Grounds DATES August

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.

LOCATION Venues across Austin DATES August–September

Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

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

Bedford Blues Festival

In Texas, no food represents the culture more than authentic southern-style BBQ. Then there is Blues music, another cherished Texan tradition. Combine the two and 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.

LOCATION 1951, L. Don Dodson, Bedford DATES August-September

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.

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)

DATES Harker Heights Community Park, Harker Heights LOCATION 14 September

St. Elias Mediterranean Festival

Dating back to the 1930s, this 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.

Elias Mediterranean Festival

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

LOCATION St. Elias Orthodox Church, 11th ST between Trinity and Red River DATES 21–22 September

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.

Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival

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

LOCATION Downtown Bryan DATES 27–29 September

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.

Fort Worth Oktoberfest

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

LOCATION The Shack at Panther Island Pavilion, Fort Worth DATES October

Texas Gospel Music Festival

An extensive line-up of gospel groups and solo performers will once again feature at the 2019 Texas Gospel Music Festival. Visitors can 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.

LOCATION MacGorman Performing Arts Center and Chapel, Fort Worth DATES 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.

Texas Book Festival

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

LOCATION Texas State Capitol DATES November