It seems there’s a festival for everything and anything these days, so attending a festival in Austin is pretty much a must-do bucket list item. Many of the festivals in town are free, so why not check out a few? Here’s a round up of this year’s festivals so that you can start planning ahead!
Star Wars Family Fun Fest
January 16 from 12-4:00 p.m. | The Bullock Museum, 1800 Congress Ave, Austin
Bring the entire family to celebrate all things Star Wars and see the newest film (or see it again) in IMAX® 3D on the biggest screen in Texas. Snap your picture with your favorite Star Wars characters from Austin’s 501st Legion. Enjoy puzzles and games by Austin Panic Room, lightsaber demonstrations by the BAM Academy, and intergalactic arts and crafts. Make sure to get the Star Wars prize giveaways as well as comic book giveaways courtesy of Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasies. Fun for all ages and FREE! RSVP here.
MLK March and Festival
January 18 at 9:00 a.m. | The University of Texas at Austin, 305 E 23rd St, Austin
The Annual Community March celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy while uplifting diversity and multi-culturalism in our city. The MLK Community March kicks off with a short program at the MLK Statue on the University of Texas campus. The march will continue to the south steps of the State Capitol for a short program and marchers will continue on to the historic Huston-Tillotson University, where exciting activities are planned. All businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals are invited to march and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. The MLK Community Festival kicks off as soon the march arrives on location and will last until 3:00 p.m. It will include all types of vendors and local musical artists to make this year’s celebration the best ever. Event is FREE, however marchers are asked to help by donating can goods or non-perishable food items, which will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.
January 24 from 2-5:00 p.m. | Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance & Cultural Center, 701 Tillery St, Austin Los Reyes Magos (The Three Kings) are coming to Austin to celebrate Octavitas. Come sing aguinaldos one last time and enjoy PRFDance performances. Bring the kids; the Reyes always bring gifts. FREE!
Vietnamese New Year Festival
January 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. | Travis County Exposition Center, 7311 Decker Ln, Austin It’s about to be that time of year again–the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year. Enjoy great food, lots of shopping, cultural performances, and a raffle while mingling with the community. Open to the public. Tickets are available here. Cost: $5 per person.
Chinese New Year Celebration
February 20-21 | Chinatown Center, 10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
Weekend-long celebration to welcome the Year of the Monkey with special performances, family-friendly attractions, and food. FREE!
March 5 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Campus of UT Austin
Held annually at UT Austin, Explore UT aims to inform students, parents, teachers, and community members from across the state about the importance of the public research institution and higher education in Texas. The day-long event invites Texans of all ages to experience robust research experiences, hands-on demonstrations and experiments, and participate in the richness of the university’s scholarship and knowledge. Explore UT seeks to broaden the horizons of students in Texas and motivate them toward achieving higher education after high school. It seeks to help parents and teachers encourage the excitement of learning and discovery, and welcomes alumni to reconnect with the institution that prepared them for their careers. View full schedule of events here. FREE!
Zilker Park Kite Festival
March 6 at 2:00 p.m. | Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
Go fly a kite! Kick off spring with exciting kite contests, the best food booths and food trucks that Austin has to offer, and exciting activities for kids of all ages. The ABC Zilker Kite festival is FREE for everyone and benefits Communities In Schools of Central Texas. Rain date is March 13th.
March 15-20 | Various locations
The South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW) is a six-day event held every March in Austin, celebrating 30 years in 2016. A large multi-industry trade show exhibition, Music Gear Expo, and daytime stage performances round out the day while evenings are devoted to the SXSW Music Festival, which showcases over 2,200 acts ranging from the unsigned to the iconic. The festival itself is not free, but there are lots of free concerts and open to the public events that do not require a badge to attend. Find information about FREE SXSW events here.
March 19 from 2-8:00 p.m. | Radha Madhav Dham, 400 Barsana Rd, Austin
Holi is also called the Spring Festival as it marks the arrival of spring, the season of hope and joy. It is known as the festival of colors, and traditionally played in India every year to mark the beginning of the spring season. Here in America, Holi is played in the same style as it is in Braj district of India – with the same colorful, playful, family-filled fun and devotion. This year, the Holi play will be accompanied by a live band singing Holi songs from Braj to liven up the environment with uplifting music. There will also be a traditional Holika fire burning as a reminder that evil always burns in the face of good. FREE!
Austin Slackline Festival
March 26 at Noon | Location TBD, Austin
Do you love to slackline? Have you ever wanted to learn slacklining? Do you love being around awesome, inspiring people? Then the Austin Slackline Festival was made for you. Hosted by The YogaSlackers, The Austin Slackline Festival is a celebration of this wild and wonderful sport/art form. Spend the day at Austin’s first ever slackline festival with 20+ top-notch instructors, learning… slackline basics, slackline transitions, yoga on the line, Slackro (slack-inspired partnered acrobatics), mental focus techniques, and much more. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned slacker, you’ll find fun new tricks, a new sense of balance, and tons of new friends.
Texas VegFest 2016
April 2 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E Segovia St, Austin
Texas VegFest’s fifth year celebration will feature local and national sponsors and vendors, educational lectures, cooking demonstrations, community outreach, a featured nonprofit, youth activities, fantastic food, craft beer, and live music. FREE!
April 6-10 | Various locations
Fusebox is a hybrid arts festival that champions adventurous works of art in theater, dance, film, music, literature, visual and culinary arts. FREE to attend but to help plan your festival experience, reservations to most performances and events will be available here.
Texas Community Music Festival
April 15-24 | Central Market North, 4001 N Lamar Blvd, Austin
The Annual Texas Community Music Festival will showcase all types of live music. TCMF is organized, managed and promoted by the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, Austin’s oldest community band. FREE!
Austin Earth Day Festival
April 23 | The Historic Browning Hanger at Mueller, 4550 Mueller Central Dr, Austin
The City of Austin, the Austin Public Library, and location organizations gather for sustainability information and inspiration in the form of live music, entertainment for kids, food trailers and more. FREE!
Eeyore’s Birthday Party
April 30 | Pease District Park, 1100 Kingsbury St, Austin
If you want to check out this renowned Austin event, get out costumes for you and your child (and even for your family pet). Costumes of any variety are encouraged – they do not need to be Winnie-the-Pooh-related. There will be costume contests with prizes for kids of all ages. Read more about this unique Austin event here. There is no parking available at the venue. FREE!
Pecan Street Festival
May 7-8 | 6th Street between Brazos and I-35
The Pecan Street Festival, one of Central Texas’ oldest and most popular events, is a two-day arts festival held each spring and fall in downtown Austin’s charming Sixth Street Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places site. More than 60 of Austin’s finest musical acts bring three stages to life, and family-friendly activities from street magicians to a petting zoo delight both adults and children. Food vendors provide both healthy and indulgent choices, often supported by and benefiting charitable partners. FREE!
WEST Austin Studio Tour
May 14-15 & May 21-22 | Various locations
WEST is a self-guided tour that champions the abundance of talent within Austin’s large and wildly diverse creative community. The public is invited to discover new artistic talent, see working studios, learn about artists’ tools, techniques, and inspirations, and support the arts community by building their personal art collections with the work of local artists. In its fifth year, the tour is expected to grow in size and substance as the number of artists working west of I-35 increases. WEST boundaries include the area West of I-35, East of Mopac, South of HWY 183, and North of William Cannon. FREE!
ROT Rally Parade & Free Concert
June 10 at 7:00 p.m. | Congress Ave from Cesar Chavez to 11th St
The ROT Biker Rally is the largest “turnstile” motorcycle rally in the country. Although the Travis County Expo Center is the main location for the Rally, the Friday of Rally weekend, there is a parade and concert downtown. The parade will run from about 7:45 – 8:30 p.m. Bring ear protection for the littles, as the event can get loud. Motorcycles wanting to participate should gather at the Travis County Expo Center at 7 p.m. at gate 3 (only participants with official ROT wristband can be in the parade). Bikes will leave the expo at 7:45 p.m. Music starts right after the bikes finish parking. FREE!
HEB Austin Symphony Concert & Fireworks
July 4 from 4-10:00 p.m. | Downtown Austin at Vic Mathias Shores & the Long Center, 600 W Riverside Dr, Austin Austin Symphony’s July 4th Concert and Fireworks is an Austin Tradition. Symphony performance begins at 8:00 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Great food and drinks will be available for purchase, as well as a variety of local arts and crafts vendors. FREE!
Ice Cream Festival
August (date TBD) | Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E Segovia St, Austin
The 10th Scoop will include lots of games, activities, contests and live entertainment, as well as what we all scream for–ice cream! Cost: $10 entry with free ice cream. Kids 8 and under are FREE!
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
August (date TBD) | Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E Segovia St, Austin
Test your ability to withstand the spice with free samples and live music on August 23rd at Fiesta Gardens. Entry to the Festival is FREE with a donation of three healthy, non-perishable food items (or a suggested $5 cash donation) to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Austin Bat Fest
August 20 from 4:00 p.m. – Midnight | Congress Ave Bridge, 100 South Congress Ave, Austin What will you see at Bat Fest this year? 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from under the bridge at dusk, 3 stages with live music, more than 75 arts & crafts vendors, delicious food and drinks, fun children’s activities, a bat costume contest and other bat activities. Cost: $15 per person. Kids 8 and under are FREE!
Austin Museum Day
September 18 | Various locations
Austin Museum Day is a FREE, city-wide rediscovery of Austin museums held on the penultimate Sunday of the month of September. It provides the public with FREE access to exhibits and activities representing more than 35 Austin cultural institutions.
Pecan Street Festival
September 24-25 | 6th St between Brazos and I-35
The Pecan Street Festival, one of Central Texas’ oldest and most popular events, is a FREE two-day arts festival held each spring and fall in downtown Austin’s charming Sixth Street Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places site. More than 60 of Austin’s finest musical acts bring three stages to life, and family-friendly activities from street magicians to a petting zoo delight both adults and children. Food vendors provide both healthy and indulgent choices, often supported by and benefiting charitable partners.
Austin City Limits Music Festival
September 30 – October 2 | Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
ACL Festival features a diverse lineup of acts every year with 8 stages, more than 130 bands – and now, two weekends. Tacos, brews, vegan options and more. Everything served is handpicked from a local restaurant or vendor. With an Art Market, a mini-fest for kids, and photogenic spaces, there’s plenty to do for the entire family. Tickets aren’t cheap, but kids 10 and under are FREE with a ticket-holding adult.
Sacred Springs Powwow (San Marcos)
October 8 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. | 201 San Marcos Springs Dr, San Marcos
See the hugely popular “Native Culture Tent” with flute players, storytellers, and White Shaman Panel presentations and performances throughout the day. Amazing dancers will be highlighted at the 2016 Sacred Springs Powwow that celebrates the Native American culture that has been part of the San Marcos area for thousands of years. Cost: $3 per person. Children under 12 years are FREE!
Texas Teen Book Festival
October (date TBD) | St. Edward’s University, 3001 S Congress Ave, Austin
The annual one-day festival takes place on the campus of St. Edward’s University. More than 4,000 YA enthusiasts are expected to attend. FREE!
Hairy Man Festival (Round Rock)
October (date TBD) | Cat Hollow Park, 8600 O’Connor Dr, Round Rock
The Hairy Man Festival is a family-oriented festival that includes an arts and crafts area with numerous artisans participating. There are special performances and live music by local groups and organizations on the Festival Stage. Judged by local community leaders, the festival closes out with the legendary ‘Hairiest Man’ contest. Admission to the festival is FREE with two non-perishable food items (or $2 per person) to go to local food banks.
Texas Book Festival
November 5-6 | State Capitol and surrounding grounds
One of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country, the annual Texas Book Festival features 250+ nationally and critically recognized authors, 20+ venues including the State Capitol, 80+ exhibitors, live music, local food trucks, family activities, and countless opportunities to meet authors and fellow book lovers. FREE!
Wurstfest (New Braunfels)
November 4-13 | 120 Landa St, New Braunfels
A unique annual celebration rich in German culture and full of Texas fun! Located near the headwaters of the beautiful Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas! Here you’ll enjoy good food, music, dancing, exciting carnival rides and games, German, Texan and domestic beer, special events and the finest in Alpine and Bavarian Style Entertainment. Cost: $10 per person. Children 12 and under are FREE!
East Austin Studio Tour
November (dates TBD) | Various locations
EAST is an annual, self-guided art event occurring over two weekends in November, providing the public with an opportunity to meet the makers–the local artists and artisans who leave a lasting imprint on Austin’s vibrant, dynamic culture. Tour-goers are invited to discover new artistic talent, see working studios, learn about artists’ tools, techniques, and inspirations, and explore unique exhibition spaces and local businesses. FREE!
Austin’s New Year
December 31 | Auditorium Shores, 800 W Riverside Dr, Austin
This annual event takes place on Auditorium Shores on New Year’s Eve. The alcohol-free, family-friendly event celebrates the diversity and creativity of the city with visual art installations, festive performances, live music on three stages, and a fireworks finale. FREE!