Festivals and Events
Austin City Limits Music Festival. As much as Austinites love music, they love being outdoors even more. The result is a six-day fall music festival spanning two weekends in October and the unofficial farewell-to-summer shindig that takes over Zilker Park, nestled near downtown. Fans flock to hear more than 130 international, national, and local acts on eight stages. Artists have included the likes of Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Tom Petty, Bjork, the White Stripes, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and the Indigo Girls. 2100 Barton Springs Rd., Zilker Park, Austin, Texas, 78746. www.aclfestival.com. $250 for each three-day weekend pass.
Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. One of the top track and field events in the U.S., the Texas Relays are held in early April at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas. The Relays, founded in 1925, attract about 5,000 of the best athletes in Texas (and elsewhere) on the high-school, collegiate, and professional levels. Tickets can be purchased about a month prior to the competition. Mike A. Myers Stadium, 707 Clyde Littlefield Dr., University of Texas Area, Austin, Texas, 78705. 512/471–3434; www.texassports.com/index.aspx?path=relays.
Old Pecan Street Art Festival. Austin is no stranger to the arts, and hosts a number of art-driven festivals including this bi-annual event. Few may know that 6th Street was once Pecan Street, but twice a year—on the first weekend in May and the last weekend in September—the street's old Austin roots surface. The Sixth Street Historic district transforms for two days, filling up with hundreds of artists' booths displaying paintings, jewelry, crafts, and much more for the public to peruse—and hopefully buy. More than 60 live musical performances, family friendly activities, cold beer, and smoked sausage wraps add to the fun. 6th St., Sixth Street District, Austin, Texas. 512/485–3190; www.oldpecanstreetfestival.com. Free.
Republic of Texas Biker Rally. Every June, tens of thousands of bikers invade Austin for three days of partying, camping, talking shop, and browsing vendors' wares. Based at the Travis County Expo Center just east of the city, the event includes a huge Friday evening motorcycle parade from the Expo Center to Congress Avenue, with much of Austin looking on, and much partying ensuing (both during and afterward) among bikers and spectators alike on 6th Street. There are also free concerts by local musicians on Expo Center rally grounds. Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker La., Austin, Texas, 78724. 512/252–9768; www.rotrally.com.
South by Southwest. Austin's annual music, film and interactive conference and festival takes the city by storm every spring. The ten day onslaught of entertainment brings a flood of hip corporations, technology-savvy startups, and a frenzy of independent film and music industry folks from around the world. SXSW has evolved into one of the country's largest festivals fusing music, film, and cutting edge interactive ideas, offering more than 2,000 acts over 90 venues literally all over the city. It's such a take-over-the-city event that many Austin families evacuate to some far-off spring break destination. Hotel rooms are scarce, restaurants and bars are packed, and everything from SXSW badge-wearing VIPs to plain, music-loving plebeians mix and mingle in expectation of finding "the next big thing." It pays to be organized in terms of the bands you want to see since SXSW happens all over town. By tickets as far in advance as possible—prices increase the closer you get to the festival date. Austin, Texas. www.sxsw.com. $525–$1,350 (top-priced Platinum Badge includes entry to all film, music, and interactive parties, panels, and events; lower-priced badges are for selected events only).
Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo. Also known as Rodeo Austin, this rodea was founded in 1938. The event, held at the Travis County Expo Center, typically runs from the last day of February through the first half of March. It includes an indoor rodeo, a livestock and horse show, various Texas-style cook-offs, and a carnival. Entertainment ranges from name acts like Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Styx to more than 40 local bands. Proceeds go toward scholarships and youth-education programs. Travis County Expo Center, 9100 Decker La., Austin, Texas, 78724. 512/919–3000; www.rodeoaustin.com.
Zilker Kite Festival. Austin, a city with 300 days of sunshine, is known for enjoying the outdoors. On the first Sunday of March, head down to the soccer fields at Zilker Park for this annual kite event. Be sure to bring a picnic basket, the kids, and even your furry friends to see the beautiful kite creations and amazing tricks. You can bring a kite or you can just watch the festivities—and if the mood strikes, purchase a kite on-site or attend one of the kite-building workshops. If you can take your eyes off the kites, the festival site is an ideal spot to take in the Austin skyline. 2100 Barton Springs Rd., Zilker Park, Austin, Texas, 78746. 512/448–5483; www.abckitefestival.com. Free.