ACL Music Fest
We may be biased, but we think the ACL Music Fest is one of the best music festivals in the country. No camping required, the festival happens smack dab in the middle of town. Sure, that makes the two weekends a bit of a mess for locals, but it also makes the festival relatively easy to get to and from. Plus, the skyline makes for the ultimate backdrop to the closing sets each evening. In addition to music, the festival includes dozens of local food vendors, an artists market, as well as ACL Cares, a section of the festival that supports good causes and encourages support from the thousands of attendees of the festival.
This is a no brainer. What began in 1987 as a music festival organized by members of the Austin Chronicle has grown to include film, tech, comedy and gaming. Taking over the town for 10 days every March, this beast of a festival may make traffic even more terrible than usual, but it also brings all kinds of culture to the city. The price tag for a badge is pretty steep, however, there are also many, many free parties and events each year, including public concerts at Auditorium Shores. Acts have included Spoon, Los Lobos, Wyclef Jean, and Garth Brooks.
Much like the city itself, Fantastic Fest keeps it weird. Specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and just plain fantastic movies from around the world, it is the largest genre film festival in the US. Founded by the Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League and friends, most of the screenings take place at the South Lamar Drafthouse location, making it much easier to maneuver than South By. In addition to parties, premieres and special screenings, a festival highlight is the Fantastic Debates, where burning questions facing the fan community are resolved once and for all. Past debates have included appearances by Keanu Reeves, Elijah Wood, Michelle Rodriguez, Ti West, Udo Kier, and Dolph Lundgren.
You may not be from Texas, but you got here as fast as you could, right? If that’s the case, you desperately need a taste of real Texas and you can get it at Rodeo Austin. The two week long event features a top 10 ProRodeo and a world class livestock show. Plus, the fairgrounds feature Austin’s largest carnival, shopping, food, and a variety of shows and special attractions. There are also daily concerts from musical acts new and old like Old Dominion, Brett Eldridge, Cole Swindell, Gladys Knight, Dwight Yoakam, and Willie Nelson. Whether you were born a Texan or not, Rodeo Austin will give you a chance to get back to your roots and rock that pair of boots.
Pecan Street Festival
Pecan Street Festival may very well be the best free festival the city of Austin has to offer. Happening twice a year on Sixth Street, formerly known as Pecan Street, the event is fun for all ages. The festival, which usually takes place the first weekend in May and the last weekend in September, features hundreds of local and national artisans, food vendors, and musical acts, as well as family friendly activities like a petting zoo, face painting, and street performers. For a more adult experience, attendees can pop into one or more of the dozens of bars lining Sixth Street and make it a true Saturday or Sunday funday!