The best summer music festivals in Texas

Our guide to the best summer music festivals in Texas, from local indie shows to fests worthy of a road trip
Austin City Limits
Photograph: Courtesy Austin CVB/Andy Forde
By James Roberts and Erin Kuschner |
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Some of the best things to do in Austin (and beyond) are fleeting—blasts of music and sun-soaked good times that happen just for a day or a weekend, and are gone again until the next year. Here, we round up the best summer music festivals in Texas (and cheat a little by including a few just on the outskirts summer—hello, ACL!) so you don’t miss any of the fun. Whether you’re looking to see local artists that perform at Austin's best live music venues or living legends that are worth a short day trip—or even if you just want an excuse to get tipsy under a scorching Texas sun—these are the festivals for you.

Best summer music festivals in Texas

1
Questlove
Photograph: Michael J. Chen
Things to do, Festivals

Hot Luck Festival

Part food festival, part multi-day music festival, Hot Luck celebrates the best of both spheres with a killer lineup of music and chefs. For the music portion of the event, it's a choose-your-own adventure, with acts spread out across multiple venues on Thursday through Sunday (tickets can be bought for each individual show). Catch DJ Questlove, Okkervil River, Galactic, Girlpool, Blackillac and others. May 24-27: Austin

Photograph: Michael J. Chen

 

2
Kerrville Folk Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Kerrville/Susan Roads

Kerrville Folk Festival

A musical marathon the likes of which few can either dream up (or handle), the Kerrville Folk Festival is 18 days of musical performances from some of the best singer-songwriters Texas and the country has to offer. Nightly concerts. Workshops and seminars. Outdoor activities. Whether you’re picking and choosing individual shows or you’re in it for the long haul, the Kerrville Folk Festival is heaven on earth for fans of the songwriting craft. May 24-Jun 10: Kerrville, TX

Photograph: Courtesy Kerrville/Susan Roads

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3
Neon Desert
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Visit El Paso

Neon Desert Music Festival

This festival, located in the heart of El Paso, is a two-day party dedicated to national acts and the best in local emerging artists. You’ll find everything here from EDM to metal, making for a wildly eclectic weekend of music and revelry. This year’s lineup includes heavy hitters like Martin Garrix, Lil Wayne and At the Drive In, along with smaller acts like Cry Baby, Mikey Cloud and Gila Monster. May 26, 27: El Paso

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Visit El Paso

4
Willie Nelson
Photograph: Shutterstock

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Willie Nelson’s annual 4th of July Picnic has been one of the state’s biggest and best Independence Day celebrations for decades. Hosted by the Red Headed Stranger himself, the Picnic attracts the best and brightest in country music, all handpicked so that they embody Willie’s outlaw spirit and troubadour sensibilities. Jul 4: Del Valle

Photograph: Shutterstock

 

 

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5
Float Fest
Photograph: Courtesy Float Fest
Things to do, Festivals

Float Fest

A surefire way to survive 100 degrees: a river and plenty of beer. Float Fest, which began in 2014 and now attracts upwards of 10,000 attendees each year, is a two-day musical festival at which partygoers spend mornings drifting down the San Marcos River with a cooler before enjoying a lineup of all-star acts: Bassnectar, Run the Jewels, Lil Wayne on Saturday; Tame Impala, Snoop Dogg, Glass Animals on Sunday (to name a few). Camping is available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. July 21, 22: San Marcos

Photograph: Courtesy Float Fest

 

6
Viva Big Bend
Photograph: Blake Burwell

Viva Big Bend Festival

It might take a solid day’s drive to get there, but the Big Bend area offers some of the most magical scenery Texas has to offer, which is just the icing on the cake for this mid-desert festival. Celebrating the indie spirit of Texas musicians, Viva Big Bend is a showcase of emerging and established artists from across the spectrum of Texas music. You’ll find no national names here, but that’s part of the draw. It doesn’t get much more Texas than this. Jul 26-29: Big Bend (Alpine, Marfa, Ft. Davis and Marathon).

Photograph: Blake Burwell

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7
Waterloo Music Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Waterloo Music Festival

Waterloo Music Festival

New on the festival circuit, Waterloo Music Fest is a three-day jam and camping event held at Carson Creek Ranch. The main draw here is The String Cheese Incident, who'll be performing all three nights, but festival goers can also enjoy sets from Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Railroad Eart, The Motet and more. Both camping and glamping options are available. Sep 7-9: Carson Creek Ranch

Photograph: Courtesy Waterloo Music Festival

 

8
Trans-Pecos Festival
Photograph: Daniel Cavazos Foto

Trans-Pecos Festival

Dubbed the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love, this fest held at El Cosmica in Marfa is a magical weekend of live music, workshops, sandlot baseball and meeting kindred spirits. The lineup has yet to be announced, but last year's acts included Lee Ann Womack, Wilco, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Ron Gallo, among others. Sep 20-23: Marfa

Photograph: Daniel Cavazos Foto

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9
River City Rockfest
Photograph: Courtesy River City Rockfest

River City Rockfest

Ready to rock? Nine Inch Nails is headlining the 2018 River City Rockfest, an annual rock mecca for those looking to head bang and mosh. Primus, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and Chevelle are among the successful acts shredding it at the AT&T Center. Head down to San Antonio early to make a day of it. Sep 22: San Antonio

Photograph: Courtesy River City Rockfest

10
Photograph: Mary Wells
Music

Austin City Limits

Sure, ACL is technically in the fall, but the high-’90s temps that usually befall us during this time still make it feel like summer. Spread out over two weekends, the fest is a marathon act of bouncing between multiple stages as some of the biggest acts perform well into the night. The lineup this year includes Paul McCartney, Childish Gambino, Metallica, Odesza and a slew of other big name acts, along with local acts like Sweet Spirit and Golden Dawn Arkestra. Break out that fanny pack. Oct 5-7, Oct 12-14: Zilker Park

Photograph: Mary Wells

See the best music festivals in the U.S.

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