Written by Bonnie McLaughlin for IVitamin
Every time my social media gets flooded with first day of school photos I get excited. And not just because I know Schlitterbahn (and the swim-up bar) is about to be a lot less crowded, but because I know my favorite Austin Festivals are in the near future. I’ve heard people argue that “festival season” in Austin is year-round (a giant self-five for a warm climate) but native Texans will tell you that the best time for festivals is when the heat of the summer has taken its foot partially off the gas pedal but you still get those epic Texas summer sunsets (yes, even in October).
Note: I started to add “pro-tips” to each one and realized that they were all the same so here are the big ones. Always drink water when you’re outdoors in Texas, even when you’re not thirsty. And no, beer doesn’t count. Austinites are no joke about their water bottles and you’ll see that many of the festivals allow for you to bring in an empty water bottle to fill throughout your day. The second big one is ride-share. The festivals we’ve highlighted are either in a prime Austin spot or include alcohol, so we encourage you to Uber/Lyft/cab/carpool to save time and energy. Be sure to always match the license plate with your Uber/Lyft and ask them who they are there to pick up, do not volunteer your name. Safety first, y’all.
Alright, housekeeping is done and we can move on to the fun stuff.
Here are our ten favorite fall festivals!
#1: Pecan Street Festival
When: Saturday, September 21 (11:00am-10:00pm) & Sunday, September 22 (11:00am-8:00pm)
Where: East Sixth Street
How much: FREE
Details: FAVORITE ALERT! Take a stroll down historic Pecan Street (now 6th Street, TRIVIA BONUS) east of I-35 and check out the amazing collection of vendors selling unique handcrafted works from across the country. I have friends who use this as an opportunity to do some early holiday shopping (over-achievers, I know) and I may try to do the same this year. #shoplocalyall
#2: Texas Craft Brewers Festival
When: Saturday, September 28 (2:00-6:30pm)
Where: Fiesta Gardens
How much: $40 (GA) and up
Details: For $40 you get 10 samples (3oz each or around half a wine pour in a restaurant) from a list of breweries that was a little labor-intensive to read if I’m being completely honest. Suffice to say there are enough to make everyone happy…a few times over. And for all of you beer aficionados, there’s an option to purchase an additional 10 samples for $5/transaction. This is definitely a prime Uber/Lyft situation so if you’re on the fence about paying for it, just keep in mind that there is no good way to say, “I’ve only had 10!” to a police officer.
#3: Texas Tribune Festival
When: Thursday, September 26 through Saturday, September 28
Where: Downtown Austin (various locations)
How much: $50 for students, $75 for educators, $250 for everyone else (they also have great group rates for nonprofit and educational groups so definitely check those out)
Details: This three-day political conference includes speakers like Ted Cruz and Nancy Pelosi, hosts a slew of civic educational sessions, and offers panels and book signings with some of your favorite political pundits. If you’re a political podcast addict, there are also tapings open to attendees from every side of the political spectrum. Check your blues, reds, elephants, and donkeys at the door, this festival has something for everyone.
#4: Austin City Limits
When: October 4-6 & October 11-13
Where: Zilker Park
How much: $250 (3-day, GA), $105 (1-day, GA)
Details: Say it with me, K-A-C-E-Y M-U-S-G-R-A-V-E-S. And obviously lots of others. Grab your lawn chairs, your picnic blankets, and settle in for a full day (or weekend) of musical goodness all within walking distance of each other. Be sure to check out the bag specs for 2019 in the FAQ section of their website, they seem to have gotten stricter from last year.
#5: Austin Film Festival
When: Thursday, October 24 through Thursday, October 31
Where: Paramount Theatre & various locations
How much: $12-13 (single film entry), $65 (8-day pass), $150 (priority film pass + badge for accompanying events), and lots of cool add-ons
Details: 8 days and over 180 films. And not just films. Television premieres, competition films, documentaries and script readings all accompanied by Q&As with your favorite writers, actors, and filmmakers. Don’t miss out on your favorite film/tv celebs chatting candidly about one of your favorite shows, get your pass and nerd out with the rest of us.
#6: Texas Book Festival
When: Saturday, October 26 (10:00-5:00pm) & Sunday, October 27 (11:00-5:00pm)
Where: Texas State Capitol grounds
How much: FREE
Details: BOOK WORMS UNITE!! This free shindig is one of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country and is our favorite idea for a meet-cute in Austin. Over 250 critically-recognized authors, opportunities to win books, and access to early releases make this one of my favorite events. It’s also family-friendly with lots of fun activities for kiddos and plenty of authors from both youth and young adult genres. Get ‘em hooked while they’re young!
#7: Viva la Vida Festival & Parade
When: Saturday, October 26 (12:00-6:00pm)
Where: 100-200 block E. 4th Street
How much: FREE
Details: The fabulous Mexic-Arte Museum hosts this beautiful Día de los Muertos festival featuring a Grand Procession, artist demos, hands-on art activities, live music, shopping, and yummy traditional food! Don’t miss the low- rider exhibition, talk about an art show.
#8: Austin Celtic Festival
When: Saturday, November 2 & Sunday, November 3 (12:00-7:00pm)
Where: Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms
How much: TBD (last year single tickets were around $20)
Details: This is a gem of a festival filled with Celtic music, dance performances, Highland Games, and DELICIOUS food (yeah, there’s haggis but we advocate for bangers and mash before sheep’s intestines….unless you are just really feeling that Celtic vibe). Plus there are dudes in kilts everywhere. Sign. Us. Up.
#9: Texas Monthly BBQ Festival
When: Saturday, November 2 & Sunday, November 3
Where: The Long Center
How much: TBD (tickets on sale September 9, put that in your phone now or cry later)
Details: I don’t know what other info you need here. As a Texan, the title should suffice. BBQ? Good. Beer? Good. Just go already.
#10: East Austin Studio Tours
When: November 16-17 & 23-24 (12:00-6:00pm)
Where: Check out the website for the tour and boundaries
How much: FREE
Details: Get your steps in and join this self-guided art tour through Austin at your pace and on your schedule. The East Austin Studio Tours (EAST) features over 70 art studios and galleries on the east side and is the perfect way to meet local artists in their creative spaces.
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about December, but the winter holidays in Austin are worthy of their own post so check back in November for our holiday favorites!!
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