Austin Music Festivals

Experience Austin’s music scene through its top music festivals.

Much of Austin's fame lies in its being a formidable music city, where live music can be seen and heard at endless bars and venues throughout town. Visitors to Austin can enjoy any number of shows across most music genres on any given night, but one of Austin's highlights is undoubtedly its extraordinary music festivals. From the revered SXSW and Austin City Limits music festivals to the rowdy Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin's epic music festivals offer a great way to experience this vibrant music city.

1. South by Southwest (SXSW)


Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

The epitome of awesome for music aficionados is a trip to Austin's SXSW music festival, an extravaganza of mingling with music industry insiders, exposure to the music of up-and-coming as well as established bands, and watching live performances.

For more than 25 years, Austin has played host to the 6-day festival, which brings together thousands of attendees to hear some 2,000 musical acts performing at more than 90 venues around downtown Austin.

By day, many festival attendees gather at the Austin Convention Center to hear panel discussions and keynote speeches that in the past have featured music legends such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Geldof and Lou Reed. For people just looking to groove to the music, buying a festival badge allows entrance to the conference talks as well as music performances by musicians such as Jack White, Santigold and M. Ward.

Performances are held at iconic venues such as Emo's, Esther's Follies and Stubb's, though one of the festival's highlights is exploring Austin's streets looking for "pop-up" performances, which are often discovered by word of mouth and can take place on random street corners or empty lots.

2. Austin City Limits

Photo by: Robert Scoble, flickr

Robert Scoble, flickr

If the massive crowds of SXSW seem overwhelming, a more manageable -- but no less amazing -- alternative is Austin City Limits, a 3-day music festival featuring more than 130 music acts from around the globe performing on 8 stages.

Austin City Limits attracts some 70,000 attendees to the 46-acre Zilker Park, Austin's main public green space located alongside Lady Bird Lake. The always impressive musical lineup has featured bands like Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire.

While music may be Austin City Limits' main draw, it isn't the festival's sole attraction: Arts and crafts are for sale, food stands featuring options from popular local restaurants and even kid-friendly activities like face painting can be discovered on the festival grounds.

Performances run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, and 3-day passes can be bought in advance for a discounted price -- visit the festival website [], where subscribing to the email list will alert you to discounted ticket sales.

3. Kerrville Folk Festival

Photo by: Kerrville Folk Festival

Kerrville Folk Festival

Held on the Quiet Valley Ranch, about 2 hours from downtown Austin, the Kerrville Folk Festival has hosted musicians since 1972 -- and not just folk singers.

Over the course of an epic 18 days and nights, more than 100 performers grace multiple stages from across many musical genres: Blues, country, bluegrass and jazz are among the music styles you might hear at Kerrville. Approximately 30,000 people attend the event that caters to emerging musicians and in the past has featured current stars like Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams and Nancy Griffith early in their careers.

Twenty acres of on-site campgrounds cater to attendees planning to stay for multiple days or the entire duration of the festival. Family-friendly activities abound at the festival, as well canoe trips on the nearby Guadalupe River, songwriting seminars and bike rides.

4. Austin Wine & Music Festival

Photo by: Austin Chronicle, flickr

Austin Chronicle, flickr

Formerly a 3-day festival featuring local wines and music, the Austin Wine & Music Festival expanded in 2012 to feature a year-round series of events celebrating Texas wineries and music that will culminate in a 3-day festival in 2013.

The festival events are now scheduled throughout the year, and are held at different wineries so festival-goers can experience the vintages where they're produced, while enjoying live music. One of the featured events, "A Sunday Affair," held at the Driftwood Estate Winery, features the winery's award-winning wines, including a viognier, syrah and muscat.

Local food trailers provide the grub, such as Fired Up Kitchen, which offers wood-fired pizzas. Musicians perform throughout the day, including country musicians Jeff Wood and Bret Graham. Additional festival events will be held at Spicewood Vineyards, Stonehouse Vineyard and Pillar Bluff Vineyards, and include an event that will feature blues music and Bordeaux wines.

5. Fun Fun Fun Fest


Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

This isn't your parents' music festival, that's for sure. Since 2006, Fun Fun Fun Fest has paid homage to independent music and genres, becoming a staging ground for underground and progressive musicians cranking out punk, hardcore and hip-hop jams.

The 3-day noise fest is held at the outdoor venue Auditorium Shores, located on Riverside Drive, overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Past featured bands have included MGMT, Bad Religion, Danzig and Ra Ra Riot, and while these are all-ages shows, a word to the wise: The hardcore lineup might not be the most kid-friendly in town.

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