Texas dance halls still have their own special, mythic, Wild West allure, and in San Antonio, you’ll find great ones, with boot-scooters sliding over the sawdust-covered floors to the twang of a Texas fiddle. Here, they call it “kikker dancing.” In and around Texas’ second-largest city, all kinds of dance halls can be found, including those in historic venues that look like old barns, as well as giant, neon-lit, urban-cowboy-style clubs in strip centers.
Billed as the oldest dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall (pronounced “Green”) is arguably Texas’ most famous, too. Continuously operating since 1878, this 6,000-square-foot venue has been around long enough to see some the brightest country stars. George Strait, Lyle Lovett and more got their starts here, and everyone from Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan to Boz Scaggs has played this stage. John Travolta even danced there while filming the movie Michael. Although it’s not technically in San Antonio, it’s close enough to visit — and you should. About 35 miles northeast of downtown near New Braunfels, Gruene is the centerpiece of a “ghost town” turned tourist destination.
But even locals love it; there’s nothing false or gentrified about Gruene Hall. The old wooden floors creak and give a little when you dance, and flaps are lifted up on the side of the building to create instant natural air conditioning. On Sunday afternoons, there’s no cover to hear local bands. On weekends, headliners play to big crowds. Here, it’s more about listening to music than it is dancing — though that goes on, too. There’s a shady, outdoor beer garden, pool tables, sitting tables around an old wood stove, and lots of people standing in front of the stage. With live music every day, Gruene Hall is always a good idea.
John T. Floore Country Store
Locals call this Floore’s Country Store, even though it’s not a store — it’s an iconic Texas music venue (which just happens to serve great tamales and chicken-fried steak). Twenty miles from downtown San Antonio in Helotes, Floore’s is an old-school beer joint/dance hall, restaurant and outdoor concert stage that first opened in 1942. Legendary music stars such as Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Ray Price, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have graced its stage. Today’s popular Texas bands, with their Americana sounds, also play here. If you’re looking for the quintessential Texas dance hall and classic country music venue, it doesn’t get any better than this.
This dance hall is where the young people go to hear the best Nashville country and Texas headliners and to dance every weekend (and some weeknights). The cavernous club has several bars and a stage, a real pro bull-riding arena, big-screen TVs, dance lessons and even a mechanical bull. Unlike Gruene Hall and Floore’s, it is home to lots of line dancing, bull riding and a college-age crowd. With a full bar with good drink specials, food carts in the parking lot when the bars close, and cold, longneck beer, Cowboys is a meet, drink and dance place that’s part of a larger chain. Dance lessons are held Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7.
Set in a 10,000-square-foot space on the city’s north side, this is one of San Antonio’s most popular clubs with the 20- and 30-something crowds. “Two-steppin’ and long-neckin’” is the club’s motto. This place is also well known for serving its own version of Long Island iced tea in Texas-sized pitchers. A DJ spins today’s country hits (and throws in an occasional rap-driven remix and pop song), as well as the classics, including George Strait and Willie Nelson. There are several bars, lots of line dancing, “Daisy Duke” contests, pool tables, sports on big-screen TVs and, of course, the Texas two-step. Want to know where locals go to kick up their heels? This is it.
Midnight Rodeo San Antonio
More than 25,000 square feet of dancing space makes “an acre of dancin’ and glancin’” space, as the club advertises. Like Cowboys and Wild West, this is part of a small chain of Texas dance-hall clubs, but locals love to boot-scoot here, too.