Welcome to Austin! We’re happy you’re here. Kick off your oxfords and slip on some flip-flops. Austin wears its laid-back vibe year-round and likes its fun al-fresco. It’s a family and pet-friendly city that embraces, food, music and little bit of the weird. Read on for what to expect in Austin all year round.
It’s a new year in your new hometown. It’s winter in Texas—which might mean anything, so keep an eye on your weather app. It could be 70o and glorious under a cloudless sky or it could be drizzling slushies. If it’s the latter, the state will shut down. Buy milk and toilet paper. No one is going anywhere until the temp hits 40 (seriously).
Martin Luther King Jr. Parade
Celebrate the day off with a parade that runs from the University of Texas to the steps of the Texas State Capitol and ends at Huston-Tillotson University. At Huston-Tillotson, attendees will enjoy a festival with food and local musicians. The Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festival will be collecting canned food for the Central Texas Food Bank. www.mlkcelebration.com
Austin Marathon and Half Marathon
Lace-up the runners to see some of Austin’s iconic sites. Starting on Congress Avenue, participants will jog past the Capitol and more iconic sights. If this sound like too much for a Sunday morning, then register for the shorter, 5K. Costumes are welcome and there’s live music along the way. www.youraustinmarathon.com
You survived a weird Austin winter. Now it’s time to celebrate.
The entire state of Texas slaps on their jeans and pulls on their boots for rodeo season, Austin included. Rodeo Austin is a fun family event that kicks off with the Cowboy Breakfast at the Long Center, complete with biscuits, gravy and cowboy coffee. For about two weeks, the Travis County Expo Center features rodeo competitions, a livestock show and big-name musical acts. www.rodeoaustin.com
Then there’s SXSW (or “South By” as Austinites like to call it). This is the annual music, film and interactive conference and festival that has everyone in town renting out their spare bedrooms. The festival is not really family-friendly, though everyone knows its dates because downtown traffic and parking will be something you want to avoid. www.sxsw.com
It is one of the most glorious months in Central Texas so get out and explore.
The wildflowers are a sight to behold, and you don’t have to go far. Drive down SH 130, east of Austin, or US 290 towards Fredericksburg for the best wildflower meadows. Most parents (fur parents included) pop their kids into a patch for an annual bluebonnet photo. Texas loves its state wildflower.
Sherwood Forest Faire
Hear ye. Grabth the family and transport them east of Austin for some Medieval times and much merriment. The Sherwood Forest Festival offers artisans, live entertainment from falcons to puppet shows along with food and drink. Held in McDade about 35 miles east of Austin. www.sherwoodforestfaire.com
Austin will offer May flowers for sure and maybe some May rain. It is technically the wettest month of the year.
Pecan Street Spring Art Festival
Way back, Sixth Street was named Pecan Street. This festival is a perennial favorite for its shopping and people-watching. If you miss it in the spring, then hit it in the fall. www.pecanstreetfestival.org
It’s the start of the summer season. So head to one of Hill Country’s natural swimming pools. Dip a toe into Barton Springs then branch out to the others. Though heads up before the toes go in, the popular swimming holes require reservations.
Blues on the Green
SXSW and ACL are the big-name shows with big-ticket prices. Blues on the Green is truly a local affair. For a handful of mid-week dates in the summer, everyone gathers in Zilker with a basket and a blanket for free live music. www.acl-radio.com/blues-on-the-green/
It’s time to check out those bats you’ve heard about. As summer Texans, the bats live in a hooked-up spot (rent free) with an amazing view of the Austin skyline. Camp out along Lady Bird Lake near the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. Or rent a kayak, canoe or SUP and float underneath them for a unique experience. As a bonus, Lady Bird Lake is an official Texas Parks and Wildlife Paddling Trail.
It’s hot. But not Vegas hot. The school kids will head back in the middle of the month. Try and fit in a fun activity before the school year controls the schedule.
Zilker Summer Musical
Grab a blanket to enjoy an outdoor theater production at the Zilker Hillside Theater. The show starts as the sun sets from Thursday to Sunday. Free to enjoy. www.zilker.org
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
Nothing like sweat dripping down your face in the name of culinary adventure. It’s a popular foodie festival in Austin and raises funds for the Central Texas Food Bank. www.austinchronicle.com/hot-sauce/about/
This is the month that those temps return to the two digits.
Austin Museum Day encourages residents to visit a local museum with free admission. Dozens of museums participate and feature special events for the day. www.austinmuseums.org/this-years-amd
Another glorious month in Austin so celebrate with an outdoor festival.
ACL—Austin City Limits
This is headliner for October. The two-weekend musical extravaganza hosts everyone from A-listers to chart toppers. ACL first timers are surprised to find ACL fairly kid-friendly. Friday or Sunday is the better option if bringing the school-age kids. Grab those tickets early.
Color comes late to Central Texas and that means November is when the trees start to pop.
ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot
Austin doesn’t judge. Some start the holiday in stretchy pants and a beverage. Others lace up the runners and don a turkey hat. This five-mile race has been touted as the largest in Texas. Starts at the Long Center on Thanksgiving morning. www.thundercloud.com/register-2/
The holidays are upon us and everyone heads to Zilker Park for its holiday extravaganza, The Trail of Lights. It’s a walkable display of expertly wrapped trees ablaze in millions of lights. In-between the trees, guests will find lighted displays of everyone’s favorite childhood characters. There are food trailers and live music. Please note, arrange for reserved tickets and parking ahead of time.
Afterwards, head to the lit-up Zilker Tree, an original moonlight tower from the 1890s.
Celebrate the season with a holiday performance, like the Austin Ballet’s annual The Nutcracker. The Scottish Rite Theater (the oldest theater in Austin) offers holiday performances for kids too. www.scottishritetheater.org
That year went fast and hopefully, you had fun. If you missed a to-do, don’t sweat it, there’s always the next year.
Catherine Parker has a passion for travel that’s driven her across North America. When not traveling, Catherine restores a pair of 100-year-old houses in the Austin area and writes for publications fro U.S. News to her website, Carfulofkids.com