Newcomers to Austin will have no shortage of things to see and do. In addition to all the city’s great attractions, Austin also boasts a jam-packed calendar of exciting events for residents of all ages. Whether it's sport, food, live music or a bit of family-focused fun, there is sure to be a festival or event to spark any individual interest.
Here is our list of the best annual events in Austin.
Annual events in Austin
Austin Marathon (February)
For new arrivals looking for a challenge, what better way to get to know one’s new home than running a marathon through the city streets? The Austin Marathon sees thousands of athletes, from novices to competitive sportspeople, take to the streets. Anyone not quite ready to take on the full 26.3 miles (42.2km) can always opt for the half-marathon, which is a pretty impressive feat in itself. Failing that, simply come out and cheer on the runners.
South by South West (March)
Since the late 1980s, the South by South West (SXSW) festival has become a prominent fixture on Austin’s annual events calendar. The festival celebrates local and international music artists. Tens of thousands of music fans flock to Austin to see their favourite bands from around the world. The atmosphere is festive, and it's no wonder this is such a popular event.
ABC Kite Fest (April)
Held at Zilker Park, the ABC Kite Festival is a spectacular event for kids and their parents alike. Hundreds of vibrantly colourful kites take to the air over the lawns to compete in various competitions, from homemade designs to professional sports kites. Visitors can make a day of it by enjoying the park itself, which is filled with food stalls and music stages, creating a fantastic festive environment.
Austin Hot Sauce Festival (August)
What was once a humble community hot sauce contest has transformed into what is now one of the world’s biggest hot sauce festivals. The Austin Hot Sauce Festival is held at Auditorium Shores on the beautiful Lady Bird Lake. Local restaurants, commercial hot sauce producers and even home cooks come together to compete in various categories. To accompany the spicy fare, the 10,000 festival-goers are able to sample a range of cold craft beers while live music adds to the festivities.
Bat Fest (August)
Here is a unique experience that no newcomer to Austin should miss. Congress Avenue Bridge is shut down for a day to pay homage to the bridge’s famous resident bats. Bat-friendly booths are placed along the bridge and visitors can enjoy performances by live bands in the evening. At sunset, the bats appear from beneath the bridge and take flight as spectators look on. Visitors can get into the spirit of the Bat Fest by taking part in the bat costume contest.
Austin Film Festival (October)
In October each year, Austin hosts this star-studded festival that celebrates the craft of screenwriting. Screenwriters, actors and directors come together to discuss their work, with screenings held at various venues in downtown Austin. It’s a great event for schmoozing with local celebrities, and the after-parties carry on well into the early hours of the morning.
Circuit of the Americas Grand Prix (October)
Formula 1 fans from all over the world descend on Austin in October to watch an adrenalin-fuelled round of the Grand Prix. While tickets to the COTA Grand Prix will likely set spectators back a little, it's certainly a memorable experience for racing fans. The atmosphere in downtown Austin also experiences a shift as wealthy tourists arrive (often in private jets and helicopters) for the event.
Austin Food and Wine Festival (November)
High-profile chefs head to Austin each November to showcase their talents at this culinary celebration, simply a must for all gourmands. With fascinating talks, cooking demos, classes and, of course, tastings from the best chefs in Austin and beyond, the Food and Wine Festival has a lot to offer. Visitors also get to sample the best of Texan favourites, including barbecue and Tex-Mex.
Texas Book Festival (November)
Each November, the spectacular Texas State Capitol Building plays host to one of the USA’s foremost literary events. Over 200 authors attend each year and over 40,000 bookworms of all ages come together to enjoy various readings, panel discussions and book signings. In addition, there is an array of special workshops for children and various stalls and exhibitors from across the state.
Chuy’s Christmas Parade (December)
Featuring a procession of marching bands, vintage cars and giant balloons, this spectacular Christmas parade starts at the State Capitol Building and heads down Congress Avenue. The atmosphere is electric, and the kids will certainly be in their element. It’s a lovely family-friendly day out in the run-up to the holidays.
►Get our insights into the city's best attractions on the See and Do in Austin page
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