Austin Special Events
No weekend passes in Austin without some sort of festival, sporting event or gathering designed to celebrate the spirit of the city. Special events offer visitors a glimpse of the Austin lifestyle and give residents an opportunity to discover a new part or facet of their city. But, that said, if you are thinking of moving to Austin and hope to make your scouting trip tie in with a popular event, plan ahead. Hotel rooms and rental cars can be scarcer than water in the desert when events like the internationally-renowned SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference is held in March. This combo music, film and technology festival draws literally thousands to the city and pumps millions into the local economy.
Given its reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World, it is not surprising many of Austin's special events revolve around music. The last Saturday before Lent, usually in late February or March, the Palmer Events Center, just south of the river downtown, swings to the samba beat. Carnaval Brasiliero is Austin's homage to Rio's carnival. Latin bands, fanciful costumes and lots of conga lines are the order of the evening. Carnival season also is celebrated New Orleans-style on Sixth Street downtown where the annual Mardi Gras festival attracts thousands. Sixth Street is also the locale for big Halloween and New Year's Eve parties.
Other city landmarks serve as the backdrop for musical gatherings. Thousands gather in Zilker Park in September for the Austin City Limits Festival and Auditorium Shores, on the south banks of the river downtown, is the place to watch the fireworks and listen to the Austin Symphony on July Fourth. Other times of the year the banks of the river might be the setting for a reggae festival or a jazz concert.
In a city that originated the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign, it is only natural that there are several unique and wacky events on the calendar. Spamarama, the "Pandemonious Party of Potted Pork" is held in March in Waterloo Park in downtown Austin. There is a cooking cook-off -- Spam sushi, Spam Ding-Dongs, Spam cordon bleu -- a Spam toss contest, a Spam Cram (don't ask) and lots of music. The city celebrates its hippie heritage in April at Eeyore's Birthday Party in Pease Park just north of Enfield downtown. Costumes, face painting, music, frolicking, all make this day-long festival reminiscent of Woodstock.
Austin's diversity is celebrated with events like the Dia de Los Muertos parade in November at the downtown Mexic-Arte Museum where traditional Day of the Dead altars are displayed. The city's generosity is on view during Chuy's Annual Christmas Parade downtown when toys are collected for needy kids.
Texas culture is on display during the April Fine Arts Festival in Republic Square at Fifth and Guadalupe downtown and at the Texas Book Festival on the Capitol grounds in November. The Austin Film Festival and screenwriters conference is held at various downtown locations in October.
Downtown is also the location for two of Austin's top sporting events -- the Capitol 10k race in March or early April and Lance Armstrong's Ride for the Roses bicycle race, also in April. There are rowing meets on Town Lake, rugby tournaments and kite festivals in Zilker Park, and a diving competition at Barton Springs. Beyond downtown there are yacht races to watch on Lake Travis and grape stomping to be done at Hill County vineyards.
Check out more Things to do in Austin.