Texas Hill Country is characterized by rolling hills, oak trees, dance halls, wildflowers, wineries, abandoned cars in fields, honky-tonks, dude ranches, state parks, and frontier towns scattered throughout the hills. And thanks to the great weather, festivals celebrating its history, legends, and everyday life kick off in early April and continue on through the mild winter.
Folks in Wimberley love butterflies so much they have a day dedicated to these little larvae that turn beautiful. On a weekend in April the Emily Ann Theatre Butterfly Day (1101 FM 2325, 512/847-6969) becomes the focus of town. There’s live music, plays and skits, and fun for kids and the whole family.
Wimberley offers a peek into the studios of some of its artists during Arts Fest (Wimberley Visitors Center, 512/847-2201). Near the Blanco River, Wimberley’s Waters Point Retreat is filled with booths and arts spaces visited by over 3,000 art lovers. Artists represent a number of media, including oil painting, watercolor, mixed media, and sculpture. Most artists are locally, nationally, and even internationally renowned.
The biggest and longest-running festival in the Hill Country is the Kerrville Folk Festival (830/257-3600). Starting the Thursday before Memorial Day, this 18-day folk implosion draws the biggest names in Americana, folk, bluegrass, acoustic rock, blues, and country. Live music, arts and crafts, fun for the kids, camping, and food and beverages are all within arm’s reach. The festival takes place at Quiet Valley Ranch, nine miles south of Kerrville on Highway 16. Tickets vary by day but generally run $30 in advance and $40 at the gate. Tickets for all 18 days can be $400-600.
For a peach of a time, the town of Stonewall has its annual Peach JAMboree and Rodeo (830/644-2735). At the height of peach season, locals get together for live music and dancing in honor of the fuzzy fruit.
Celebrate Bandera is where to be on Labor Day weekend in the Hill Country. Every year the town of Bandera becomes a giant celebration that includes a real cattle drive, an intertribal Native American powwow, bull-riding competitions, concerts, parades, rodeos, and a Bloody Mary street party. Some events charge a fee and some are free. Check out the website for specific information.
At the Quiet Valley Ranch is the Kerrville Fall Music Festival (830/257-3600 or 800/435-8429). Songwriters and entertainers from all around the United States make their way to Kerrville for this three-day festival, which includes camping. The ranch is nine miles south of Guadalupe River on Highway 16 between Medina and Kerrville. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate.
Fredericksburg hosts the Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair (830/997-2350). This green-building fair features exhibits, demonstrations, and workshops all espousing the new products and technologies related to the field of renewable energy and green building. It’s hard to determine whether this environmental awareness spills out from Austin’s liberal hippie-ness, or whether it comes from Texas’s long history of DIY independence from everything. Nevertheless, this event is essential for the green do-it-yourselfer. The roundup is held downtown at Market Square; tickets cost $10 each for Friday and Sunday and $12 for Saturday.
Festivals abound in the historic German settlement town of Fredericksburg, but the one that gets everyone’s lederhosen in a bunch is Oktoberfest (830/997-4810). Held every year during the first weekend in October, this three-day bratwurst, schnitzel, and German beer extravaganza draws big crowds. Two stages, two tents, great food, polka and waltz contests, smiles, and music with an oompah make this a great weekend getaway for the family. Oktoberfest takes place at Marktplatz in the center of downtown. Hours are 6pm-midnight Friday, 10am-midnight Saturday, 10am-6pm Sunday. Tickets are sold at the entrance and cost $8 for single-day passes, $14 for two-day passes, and $18 for three-day passes. Children 7-12 are $1, and ages 6 and under are free.
At the end of the month there’s the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest (830/997-8515), a celebration of Texas food and wine that includes live music, specialty booths, and lots of clinking of glasses. The festival is held at Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg. Admission is $25.
At Love Creek Orchards is one of Texas’s largest and most popular pumpkin patches, The Great Hill Country Pumpkin Patch (14024 State Hwy. 16 North, Medina, 10am-4pm, admission $6). With a scheduled full of family-fun events, this is worth the drive.
For over 50 years Bandera has hosted the annual Hunters BBQ and Outdoor Expo (3862 TX-16, Bandera, 830/796-3280). Everyone gets all gussied up in camo and heads out to Antler Oaks Lodge for barbecue and beer and hunter-gatherer fellowship. The expo includes interactive exhibits, demonstrations of the latest hunting equipment, wildlife exhibits, and a live auction.
The best fest in New Braunfels is Wurstfest (800/221-4369, 4pm-11:30pm opening day, 11am-midnight Saturdays, 11am-9:30pm Sundays, 5pm-11:30pm Thursdays and Fridays). This 10-day salute to sausage features accordion music, dancing, and, of course, bratwurst. It takes place at Landa Park; admission is $10 for adults, while children 12 and under are free. The Saturday after Thanksgiving the historic downtown of Comfort is taken over by Christmas in Comfort (830/995-3131, 10am-9pm, free). Over 150 vendors sell arts, crafts, and homemade foods, all to the soundtrack of live music. A trolley brings shoppers to the various businesses around the downtown area.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Austin, San Antonio & the Hill Country.