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Written by Erin Inks

halloween3Calling all princesses, ghosts, baseball players, fairies, superheroes and rockstars: October in Texas means endless opportunities to dress up and play.

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As the nation honors those who have died in military service on Memorial Day, dozens of events pop up this weekend to celebrate freedom and the unofficial start of the summer season.

This tabletop model at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza shows the positions of the president's car as three shots were fired from the building, then known as the Texas School Book Depository.

 

With nearly the same lineup playing through two weekends this year (Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13), the Austin City Limits Music Festival offers a rare chance to offer some first-hand recommendations for what to do at an event that’s usually a one-time-only experience. While I didn’t get to see all (or even most) of the 130-plus acts on the festival’s eight stages last weekend, there are a lot of things I’d do or see again--and maybe a few things I'd do differently.

Among the headliners, Depeche Mode (Friday) and The Cure (Saturday) both stand out as long-running acts that are holding up to the test of time. The same can be said for Lionel Richie, although I skipped most of his Sunday night spot in favor of seeing Atoms for Peace, which delivered a two-hour blast of high-energy rock that kept the crowd moving. If '80s music isn’t your thing, British rockers Muse can put on a great arena-rock show (which I saw when they played ACL Fest in 2011), and Wilco fans will want to see their Saturday night performance, which might be the last one the band plays together for a while before frontman Jeff Tweedy embarks on a solo tour.  

Getting around

Navigating the festival seemed slightly easier than in years past, despite the sellout crowd estimated to peak at 70,000 people. Arriving by bike, I was able to skip the lines for shuttle buses to and from downtown, lock up my ride right across the street from the main gates and get right to enjoying the event.

I grubbed in the Austin Eats food area all three days and rarely had to stand in a line, coming away with some delicious dishes I’d be happy to eat even if I wasn’t a captive audience—bahn mi pork belly tacos from The Peached Tortilla, brisket tacos from Stubbs, cookies from Tiff’s Treats, savory street corn from La Condesa and curry chicken from Lambas Royal Indian Foods were all tasty and all local. Perhaps best of all, I could cruise the menus (and prices) of all 35 food vendors without wandering the food stalls using the official ACL Fest phone app.

The addition of a craft beer tent--featuring a selection of 15 I.P.A.s, ciders, wheat beers and more on tap--opens up the options for folks who want to relax and have a ($8) drink  in a shady spot. The tent also has a large television screen, so if you want to keep up with the Texas-OU game this weekend, you can do it there.

As long as you plan to eat and visit the bathrooms sometime before 6 p.m., you should be able to make it through the headliner performances without too much hassle. The free water refill stations are generally easy to access, except when a show on a nearby stage has just ended. Around 7 p.m., the lines for everything get longer (30+ minutes for a bathroom), so plan (and drink!) accordingly. And invest in some hand sanitizer.

Music picks for Weekend Two

My other musical favorites from Weekend One include HAIM and MS MR (both of whom rock a live show harder than their ‘80s-pop-flavored albums), Local Natives, Neko Case, Passion Pit and Tame Impala (though they would have benefitted from more volume and a bigger stage considering the crowd they attracted). Austin bands that got their time to shine on the festival stages included White Denim, The Bright Light Social Hour and Shinyribs (who was only playing the first weekend). I had to miss Asleep at the Wheel, Dawes, Wild Feathers, The Shouting Matches, Arctic Monkeys, Phoenix and a few others that would have been worth checking out. If you’re planning what to see on Weekend Two, my picks include:

  • Friday: Sons of Fathers, Court Yard Hounds, Shovels & Rope, Electric Six, Local Natives, The Black Angels, Arctic Monkeys, Depeche Mode
  • Saturday: Whiskey Shivers, HAIM, Silversun Pickups, Shakey Graves, Grimes, The Bright Light Social Hour, The Shouting Matches, Passion Pit, The Cure
  • Sunday: The Band of Heathens, MS MR, The McCrary Sisters, Wild Feathers, Franz Ferdinand, Divine Fits, White Denim, Tame Impala, Phoenix, Neko Case, Atoms for Peace

If you go...

If you’re heading to the festival this weekend, be sure to check out Jane Wu's tips on what to bring—the poncho may be especially important this Saturday and Sunday, according to weather forecasts. Sunscreen also is a must, but make sure it's the squeeze-bottle kind--aerosol sunscreen spray was being confiscated at the gate. I’d also add that you should turn off your cell phone’s data connection if you’re not using it or expecting a call/text. Being in a small area with so many people means poor reception, and your phone will be draining its batteries by constantly trying to get a signal (and there are no cell charging stations at the festival this year).

And of course, let us know what you see and hear! Comment below or share on our Facebook page.

 

If you visit downtown Austin this fall, you might wonder "why is there a big, white tree hovering over the water?"

 

Freedom Over Texas, Houston's Fourth of July celebration, includes a huge firworks show over downtown. (Photo by Richard Carson)

From big-name concerts to small-town celebrations, there are plenty of places to celebrate America's birthday Texas-style this Fourth of July. Here are my top three picks for sure-fire fun this weekend:

A cook-off competitor fries up his best chicken-fried steaks in Lamesa.

The West Texas town of Lamesa, about 60 miles south of Lubbock,serves up its annual Chicken-Fried Steak Festival this weekend in celebration of the town’s claim as the birthplace of the Texas delicacy. According to local legend, short-order cook James Donald Perkins accidentally made the first dish of its kind in 1911 when he misinterpreted an order for chicken and fried steak at a small restaurant called Ethel's Home Cooking. Instead of making two separate items, he thought the customer wanted a steak battered and fried like a chicken—and what a delicious mistake it turned out to be.

 

(Fireworks explode over Waterway Square at the Memorial Day Weekend Celebration in The Woodlands./Photo courtesy of The Woodlands CVB)

Memorial Day kicks off the unofficial start of summer with a full roster of hot events this weekend.

Just north of Houston, The Woodlands boasts two nights of dazzling fireworks displays in Waterway Square on Saturday and Sunday at their Memorial Day Weekend Celebration. Families can enjoy live music and other activities from 6-9 p.m. before the sky lights up.

Granbury officials say their big Memorial Day Celebration will go on as planned after a devastating tornado ripped through the edge of town last week. The Historic Granbury Square was untouched, and the city is welcoming visitors Saturday through Monday for live music, contests, arts and crafts, ceremonies and more. This year’s theme is “Balconies, Bands and Boats.”

And in Kerrville, it’s a great time to take in the local art and music scene while the Kerrville Folk Festival and several art shows cross paths. The Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair and the Texas Masters of Fine Art and Craft Show both stay only for Memorial Day weekend, but the music festival goes through June 9. If you go, be sure to make time for the Southwest Gourd Fine Art Show and other exhibits at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center.

Other events coming up this holiday weekend include:

Anthony: KLAQ Balloon Fiesta

Dallas: Dallas International Festival

El Paso: Neon Desert Music Festival

Ennis: National Polka Festival

Farmers Branch: Liberty Fest

Fort Worth: Crowne Plaza Invitational

Fredericksburg: Crawfish Festival

Rockport: Rockport Festival of Wines

San Antonio: Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Show

 

Fat Tuesday isn't until Feb. 12, but why wait until then to let the good times roll? Mardi Gras events are popping up across Texas this weekend, complete with parades, costumes, and Cajun-style food and music. Festivities include:

It's shaping up to be another busy weekend in Texas for Santa with dozens of events to get people jingling all the way to Christmas. If you're looking for a place to get in the holiday spirit, check out the list below for tips on what's happening this Friday and Saturday, or browse all the December listings here.

Families enjoy the big sleigh at Lubbock's Winter Wonderland at Vintage Township. (Texas Highways photo/Kevin Stillman)

Tomorrow it will officially be December (though I could have sworn it came a few days earlier judging from how much Christmas music I've heard already), and cities across the state are ready to spread the holiday cheer with a huge weekend of Christmas festivals and parades. Check out the list below for a small selection of events—or you can find more using the event search tool.

Move over, Cowboys Stadium—Texas has a new premier sports facility.

I know, I know. It’s not a fair comparison. Football will always have a special place in many Texans’ hearts. But the opening race this weekend at the new Circuit of the Americas, just southeast of Austin, definitely put the state on the Formula One map.

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