Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer in most places in America, but across the state of Texas, it's already been hot for weeks. That said, Memorial Day marks the start of a series of events, festivals, and activities that get Texans (and tourists) in the mood for the summer season.
However, Texas is a huge state that spans nearly 800 miles across its farthest points. So which events are happening on Memorial Day will depend on which part of Texas you're visiting. East, South, North, Central, and West Texas all offer a variety of live entertainment and annual celebrations, both in large cities and small towns. There are also one-of-a-kind Texan traditions like the Crawfish Festival in Fredericksburg and the Cowboy Capital Rodeo Association Pro Rodeo in Bandera that draw both locals and tourists in large numbers.
With Cajun food and music amid the rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country, the Fredericksburg Crawfish Festival helps usher in summer the right way. Besides the typical Cajun fare, there is plenty of the German food by local vendors that Fredericksburg is famous for on hand, plus carnival rides, live entertainment. Sponsored by the Fredericksburg Jaycees and held at the Marktplatz, this celebration is a great way to kick off your summer with a full stomach.
Featuring a colorful Czech parade, live music, arts and crafts, a horseshoe tournament, traditional Czech foods, dancing, and a 5K run, Ennis' annual National Polka Festival is the largest Czech heritage festival in the United States. Since 1967, the Ennis Chamber of Commerce—initially along with the three founders Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska of Ennis—have been hosting this annual event as a way to expose more people to this culture.
Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of Texas, earned its nickname by being one of the staging areas for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s and celebrates Memorial Day each year in typical cowboy fashion: with a rodeo. The Cowboy Capital Pro Rodeo is three days of rodeo action and live music, and guests can also take the time to enjoy a weekend picnic or tour through some of the historic buildings that populate this small town.
One of the biggest Memorial Day events in Texas happens just north of Houston in the city of The Woodlands, a favorite spot for Texans to visit for shopping, dining, and adventures of all varieties. In 2019, the annual festivities kick off on Sunday, May 26 with the opening announcements and national anthem ceremony at 5 p.m., then continue with live music, and conclude with an 8:55 p.m. fireworks display.
Having run continuously since 1972, the Kerrville Folk Festival is the longest-running festival of its type in North America. Lasting 18 days, the festival features over 100 songwriters, concerts, arts and crafts, kids' concerts, and tons of dancing. Also, consider stopping by the Texas Hill Country Wine and Brew Festival or the Texas Masters of Fine Art and Craft Show.
Summer is the time for amusement parks, and San Antonio is home to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld San Antonio, Splashtown San Antonio, and the San Antonio Zoo, each of which features special Memorial Day pricing and events.
For a more traditional celebration, stop by the Armed Forces River Parade along the San Antonio River Walk and stick around after for the Memorial Day Artisan River Walk Show featuring dozens of artists and creators selling their paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and pottery.
The capital of Texas, Austin, is one of the most progressive cities in the southern United States and has recently become one of the cities leading the country's leading technology revolution with new startups and new residents moving in almost every day. As a result, this city knows how to have a good time, especially around the holidays.
On Memorial Day Weekend, check out a free outdoor movie as part of the Paramount Summer Film Series, head over to the Lone Star Court Hotel for their annual "Complimentary Party with a Poptail Kickoff," or have a picnic lunch at the nearby Fall Creek Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country.
There's also the Lone Star Jam, a two-day music festival in Austin, featuring headliners Josh Abbott Band, Granger Smith, Turnpike Troubadours, and Casey Donahue.
The City of Odessa in West Texas celebrates the start of summer with an annual picnic featuring some of America's favorite foods: hot dogs and hamburgers. Located at the Sherwood Park Pavilion, this afternoon event also features live music, entertainment, and plenty of local vendors to browse through the day.
Located in the historic Granbury Square, this annual event has been a tradition for decades and features live entertainment, a hot-dog-eating contest, and a special veterans' ceremony to kick it all off. While you're there, explore the art and architecture in town or browse through one of 60 boutique shops around the area.
Escape to Lake Witney for Hubbard's annual Trade Days event on Memorial Day weekend (Friday through Sunday). This annual event features a city-wide rummage sale at the Historic Fire Station, garage sales everywhere, the Lone Star Rodeo on both Saturday and Sunday, and free access to the Hubbard History Museum, the Tris Speaker Sports Museum, and the Antique Doll Exhibit all weekend long.
Since 2016, the city of Wimberley, located between Austin and San Antonio, has hosted a music festival over Memorial Day Weekend called Red, White, & Blues on the Falls. The organizers started the festival to bring positivity to the community on the anniversary of the 2015 Wimberley flood, which took 13 lives and destroyed a reported 400 homes. There's plenty of live music, of course, as well as good eats. One dollar of every ticket sold is donated to the Hill Country Conservancy.
In 2019, the sixth annual Thai Food and Culture Festival in Dallas will be held over Memorial Day Weekend. The celebration will be held at the Buddhist Center of Dallas and will feature a marketplace with handmade craft goods and artworks by Thai artisans, a food bazaar offering all types of Thai cuisine, live cultural performances like dances and music, Muy Thai demonstrations, and tours of the Temple. Proceeds from the tickets will go to the Thai Community Center of North Texas and the Buddhist Center of Dallas.
This annual multi-genre music festival in El Paso has run for two days over Memorial Day Weekend since 2011. In 2019, headliners will include Wiz Khalifa, Miguel, Dashboard Confessional, and Steve Aoki, among others. There will also be a focus on Latin performers, with big names like Kali Uchis and Don Omar performing.