Roll down those windows and turn up the tunes. We’ve created the ultimate six-day trek across Texas that has you visiting the best springtime stops in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.


The days are getting longer and the nights are getting warmer, that means one thing – it’s peak live music season in the Lone Star State. Pack your bags, and hit the road to get a heaping taste of live music throughout the best of Texas. You wouldn’t visit just one club or town; you couldn’t, not when thousands of bars and concert halls are churning out enough high-caliber performances on any given week to make Texas the most happening live music scene west of Nashville. Scratch that – anywhere.

San Antonio, Houston, and Austin have created a tight triangle of music and culture all within three hours of one another. Here we give you the road map to the ultimate springtime Texas music road trip, with a few surprise stops along the way, like BBQ (a Texas must), microbreweries, and the best dive bar in the state.

Austin

It’s impossible to fully experience the “Live Music Capital of the World” in two days, so Antone’s Record Shop has to be your opening act. The legendary music store (located across the street from famed blues joint Antone’s) boasts an impressive collection of local music, making it easy to scout some of the state’s best performers.

After fueling your vinyl collection and your road trip playlist, head to Stubbs Bar-B-Q. It’ll check the mandatory “Texas barbecue” box off your itinerary, and do it at an outdoor music venue as good as the brisket. If burgers are more your scene, Shady Grove is home to some of Austin’s best patties and Unplugged at the Grove, a festival-like concert series in a scenic pecan grove.

Spend day two exploring the eclectic, food- and performance-packed artist neighborhoods of East Austin. Save some energy, though; you’ll need it, and some dancing shoes, come sundown in 78704. The South Austin district (named after its zip code) is home to the Texas honky-tonk dance hall, the Broken Spoke, as well as can’t-miss live music hotspots like The Saxon Pub.

Stay Lone Star Court, an island of Austin quirk in the trendy Domain, has live music most nights of the week in the summer – and has even hosted legends like Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton.

On the Road: Austin to San Antonio

Interstate 35 is your one-hour, 15-minute ticket to city number two. Before you get too far outside Austin’s city limits (a phrase made famous by Austin City Limits, an annual festival in September), take a tour of ABGB, a microbrewery that also always has some of Texas’s freshest music and gastropub fare on tap.

A must-visit site for music aficionados on the way to San Antonio is Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. This unassuming white building is Texas’s oldest dance hall, and it has hosted countless luminaries since it opened in 1878, including BB King, Bo Diddley, Merle Haggard, and Garth Brooks.

San Antonio

Our first stop in the Alamo City is The Cove, which somehow masterfully combines a restaurant, beer garden, laundromat, and car wash into one – all while showcasing some of the area’s best musicians.

Your first night belongs to Sam’s Burger Joint. Often hailed as the best place for live music in San Antonio, the rotation of Americana, blues, and rock ’n’ roll is as big as their Texas-sized BigUn Monster burger. 

While San Antonio’s music scene doesn’t get the same attention as Austin’s, it still has a lot of history to explore. The exhibits at Tex Pop, a nonprofit museum, art gallery, and performance space, celebrates the sounds and pop culture that shaped this corner of South Texas.

After that, nightlife beckons on Day 2 of your live music expedition in San Antonio: If you seek honky-tonk, conjunto, or roots rock, follow the Willie Nelson signs to John T. Floore Country Store; dive into Latin music and Caribbean, Central and Latin American food at Azuca Nuevo Latino; enjoy the weekly shows during July’s monthlong Balcones Heights Jazz Festival; or soak in the vintage jazz club atmosphere and diverse stage at Luna.

Stay Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is tucked along San Antonio’s famed River Walk less than a mile from Azuca and a number of other bars that showcase local musicians most nights of the week.

On the Road: San Antonio to Houston

When you think of quintessential Texas beats, do you hear the oompa-oompa of an accordion? If not, you’re overlooking an important style that helped give rise to Tejano and other local music: European polka. Learn more about its importance to local culture at the Texas Polka Museum, located roughly halfway through your two-hour, 40-minute drive to Houston along Interstate 10.

Houston

At this point, it’s time to load up on new road trip tunes. Cactus Music is the Space City’s oldest independent music store, and you might just catch a local musician performing for free right in the shop while you browse the racks.

For your first night in Houston, check out Anderson Fair. Lyle Lovett is one of many Texas musicians who cut his teeth at this local institution, a go-to venue for singer-songwriters and eclectic soloists since 1969. If ensemble performances are more your style, the monthlong Texas Music Festival each June is an annual orchestral series that benefits young professional musicians.

After learning about Houston’s blues roots at the Houston Blues Museum, have one of your day two meals at Last Concert Café. This raved-about Tex-Mex restaurant is worth the venture out of downtown, and it has live performances every Wednesday through Sunday.

By now, you should be a club-hopping pro. These three are perfect nightcaps: Fitzgerald’s, a hallowed venue that allegedly inspired Stevie Ray Vaughan’s The House is a Rockin’; The Continental Club, the local granddaddy of roots, rockabilly, and country; and Numbers, a diverse hall that has been named one of the “Best Small Music Venues in America.”

Stay Hotel Sorella CITYCENTRE, a three-time member of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List” of top hotels in the US, has live music every Wednesday through Sunday in Monnalisa, its stunning rooftop bar.

On the Road: Houston to Austin

It’ll take two-and-a-half hours to make it back to Austin along US Route 290, although you’ll have plenty to keep your mind busy after a detour at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, which was named the “Best Dive Bar in America in 2015.” This funky spot has world-class country and the strangest games of bingo (the numbers are picked by a live chicken) you’ve ever seen.