Things to Do

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address



5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit

The Texas Hill Country Austin is home to music venues featuring everything from rock and rockabilly to jazz and country. Here’s a list of the five venues you must visit next time you’re in the area.

1. Gruene Hall – Gruene

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit


Gruene Hall was built in 1878 and is the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas. It regularly attracts some of the biggest names in music, including Willie Nelson, George Strait, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, Gregg Allman, and more recently, Loretta Lynn. Even if they don’t have live music on the schedule, you should stop by for a cold drink and look at the signed portraits of country music legends spanning over 100 years.

The 6,000 square foot dance hall was built by Heinrich D. Gruene and still has the original layout with side flaps for open air dancing, a bar in the front, a small lighted stage in the back and an outdoor garden. This historic venue is featured in numerous books, including Pat Green’s Dancehalls & Dreamers.

2. Broken Spoke – Austin

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit


Army veteran James White began building the Broken Spoke in September 1964, and it opened to 300 guests less than two months later. He drew inspiration from the old Austin venues like Dessau Hall, the Moosehead Tavern and the Barn on North Lamar.

In 1966, White booked one of his childhood heroes, Bob Wills. He subsequently booked other big names like Ernest Tubbs, Roy Acuff, Hank Thompson, Tex Ritter, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Willie Nelson and George Strait. Apparently, the Red Headed Stranger still drops in for chicken fried steak.

The Broken Spoke remains an Austin tradition, despite the new condo and retail developments creeping ever closer to this iconic red building with the old oak tree out front. It is one of the last true Texas dancehalls.

3. 11th Street Cowboy Bar – Bandera

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit


You can’t find a better venue in the Cowboy Capital of the World than the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. It calls itself the “Biggest Little Bar in Texas” and features some of the best country western and country swing bands in the state. The clientele is as unique as its décor, and you will frequently find cowboys and bikers mingling with the locals.

This popular bar attracts visitors from around the world and was featured in Life Magazine, The Oprah Show, Texas Highways, Texas Monthly, USA Today, Southern Living, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, as well as area radio stations and other national publications. It even hosted “Live on CNN” during the 2008 Texas Presidential Primary and Texas Elections.

At its core, 11th Street is a music venue and features top-notch Texas talent every week and often hosts jam sessions open to anyone.

4. Luckenbach Dance Hall – Luckenbach

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit

Photo: Flickr/C Foote

Try not to get the famous Willie Nelson / Waylon Jennings tune stuck in your head as you read this. The tiny Hill Country town of Luckenbach is home to the landmark, family-friendly dance hall by the same name. In 1973, Jerry Jeff Walker, backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, recorded the live album Viva Terlingua at the Luckenbach dance hall. The album became an outlaw country classic and catapulted the dance to country music history.

Since then, Luckenbach has played host to Jennings, Nelson, Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett. The hall holds dances and concerts nearly every weekend, featuring some of the best artists on the Texas music scene.

5. Continental Club – Austin

5 Hill Country Music Venues You Have to Visit

Photo: Flickr/ohad

Since the 1950s, the Continental Club on South Congress Ave. has been a hub for rock, rockabilly, country, and swing music. It’s a small room, with only about 300 person capacity, but huge acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, and Kinky Friedman have all played this stage.

When it opened in 1957, it was a BYOB private supper club and featured acts like Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. It became a burlesque club in the ‘60s, and began booking acts like Vaughan, Butthole Surfers, and WC Clark in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The club now features local and national rock, rockabilly and swing acts. On any given night, visitors can stop in to hear some of the best music by Texas natives like James McMurtry and Toni Price.