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The Best Texas Music Venues for Road Trippin'

Ballroom Marfa, one of the many music venues worth road tripping to in Texas
Ballroom Marfa, one of the many music venues worth road tripping to in Texas

As you might have noticed, we're a bit obsessed with traveling here at the Observer. We've given you weekend getaways, food centered trips, and hidden road trips. So it was only a matter of time before we got in on the fun here at DC9. Being that we live and breathe Texas music, here are the 12 music venues from around the state that are worth loading up the car and making the trip from Dallas to. It's time to gas up your ride, put on some music, and hit the road, because you've got bands to see and beers to drink.

See also: 15 Best Texas Weekend Getaways Best Hidden Places in Texas for Road-Trippin' The Ten Best Texas Psychedelic Rock Albums

Ballroom Marfa in Marfa Distance from Dallas: 520 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 7 hours, 38 minutes

Literally every article about taking a road trip in Texas has to feature a blurb about making the journey to the West Texas town of Marfa. Yes, even one about music venues. Lucky for us Marfa is home to Ballroom Marfa, one of the premier destinations for art-inclined acts in the US. The Ballroom has hosted performances from a reunited At-The Drive In, Explosions in the Sky, Bon Iver, Lyle Lovett and a week-long residency featuring Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, who is so fond of the venue that she uses it for all her album release shows.

LukenbachDistance from Dallas:

262 miles


Time it takes to get there:

4 hours, 31 minutes

Maybe it's time you got back to the basics of love and took Highway 281 out of Dallas, and made your way to Lukenbach, Texas for a night of dancing, and singing in the historic unincorporated town that was immortalized by the Outlaw Country movement of the 1970s. Just make sure you listen to Waylon and Willie and the boys while you make the drive.

Gruene Hall in Gruene Distance from Dallas: 241 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 3 hours, 41 minutes

At the very top of the "Texas Music Bucket List" sits a journey to the legendary Texas dance hall in Gruene. Built as a town center in 1878 by Henry Gruene, the venue bills itself as the oldest continuously run dance hall in the state, and maybe even in the nation. The venue's been featured in everything from a road trip video featured on the AV Club, to being the locale for the dance scene in John Travolta's angel-gone-bad vehicle, Michael. The venue holds weekly concerts featuring some of the biggest names in music, including an upcoming performance by Jenny Lewis in October.

Floore's Country Store in Helotes Distance from Dallas: 283 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 4 hours, 19 minutes

When it comes to a being a must attend venue for lovers of all things Texas Country, the Texas Historic Commission-approved Floore's Country Store in Helotes is second only to Gruene Hall. The hallowed stage in the back has been graced by the likes of Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, BB King and Bob Dylan. The venue was opened in in 1942 by John T. Floore, and ever since has been the San Antonio area's premier stop for whiskey, cold beer, and damn fine music.  

The Best Texas Music Venues for Road Trippin'
Cypress Creek Cafe Facebook

Buzzard Bar in Wimberley Distance from Dallas: 233 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 3 hours, 40 minutes

In the sleepy artist community of Wimberley, situated off the Devil's Backbone in the Hill Country sits the Cypress Creek Cafe. Directly next door to it is the Buzzard Bar, home to one the best stops on the Texas Troubadour circuit. Alejandro Escovedo plays the venue so frequently you almost wonder if he owns the place. It's alsoone of the most laid back venues you can visit, with the artist performing not just receiving beers from the fans, but often taking breaks to buy their fans a round.

The Mohawk in Austin Distance from Dallas: 195 miles 
Time it takes to get there: 2 hours, 58 minutes

We could go on and on about the endless amount of top-notch shows that the Mohawk gets, or wax poetic about the queso-off, but those words wouldn't really do the place proper justice. We'll just leave it at this: the Mohawk is the best venue in Austin, by a long shot. Enough said.

502 Bar in San Antonio Distance from Dallas: 467 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 4 hours, 29 minutes

Not only is it the best place to grab a drink in San Antonio, it's also the only venue worth a damn. 502 frequently hosts the type of acts Dallas people would catch at venues like Club Dada and Three Links -- namely up and coming indie acts who are building a reputation off their latest releases. The venue keeps the cover costs low and features one hell of a beer list, so next time you're looking for something to do post-Alamo or Spurs game, make sure you avoid the river walk, and head straight for 502.

The Best Texas Music Venues for Road Trippin'
Houston Press

Fitzgerald's in Houston Distance from Dallas: 239 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 3 hours, 26 minutes

Though it's recently parted ways with the booking group responsible for Houston's Free Press Summer Fest, Fitz's remains Houston's premier venue to catch an act of any credibility without kowtowing to the corporate overlords that run the House of Blues. Opened in 1918, the venue served as a Polish community center till 1977 when it was opened as Fitzgerald's. Reportedly in 1990 a Pestilence Death show caused a riot to break out. Thankfully things seem to have calmed down in the 24 years since, and the wildest thing you see these days is a Houstonian trying to see exactly how much whiskey the human body can contain.  

The Golden Light in Amarillo Distance from Dallas: 362 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 5 hours, 37 minutes

Located off historic Route 66, The Golden Light is Amarillo's oldest-running restaurant and home to one hell of a hamburger. Opened in 1996, the Cantina extension of the building has seen performances from the likes of Joe Ely, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Band of Heathens, and has been the home for Amarillo's burgeoning indie music scene.

The Blue Light in Lubbock Distance from Dallas: 345 miles
Time it takes to get there: 5 hours, 6 minutes

Opened in 1999 and located on Buddy Holly Avenue, the Blue Light is Lubbock's home for Americana. The Club tends to lean heavily on the red dirt and Americana circuits for its booking, which is in line with the tastes of the local crowd of Texas Tech students. Featuring one of the better sound sytems in the Southwest, the Blue Light is your go-to choice for going out and seeing a decent act in Lubbock and its surrounding areas.

The Gig in Beaumont Distance from Dallas: 283 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 4 hours, 24 minutes

Beaumont is known for two things: Oil and having a university that even Bob Knight's son Pat could get fired from. The Gig (formally Antone's) is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to music that's not being put on by the university, or featuring bands whose heyday was 1996. The downtown venue features one of the best looking stages in the South, and you have to hope someone with some vision takes over, and uses it to it's full potential.

Cine El Rey in McAllen Distance from Dallas: 508 miles
 Time it takes to get there: 7 hours, 36 minutes

Located in McAllen's 17th street entertainment district, Cine El Rey, which served as McAllen's Spanish-language film theater from 1947 to 1988. It was re-opened as a multi-purpose entertainment venue shortly after its closing. Today it serves as McAllen's go-to location for film, pro-wrestling, and large indie shows, including upcoming dates featuring Angel Olson, and Shabazz Palaces. The venue was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places in 2002, and serves as the only place you can indulge in contemporary culture while just being minutes from the border in Texas.


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