Texas is filled with amazing venues, from the dustiest 100-year old bars to brand new, state-of-the-art theaters built for broadcasting to the world. What makes a venue so great varies from the history, to the sound, to the talent it brings night in and night out.
This list of the top 16 country music venues in Texas comprises venues from all over the state that each add something unique and special to the overall Texas music scene. Get a feel for these venues by checking out some live performance videos below.
At first blush, this East Austin honky tonk isn’t much. What makes it special? For starters, it’s a honky-tonk in East Austin. Truthfully, The White Horse makes the cut because there simply isn’t another place like it in Texas. The modest stage hosts live music from up-and-comers seven nights a week (rarely with a cover, if paying for music turns you off) and more often than not, you’re going to dig what you hear. Expect a heavy dose of classic country, Americana and honkey tonk in this always raw, always fun Austin gem.
The Broken Spoke is one the last true Texas dance halls, where weekly residencies from local favorites keep folks coming back, and you can always grab a good dinner before hitting the floor. It may now be surrounded by high-dollar condos and apartments, but The Broken Spoke is and always will be Austin’s most famous dancehall holdout.
Never exclusively a country joint, the Continental Club in Austin was opened in 1957 as a swanky dinner spot hosting big touring acts like Glen Miller, and then a burlesque club in the 60s. But it really came into form in the 70s, hosting all kinds of Texas legends, from Joe Ely to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Leroy Parnell and Butthole Surfers. Today the Continental still has that classic vibe to it while hosting Austin up-and-comers and mainstays all the same.
Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon is an Austin treasure. It may not look like much, but this little dive hosts all kinds of Ameripolitan music every week — thanks in no small part to country icon Dale Watson, who saved the place from going under a few years back. Ginny’s is the original home of “Chicken Shit Bingo,” a Sunday attraction that draws thousands of tourists from all over the world every month.
This San Angelo spot is, without a doubt, one of the coolest in all of West Texas. With a lounge vibe that loves all things retro — and a full airstream trailer inside — FiFi DuBois’ feels like a blast from the past but welcomes all kinds of Texas music from the present. The unique stage setup allows for all band members to be in a straight line — which helps keep the sound balanced from bleeding. And the artists are always offered to stay in rooms above the venue, where the owners also live.
A Houston staple, Firehouse Saloon has been known as a venue to support and boost Texas musicians to the next level — famously including Miranda Lambert. Founded by firefighters more than 20 years ago, the venue is a staple in the Texas music scene.
John T. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes has been serving up two amazing things for more than 70 years: kickass tamales, and kickass country music. Floore’s is actually not a store at all — but it is one of the best places to spend a Friday or Saturday night in central Texas. A rare example of a venue with an indoor stage that sounds as good as the outdoor stage, Floore’s even hosted Randy Rogers Band when they recorded their live album Homemade Tamales — in honor of Floore’s.
Come for the hanging bras, stay for the jet-cooled patio and dance floor. The “Biggest Little Bar In Texas” sits outside of San Antonio in Bandera, Texas. It’s a true biker bar where you’ll also just so happen to find cowboys, cowgirls, international tourists, hipsters, families from suburbia and everything in between.
Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio and Dallas, first of all, are a great mix between classic and new. They routinely host the top Texas and touring acts but keep a huge, wide open dance floor going at all times. Cowboys features great sound (for performers and fans) and, every now and then, real Professional Bull Riding events. Seriously. Few Texas music venues can claim to host Tracy Lawrence, Ryan Bingham, Randy Rogers Band, Lee Brice and PBR events in the same year (though a venue further down this list does have weekly bull riding).
On Oct. 13, 1975, the Ace in the Hole Band had its debut performance with a young kid named George Strait. They proceeded to play their next 50+ gigs on the Cheatham Street stage. If that’s all you ever knew about this classic San Marcos spot, it would be enough. But truthfully, the late Kent Finlay, who curated the talent at Cheatham Street from day one, has been the songwriting father to more great country acts than any other single venue owner in Texas. Finlay sadly passed in 2015, but Cheatham Street is still a shining beacon of Texas country history. Randy Rogers recently purchased the venue from the Finlay family. And it still hosts a weekly songwriter’s circle, a dying breed in Texas.
The Marc in San Marcos is the perfect example of how combining history with world-class upgrades can be a very good thing. Situated in a 70-year-old building in the heart of San Marcos, The Marc can fit 1,000 people in its two-level listening room, but always keeps it to a comfortable level. With a focus on great sound and great bands, it’s kind of like the little brother of Cheatham Street Warehouse who grew up to be way more professional.
Now the home of PBS’ Austin City Limits — the longest-running music series in American television — the Moody Theater is a new addition to Austin. It’s also easily the nicest indoor venue in Texas, if not America. With seating for over 2,700 fans and no bad seats in the house, the stage offers a state-of-the-art sound system and a floating floor to ensure broadcasts are pristine. The Moody Theater is not exclusively a country venue, but in its 100+ shows a year, the best country acts always stop by. Right in the heart of downtown Austin, the Moody Theater is a must-see for serious music fans.
How many music venues are actual towns? Well, technically a ghost town now, but still. Luckenbach is one of the coolest places to catch a show not just in Texas, but anywhere. The general store that founded the town opened more than 150 years ago. It’s one of the few great places left in the state to find a “picker’s circle,” where songwriters gather to swap tunes. The outdoor venue also routinely features daytime concerts that are free to the public.
Gruene is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to honky tonks. It was built in 1878 and hasn’t stopped bumping since then. Unlike the Marc, Gruene hasn’t changed almost anything (except its sound system, of course). The hall has helped launch the careers of artists like George Strait and Lyle Lovett while still bringing in new Texas and touring acts every night.
Though this Lubbock spot hasn’t been around as long as some of its counterparts, the Blue Light has quickly become known as a breeding ground for top Texas artists and songwriters. Josh Abbott and William Clark Green both honed their craft on the Blue Light stage, which still hosts a songwriter’s night and songwriter competition. Texas artists have quickly learned that playing at the Blue Light is a rite of passage in West Texas.
Well, everything is bigger in Texas, and what kind of list would this be if the top venue wasn’t the world’s largest honky tonk? Stop in and get some dance lessons before the show that night. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding some whirlin’ and twirlin’ room, given the venue holds up to 6,000 people. Billy Bob’s features the biggest names in touring Texas country and has been in several Hollywood movies over the year, including 1992’s Pure Country starring George Strait.