Remember what the Fourth of July used to be like? It was a no-obligation holiday. It wasn’t like the school-year holidays that let you out of class for a rare three-day weekend; parents would snatch you up for a long drive to an extended family member’s house, or you'd be left behind while friends suffered that fate. It was a government-sanctioned excuse to absolutely go nuts with cookout foods and literally blow things up.
As adults, there may be a few more obligations — civic responsibility, grocery shopping, making sure only the right things are blowing up — but luckily there are people all over Austin taking care of those things for you. Whether it's sending home pre-made bites or bringing the community together on a big, beautiful lawn, here are 10 celebrations and specials to help you reconnect with your neighbors and that easy summer feeling.
Willie Nelson's Annual 4th of July Picnic and Fireworks
Perhaps needless to say, Willie Nelson's Annual 4th of July Picnic and Fireworks is the big event around here every Independence Day. The man is revolution personified. This year, Willie Nelson & Family are playing with country stars Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Texans Midland, Charley Crockett, and Asleep at the Wheel, and his son's band, Particle Kid, among others. Take Nelson’s outlaw history as inspiration, and find more information at q2stadium.com.
Fireworks and music by H-E-B and the Austin Symphony
Another classic here in Austin brings the symphony to new audiences every year, playing marches and other recognizable American classics. Most tickets are free, but VIP tickets ($100) give access to a section of the lawn closer to the action. This event gets packed and you may have to park far away, so bring your walking shoes, bug spray, something to sit on, and wallet for the onsite food, beverage, and fun-things vendors. More information, including a link to a Yeti cooler giveaway, is available at austinsymphony.org.
Garbo's July 3rd Lobster Boil
If there's any day to celebrate New England here in the South, it's probably this one. Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster is serving up a huge Sunday feast ($120) in three courses: a salad, a whole live lobster (well, not anymore), shrimp and clams from the East coast, and a mini key lime pie. There's two time slots and music by the Bruce Smith Band, plus add-ons including oysters, caviar, and chips. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
Lakeway Parade, Movie, and Music
Among several other small cities organizing parades in the Austin area, our neighbor Lakeway is putting together an extravaganza complete with a hot dog reception by H-E-B and a military flyover. To cool off, there will be discounted passes at the Swim Center ($4) all day. There is also a weekend kickoff event on July 1, showing Captain America: The First Avenger at Lakeway City Park, along with tunes by The Lost Pines Band. More information on both events at lakeway-tx.gov.
Wunderkeks Apple Pie Cookies
These cookie-makers with a cause announced the return of a limited-edition apple pie cookie ($36 for 12) with apple chunks and caramel chips that will melt in the oven (which is the non-negotiable prep method for all Wunderkeks bakes). Owned by a gay couple from Guatemala, this company often raises money and awareness for LGBTQ+ causes, and really takes its citizenship seriously. It also ships everywhere in the US, so you can enjoy united bites with loved ones far and wide. Order on wunderkeks.com.
A weekend at the Commodore Perry Estate
Perhaps some luxury gets you back into your block walking shoes, and Commodore Perry can help. Guests and members can recharge with spa services by Milk and Honey, and tunes by Austin musician Mobley. Everyone is invited to a July 3 collaboration between Lutie’s Garden Restaurant and Leroy and Lewis ($100), with lawn games and a DJ set. Tickets are available now on Eventbrite.
Loro Rib Rack Meal Packs
Gathering folks at home is an unbeatable July 4 tradition, and a great opportunity to experience the holiday in a more personal way. To set it apart from the usual burger-and-hot-dogs affair, Loro is sending home meal packs ($55, feeds two) including a full rack of ribs and some combination of coconut scented rice, sweet corn, tomato cucumber salad, and more. Preorders are open now through July 4, with pickup that day from 12 pm. Scroll to see locations and order at loroeats.com.
Hill Country Galleria Independence Day Festival
An annual event at the Hill Country Galleria delivers those quintessential family-friendly Independence Day vibes while connecting Austinites with more than 60 art vendors. There will also be live music, water games, rides, free face painting, and of course, a firework show. For the adults, Vista Brewing is visiting with its mobile beer station and some themed specialty brews. Parking is free, pets are allowed, and overthinking is off the menu. More information at hillcountrygalleria.com.
Historical celebration at Pioneer Farms
A favorite location for field trips and quirky seasonal festivities, Pioneer Farms is a welcoming, earnest place to learn about Texas history. “A Frontier Fourth” will be held over the weekend on July 2 and 3, at the authentic pioneer village. The program includes a 19th century cannon show and magic show, Wild West reenactors, a hatchet-throwing demonstration and famous actors who have played cowboys. After the first day’s events comes a night of community swing dancing in the barn (starting at $15). Read more at pioneerfarms.org.
Half Step’s Annual 4th of July Party
One of Austin’s favorite bars for live music is hosting a more grassroots community event, a two-day party on July 3 and 4, with a refreshing, apparently total lack of thematic relevance. This will be a fun bookend to any other holiday events or efforts going on, with a waterslide, water guns, frozen drinks, and hot dogs. The main attraction is three hours of air-conditioned live music, featuring Outlaws of Punk and Heavy Mellow. More information on Facebook.