3 Hip Honky-Tonks for Your Bucket List

Grab a partner and two-step over to an authentic Texas dance hall and experience the excitement of Western dancing and live country music that began more than a century ago.Your bucket list isn’t complete without a trip to the oldest, biggest and most hip honky-tonks in the state.

Billy Bob’s Texas—Biggest Of All

Everything is bigger in Texas, especially when it comes to dance halls. Billy Bob’s Texas is the largest honky-tonk in the world, with 127,000 square feet under one roof, including 30 bar stations, a dozen pool tables, arcade and bull riding arena. “It’s a one-of-a-kind experience,” says Amy McGehee, marketing manager at Billy Bob’s Texas. “When you walk in, it’s almost overwhelming because of the magnitude and history of the place.”

Located in the Fort Worth Stockyards,Billy Bob’s Texas has been voted “Nightclub of the Year” 10 times by the Academy of Country Music.

“Whenever you come up here and there’s live music that dance floor is packed,”McGehee says. “People come out here just dressed to the nines in their western style, and they are out there twirling and spinning and kicking their legs up in the air. It’s pretty wild.” Looking to perfect your cha-cha, Cotton-Eyed Joe or three-step? You can take partner dance lessons for $5 per person on Sundays and Mondays or free line dance lessons Thursday nights. In between dancing and music sets, check out the bull riding competitions in the arena.


Luckenbach Texas—Laid Back

Enjoy the simple pleasures of life in Luckenbach, nestled among the vineyards in Texas Hill Country. In 1971, a prominent goat farmer and folksinger named Hondo Crouch purchased Luckenbach’s historic post office and community center, transforming them into a popular music hangout.

Luckenbach’s welcoming, laid-back atmosphere was immortalized by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, in their 1977hit, “Back to the Basics of Love,” also known as the “Luckenbach, Texas” song.

“That’s what made Luckenbach famous worldwide, but what keeps them coming back is the mystique,” says Abbey Road, Luckenbach’s event manager. “Our purpose in life is to just hang out. You get rid of the cell phones and laptops and all that.You sit down at a picnic table under the big oak trees and you listen to some good music.” The 10-acre town includes a general store, outdoor stage, bar and open-air dance hall, where you can work up a sweat dancing to your favorite country band.


Gruene Hall—Unchanged And Unpretentious

Visiting Gruene Hall is like traveling back in time to the 19th century. The original building, wooden dance floor, stage and signage date back to the 1870s when Gruene Hall first opened its doors.

What makes Gruene Hall so special? “For starters, it’s the oldest operating dance hall in Texas,” says Pat Molak, owner of Gruene Hall. “But the real reason is it’s just kind of a magical spot.” The hall sits 100 yards from the Guadalupe River, the most popular recreational river in Texas. When the building’s wooden flaps are down, the cool breeze off the water flows through the 6,000 square foot dance hall,making it feel like an open air pavilion.

“There’s always been just an indescribable connection between the artists and the audience of the joint,” Molak says. The old fashioned stage allows the audience to be within an arm’s reach of the musicians. Adorning the walls are pictures of all the famous artists that have set foot onstage through the years—from Little Richard to Garth Brooks. A beer garden and a basketball hoop are behind the dance hall for the children.


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