Food on a Stick!

Which Houston Fall Festival Is Right for You?

The highs and lows of Greek Fest, Texas Contemporary and more.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen August 21, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Alice Levitt

In some places—Scandinavia, the Coachella Valley—festival season means summer, when long, languid days beckon and women finally have an excuse to wear flower crowns outside of Snapchat. But in Houston, prime time for festivals arrives in late September, as the heat (hopefully) begins to break and it’s once again pleasant to venture outside. But which fall festival is right for you? We broke it down.


  • The details: Sept. 30 at the Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park
  • The good: The four Bs: brats, beers, boot-shaped steins, babes in dirndls
  • The bad: Even if temperatures dip, it will be too. Hot. For Lederhosen.
  • The ugly: Organizers promise "the best polka music in Texas," but we must admit, it's all the same to us.
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: "But, like, why is it in September?"
  • Why you'll go anyway: The flip-cup and beer-pong competitions mean you can finally show off what you really learned in college. 

Texas Contemporary Art Fair

  • The details: Now moved to October 4-7, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center
  • The good: 75 local, national and international galleries showcasing the best of contemporary and modern art—it's like a peek inside the museums of tomorrow.
  • The bad: You're one trip-while-holding-coffee from bankruptcy, just by stepping inside.
  • The ugly: There is no such thing as ugly art, just ugly consumerism.
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: "I could totally have painted that."
  • Why you'll go anyway: Art Basel Miami Beach is too much of a scene. 

Texas Renaissance Festival

  • The details: Weekends Sept. 30-Nov. 26 at the Ren Fest fairgrounds in Todd Mission
  • The good: The turkey legs and the legit best people-watching of all time
  • The bad: The hour-long drive from the inner loop feels long, but the return trip—when you're full of turkey legs and mead—feels like a lifetime
  • The ugly: The people wearing chainmail bikinis are never who you'd hope or expect them to be.
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: High-school-theater-quality Cockney accents.
  • Why you'll go anyway: Honestly, where else are you going to buy a proper sword? 

Original Greek Festival

  • The details: Oct. 5-8 at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral 
  • The good: When meat on a stick is calling, you must go.
  • The bad: You could buy the same food down the street at Niko Niko's for less money.
  • The ugly: TFW you've had too much Greek wine and all you can say is "Opa!"
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: Myriad mispronunciations of 'gyro.' Repeat after us: year-oh.
  • Why you'll go anyway: Greek line dances are way more fun to watch than the "Boot Scootin' Boogie." 

Bayou City Art Festival

  • The details: Oct. 14-15 near downtown's Sam Houston Park
  • The good: It's the most approachable art event of the season, with 300 vendors exhibiting photography, sculpture, painting, jewelry and works in clay, leather, metal and wood.
  • The bad: Downtown isn't as picturesque as Memorial Park, where the spring BCAF takes place.
  • The ugly: Okay, there may actually be such a thing as ugly art.
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: "But will it match my couch?"
  • Why you'll go anyway: Your guest room isn't going to decorate itself.

Festa Italiana

  • The details: Oct. 12-15 at the University of St. Thomas
  • The good: Anything good has an Italian version, and it’s all here: cars, bocce, music from the great American songbook, even poker. Do we even need to mention the food?
  • The bad: Two consecutive weekends of this many people parking in their neighborhood is enough to agitate even the most chill Montrosian.
  • The ugly: Real talk: There's nothing pretty about a pasta-eating contest.
  • Annoying thing you'll overhear: "That's a spicy meatball," usually said by someone not eating a meatball.
  • Why you'll go anyway: Who can resist the wafting scent of lasagna and the refrain of "Mambo Italiano"?
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