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You’ve Never Been To a Festival Like Central Texas’ Float Fest

If catching the best live bands in scenic outdoor venues has somehow started to feel a little stale, it’s time to find your way to Central Texas in July (seriously). That’s because of one peculiar music event called Float Fest, which has managed to annually combine two of the great American summer activities—music festivals and lazy river floats—into a single can’t miss weekend.

For the unfamiliar, a “float” is a southern summer staple involving grabbing an inner tube (and often snacks plus a cooler) and heading to the nearest natural lazy river to cruise in the sun for a few hours. Less than an hour south of Austin, San Marcos, Texas has become a hotbed for this activity in state due to its proximity to a handful of great rivers (including the San Marcos, which Float Fest takes advantage of). So while you don’t have to float—Float Fest offers camping, plus there are both Sun and Water stages so folks can stay dry for evening headliners.

Of course, Float Fest has plenty to offer regardless of how motivated you are to find a swimsuit. The festival started primarily focused on perhaps the ideal genres for outdoor concert going, electronica, jam, and hip-hop. Early headliners included acts like STRFKR, Grouplove, and Bun B accordingly. While Float Fest has maintained those roots (see local hero Gary Clark Jr. and the return of Bun B this year), a wider range of acts now want in on this unique event. In fact, you wouldn’t know the festival is barely a toddler based on its 2018 lineup: Tame Impala and Run The Jewels, acts that can headline wherever they’d like around the world, will descend upon San Marcos to anchor the two stages. Regional favorites like the indie rockers of White Denim or the vintage jazz virtuosos of the Preservation Hall Band will also play alongside party icons from Snoop Dogg to Lil’ Wayne to clearly make it all worth battling the Texas heat.

Float Fest’s distinct riverside setup may ultimately limit how many people can attend (this year, they’re aiming for 20,000 attendees), but for those music fans on site it’ll stand out. This is an intimate experience seeing some of the summer festival circuit’s most sought-after bands in a setting you can’t find anywhere else. So yes, Texas in July gets hot even while on a river, but few other music festivals offer anything close to this experience. And if you really want to do it “right,” Float Fest even offers something called a Frigid Float pass—essentially a VIP ticket that includes access to a covered lounged pumped with the best AC technology available.