There’s history all over the world, but the history in Texas is unique, and, luckily for people everywhere, some of it is still around to enjoy.
Take, for instance, some of the beautiful dance halls peppered across the state.
Many of them served another purpose, in a different century, but the ones still standing and operating are definitely something to see.
The seven dance halls below are a few of our favorite (but there are plenty more that are just as great!). If you make it around any of these parts on nearly any day of the week, you’re likely to walk in on a live local band, with people dancing and enjoying some cold drinks and friends.
1. Gruene Hall
Gruene Hall just had to be the first on this list.
Built in 1878, the hall is proud to claim its place as Texas’ oldest continually operating and “most famous dance hall,” according to the website.
Not much has changed since it was first built: The 6,000-square-foot-space still has the original layout, with a small lit stage in the back, side flaps for open-air dancing and a bar up front.
The hall began holding dances in the late 1800s, as well as hosting everything from traveling salesmen to high school graduations and badger fights (no, that’s not a typo).
Hundreds of celebrities have stopped in, and there’s proof in the pictures that hang on the walls.
It’s a much-loved place for Texas singer-songwriters, as well as “bigger” artists like George Strait, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks, to name a few.
The hall is a popular tourist stop, even when there’s no entertainment on stage. But alas, it still holds live music and dances on a daily basis.
If you’ve ever heard of any place on this list, it’s probably Luckenbach. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please do yourself a favor and listen to “Luckenbach Texas,” a song by the late, great Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. In all of the music in all the world, it is, hands down, one of my favorite songs.
But back to the dance hall. The thing about Luckenbach is that it’s actually a ridiculously small town, with a dance hall as one of its main attractions. Really, you could drive past it a few times before you realize you’re there.
The area was established as a trading post in 1849, and a post office, general store and beer joint were opened in 1886.
According to the Luckenbach website, in 1970, the town fell into eclipse, and when the postmaster retired, he placed an ad in the local paper that said “Town for sale - Lock, Stock and Dancehall.”
Texas country-rocker Jerry Jeff Walker recorded an album there in 1973, when his band sort of “took over the old dance hall,” sitting around the saloon writing songs during the day and recording in the dance hall at night.
A few years later, Jennings and Nelson recorded the hit “Luckenbach Texas,” which brought the town the fame and ode it’s known for now: “Back to the basics.”
It was then that “tour buses and tourists from around the world began making Luckenbach a regular stop.”
The town has become a laid-back place for locals and passer-throughs.
To this day, the dance hall still regularly holds live music and dances, among other events.
3. Broken Spoke
This might be one of the most well-known places in Austin. The owner of the Broken Spoke, James White, who died in January of 2021 at the age of 81, claimed the Broken Spoke was “the last of the true Texas dance halls.”
It’s a pretty special place. Ask any one of the huge stars who have stopped in for a visit: Fergie, Harry Connick Jr., Willie Nelson, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Claire Danes and former President George W. Bush, to name a few. That’s not including all the big-name acts that have taken the stage. George Strait, anyone?
There’s also a room designated to showcase all its historical greatness.
You never know who’s going to stop in for a visit. Garth Brooks even popped in and did a surprise acoustic show In 2017.
On nearly any day of the week, you can grab some grub, then listen to some traditional country music and dance the night away -- or just watch the others dance the night away.
Schroeder Hall’s history begins in the late 1880s. Though construction began then, it would open as a school in 1892, along with a post office.
The first dance was held inside the hall on July 16, 1935, at which time men would pay an admission fee of 50 cents, while women and children were able to enter for free.
For many years, the bar and dance hall were separate, as alcohol was not allowed in dance halls at the time. It would be 1960 by the time beer was allowed inside. That same year, tables were added.
Country acts big and small have taken the stage: Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Kevin Fowler, Tracy Byrd and so many more.
The hall is still open every weekend, with live music and dances.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Willie Nelson? Floore’s Country Store, which has been open for 75 years, is known by many as the musical “birthplace” of Nelson.
According to the Floore’s website, Nelson immortalized the venue in his hit recording, “Shotgun Willie.”
The dance hall still packs crowds today, with popular musical acts, local bands and dances.
Floore’s has had artists like Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, Bob Dylan and so many more.
Visitors are still bellying up to the bar for cocktails or food nearly every day of the week.
Built in 1922, Albert Hall was a place intended for community gatherings, which included Saturday night dances.
At that time, German brass bands would rotate between the dance halls in the towns of Albert and Luckenbach, among others.
While many Texas dance halls began as a means of other sorts, this one has always just been that: a place for entertainment and dancing.
The ice house is still open every day of the week, and there is live music most nights.
There is quite a bit of history here. It’s worth noting that, although the establishment is under one roof, there are technically two main rooms in use now that were previously a number of things, all of which include a drugstore, a place where doctors practiced medicine and used a hand powered X-ray machine, a hardware store, grocery store, and it housed a newspaper called the “Coupland World Globe News.”
Now, inside one 7,000-plus-square-foot room is a dance hall and bar.
In the other room is a restaurant, with rooms for lodging on the second floor (usually just for weekend guests of the dances).
Coupland Dance Hall has been used as a set location for several movies, one of which was “Lonesome Dove,” and has been the backdrop for music videos, including a Spotify release of a George Strait single, “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar.”
The historic spot still has live music and dances every weekend.
If you’ve been to any of these, which is your favorite? Is there one you enjoy that we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear more in the comment section below.