Welcome to Go Inside: Exploring Texas Culture! Brought to you by First Choice Power, this series will explore the legends and history that make up the meat and bones of the Lone Star State. Specifically, we’ll share our favorite indoor attractions to visit, which includes the great museums and quirky cultural outposts that fill the Texas landscape.
We spin our focus around this month to explore the Texan culture of the dance hall. The sweet melody of a fiddle, the spin and glide of a pair of cowboy boots across an old wooden floor, a stage posted up with live musicians, and the rhythmic movement of dancers are the sounds and vision of something that is authentically Texan.
Our state is covered in historical dance halls that still open their doors today to two-steppers, romantics, music lovers, and those attracted to the community that this truly Texan tradition is. Most of them hail from the Hill Country, and can be found within an hour of our state’s capitol.
Put on your dancing shoes and clear your Saturday night as we take you to our favorite dance floors that are as alive and inspired as ever.
Gruene Hall, Gruene
We begin our dance hall journey with Texas’ oldest dance hall in the beautiful and historic town of Gruene. Gruene Hall was opened in 1878, and hasn’t changed a whole lot since then.
A tin roof over head, side flaps to let the air circulate, and the same 6,000 square feet of dance space offered then as it does now, it’s a step back into another time. It’s a place that hosts up-and-coming singers and songwriters, as well as well established veterans, like Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville and George Strait.
The soul of the hall is to bring people together from all walks of life to enjoy music, and to attract those new and old at a little good old-fashioned Texas two-stepping, whether you’re a hipster, a drifter, a cowboy or a local.
The Old Coupland Inn and Dance Hall, Coupland
About 30 miles northeast of Austin is a small town that you’ll miss if you blink. The Old Coupland Inn and Dance Hall has a bed and breakfast, restaurant, and a dance hall, of course. An old grocery store was converted into this 7,000 square foot dance hall in 1992, and the bar and bar back were moved across the street from the once famous Coupland Tavern that was originally from the Palace Saloon in Schulenburg.
Live music graces this large stage for dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. They even host a teen night for those youngsters interested in a little two-stepping.
Need a place to rest your weary head? Stay the night and make a weekend of it. Check their schedule to see who’s playing this weekend.
John T. Floore’s Country Store, Helotes
This year the John T. Floore’s Country Store celebrates 75 years as one of the state’s most quintessential honky-tonks. Its roster of performers includes Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams, just to scratch the surface. And it is even referred to by many as the birthplace of Willie Nelson.
Opened in 1942, the store is not a store at all, but a one-of-a-kind Texas dance hall and cafe. Famous for its tamales and homemade bread, its Texas Cafe-style grub, along with ice cold beer, make it truly Texan.
Friday’s and Saturday’s are guaranteed live music and dance nights, but check the calendar for Thursday and Sunday gigs. Sunday nights are often free to get in, and reserved just for families.
Kendalia Halle, Kendalia
75 miles southwest of Austin lies the tiny town of Kendalia, home to Kendalia Halle, which opened in 1903. Every Saturday night, it is as though time stands still in this town, where dancing takes place from 8pm to midnight. But here’s the great part: free BBQ tacos are served while supplies last throughout the duration of the dance!
As history goes, folks traveled to Kendalia Halle way back when they had to travel by wagon, so it was a weekend event. Children slept on the benches surrounding the dance floor, food was brought for everyone to share potluck-style, and if anyone became too tipsy, they were chained to a tree outside until they sobered up!
The dance hall underwent renovations in 1996, and today is revered as one of Texas’ oldest, and funnest, halls. Check their schedule for who’s playing next, and be sure and bring cash only.
If you are already a patron of Texas dance halls and want to become a part of an organization that preserves this great tradition, check out The Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. The organization is saving this great Texas tradition one two-step at a time.