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The 2023 Guide to LEAF Festival in Central Texas

When it comes to unique art festivals, the Llano Earth Art Festival (LEAF) is one you don’t want to miss. It brings together various communities of artists for a weekend of fun, creativity, and lively entertainment.

No matter your skill or interest in art, there’s plenty to see and do. Organizers pack the schedule with opportunities for self-expression, education, and relaxation.

If you’re curious about the LEAF and whether or not it’s an event for you, keep reading. We’re sharing all you need to know about this festival to help you decide.

Let’s see how things stack up!

What is the LEAF Festival?

LEAF is an annual festival that takes place in Central Texas. The festival features the World Rock Stacking World Championship, which attracts hundreds of participants. Participants’ precision and creativity are nothing short of incredible. However, this contest is only one part of the weekend’s festivities.

Attendees can enjoy live music entertainment and delicious food. Additionally, they can witness the bizarre costumes from the Leafling Festie Fashion Circus Parade. There are also opportunities for kayaking, rock climbing, rock busting, and camping throughout the weekend.

The event first started in 2014 to increase tourism to the small town. One of the festival’s founders, Ron Anderson, said, “We had our naysayers the first year. We had no money, and there was a lot of skepticism.” However, he and the rest of the founders were surprised when the event attracted approximately 2,000 people in the first year. 

Attendance has increased year over year as attendees spread the word. Some attendees come year after year from as far as the United Kingdom, Australia, Scotland, and Spain. As we said, this is one event you don’t want to miss.

LEAF festival 2023 poster
Head to Texas to enjoy the LEAF festival.
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Where is the LEAF Festival?

LEAF takes place in Llano, a small Central Texas town approximately 65 miles northwest of Austin. Llano’s population of roughly 3200 more than doubles during the event.

The town and surrounding area are known for rolling hills and natural beauty. You’ll find several parks and lakes perfect for fishing, hiking, and camping. However, the city’s historic downtown is home to various local shops and restaurants that are also fun to explore.

During the late 1800s, the town was bustling due to the ranching and agriculture industry. Since then, the city’s focus has shifted, and it’s now a popular spot for artists and other creative individuals. The town comes alive with activity every year in the weeks leading up to LEAF.

If you plan to visit this area, be aware of the weather conditions and the potentially dangerous wildlife. It can be sweltering, and storms intensify with little notice. Additionally, various plants, reptiles, and insects will bite or sting you. Make sure you take the proper precautions and prepare accordingly.

As they say, don’t mess with Texas! 

Pro Tip: After exploring the LEAF festival, check out these 5 Cool Places in Texas.

World Rock Stacking Championship at the LEAF Festival

The World Rock Stacking Championship occurs during the Llano Earth Art Festival. Hundreds of participants gather under the Central Texas sun to compete against one another. There are a variety of competitions, including height, balancing, artistic, quantity, and rock skipping.

Some events are solo efforts; others have groups with as many as ten participants. There are even Junior categories for competitors ages eight to thirteen who want to compete.

With competitors flying in from all over the world, some take their artwork very seriously. But plenty of individuals and groups enter the competition with little or no experience whatsoever. With competitions lasting anywhere from three minutes to six hours, you never know what to expect. In rock stacking, one false move and the entire creation could collapse.

Pro Tip: Get some well earned R&R time on one of these 7 Best Beaches in Texas (and Awesome Nearby Campsites).

Other Things To Do Near the LEAF Festival

While experiencing LEAF is a fantastic time, it’s not the only thing to do in the area. Let’s look at a couple of places you should experience while visiting Llano. 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area’s name comes from a massive granite dome rock formation within its boundaries. The unique rock formation is 425′ tall and spans more than 640 acres. It has attracted people to the area for thousands of years. However, the state-run lands offer more to see and do than a single rock formation.

Hiking, camping, rock climbing, and stargazing are some of the most popular activities here. With approximately 11 miles of hiking trails and several rock climbing spots, it’s easy to spend the day outdoors. To scale the rocks, you must check in at the park headquarters before climbing. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t allow swimming or riding bikes within its boundaries.

See the Hill Country Wildflowers

LEAF occurs during March, the best time to experience the blooming wildflowers that paint the landscapes. Unfortunately, the quality and quantity of the wildflowers greatly depend on the weather the area experiences. They require a balance of temperature and moisture throughout the winter for the best conditions.

Typically, wildflower season runs from mid-March until the end of April. However, Mother Nature is unpredictable and tends to do whatever she wants. During the peak of wildflower season, the roads can get incredibly busy. Plan to take a trip during the week to avoid the crowds.

Just make sure that no matter what, you take only photos as souvenirs. Leave flowers where they are so others can enjoy them.

Best Places to Stay Near the LEAF Festival

To experience all that LEAF offers, you’ll need to state a few nights. Staying close to the event can help you enjoy the festivities as much time as possible. Luckily, there are some great camping options in the area. 

Camping at the LEAF Festival

If you want to camp at the festival, you’ll need to either tent or car camp. The facilities are unable to accommodate RVs. It’s important to know that tent or car campers must also have tickets to the event. Camping tickets don’t grant access to the event.

These rustic campsites are first come, first served but typically have an exciting atmosphere. Many groups work together to create themed camps. These are campsites decorated according to a particular theme for others to enjoy. While it’s not a requirement, it adds to the fun and excitement of the event.

Campers must practice leave-no-trace practices. You must properly dispose of all trash and return any rocks to where you found them at the end of the weekend. The event aims to leave the land and river in better shape than campers found.

Urban Cowboy Loft

If you want a bit more of a luxurious experience, you can rent a 1,500-square-foot historic loft on Airbnb. The Urban Cowboy Loft sits in the Railyard District, which means you’re only a short walk to LEAF and many restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities.

The loft provides everything you need to enjoy your stay in Llano. After a day of enjoying LEAF, you can come back and play a game of pool, work out on the exercise equipment, or stream your favorite shows. The kitchen space provides a microwave, refrigerator, and all the basics needed to enjoy a delicious meal. The Keurig ensures you have a piping hot cup of coffee to start your day.

The Dabbs Railroad Hotel

If you enjoy history, staying at the Dabbs Railroad Hotel is hard to beat. The Dabbs Railroad Hotel has been accepting guests since the early 1900s. The business is part hotel and part railroad museum. You’ll find information documenting the times when the Texas railroad industry thrived.

However, the hotel has a somewhat darker side. There are suspicions that paranormal activity occurs at the hotel. Many believe the ghosts of former bank robbers, outlaws, and gold prospectors wander the halls. For a short time, the hotel even served as a bordello. It was the wild west, after all!

The Dabbs Railroad Hotel is home to six rooms. Guests to the hotel can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, which includes baked pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and various other tasty treats. Enjoy your delicious breakfast in the dining room, or take it outside onto the scenic patio to view the Llano hillside.

Is a Road Trip to the LEAF Festival Worth It?

Whether you enjoy art or not is irrelevant. LEAF is one art festival worth experiencing in person. Seeing the participants’ excitement as they compete in the various contests may ignite your inner competitive side.

Attending the workshops is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and expand your worldview. Learning doesn’t have to be boring or mundane, and many of the workshops at the event demonstrate just that.

If your adventures have you passing through Central Texas in March, you should plan to attend the festival. Just be sure you take plenty of pictures!

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