Are you as intrigued by the annual Luling Watermelon Thump as I was before I went? Passing through Luling, Texas on my way from Oklahoma City to Port Aransas, I saw the signs billowing above the streets, advertising Luling’s famous watermelon festival.
When we were lucky enough to be passing back during the Thump itself, we knew we had to get out and see it for ourselves!
Here are the best things to do at the Luling Watermelon Thump, plus tips for visiting! If you have more time to enjoy downtown Luling, check out my guide to what to do in Luling and my review of Luling’s famous Original City Market BBQ! If you’ll be in town as part of a larger Texas road trip, make sure to also stop at the Luling Buc-ee’s for snacks on your way in or out of town!
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What is a Watermelon Thump?
The Luling Watermelon Thump is a four-day celebration of all things watermelon plus great small town festival fun like a carnival and live music. The event is named after the thump one gives a watermelon to determine if it’s ready to eat.
To find a ripe watermelon, pick it up and hold it in your arms like a baby but slightly away from your body so that your core doesn’t absorb the sound or change the result.
Take your knuckles and knock on the watermelon. The sound should be hollow, round, and deep. Don’t buy a watermelon without listening to it first!
History of the Watermelon Thump in Luling, Texas
The first Watermelon Thump was held in 1954, which means we have some important Thump anniversaries coming up! The local elementary school principal, Hermon Allen, is credited with the idea of having an event to celebrate the local watermelon growers, who play an important role in the economy and success of the town.
Over the years, the Thump has become legendary in the area as one of the best small-town festivals in Texas.
When is the Watermelon Thump Festival?
The festival is held on the last full weekend of June every year and lasts for four days, from Thursday through Sunday. You can check the schedule for the year on WatermelonThump.com. This is also the best place to go to keep up with the latest news about upcoming Thumps as well as see pictures from last year and years passed.
How to Get to Luling
The easiest way to get to Luling is to drive, which is pretty much the easiest way to get anywhere in Texas that’s not in a big city. If you don’t have a car, I have tips for renting a car in Texas below.
Luling is a small town situated at the intersection of several important Texas highways. I-10 passes to the south, and State Highway 80, 90, and US 183 all pass through. Located near the major Texas cities of San Antonio and Austin, smaller Texas cities nearby include San Marcos, New Braunfels, Seguin, Gonzales, and Shiner.
You can see Luling as a day trip from any of these, or you can come and stay here overnight.
Austin to Luling
This is a quick trip that comes in under an hour. Take US 183 south all the way to Luling from Austin.
San Antonio to Luling
Another easy drive that takes less than an hour, to get to Luling from San Antion take I-10 East to Luling.
Houston to Luling
This trip to Luling from Houston takes about two and a half hours, so it’s definitely a long day trip to undertake. However, it’s doable, especially with multiple drivers. The drive is also pretty easy since you’ll take I-10 West the entire drive.
Corpus Christi to Luling
This drive is also two-and-a-half hours. To get to Luling from Corpus Christi, take US-183 North the entire route. Several alternate routes will shave ten minutes, but this one is the simplest.
Where to Stay in Luling
There are a few options for hotels in Luling, ranging from one to three stars.
If you’re looking for something a little nicer, the three-star La Quinta by Wyndham Luling includes amenities like a swimming pool, fitness center, and continental breakfast. Newly remodeled! See prices and reviews.
The Luling hotel with the best reviews, the Best Western Plus Longhorn Inn & Suites is a three-star hotel featuring updated TVs, free wifi, an outdoor pool, and a modern fitness center. There are also services here including the ability to pay for laundry if you’re on a long journey. See prices and reviews.
The Best Things to Do at the Luling Watermelon Thump
There’s so much to see and do at the Watermelon Thump that you won’t run out of ideas! Note that not every event takes place every day (the festival is spread out over four days, after all), so check the schedule for the date of any events you are particularly interested in.
Partake in the Festivities of the Thump Parade
The pageantry of the Watermelon Thump Festival is on full display here. It’s also another opportunity to see the Watermelon Thump Queen in action.
See the Big Melons Compete at the Champion Melon Judging
Exhibitors bring in the largest watermelons you’ve ever seen. Prizes are awarded. Legends are made. Winners take home thousands of dollars in prize money, but pride is also an important factor since it is such an important part of town history and lore.
Place the Winning Bid at the Champion Watermelon Auction
If you’ve ever really wanted to go home with your own prize watermelon (one that you didn’t have to grow yourself) then step right up. Otherwise, come to watch people spend outrageous amounts of cash on watermelons. Last year’s winner went for $6,000!
Proceeds from the auction support the town and help fund the next year’s Thump.
See Royalty at the Watermelon Thump Queen’s Coronation
One of the most interesting parts of the festival to me, campaigning for the Watermelon Thump Queen takes place before the festival and the new Thump Queen’s is coronated on the Friday of the Festival. Past winners’ gowns and other memorabilia can be found displayed in town, and the queen becomes a small-town living legend.
Enjoy the Weekend Full of Live Music
There are multiple places for live music, and your entrance ticket includes some of the performances while others are open to the public for free and some need separate tickets. Performances take place on the Main Stage in the Beer Garden as well as other spots throughout the weekend.
Concerts and dances are a great way to burn off all the fried carnival food you can indulge in here!
Enjoy a Slice of Automobile History at the Car Show
If you love classic cars, don’t skip out on the car show! This is also a great opportunity for photography enthusiasts to capture the classic vibes of Luling.
Experience the Madness of the Seed-Spitting Contest
If you’ve ever wanted to see people attempt to break world records by spitting watermelon seeds out of their mouths, then don’t miss this event! The World Championship Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest is held here in the designated “Luling Watermelon Thump Spitway.”
See the Future of the Thump with the Lil Growers
It should come as no surprise that an event cooked up by an elementary school principal has a place for future watermelon growers to toss their hat into the ring.
Delight Your Child with the Children’s Entertainment Options
There are concerts and live music performances specifically for children, plus face painting, kid-friendly rides, photo opportunities for littles, and more. My toddler didn’t quite get it (too young for most of the events), but I’m sure kids a bit older will find a lot to love here!
Root for the Contestants in the Watermelon Eating Contest
If you or your loved one ever wanted to win a melon-eating content, why not sign up yourselves! Otherwise, come to cheer on the contestants. Just stay out of the splash zone.
See the Goods for Sale at the Watermelon Market
There are lots of souvenirs and goods from Cowboy Hats to Christmas Ornaments to buy at the Vendor Expo, plus lots of watermelons around to purchase.
Enjoy the Tasty Treats of the Food Booths
No good carnival is complete without excellent food booths, and the Watermelon Thump will not disappoint you!
Get Your Adrenaline Fix on the Carnival Rides
Whether you like the peace of the carousel, the heights of the Ferris wheel, or want something a little bit more wild, there are tons of rides perfect for all ages.
Try Watermelon in a Variety of Forms
From ice cream to spirits to pies, the town of Luling has cooked up watermelon in nearly every form imaginable. The possibilities here are endless!
Try Your Luck in the Corn Hole Tournament
If you think you have what it takes, sign up! Otherwise, come to watch people throw things into small holes in wooden boards.
Explore Downtown Luling
The whole town gets in on the Watermelon Thump action, so if you skip walking around Main Street you will miss all the extra snacks, fun souvenirs, and displays with Thump history. Some of the former championship melon trophies are on display around town as well.
Here’s my full guide to things to do in Luling if you want to explore further!
Find the Perfect Watermelon to Take Home!
Don’t forget to shop for your own watermelon. We ate our souvenir watermelon a few days after getting home and it was the perfect sweet reminder of our time at the Thump!
Tips for Attending Your First Watermelon Thump
First, some days are free to attend and some days require ticket sales to get into the Live Music and Carnival Ride sections. You will need tokens and tickets for some of the drinks and events.
Second, carnival rides are not included. You can pay as you go or you can buy a pass. All-you-can ride passes are $25 for the carnival rides and are good for one day of the festival.
Third, bring cash. Most vendors will not take credit cards!
Finally, there are restrooms available and other important public amenities. You might want to bring your own hand sanitizer, just in case!