Hundreds of thousands of people are about to swarm the streets of Austin to listen to music, watch films, attend panels, network, eat, drink, and be merry….it’s time for SXSW!
SXSW started with just 700 attendees in 1987. Multiply that number by about 5,000X and you’re looking at a realistic image of ATX for the next few weeks. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s a wild ride….and you better be prepared!
I got your back, though. Here are 10 of my best tips to survive (and thrive!) during SXSW 2018:
1. PLAN, BUT JUST PLAN A LITTLE
My best piece of advice is to plan ahead, but be flexible because there’s often something better that comes along! Someone could give you some awesome media passes to an event, or a show you were gonna see might be sold out by the time you arrive. Be ready to go with the flow.
Not sure how to plan your schedule? Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
- Take a look at the official schedule to get your bearings.
- Follow @RSVPster on twitter for unofficial SXSW parties
- Follow @Do512 for events, ticket giveaways, and parties.
- Go to the official free events website.
- Search #SXSW on any social media site (twitter usually has the best links.)
2. DON’T DRIVE DOWNTOWN
It’s seriously not worth it. Austin is packed during SXSW, and you’ll end up in a frustrated mess if you try to find parking. Plan on doing one of these instead:
- ride sharing (Lyft is the official rideshare of SXSW. Use the code SXSWRIDE18 for $5 off your first ride.)
- CapMetro, Austin public transit service. (It’s not as legit as a city like Chicago or NYC, but Austin’s public transportation can get you pretty close to where you want to be.)
- Austin B-cycle, the bicycle sharing program.
3. PLAN SOME REST TIMES
This is especially important if you’re doing a full week of the festival! Plan some rest stops here and there (something other than just eating and drinking…you’ll be doing enough of that already, I promise!) Here are a few of my favorite things to do around Austin.
4. INDULGE IN THE AWESOME AUSTIN FOOD SCENE
(I can’t believe I didn’t list this as the first thing….)
Austin has an incredible food scene, and you need to try as much as possible! (Don’t worry…you can walk it all off.) Here are a few guides I’ve written to get you going:
You can also visit my Austin Index and search on your own terms by neighborhood, type of food, and time of day!
5. FIND YOUR COFFEE SHOPS
You’l need lots of caffeine for SXSW. There are always free energy drinks being thrown around, but if you want some of the very best coffee that you can find in downtown Austin, go to Houndstooth or Merit Coffee.
If you want to venture around the city, here’s my guide: 24 COFFEE SHOPS IN AUSTIN YOU SHOULD TRY
6. PAY ATTENTION TO THE SMALL VENUES
Big event spaces like Stubbs, Mohawk, and the Moody Theater will typically be the most expensive and hardest to get into. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and hear a tiny band you’ve never heard of in an event space no one is talking about. You’ll have photos and memories to share that no one else experienced, and you might find your new favorite band!
7. PACK LIGHT, AND BRING A PHONE CHARGER
I don’t go to any festivals without my Anker PowerCore 10000 for high speed phone charging on the go. I keep it in my purse (I always wear a small crossbody bag so my hands can be free) and I know that my phone can be charged at all times of the day and night.
8. CUTE AND COMFY CLOTHES
Tanks, shorts, flowy dresses, comfortable walking shoes (I’m always in my birkenstocks – I have this pair) and sunglasses. Unless you want to take pedicabs and ride shares everywhere, you’ll be walking a couple miles each day. Save your high heels for brunch, then you can duck back into your airbnb before heading out for the rest of the day in more practical shoes.
9. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME AT A BAD PANEL OR CONCERT
There are hundreds of things you could be doing at any given moment (prepare for FOMO!), so there’s no need to waste your time at an event if you can tell it’s not that good… You’re allowed to sneak out and move on to the next thing.
10. ENJOY SXSW, BUT ENJOY THE REST OF AUSTIN TOO
You’re in Austin, so explore it! Downtown is where most of the SXSW events will take place, but here are a few other cool things to squeeze into your schedule:
- Take a dip in Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool that stays at 68 degrees year round. Admission is just $8, or it’s free if you get in before 8 am!
- Wander the shops of South Congress…be sure to at Homeslice for a slice of their famous New York style pizza.
- Wander the restaurants of South First
- Go two stepping at the Broken Spoke
- Paddle board on Lady Bird Lake
- Hike in the greenbelt
- Visit the Texas State Capitol Building, the largest Capitol in the country (after the United States Capitol)
- Eat some BBQ (the line at Franklin will be madness, but if you want to stand in line for 7 hours, more power to ya! Otherwise, La Barbecue, Stiles Switch, Valentinas Tex Mex BBQ, and Micklethwait Craft Meats are all safe bets.)
Have any specific questions? You can always feel free to email me at kelsey(at)somuchlife(dot)com.
Have fun at SXSW!!