SXSW Survival Tips From An Austin Local

This will be my 5th year attending SXSW, and I am more excited than ever before.  The coming weeks will bring an influx of amazing artists, some of whom we’ve worked with over the past year, as well as friends and co-workers coming to town to cover the festival. Now that I live here, having my own place that I can go back to whenever I need adds an instant element of comfort, and I’m applying my learnings from previous years to make this the least stressful and most fun SXSW yet. Here are some of my tips for surviving SXSW, be sure to share yours in the comments!


Where to stay

If you’re traveling to Austin for the festival, don’t even bother with a hotel. Not only do the ones downtown book up pretty quickly, the prices are insane. Airbnb is the way to go. A lot of Austin residents plan their vacations during SXSW, or even stay with friends/relatives, and rent out their places. Find a cute little house with your fellow travelers and get a much more authentic Austin experience.


How to get around

Don’t bother with a car, either. With so many festival goers descending on the city, driving can become nearly impossible and more of a headache than it’s worth. Austin does not have great public transportation, but it’s a relatively small city and you can walk or bike to most places. Another option during the festival is the pedicab – they’re everywhere, and can be a ton of fun :)

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What to wear

Austin weather is so unpredictable. It can be freezing in the morning, hot during the day, and cold again at night. If you’re going to be out all day and into the night, wear layers.  Think easy, light jackets or layered shirts you can take off and tie around your waist or toss into a bag as the sun warms up the sky. And of course, comfortable shoes – don’t make the mistake of wearing those cute new boots you haven’t broken in yet, you want maximum comfort for dancing the night away!

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What to eat: Indulge in breakfast tacos, Topo Chico, and coffee

After a night of music and dancing and running around, there is no better way to start your day than with a breakfast taco and Topo Chico. It’s a fact. If you aren’t familiar, Topo Chico is sparkling water found everywhere in Austin and for some reason it’s just better than other sparking water. Another thing I’ve learned since moving here is that Austin takes its coffee very seriously, and there are a lot of amazing coffee shops. Find your favorite, and make that your place to start out the day or regroup with friends when you need to escape the madness of SXSW. Some of my favorites: Friends & Neighbors, Hillside Farmacy, Flat Track, Brew & Brew.

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Keep your plans flexible

If you try and plan out your entire schedule, you’ll only end up being disappointed when you inevitably miss some of the shows you wanted to see. It’s just not possible to see it all.  I usually pick two or three shows I definitely want to see, and leave everything else up to chance – I’ve actually stumbled upon some of the best shows that way.

6th street

Avoid 6th street when possible

I tend to avoid this street altogether, because during the festival it is complete mayhem. If there’s a show on 6th street that you really want to see, be sure to get there early, and otherwise, stay away. There’s plenty of amazing stuff happening in the outskirts, on the East Side and South Congress/South 1st area.


You don’t need a badge to see great music

I’ve done the festival with and without a badge, and it’s pretty much been the same experience. Check out the unofficial parties going on – Hotel San Jose, the ABGB, and Waterloo Records are good spots to catch some amazing bands for free!

Be sure to join us on Friday, March 20th for the #FPFestivalDays kickoff showcase!

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Take some time to go vintage shopping

Austin has some of the best vintage in the world — take advantage while you’re here! You probably won’t have time to check out all of the amazing shops, but here are some of my favorites: Friends and Neighbors, Feathers, Laced with Romance (pictured above), Room Service, and if you have a lot of time – get lost for hours in the Austin Antique Mall (pictured below).

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+ Who’s coming to town for the festival? Let’s meet at the #FPFestivaDays showcase!

Stay tuned for more SXSW coverage and event info!

Follow Julia on Instagram and Twitter.

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7 years ago

I don’t know much about Austin after watching beautiful photo now i will soon plan to travel this beautiful city thanks for sharing this photos.

7 years ago

Those are awesome + thoughtful tips, the vintage shopping does look incredible.

Courtney x

7 years ago

I’m looking into Austin colleges, so this is very helpful!

Sharing this with my friends galavanting down south for SXSW!

7 years ago

Hey! Austin native here and avid cyclist. I was literally ran over by a driver who was simply not paying attention in January. PLEASE wear a helmet and make sure your bicycle has lights if you rent a bike, especially downtown where there are, unfortunately, inevitable drunk drivers. I know it’s dorky or whatever, but seriously. I have spinal and pelvic fractures and a mangled bike because some guy was texting

7 years ago

Please let us know when you use a photo from our home. They keep popping up on here

7 years ago

Great show at Austin and SXSW. It looks you enjoy and will come back again next year.

5 years ago

This is a great post that everyone who visits SXSW for the first time should read. Lots of useful information, will definitely share this article with others.