A Local Guide to SXSW

 How to tackle Austin during the festival!

Let me start by saying that having only lived in Austin for a little over a year, I don’t personally consider myself a “local.” BUT, this will be my sixth SXSW, and I’ve also spent the last year befriending a lot of locals, so I think I can definitely shed some wisdom on the chaotic ten or so days that are Southby. Austinites have varied opinions on SXSW, and most would rather leave it than take it, but I still love it. The city is buzzing with all different types of energy, from music to art to film to wide-eyed wonder and excitement. As long as you know what to do and what to avoid, it can be a blast. For those of you who are new to the city or the festival, here are some things I’ve learned over the years…


Think outside the box.

And by box, I mean Dirty Sixth and Rainey. It’s crazy to me that the first couple of times I came to SXSW, I thought those were the only places to go. I found myself waiting in endless lines, badge and all, to get into a packed bar where I spent more time trying to get my footing than actually enjoying any music. This year I’m excited to check out some of the other events going on during SXSW; for example, Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion. The annual event organized by the Nelson family takes place on Willie’s ranch just outside the city, and tickets are limited to keep the crowds away. In addition to Willie himself, this year will bring Jenny Lewis, Lucius, Blitzen Trapper, and more to the ranch.

I know the idea of getting up early during Southby is scary, but every year local radio station KUTX puts together an awesome lineup of early shows at the Four Seasons. Ten dollars will get you in, with breakfast tacos and unlimited coffee to boot. Another thing I’m excited to do this year is attend a show on a boat. Local venue Hotel Vegas organized several great shows that will take place far from the downtown crowds – on a boat in the middle of Lady Bird Lake. Anyone can purchase tickets, and the boats have open bars ;).


Support local

If you are coming into Austin from elsewhere, do your part to give back to the city and support the local artists – music and makers. A couple of great venues to check out local artists are Hotel Vegas and Barracuda. In addition to all of the awesome local talent, Thee Oh Sees are playing five nights in a row at Vegas and always put on a phenomenal show. Just make sure to get there early.

In addition to our amazing music scene, Austin also has some incredible artists and makers. SXSW is an opportunity for them to share their work with all of the visitors in town for the festival. A great spot in which to catch them is South By San Jose, Hotel San Jose’s annual SX event. Vendors include some of the city’s best vintage slingers, Feathers, Charm School Vintage, Headdress, Laced with Romance and The Fox Den. Our good friends Manready Mercantile will be there, as well as pop-ups from a couple of my favorites, Fort Lonesome and Catchtilly.


Be prepared to walk.

Don’t even bother driving. With thousands of people – the president included – descending on the city, getting anywhere by car will often take longer than if you were to walk. Biking is an even better option, if you have a bike or can rent one. I enjoy walking everywhere during SXSW – it gives you more opportunity to take in all the sights and sounds of Southby… plus, you may walk by a bar you had no intention of going to and be drawn inside by the sweet sounds of a band you’ve never heard of but are about to become a fan of.


Eat all the breakfast tacos.

And the non-breakfast tacos. It’s a quick, easy meal, that also happens to be freaking delicious. There are tons of taco joints in town, so try as many as you can – but I’m partial to Vera Cruz.

+Hope everyone has a blast at SXSW this year – if you have any tips be sure to share them in the comments!

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