With tens of thousands of out-of-towners headed to Austin over the next two weeks for SXSW, many first-time visitors ask the question, what makes Austin the place to be? While huge festivals and quirky events help make the city special, its truly the unique venues, local atmosphere and Texas flair that keep things weird in Austin. Youll see hundreds of articles and tips to prep you for your festival experience, but check out the Visitors Bureaus insider guide on some ways to experience Austin while in town for SXSW:
Near and around Campus
The Texas State Capitol (Congress Avenue & 11th Street) Everythings bigger in Texas, including the largest state house in the country. With free guided tours happening every 15 minutes, you can get away from the crowds, take a few historic pics, and learn something too.
University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center, Bullock Texas State History Museum, Blanton Museum, LBJ Library and more. (north of the Capitol) Want a few calm moments away from the storm? Head north to campus and visit a variety of free or inexpensive museums that help build the foundation of Austins growing arts and cultural scene.
South of Lady Bird Lake
Home Slice Pizza (1415 S. Congress Avenue) The concept of buying food during SXSW is a controversial one considering all of the freebies, but hear me out- this pizza is the JAM. Open every day during the festival (except Tuesdays, which are take-out only), you can pick up a variety of insanely good New York style pies and good times. You can even see a few performances on March 14-15, 2014 at Music by the Slice without getting caught in the crowds.
South First Food Trailer Court (Corner of S. 1st and Live Oak) Food trucks will probably be running rampant around downtown, but for a nice sit-down outdoor experience in the quirky south Austin, make a visit to this food court that features 6+ rotating and tasty places to eat.
Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds(1506 S. Congress) In business for more than 30 years, this costume and vintage shop is over 8,000 square feet of shopping in the South Congress area, and is an entertainment destination as much as a store. Visit and say hello to get a taste of what keeps Austin weird, and be sure to stop by some of the other great shops on this street such asAllens Boots,Maya Star, Kendra Scott and more.
Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake(Barton Springs Road, south of the lake) To get your dose of Vitamin D and see how the locals spend their time, escape some of the hustle and take a walk, jog, or bike ride along the Lady Bird Lake trail, connected to Zilker Park. You can make your circuit as long or as short as youd like, or just make a picnic out of your time in the scenic area. If running is more your style, check out this greatSXSW Runnin Roundupmap by Runtastic for some great trails!
The East Side
Haymaker, Mettle, Qui, Juan in a Million, Hillside Farmacy, The White Horse, Shangri-La and many more...(east of I-35) Austin's primary recreational activity is eating, so don't miss out on some award-winning favorites while you're investigating what gives Austin's newest and hippest neighborhood such a reputation. Packed with plenty of eats and bars to choose from, taking a longer walk, pedi-cab or bike ride across the highway will be worth your time.
Cenote(1010 East Cesar Chavez) Just a hop across the highway, Cenote is a great Austin-stop to relax and refresh over a delicious coffee and snack. Act like a local and pronounce this fabulous spots name correctly, see-note-ay.
Hops & Grain Brewery(507 Calles Street) Austins craft brew scene is thriving and nationally recognized, so be sure to grab a drink while youre checking out the local sites. There aremanydifferent excellent pubs and brewhouses around the city and downtown area, but if youd like to avoid some of the crowds, check out this in-house favorite brewerys new tap room, brewery tours and delightful crew.
Tips and Tricks
Avoid driving.Traffic during the conference can be heavy. Youll be a happier human if you walk, stick to public transportation, use healthy bike-rental options, or the take the fun pedicabs. Walk off your free tacos and cocktails until youre ready to head home, and consider this the most sage and valuable advice. All of the hot-spots on this list are within a reasonable walking distance, or just a short trip across I-35.
Hydrate and layer. I dont want to sound like your mother, but the Texas weather can be unpredictable at best. Between running from session to session and consuming a lot of other (less) healthy beverage options, youre going to want to stay alert, drink some H20, and be ready for any location or temperature.
How are you spending your time in Austin during SXSW? If you have any questions during your trip, be sure to tweet @VisitAustinTX or use our #trueaustin hashtag to get some insider tips along the way. We hope you have an excellent visit!