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A First-Timer's Guide to Enjoying SXSW
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A First-Timer's Guide to Enjoying SXSW

Mar 7th, 2016

The largest and most highly anticipated music festival of its kind, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an experience to savor and enjoy. The action starts this Saturday, March 11, 2016 and runs for 10 days. Knowing what to expect and how to navigate SXSW will help you make the most of your first experience and keep from getting overwhelmed. Keep in mind these tips as you make your plans for SXSW 2016, a truly unforgettable and one-of-a-kind event.


South by Southwest is best known in popular culture as a music festival, but it’s much more than that. It’s an interactive conference with film, technology, and other media components. Know what you’re looking to get out of your time at the conference, and plan for your experience accordingly.

Be Prepared

How do you prepare for SXSW? The answer to this question should depend on your aim and how far you’ll be traveling. If you’re coming in from out of town, you’ll have to sort out accommodations and orient yourself with Austin’s layout. If you live in downtown Austin apartments, you’ve got a leg up on almost everyone. Regardless of whether you’re a local or an out-of-towner, there are a few things everyone must figure out.

Transportation is a biggie. Residents of the 2nd Street District, like those at AMLI Downtown or AMLI on 2nd, can walk to many SXSW events, but anyone planing on driving should research parking options and prices in advance. There are also essentials to have on you at all times: Sunscreen, umbrella, ear plugs, and portable phone charger so you can keep in touch with friends and use event apps the entire time you’re out and about.

Apps Can Help

SXSW GO, the official event app, is extremely helpful for planning your SXSW experience and finding your way between events. FourSquare can be used to find out who’s at certain events and help your friends find you as well. GroupMe is another social connection app that is fairly popular among locals attending SXSW. It’s essentially a private chat room for your small group allowing for streamlined communication when coordinating meetup places and times.

Keep an Eye Out for Free Events

It is possible to attend events every day of the SXSW music festival without paying for a badge of any kind. Look closely at events that interest you most when evaluating what ticket package to buy. In general, events labeled as parties are free to attend and those labeled as showcases (including almost all evening events) require a pass to enter. This year’s showcasing artists include Caveman, Crystal Castles, Block Party, and The Moondanglings.

Eat and Drink Well

The music, the movies, the tech previews, and the networking you do at SXSW are likely to go down as highlights of your experience. But the most memorable moments of the festival are made even better when coupled with good food and drink. And there’s no shortage of either at and around the more than 100 Austin venues participating in the event. Use the excuse to eat out as an opportunity to visit some of your soon-to-be-favorite Austin food trucks and restaurants.

Leave Room for Spontaneity

It’s smart to have a general plan that guides you through the days you spend at SXSW. Almost as important as having a plan, however, is leaving room for spontaneity. Allow buffer time between events that are important for you to attend so you don’t have to rush around. You’ll want ample downtime with your friends or other festival goers you’ve bonded with at shows. Pace yourself, and don’t try to pack so much into a single day or evening that you’re too exhausted to do anything the following day.

With thousands of bands lined up to play and several other events taking place, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide how to spend your time at SXSW. Research, prioritization, and planning beforehand are crucial. Go with the flow if anything changes, and remember to Live Life + Love Life at the festival!

Are you a SXSW veteran? Share any tips you have for newbies in the comments below.

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