Guide to Austin's Best Festivals: SXSW, ACL, etc.


A Guide to Austin’s Best Festivals

Been-there tips to help you get the most out of Austin’s best festivals.


South by Southwest (SXSW)

South-by is a week-long festival at the beginning of March that occupies the entire downtown area. With thousands of performers and over 100 venues, the key to having a good time at South-by is to plan ahead. If you don’t plan ahead, you might accidentally miss the show you desperately wanted to see. (And subsequently, you might have to settle for watching a subpar dubstep show at a venue that offers free warm beer. Yikes.) Though known primarily for it’s music festival, South-by is actually a three-in-one package. The interactive festival gives you an inside look at technology of the future. Experts in the field deliver presentations about digital creativity and entrepreneurship. If you’re not moved by technology and you’d rather hear famous people talk, then go to the film festival. Influential names in film are interviewed and asked to shed insight on film as both an industry and an art-form. In addition, film screenings are hosted to showcase the best of the best of story-telling.

A Guide to Austin’s Best Festivals

With all that excitement packed into one week, it’s no wonder South-by is an expensive ordeal. BUT – it doesn’t have to be. The great thing about South-by is that so many shows and day-time parties are completely free. A lot of them even offer free food and beverages. I saw one of my favorite solo artists, Kimbra (featured in Gotye’s hit “Somebody That I Used To Know”) a few years ago for free. I also got to see The Shins play that year without spending a single dime. Whether you attend all the festivals or just one (or even if you just mooch off of the free stuff, which is what Austinites do) South-by is one of those bucket list events that everyone has to partake in at least once in their lives.


  • Create an itinerary. Map out what you’re going to do each day.
  • Book your hotel months in advance because rooms fill up quick.
  • Pack tank-tops AND a winter jacket. Texas weather is fickle during the limbo between winter and spring.
  • Avoid intoxicated maniacs.
  • Keep your eye out for celebrities. They’re everywhere, hiding beneath huge aviators. A couple years back, a friend of mine was bummed about having to work during South-by until P. Diddy walked in and asked if it was cool that he didn’t make a reservation. She told him it was cool.

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Sarah enlightens us on a daily basis with the newest trends as (and often before) they transpire. She is the consummate globe trotter. Having traveled to over 70 countries, she earns her living writing, blogging and modeling while on the road. In her spare time she gets manicures, suntans on yachts in Greece, shops for even more shoes, and lives in the limelight. She loves photography, elephants, sailboats, bangles and ballet flats.

Reader Discussion: 172 Comments

  1. Sharon Payson

    Staying hydrated is one of the tips that most of us who adore going to music festivals ignore. I’ve experienced getting really dehydrated to the point that I could barely keep up with the energy of the crowd. That was one of my worst experiences ever. Preparation truly is a key.

    • TARA

      Sunscreen and water is a must-have when you travel to Austin.

  2. Arthur Mence

    I have never been too much into the festival but I’ve been this year to the SummerFest in Milwaukee and I enjoyed it a lot. I only regret that they take every single bottle you have and they throw it, and then you have to pay 5 bucks for a new one inside! Why?? Do you really want people to die inside?

  3. Mira Kent

    If you’re in a budget, it’s good to know there are free day-time parties.

    • Kay Douglas

      Traveling doesn’t always have to be expensive. You just have to find the right itineraries.

  4. Mary Shirley

    This article made me fear being sunburned because of how frequent she mentioned it.

    • Sandra Walling

      Emphasis on the sunblock. Let’s not get dehydrated and sunburned.

  5. Ivelisse Ervin

    Be mindful of what you eat. People tend to get excited with all the foodcarts and forget not to mix onions with milk. Don’t eat too much even if that’s the best feeling on earth.

  6. Terri East

    Have fun and enjoy the festival. Nobody wants to see anyone frowning or sulking. #MoodBusters

    • Jerrie Ridlon

      Positive vibes ONLY.

  7. Sharon Novak

    Make sure your backpack supports the weight of the stuff inside properly. The straps shouldn’t be hurting your shoulders.

  8. Delores Mullen

    Bring cash and spare change. Don’t ask to pay with a credit card. Geez.

    • Bernice Miles

      A shoutout to the princesses out there that shell out big bills for tacos.

  9. Cindy Simon

    It’s also important to wear your most comfortable shoes.. Make sure you wear shoes that won’t hurt your feet or you’ll be crawling on your way back to the hotel.

    • Cathy Mitchell

      Be sure to bring two pairs of shoes, in case you break one like I did. Not funny to be naked feet all the time, and pretty dangerous I must say ^^

  10. Ann Amos

    Stay hydrated peeps! If you ain’t sweating, you ain’t having fun.

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