Things to do (and not do) in Austin the last weekend of SXSW
March 1, 2018 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I will be in downtown Austin March 17th and 18th with the late afternoons and evenings free. It won't be worth buying a SXSW pass for that limited amount of time but I know there's usually other events that run concurrently (as well as St. Patrick's Day). Any recommendations on things to do and things to avoid?

I'll be just south-east of the Capital and just north of the prime SXSW area and without a car, so things that are easy to walk or take public transit (if it's not swamped) to are good.

I'm fine with paying for things so it doesn't have to be restricted to free shows. I don't mind being in crowds as long as they're not drunk but I abhor standing in line forever. Does RSVPing to the various non-SXSW events actually mean you can make it through the door in a reasonable amount of time or does it mean queuing up for an hour?

I like pretty much any type of music other than metal and have a fondness for ethnic music and Townes Van Zandt style country. Unfortunately, none of the bands at the free SXSW stage the 17th really push my buttons. Art exhibits or interesting theater options would also be of interest. I'm not interested in films.

It looks like and are two dominant online schedules of what's going on?

I also enjoy ethnic and interesting food and will be in the area all week, so any must-try restaurant suggestions are also appreciated.
posted by Candleman to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sahara Lounge is amazing and it looks like they're hosting their annual unofficial Brazil showcase that weekend. It's bus-able from anything I'd describe as southeast of the capitol. Download the CapMetro app and you can pay on your phone/not have to carry quarters. Kenny Dornham's Backyard is very worthwhile, though I don't know what they're playing for the festival. Blackstar Co-op is my recommendation for everyone who visits Austin, but particularly during SXSW - just take the train up, the northbound trains are empty except after 10pm. It's been dead in years pass and their beer and food is *kissfingers*. The avocado club is the best vegetarian sandwich in Austin. Someone fight me.

The Austin Chronicle also has a decent online calendar and I prefer it to do512: the listings are better curated. Generally, the showcases that are in *not* central downtown tend to be a better experience. I don't know if they're still doing the free shows at Auditorium Shores (big park just south of downtown) this year, but even though they're very crowded I think the experience is worthwhile having.

As for anything in the center of town or places that are normally "can't miss in Austin"...look, coming during SXSW is its own thing, and really the best experience of it will be to go with the expectation of just experiencing the festival. I worked in the tourist industry downtown for a long time and will never go there willingly during the fest, but I still volunteering with the local B-Cycle because it's fun just to watch the crowds and not be constantly worried that I'm missing out on something. Wander the fest, eat somewhere not in downtown, find a nice showcase or two and make sure you're out of the 6th street area before ten or so if you don't like drunken crowds.

Oh, and yeah, RSVPing to free things usually means standing in line forever.
posted by theweasel at 5:46 PM on March 1, 2018

Waterloo records has great free shows during the days
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:04 PM on March 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 90% of SXSW is not part of the official showcases. Any place within a mile of downtown that has a place to plug in a microphone will have an event going on. Bars, restaurants, parks, churches, you name it. I second looking in the Austin Chronicle and also googling "SXSW RSVP list". There are people who maintain giant lists of all the free parties and events.

If you want to stay out of all that mess, if the weather is nice you can go paddle boarding on Town Lake or hiking in the Greenbelt. Both are in town so accessible by public transit and ride shares. (In fact, there is a local co-op ride share called Ride Austin). You could also play board games at Vigilante or help yourself to an amazing meal at Barley Swine, or both in the same night. Those areas are out of the way of the hubbub.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:32 AM on March 2, 2018

Best answer: Oh, and for "ethnic and interesting food" you have to try Kemuri Tatsu-ya.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:34 AM on March 2, 2018

Also, Daruma Ramen. Nom!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:42 AM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Daruma Ramen is on 6th Street, in the thick of all the SXSW weekend parties. It has very limited seating on a good day, so it's likely impossibly during SXSW. The same owners sell ramen at Kome though, which has a larger menu and is awesome all around. Kome takes reservations.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you want ramen, the place to go is Ramen Tatsu-ya.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 3:32 PM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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