You really don’t need a badge to experience SXSW. While you will obviously miss out on many shows, films, and interactive events without one, anyone on a budget can have fun in Austin during our famous festival. Because we love you, we’ve produced this simple guide to doing just that: Loving SXSW, even without a badge. Let’s get to it!

3.) Buy Your film tickets individually

Photo: Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Creative Commons licensed

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Did you know you can theoretically get into any SXSW film without a badge? As pointed out on the SXSW website, in response to a query about single-ticket admission into film screenings:

These will go on sale about 15 minutes prior to screening time if there is still seating available. The single admission ticket price is $12 for all screenings. In 2016, single admission ticket buyers had great success attending films at our larger venues, including the Paramount Theatre, Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center (ACC), Topfer Theatre at ZACH and Rollins Theatre at The Long Center.

Of course, if it’s a small theatre or there’s a big name actor in the film, your chances of getting in decrease as it’s bound to fill up with badge holders. Still, worth trying. (Also helpful: Planning. Here’s the SXSW Film schedule for 2017, check back for regular updates.)

2.) Go to the free day shows

Photo: Flickr user incase, createive commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user incase, Creative Commons licensed

Many bands and musicians play free day shows before their evening badgeholders-only shows. Check out the SXSW free page and be sure to check the social media pages of your favorite band and musicians to see if they’re playing. Also super helpful is the service RSVPster, which automatically registers you for the events you’ll want to check out and then produces a list of activities for a small fee. That’s crazy cool!

1.) Cruise the unofficial events

<I>Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nanpalmero/5553469858" target="_blank">Flickr user Nan Palmero</a>, creative commons licensed.</I>

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, Creative Commons licensed

They may not be officially recognized by SXSW, but there are tons and tons of unofficial festival events going on that most badge-holders don’t even know about. Start with The Austin Chronicle‘s ultimate guide to unofficial SXSW parties. You may be surprised at how many there are and how quality some of these events are. Another great resource is the Unofficial SXSW Twitter account, which constantly chronicles newly announced shindigs you don’t need a fat wallet to enjoy.

And one bonus tip (if you hadn’t seen it already): Austin.com’s events calendar is chock full of fun stuff every single day of the week. That’s a great place to start no matter what else is going on around town.

See? No SXSW badge, no problem! Get ready to revel in this magnificent festival — immediately!


Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, Creative Commons licensed

Jon Fortenbury, Laurie Lyons, and Stephen C. Webster contributed to this article.

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