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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!
1.) Get a SXSW Guest Pass
When going the free route, the most important thing to do is get a SXSW Guest Pass. The guest pass gets you into all sorts of things. In the past, guest pass holders could attend: SXSW Outdoor Stage, SXSW Wellness Expo, SXSW Marketplace, Flatstock 69, and more! Through the end of SXSWeek, all free events will be announced through the Guest Pass email list. It’s easy to get one — just sign up for emails here.
2.) Buy your film tickets individually
Did you know you can theoretically get into any SXSW film without a badge? As pointed out on the SXSW website:
If seats still remain, single admission tickets will be sold for $15 starting 15 minutes before showtime. We sell tickets most often at our larger venues: The Paramount Theatre, Atom Theater at the Austin Convention Center, and ZACH Theatre.
Of course, if it’s a small theater 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 2020, check back for regular updates.)
3.) Go to the free day shows
Many bands and musicians play free day shows before their evening badgeholders-only shows. Keep an eye on the SXSW website and be sure to check the social media pages of your favorite band and musicians to see if they’re playing. Also super helpful are the services RSVPster and Unofficial SX Guide. They’re dedicated to automatically RSVP-ing you all the parties. There is a fee but compared to a badge and the time and effort it will take to sign up for all those events, it might just be worth it.
4.) Cruise the unofficial events
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. We will be sharing some of these events as the festival gets closer to bookmark these pages: Austin.com, FreeFunInAustin.com, and ATXgossip.com. In fact, we’ve already started posting about the free SXSW 2020 Interactive parties. You may be surprised at how many there are and how quality some of these events are. Another great resource is the SX Unofficial 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
Dani Dudek, Jon Fortenbury, Laurie Lyons, and Stephen C. Webster contributed to this article.