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The two week long beast that is South by Southwest is almost here. If you’re looking to avoid SXSW and stay away from the madness that will flood downtown, this one’s for you!
While people from all over the WORLD come to Austin for the festival’s music, film, and tech events, many Austin locals wish to steer clear of all that craziness. If you’re one of those such locals, here are our picks for alternative activities, restaurants, bars, and more. But whatever you choose do, heed our warning: do not drive through downtown!
Austin.com is and always has been a site that celebrates and promotes the unique people and places of Austin, TX and surrounding cities. Though many businesses, locations, and events are closed at this time, we continue to highlight those things so that you can plan to experience them in the future.
Our Top Restaurant Pick
Waterloo Ice House Burnet Road
8600 Burnet Road
Opening their first location on South Congress in 1976, Waterloo Ice House has since become an Austin staple. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks — you’ll find it here. Waterloo Ice House starts serving breakfast at 7 a.m. on the weekdays with dishes like biscuits and gravy, the Waterloo Benedict, and breakfast tacos. Lunch and dinner feature a blend between Mexican and American with dishes like Waterloo Fajitas, burgers, and wings. This restaurant is also a great place if you’re looking to escape the SXSW madness with the family as they have a large kids menu plus a playground with large patio, game room, and plenty of TVs.
Apis Restaurant and Apiary
23526 Highway 61 West, Spicewood, Texas
Escape Austin completely and take the 30 minute drive to Spicewood for dinner and drinks. Apis is an elegant, local sourced restaurant and apiary that offers Hill Country views and exquisite dining experiences. Each night of the week, Apis offers a pre fixe menu created by Chef Taylor Hall. Each item on the menu is inspired by the ecologically critical honeybee and its bounty.
Foreign & Domestic
306 East 53rd Street
Located just a little north of downtown Austin, this neighborhood American-European fare offers a creative menu and abides by a nose-to-tail approach when preparing their dishes. Chef Sarah and Chef Nathan come from a background where quality food was important and a huge part of their life. In addition to an incredible dinner menu, Foreign & Domestic also serves a killer brunch with dishes like steak and eggs or blueberry crepes. Come for the biscuits, stay for the happy hour deals.
Southside Market and Barbecue
1212 US-290, Elgin, TX
The chances of all the out-of-towners wanting to get their BBQ fix while in Austin is pretty high. If you’re craving BBQ during SXSW, we recommend venturing about 40 minutes outside of Austin to Elgin. Southside has been serving locals since 1882 and is doing it right. William Moon, founder of Southside, began selling sausages out of his wagon which eventually led to the physical restaurant in 1886. While they’re famous for their hot sausage, the lamb is the real star of their menu. Don’t want to make the drive to Elgin to get their BBQ? Southside recently opened a second location in the Shops at Arbor Walk on 10515 North Mopac Expressway.
Olive & June
3411 Glenview Avenue
Tucked into the neighborhood jus off Mopac, this elegant yes also casual Italian restaurant offers incredible dishes with a wine list that can’t be beat. Executive Chef and Owner, Shawn Cirkiel, designed Olive & June to be a place where you could come for date night or with your family. They offer small plates and antipasti, and larger pasta dishes with their fresh, homemade noodles. Every Sunday, Olive & June offers a family-style meal in addition to their menu. This pre fixed menu changes weekly and offers options for kids. Sit outside on their beautiful patio that was built around an existing tree, or grab a booth on one of the many levels inside.
Lala’s Little Nugget
2207 Justin Lane
Located in a strip mall, Lala’s is sure to be free of all the SXSW goers. Founded in 1972, they keep their Christmas decorations up all year round and serve a mean cocktail. The staff is super friendly and gives off that neighborhood/hole in the wall feel. Pro tip: there’s great BBQ next door.
The Little Darlin’
6507 Circle S Road
If you’re looking for live music during SXSW and don’t want to stand in a long line that only folks with badges are getting into, head south to The Little Darlin’. This neighborhood watering hole features tons of craft beer, food, and a big back yard with games. Escape the crowds and relax with the locals!
10212 Menchaca Road
Head a little South on Manchaca for this completely outdoor bar and music venue. Slushies, local beer, corn hole, food trucks — everything you could want to escape SXSW on a weekend day. Not only can you bring your pups, but you can play sand volleyball on one of their three courts.
Sam’s Town Point
2115 Allred Drive
If you’re looking for fancy cocktails and plush interior, this is not the place. Think of your best friend’s grandpa’s house that they decided to put a bar into. It’s unpretentious, divey, and serves the coldest Lonestars. They occasionally have music, but during SXSW the place will be packed with locals and all kinds of musicians. Pro tip: Dottie’s chair at the bar is off limits.
Live Music Events
Circle Brewing Co. 9th Anniversary Party
Saturday, March 14 | 1 to 5 p.m. | Circle Brewing Co., 2340 West Braker Lane
Join Circle Brewing Co. as they raise a glass to nine years! Live music all day as well as food trucks. In honor of their birthday celebration, they’ll be tapping specialty casks that will be available only during the party. Entry to the party is completely free. $20 gets you a custom anniversary glass and three beer pours.
50 Bands Over 5 Days
March 17 through 21 | Various time | Still Austin Distillery, 440 East Saint Elmo Road
Still Austin, a local whiskey and gin distillery in South Austin, is hosting an independent music showcase featuring 50 bands. There’s no wristband or badge required, plus this event is completely free. Listen to some of the best emerging artists from around the country while sipping on hand-crafted cocktails and participating in a live spray painting. $5 from every gin and whiskey bottle sold will go toward Heath Alliance for Austin Musicians. HAAM provides affordable healthcare for Austin’s low-income working musicians.
Cosmic Coffee & Beer Garden
March 18 through 22 | Various times | 121 Pickle Road
Cosmic Coffee is setting up their outdoor stage again this SXSW with Sun Radio Sessions. Bring the dog, grab a beer or cocktail inside, and relax outside while you are out of the SXSW craziness.
MouthX Mean Eyed
Thursday, March 19 | 4 to 11 p.m. | Mean Eyed Cat, 1621 West 5th Street
While you’re still technically in downtown Austin, we’re hoping the outskirts won’t be super crazy like the heart of downtown. If you’re looking for live music during SXSW, head over to Mean Eyed Cat for shows benefitting Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and Capital Area Dental Foundation. MouthX Mean Eyed is featuring performances from Roadie, Sally Semrad, The Michael Hale Trio, and more! Shelley King is scheduled to take the stage at 4:30 p.m.
Yeast by Sweet Beast 202
March 13 through 15 | 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Spider House Cafe & Ballroom, 2908 Fruth Street
Spider House is one of the quirky bars we’ve been to. With the very eclectic decor inside and out, this bar isn’t well known to visitors. Spider House will be hosting their Yeast by Sweet Beast during SXSW featuring experimental and outsider music. They have a full lineup with bands from all over, highlighting those from Texas. If you’re hungry, there’s plenty of delicious vegan food trucks on site.
More Events & Activities
March 6 through 27 | from 7 to 11 p.m. | Hatchet Alley, 443 Bastrop Highway
Escape the SXSW madness at Austin’s newest axe throwing facility. Every Friday night in March, Hatchet Alley will be hosting Fun Time Friday. In addition to axe-throwing, you can play bocce ball and football bowling. The 12,000 square-foot facility is B.Y.O.B. but will offer beer as well as $5 off 1-hour axe throwing sessions and half-priced bowling. Bookings can be made in advance, walk-ins are welcome.
John Douglas “The Man Who Paints Rock & Roll”
March 6 through 15 | From 6 to 9 p.m. | Russell Collection Fine Art, 1009 West 6th Street
Join the world-renowned drummer, John Douglas, at this FREE event as he showcases his North American Art Tour. Not only is John Douglas’ artwork of rock and roll icons some of the most famous and highly collected among celebrities and art enthusiasts around the world, but Douglas has toured the globe with multi-platinum musicians including ZZ Top, Slash, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. On Saturday, March 14 from 6 to 9 p.m., Douglas will be at the gallery!
Pups Night Out Wine Walk
Thursday, March 12 | From 5 to 9 p.m. | The Hill Country Galleria, 12700 Hill Country Boulevard
Bring your fury friends out for a night out! Walkers and wine enthusiasts will start at Healthy Pet to pick up a map of the Wine Walk, and the map will also serve as a ticket for each wine walk stop. This event is open to everyone, so join friends, family, groups or a date for a fun way to spend Thursday evening.
Godzilla: A Poster Show
March 13 through 15 | 7 to 10 p.m. and 12 to 6 p.m. | Mondo Gallery, 4115 Guadalupe Street
Join Toho International and Mondo Gallery as they present this extraordinary poster show highlighting the eras of the Godzilla film catalog by 11 different artists. Artists include Tom Whalen, who specialize in beautifully handcrafted linocut artwork printed on Lokta paper. In addition to the incredible posters, Mondo will also have the latest additions to their apparel collection on hand.
Sunday, March 15 | From 5:30 to 8 p.m. | Rowing Dock
Head out on the water and really escape the SXSW madness with a musical journey experience led by composer and pianist, Hidary. Presented by MindTravel and Rowing Dock, guests can glide along the water in kayaks and canoes in this immersive musical journey created through headphones. After a short introduction and intention-setting, embark on a 1 mile guided paddle and listen to music from a grand piano floating in the middle of the lake!
Pluckers Wing Bar Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day
Tuesday, March 17 | Multiple locations
If you still want to venture out and have a green beer on St. Patty’s Day, head to Pluckers Wing Bar. They’ll be featuring specials all day including $3 pints of green beer, $4 Psychedelic Frog pints, $5 Jameson specials, and 5 boneless wings for $8!
Plan a Staycation
The Old Coupland Inn
101 Hoxie Street, Coupland, TX
Located just about 30 minutes outside of Austin is Coupland, Texas, a town of about 300 people. In Coupland is the Coupland Texas Dance Hall, where you eat, drink, and dance the entire weekend. Check in to their western style hotel and grab a bite at their on-site restaurant featuring all of your favorite comfort foods. Finally head over to their dance hall to two-step the night away!
Lone Star Court
10901 Domain Drive
Just 15 minutes north of downtown Austin you can escape the SXSW madness at The Domain. Staycation at the Lone Star Court, a retro-inspired court concept hotel walking distance to over 50 stores, restaurants, and bars. Reminiscent of the Texas Hill Country, Lone Star Court is complete with a lush outdoor courtyard, fire pits and chairs, live music, and an onsite bar and restaurant.
Lakeway Resort and Spa
101 Lakeway Drive, Lakeway, TX
If you want to get out of Austin with the entire family for the weekend, Lakeway is located just 25 miles outside of Austin. Nestled on the banks of Lake Travis in the Texas Hill Country, this resort and spa offers sailing, boating, fishing, and water activities. In addition to an onsite restaurant and luxurious spa, the kids can play in the pool playground and rec center.
Now, for those of you who are participating in SXSW (good luck) check out these lists below to get the most out of your time:
- Free SXSW 2020 Events: Best Of Interactive With RSVP Links
- Free SXSW 2020 Events: Best Of Female Empowerment With RSVP Links
- Four Easy Ways To Enjoy SXSW Without A Badge
- Remember When Torchy’s Tacos Made It Rain Tacos? More Fun To Come At SXSW 2020
Featured photo via Circle Brewing.