You made it to SXSW. Congratulations! You’re in for one hell-of-a ride. But before you rush out the door on day one — or day eight, it’s all a good time — there are a few things you’ll need to do.
The best way to get the most out of South by is to plan. Take the time to know the city, write down some lunch options, rank Austin’s top attractions you’d like to visit in your downtime, like Lady Bird Lake or the Texas State Capitol.
Before you arrive, be sure to download a few local mobile apps like Fasten or Ride Austin. This will make catching a ride to and from the festival a breeze. There’s also Car2go if you prefer to drive.
Now that you’re ready to rock ’n ride, here’s an idea of how a day at South by might look like.
7 a.m.*: Rise and Shine
The first thing you’ll want to do is check the weather. Austin might be known for its beautiful year-round weather, but this city is no stranger to extreme weather changes in a matter of just a few hours. We suggest having your rain jacket handy just in case.
While you’re still lying in bed, scroll through a few social pages and feeds to get up-to-date on the day’s happenings. A must-follow handle is @SXSW on both Twitter and Instagram.
Other handles and hashtags to remember range from unofficial party updates to rumored concerts to updates on lines at various events. Our favorites ones include @sxswflyers, @sxunofficial, @FreeAtSXSW, @OpenBarATX, #SXLines, #SXFN (free food!), and #SXSWTips.
*If you’re waking up for KGSR’s SXSW week at the W, you’ll want to set your alarm well before then. Daily shows run from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 13 through Friday, March 16, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
7:30 a.m.: Coffee First, Fest After
A solid half-hour is about all the time you’ll get before your coffee craving kicks in. Luckily, Austin is in no shortage of stellar coffee shops. Here are a few of our favorites, based on location.
Be sure to check out Cuvee Coffee — this East 6th spot pioneered the refreshing cold brew coffee can — as well as others like Fleet Coffee, Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, Figure 8, Vintage Heart Coffee, and Cherrywood Coffee House.
Stop in Mañana for an espresso or pick up a turbo-iced coffee from Jo’s. You might even have time for a photo op in front of the “I Love You So Much” mural. 7th Flag Coffee, Patika, Radio Coffee & Beer, and Once Over Coffee Bar are also located in South Austin.
North and West Austin
Located in the heart of South by, downtown is full of standout coffee shops. Newcomer My Name Is Joe serves coffee and delicious bites from a shiny silver trailer, while downtown staples like Houndstooth, Juan Pelota Café, and Café Medici offer eclectic Austin vibes.
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast Tacos, Naturally
Let’s make one thing certain: whether you’re craving tacos for breakfast or not, Austin most definitely is. To get the full Austin experience, you’ll have to try a few taco trucks and casual eateries.
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: SXSW Conference
No matter your interests at this year’s festival, mornings are a great time to attend panels, experience different workshops, and network like crazy.
Many downtown offices will be doubling as lounge stations during the event. Stop in to recharge your phones, laptops, and tablets, and take a moment to prop up your feet while you’re at it. Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a cold-brew and some snacks.
1 p.m.: Lunchtime
If you’re craving a burger, try Casino El Camino for a true Austin experience or head to Easy Tiger for a German-inspired lunch of beers and brats. For simple, well-prepared dishes, make your way to Forthright Café; for pizza, cross the South Congress Bridge and head to Home Slice; for tacos, Torchy’s Tacos has you covered.
There are a ton of restaurants, food trucks, and bars with small bites throughout downtown. Either way, you’re guaranteed a delicious meal. Just do yourself a favor and be sure to try something local!
2 p.m.-6 p.m.: SXSW Events
If you’re full from lunch, take a pedicab to your next location and spend the next few hours engaging and experiencing in all that the conference has to offer.
South by can be exhausting. If you’re in need of a caffeine jolt make a quick pit stop at Halcyon.
6:30 p.m.: Dine Outdoors
By this point, you’ve realized that Austin’s food scene is bustling. From Thai to Mexican to Italian to Asian street food, this city has it all.
For an al fresco dining experience, and located just east of downtown is Justine’s Brasserie, a French-fare-inspired garden located on Austin’s Eastside. Cenote and Yellow Jacket Social Club offer a quintessential Austin vibe, while food trucks like Thai Kun and Toaster are great options if you’re looking to pair your meal with a refreshing cocktail or beer.
For other stellar dining options, check out our favorite restaurants with a view.
8 p.m.: Grab a Quick Beer
Regardless of where you end up for dinner, it’s safe to say there’s a local brewery nearby. Austin’s craft brew scene is growing and definitely worth your time.
On the Eastside, Zilker Brewery, Lazarus Brewing Co., and Hops and Grain Brewing are within a few minutes of each other. Rent a bike and cruise your way down East 6th street, or bike to East Cesar Chavez and sample a sour beer at Blue Owl Brewery.
9 p.m.: Catch a Show and Dance Your Socks Off
There’s plenty of music to hear and an overwhelming number of parties to attend during SXSW. Choosing which bands to see is nothing short of a challenge. Just remember to have a back up plan for your back up plan and just RSVP for anything you might remotely be interested in. South by is all about being able to switch it up while on your feet!
1 a.m.: Bedtime
Whether you’re ready to leave the party or not, it’s time to give your body a rest. Because let’s face it, you’re about to embark on an entirely new journey tomorrow.
Like we mentioned before, there’s so much to see, do, and hear at SXSW. It’s exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. And while a guide can make your experience run smoothly, keep in mind that at any moment a secret show can be announced and your handy schedule will be thrown right out the window (or preferably in a recycling bin).
Good luck and happy SXSW!
Feature image courtesy of SXSW