Austin may be known for its tech scene, its liberal leanings, and its overall greatness, but Austin is nothing if not a festival town. From its huge draw festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits to some of those that are near and dear to the hearts of locals like Eeyore’s Birthday and the Texas Book Festival, there is a festival here for just about everyone. Of course, Austin does everything just a little bit differently, and festival-going is no different. Here are a few tips to maximize your time in Central Texas:
Eat all the foods
Austin has definitely become a big foodie town in the past few years, from our ramen bowls to our food trucks. Most of our festivals stick to local vendors, so you don’t even have to leave the area to find quintessentially Austin food like tacos, BBQ, and smoothies. Be sure to try a little bit of everything, no matter what part of town you’re in!
Check out local acts, as well as big headliners
Sure, Radiohead is probably what drew you to Austin in the first place, but while you’re here, be sure to take advantage of our amazing arts scene and check out local musicians, comedians, artists, etc. You’ve already paid for that ticket, you might as well spend some time checking out what may be the next big thing to come out of the south!
Festival seasons are often when our weather is changing, which includes cool fronts, rain, etc. Believe it or not, excruciatingly sunny isn’t the only weather that we have in Austin. Layers and ponchos are definitely your friends for months like October and March, so be sure to pack at least a few versatile pieces that can keep you cozy during the occasional weather hiccup. As “they” like to say — “don’t like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes.”
Grab some quality handmade goods
If Etsy were ever going to open a physical location, Austin would probably be one of its top choices to do so. In lieu of stocking up on crappy keychains and unoriginal shot glasses, check out some of Austin’s original art and creators. ACL has its own marketplace at the festival, SXSW hosts Flatstock for poster lovers, and other local stores are easily accessible from downtown.
Indulge in some southern hospitality
We are more than happy to welcome visitors into our city. Hell, our tourism industry contributes $6.7 billion to our local economy every year (and that number just keeps growing). The one thing that we ask while visiting Austin is that you practice the golden rule and throw some of that southern charm back our way. Tip your servers and bar staff (come prepared by bringing a small stack of singles for the bar) — this goes double if you are receiving food and drink for free! Say please, thank you, and excuse me — they go a long way. Anyway, you get the idea, just be kind and considerate and those karma points will come back to you in amazing barbecue.
Sure, you may be a big Budweiser or vodka tonic fan, but you can get those anywhere. When in Austin, don’t pass up the chance to try a local brew or wine or a specialty craft cocktail. Whether you’re grabbing a patch of grass at Zilker Park or strolling the streets of downtown, be sure to ask your bartender for a taste of local booze. If you happen to have time to actually sit down at one of our bars or restaurants, ask for a recommendation of one of that particular establishment’s notable cocktails — and don’t forget to share!
Pack light, pack smart
A well-packed day pack can often mean the difference between an amazing festival experience and a crappy one, especially if you’re on a budget. Items like band-aids, aspirin, a backup phone charger, poncho, and sunscreen can all be crucial while festing. Just don’t go crazy and overload your bag with too much junk, especially since larger bags are no longer allowed. You’re also inevitably going to be picking up some great, free swag to take back home with you, so be sure to leave room for that in your bag. And be sure to take a look at the festival’s prohibited items list so you don’t have to say a tearful goodbye to your contraband.
Dress for comfort
Sure, dressing cute for a festival is fun, but being comfortable is also really important. Between the Austin heat and walking a ton, we want you to make it through the day without being miserable. Leave your heels at home. We certainly appreciate good fashion in Austin, but we tend to take a much more laid back approach to what we consider cute. This isn’t Coachella, after all.
Plan ahead for transportation
You may have heard the unfortunate news that Austin no longer allows TNCs like Uber and Lyft to operate here. Though we have some alternatives, ride sharing just isn’t the same these days, making transportation to and from festivals a real struggle. Do your research — get to know our limited public transportation system (Capital Metro), see if there are shuttle options to your fest, rent a bike for the weekend, etc. Just please don’t come to our city and do that whole driving drunk thing. In addition to the resources below, Skinny Pop is giving free pedicab rides to and around the fest (along with free popcorn). Also, Car2Go has set up a free drop zone at 1540 Toomey Rd — just grab a Car2Go to head down to the fest and they’ll valet it for you for free.
Try your hardest to spend at least one extra day in Austin
You may have noticed, Austin is kind of the cool (not literally) place to be right now. Austin is totally making fetch happen. You may be able to experience a decent amount of food, shopping, and entertainment during your festival experience, but you likely won’t make it out to some of the very best parts of Austin. You’ve already come all this way, you may as well stay an extra day (or a few).
Featured photo from Wikipedia, Creative Commons licensed