Guide to SXSW: How to Enjoy the Festival Like an Austinite

Whenever there’s a festival, you want insider tips. After all, it’s only natural to want to be at those cool spots before they’re cool. Unfortunately, when it comes to SXSW, unless you’re a local, it’s going to be hard to delve into the fray and find those gyms. Trust me they want to stay hidden for a reason.

However, there are some traitors (like me) who are willing to give you a few insider insights into places you should be checking out.

So if you don’t want to waste your time waiting in seemingly never ending lines to see the same thing that you could literally find on your social feed, keep reading. I’ll let you in on a few secrets where you can find the pockets of art and culture you should be visiting during SXSW.

Fader Fort

views from the fort @champagnepapi

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Fader Fort Fest is one of the better-known unknown options for SXSW. How can this venue be known and yet unknown? Good question. It’s because only those who are in the know are aware that they need to register online for the event early.

This year, being in the know is even more important since this unofficial event, that often gets acts like Drake and Lizzo, has scaled back even further.

If you manage to get in, you’ll find yourself just off 7th and Pedernales Street, with tons of beer, good company, and great music. It’s an event that will remind you of the cobbled together music festival that SXSW used to be.

Skylark Lounge

A little further to the north,you’ll find the Skylark Lounge. This venue is the domain of native Austinite Johnny LaTouf who works to bridge the gap between bygone eras and the modern hipster vibe.

Although it looks a bit like ramshackle dive, the music that graces the stage is anything but derelict. In fact, legendary acts like Miss Lavelle White and Blues Boy Hubbard make regular appearances to infuse the synth-pop, rock and roll driven SXSW with the sweet integrity of old-timey blues riffs. 

Stay Gold

"I hope I never see Dallas Winston again. If I do I'd probably fall in love with him." – ? Valance

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If you plan to spend your day party-hopping between free events, then you need to know about Stay Gold.

This glitzy gold time warp is psychedelic and filled with friendly bartenders, regular musical guests, and a grilled cheese food truck in the backyard. Get here at 11am to forego paying that cover charge and get geared up for the day. 

The Buffalo Lounge

Bowsley! So fresh and so clean! #sxswbuffalo #oklahoma

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The Buffalo Lounge during SXSW is the only time that those north of the Red River are welcomed into Austin with open arms. This creative lighthouse showcases film, music, and interactive guests exclusively from Oklahoma.

So if you love the Sooners or are curious to see what the Great Plains are producing, this is a must-see.

Pro Tips

Bring a Bike

Dust off your pedal-powered hotrod and get moving! Getting from event to event during SXSW can be a bit of a pain. There is no parking anywhere and walking around can make you feel like your standing in an interminable line. Therefore, the only logical solution is a bicycle.

If you don’t happen to have brought one with you, it’s ok. There is a city bike share program as well as pop-up bike shops like Streamline Cycles that with which can easily and cheaply get access to your two wheeled vehicle.

Getting Around Far and Wide

Don’t panic. There may be no Lyft or Uber here in Austin, but we have Ride Fare and Fasten! Both apps work intuitively and pick you up on your schedule.

Thank goodness you won’t have to resort back to actually hailing a taxi.

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