SXSW: First Timer Tips to Get In, Around & Engaged at Austin’s Hottest Festival

SXSW First Timer Tips

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You’ve heard about it, read about, followed it on Instagram and now you’ve finally decided to check out what all the hype is about. Welcome to South by Southwest (SXSW) first timer! For those still trying to figure this whole thing, SXSW (or just South by as the veterans call it) is an annual interactive media, technology, movie, and music conference / festival that is held during the month of March in Austin, TX. This festival is so big that even Obama himself is making a cameo this year! If you are gearing up for your first time at SXSW, let our community member and Austin local, Doug, help you gear up for the event. Check out his SXSW first timer tips below!

Q: What events are you most excited for at SXSW 2016? 

Doug: In the past, the best parts of SXSW have been the hands on type events that take place. For several years, there was a place where you could go learn to pick locks.  Another year, I competed in a Lego Mind-storm robot building competition.  It’s the best way to learn and meet people that doesn’t involve sitting in a lecture or talk.

Q: Explain how it works for a newcomer. What do you need passes for? What are the best ways to experience the event if you don’t have a pass (or can’t afford one because omg, it is expensive!)?

Doug: There are always two parts of the festival.  The official sponsored portion, and the unofficial portion.  The whole experience is very overwhelming.  If you can’t afford a pass, do as much research as possible.  Many companies and organizations throw events and parties that don’t require a pass, however they may require an RSVP and can fill up fast.  RSVP to as many events as possible, that way you’re not limited to what you can attend.

SXSW Tech Festival Tips
By Mike Deeroski ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Q: Where are the SXSW events taking place? 

Doug: The epicenter of the festival is at the Austin Convention Center. This is where most of big talks and trade show will take place. However events take place all over the city! During SXSW most of the bars, clubs, and other shared spaces or devoted to SXSW and SXSW auxiliary events.  This means lots of time spent looking at maps and walking.

Q: Any tips for getting around downtown during the event?

Doug: Wear comfortable shoes.  The best way to get around the festival is to walk.  Don’t attempt to drive anywhere, period.  Some people ride a bike.  If you are staying outside city, have the cab drop you off far from all the action and then walk the rest of the way.

Q: Any other tips you have for a first timer? 

Doug: Yes! Don’t be afraid to meet new people.  If you’re new, and feel like you’re missing out on all the action, the best way to experience the event is through veterans.  Ask people what they are doing next, and then ask if you can tag along. I also recommend not getting stressed out about trying to attend all the different activities.  You’ll have a more enjoyable experience if you spend more time meeting people, and less time running back and forth around the city trying to make some event that you feel is critical.

Need some wheels to get around Austin during SXSW? Get your Austin bike rental now from 

Love music festivals? Check out our post about the Euphoria Music Festival coming up in Austin in April! 

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