Did you know that you can get into many events during SXSW for FREE? The mega-festival held in Downtown Austin from March 10-19, 2017 isn’t just for 20-something tourists or hipsters either. There’s plenty of family fun to be found if you know where to look. Consider making your spring break a staycation and bringing the kids to some free family friendly events happening during SXSW this year.
SXSW is an event like no other, and we’re lucky to host it right here in Austin, Texas. Part music festival, part film festival, part gaming expo, part art show, and much, much more; expect the unexpected and be ready for anything!
- SXSW is happening during spring break, so everyone will be coming to visit from all over. People will everywhere and it will be crowded. Traffic will be bad. Streets may be closed and parking might cost an arm and a leg. Public transportation is a good option. You could also carpool with a group of friends and split the cost of parking. No matter what you choose, be sure to allow plenty of extra time to get where you’re trying to go.
- Food lines might be long, so bring snacks for the kids. If there’s one thing that can make or break a fun time with kids, it’s snacks. Hangry kids means no one is having fun anymore, so save money and your sanity and bring some snacks!
- There’s a good chance that the weather will be pretty nice, based on the mild winter we’ve had. That means it could even get downright hot. Wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water for everyone.
- Little ears are more sensitive to loud music, so you’ll want to make sure you have ear protection for your kids if you attend some live music shows.
- Even though most places accept credit cards nowadays, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash, just in case.
Get a Free SXSW Guest Pass
Don’t have a SXSW badge? No problem. A free SXSW Guest Pass will get you into several official events, including Flatstock 53, SXSW Job Market, SXSW Create, SXSW Marketplace, concerts at the Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, Outdoor Film Screenings, and more. (Unfortunately, the Gaming Expo is no longer free for adults, but kids 12 and under can still get in free!)
Official SXSW Free Events
- SXSWedu – This event is FREE and open to the public on March 7 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center. RSVP here. SXSWedu convenes education professionals from around the world and the SXSWedu Expo merges that diverse community with Central Texas Students in a unique, high-energy experience. The event features more than a hundred exhibitors, student performances, a student startup competition and opportunities for personal and professional development through session programming and coaching. Attendees include: students (pre-k through college), parents, counselors, K-12, college/university educators and administrators, education focused organizations.
- SXSW Create – This event, which grows every year, will be held March 10-12 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Palmer Events Center. The hardware hacking and maker arm of SXSW, is at it again with more space, more fun, and even more hands-on excitement. Doing creative and revolutionary things with new technologies embodies the spirit of the SXSW Interactive Festival, and nowhere is this more evident than the diverse mix of activities at SXSW Create. From 3D printing to drones to biohacking and much more, this community event showcases the disruptive solutions that are shaping our future. FREE with SXSW Guest Pass.
- Flatstock 53 – Don’t miss this unique show where you can purchase poster art, March 16-18 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4. Presented by the American Poster Institute (API), Flatstock will display the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The show features posters of varying styles, colors and techniques for sale by the talented artists who created them. FREE with SXSW Guest Pass.
Want more? Go here for a complete list of official SXSW free events.
Unofficial Free Events
- KUTX Live at Mueller – On Friday, March 10, head to Mueller Lake Park to kick off the spring series of KUTX Live at Mueller–a free, monthly music event–at the Mueller Lake Park Amphitheater. KUTX and Mueller bring you a kid-friendly act – hosted by KUTX’s Sunday-evening kids’ show Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child – followed by rock-and-roll for the grown-ups. The music begins at 7 p.m., but face painting for the kids and food for purchase will be available before the show starts. Food trucks, fun, and live music on the lake!
- The Little Yoga House Free Music Showcase – This is the perfect low-key place to bring your littlest music lovers during SXSW. This yoga studio just for kids will have interactive music events for kids for five straight days, from March 13-17 from 1-2 p.m. They will also have complimentary snacks, beverages, and more fun activities for kids. Little Yoga House is located at 1211 Parkway, Austin. Go here to register. It’s FREE!
- Fifth Annual UGLYFEST – Cherrywood Coffeehouse is hosting a FREE, all ages day party on March 15, from noon until 10 p.m. See the schedule.
- Waterloo Records Day Party – Waterloo Records Day Party is a 4-day event running the Wednesday – Saturday of SXSW Music (March 15-18). Held in the Waterloo parking lot, 28 bands will perform over the 4 days, during the day from noon to 6 p.m. It is FREE, all ages, no badge or wristband required!
- Quantum Collective Southwest Invasion – The annual Quantum Collective Southwest Invasion, hosted by Whole Foods Market and benefiting Whole Planet Foundation, is confirmed for March 16–18 on the Whole Foods flagship rooftop on North Lamar Boulevard. Now in its 6th year, the FREE, all ages 3-day event during SXSW will feature over 40 bands on two stages. More info can be found on SouthwestInvasion.com. RSVP here.
- Last Triumph Presents –Last Triumph Presents: The Take Off Tour with Marah in the Mainsail and Good Morning Bedlam! on Thursday, March 16 at Cherrywood Coffeehouse. The show starts at 3 p.m. It’s FREE and all ages.
- South X San Jose at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress – South By San Jose (SXSJ) is an annual 5-day festival concurrent with SXSW Music Festival. The hotel parking lot will be transformed into a live music venue with bands, local vendors and concessions, March 15-19. FREE and open to the public. See the schedule.
- Girls Rock – Cherrywood Coffeehouse is hosting this FREE, all ages day party on March 17, all day.
- Austin Flea at Hops and Grain – March 18 from noon – 5 p.m., head to the Flea to find local handmade items and vintage wares from some of Austin’s most amazing and talented vendors. Find one-of-a-kind gifts for any occasion including jewelry, bath/body products, vintage, original artwork, paper goods, textiles and so much more! Live music all day! It’s gonna be a party! Entrance to the event is FREE and open to all ages! Handmade. Vintage. Local.
Live Broadcasts That are Free with a Donation to Charity
- KGSR Live Morning Broadcast – Wake up early with your favorite bands at W Austin, March 15-18. KGSR be live Wednesday – Friday from 6-10 a.m. and again on Saturday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. The broadcast is all ages and you don’t need a badge or wristband to get in. Just a $5 donation to Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas will get you in the door for four hours of exclusive, live interviews and performances. The first 300 guests through the door each morning will receive a complimentary breakfast treat. Be sure to arrive extra early to get in line as the ballroom does fill quickly!
- KUTX Live at the Four Seasons – KUTX 98.9 and Four Seasons Hotel Austin are partnering again to connect you to some of the most anticipated artists at the 2017 SXSW Music Conference, while raising money for the Seton Shivers Cancer Center. This year’s lineup includes heavy-hitters like Spoon, Real Estate, Temples and The Black Angels, plus break-out artists, like Maggie Rogers, Middle Kids, OJR and Little Simz. Have little ones in tow? Spare the Rock Spoil the Child, the KUTX Sunday-evening kids’ show, will offer kid-friendly (but parent-friendly, too) sets between the main-stage acts in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge each day. KUTX will air four early-morning broadcasts live from the Four Seasons ballroom from 7 to 11 a.m., Wednesday, March 15, through Friday, March 17, and from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 18. The event is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is a $10 per adult and $5 per child (ages 10 and under) per day, with all money benefiting the Seton Shivers Cancer Center (cash only please!) Admission includes a breakfast taco, a granola bar, and coffee. Limited self-parking is available in the hotel garage on a first-come, first served basis at a discounted rate of $5 per car until 1 p.m.
SouthBites Trailer Park – March 10-18 from 11 a.m. – midnight, SouthBites will feature some of the best rolling-restaurants around and you don’t need a badge to dine at the food trailer park! Find the park across from the Austin Convention Center, at the corner of Driskill and Rainey. Go here for a list of participating food trucks.