- SXSW Interactive – March 8-12th
- SXSW Film Conference & Festival – March 8-16th
- SXSW Music and Media Conference – March 12-17th
According to an analysis by Graybill Advisors, in 2011 SXSW was directly and indirectly responsible for injecting approximately $168 million into the Austin economy. Visitors by the tens of thousands make the trip each year from across the country and around the globe.
Despite the indisputed economic boon to the city, many Austinites see South By as a huge hassle. Seemingly random street closures, weird traffic patterns, events only open to badgeholders and a massive influx of hipsters can put a cramp in our routines for a few weeks. For parents, it can be bittersweet that such an amazing event is happening in our backyards during Spring Break, when kids are off school.
Although SXSW is undeniably an event targeted at adults, there are plenty of family-friendly options on the weekends and during the weekdays of Spring Break. Chances are, you will stumble upon some music during the week, whether you intend to or not, whether it’s at a coffee shop, Whole Foods or Central Market. Kids (and you can argue, most adults) inherently love music, so why not plan at least one SX-related outing to show your kids what it means to live in the Live Music Capital of the World?
Before you head out, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Go early. Keep in mind that many SX attendees are listening to music until the wee hours, so a 6am showcase won’t be as packed. At least sometimes the early bird gets the worm!
- Research parking/transit options beforehand. When we scoured the Interwebs for all things SX, we tried to find events where parking was closeby. Use this opportunity to ditch your car if you can and ride bikes to events or take the MetroRail. You could also carpool or ask a working partner to drop you off. Of course, parking will be easier the further you get away from downtown.
- Go equipped. If you have successfully managed a trip to the Kite Festival, ACL, the F1 Fan Fest or even a Friday night out at Central Market, you know the drill: pack snacks, cash, drinks and sunscreen. If you must, bring a stroller and a blanket to sit on. In addition, make sure to bring ear protection for both you and the kiddos (headphones are hard to come by right before SX, but you might want to try Fry’s).
- Get ready for teachable moments. SX is anything but sanitized, so there will be no dumbing down of song lyrics or shielding your kids from smoke and/or inebriated fellow attendees (free liquor at sunup?!?) So, if that concerns you, research the showcases/artists carefully in advance. Or, get ready to do some talking and answer questions about what your littles might see and hear.
- Have a plan B. We readily admit that we haven’t been to every SX event — and even if we had, parking and attendance changes every year, particularly depending on which artists are playing. To be safe, always have a backup plan, whether it’s heading to a nearby park, knowing where the nearest movie theater is or being content to turn around and head home for a low key day. Most shows are streaming, so you can get your groove on in the living room if needed.
If you are Pinterested, you can check out our Family-Friendly SXSW 2013 board, and if you have a chance to leave the kids at home or camp, you can visit our SXSW 2013 No Badge Required board for 100+ parties, many of which are free. We’ll also be running some event spotlights to give you more details about a handful of these upcoming events. Make sure to scroll down to the end to see Heidi’s awesome Google calendar, which will help you keep all this straight!
We’ve searched high and low and found the following events which don’t require a wristband. Check back here, as we will be adding to our list as we learn about more. Please check the links before you go, since details may be in flux:
SXSW Gaming Expo – FREE. Friday, March 8th from 3-9pm and Saturday and Sunday, March 9th and 10th, noon to 8pm at the Palmer Events Center (parking at adjacent lot for $7). We wrote about this three-day tribute to the gaming culture last year, when it was called Screenburn. This year, visit a HUGE NASA telescope outside in between the Long Center and the Palmer Events Center, check out Nintendo’s WiiU console, build with LEGOs, catch a Cos-play competition and visit booths with games, apps and toys. Check your program before you enter Palmer if you want to steer clear of the more violent game booths.
SXSW Create 2013 – FREE. March 8th from 2-6pm and Saturday and Sunday, March 9th and 10th, 11am-6pm to 8pm, outdoors, adjacent to the Austin Convention Center (101 Red River). Create is in its second year and focuses on bringing together local and international members of the SXSW community to share their creations and showcase the latest tools and fabrication methods. For the most part it is a very hands on tactile event of both physical creations and/or artwork. Here is an event preview. In terms of parking, you can try MetroRail to the Convention Center, try your luck at street parking, or try one of the downtown garages.
Austin School of Film Youth 3D Workshop – FREE. March 8th from 10:30am-12:30pm at the Carver Museum’s Boyd Vance Theater. Under the guidance of professional award-winning animator Jeanne Stern, participants use their imagination to create miniature worlds that will then be presented as 2-D stop-motion film on the big screen. No experience necessary, and lunch will be provided. This workshop is free and open to ages 11–18, but is first come, first served. Finished work will screen at the SXSW Community Screenings: Austin School of Film’s Youth M.A.F.I.A. Screening on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at the Vimeo Theater at 11AM.
Austin School of Film Youth M.A.F.I.A. – $10 donation. March 10th starting at 10am at Anderson High School. Since 2005, Texas high school students, ages 14-19, have come together to create short films in only 24 hours during the Annual Youth M.A.F.I.A Day Film Festival & Screening. This event takes place from 10am Saturday, March 9th – 10am on Sunday, March 10 at Anderson High School. Teams have 24 hours to write, shoot, and edit a short film. All finished work will be screened as part of the SXSW Community Screenings: Austin School of Film’s Youth M.A.F.I.A. Screening. There is VERY LIMITED space and registration closes at 5pm on Wednesday, March 6th. Click here for more information and to register.
Tillamook Loaf Love Tour at SXSW – FREE. Saturday, March 9th from 12:30-3:00pm at Hopdoddy on South Congress. Enjoy free cheese, coupons and Tillamook’s retro VW bus. The bus will be making other stops in the area if you can’t make it down there on Saturday.
Texas High School Shorts Competition – FREE. Saturday, March 9th from 6-7:30pm at the Carver Museum and Saturday, March 16th from 11am-12:30pm at the Vimeo Theater. To support and cultivate the next generation of filmmakers, the SXSW Film Conference and Festival (SXSW Film) presents a special film competition for students enrolled in Texas high schools each year. Submissions are judged by a panel of independent filmmakers and industry figures; with prizes, including SXSW Film registrations. All films chosen as finalists will be shown in the Texas High School Shorts program as part of the regular SXSW Film Festival schedule.
Groundwork Music Orchestra Spring Break Concert – FREE. Sunday, March 10th at 10:30am at Cherrywood Coffee House. Groundwork Music Orchestra will perform, along with special guests from Maplewood Elementary School. Wilson Marks’ students will be playing ukelele and singing songs. A portion of proceeds will help to pay for song writing programs at Maplewood.
M.I.L.K. Moms Rock! – FREE. Sunday, March 10th from 11am-5pm. Our friends at Texas Moms I’d Like to Know are showcasing mama musicians at their second annual showcase, which will take place at Freddie’s Place on S. 1st. Limited parking available at Freddie’s and in the adjacent side streets.
ReCREATE : ATX | ALL DAY LIVE ART @ SX 2013 – FREE. Sunday, March 10th from noon to 7pm at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery (also known at the Baylor Graffiti Wall and various other names). This one of a kind art day will focus on cultivating the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a massive three-story-tall outdoor urban space that has emerged into one of the largest outdoor galleries in the country.
Guero’s – FREE. Tuesday, March 12th-Saturday, March 16th, starting at 2pm. Get a jump start and avoid the crowds you will experience later in the week by hitting up Guero’s on Tuesday. The schedule isn’t posted online, but Guero’s will be hosting over 60 bands and flyers with the full schedule are available at the restaurant. Although it is an outdoor venue, I found it to be pretty loud, so don’t skip the ear protection. Another great place to wander around SoCo, although parking is limited. Wednesday from 2-9pm is South by Soup Fest, which is free but proceeds generated at the event and online benefit the Caritas Community Kitchen and Food Pantry.
A Night of Film, Music and Inspiration – FREE Tuesday, March 12th from 4:30-10pm at the Zilker Hillside Theater. Films and music take you on a virtual journey to Africa to experience a story of change. Parking should be ample at Zilker at that time.
KGSR’s Live Broadcasts – $5 donation to attend these shows happening from Wednesday, March 13th until Saturday the 16th at the W. Early birds can catch music starting at 6am (!) until 10am until Friday and then 8am until noon on Saturday. To enter the broadcast, take the stairs at the corner of 2nd and Lavaca that lead up to the ACL Live at Moody Theater. Then head left towards the W Austin. There are several paid parking options, including valet at the hotel, the City Hall garage at 2nd and Caesar Chavez, and the Amli located across the street from the W Austin Hotel.
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons – $10 admission gets you a breakfast taco, granola bar and unlimited coffee and proceeds go to the Seton Shivers Cancer Center. Wednesday, March 13-16th from 7-11am. Since the event is in the Ballroom, make sure to bring ear protection. Parking is available near the hotel and guests may self-park in the hotel garage at the discounted rate of $5 per car.
Girls Rock Camp Showcase – FREE. Wednesday, March 13th at 10:00am at Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Girls Rock Camp Austin is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women of all backgrounds and abilities through musical education and performance. A bit off the beaten path so parking should be easier.
Waterloo Records Day Parties – FREE on their outdoor stage. Wednesday the 13th-Saturday the 16th, noon to 7pm. Lots of great artists, but keep in mind Macklemore’s lyrics (Wednesday at 3pm) aren’t exactly kid-friendly. Parking is limited, but buses stop closeby and you are right next to Whole Foods and Amy’s Ice Creams, if you need nourishment.
School of Rock Showcase – FREE. Wednesday, March 13th from 1-6pm at Scholz’s. Current and former School of Rock performers showcase their musical prowess. A little outside of the fray and lots of parking garages nearby.
Live Music from the Plaza at City Hall – FREE. Wednesday, March 13th-Friday, March 15th from 3-7pm. International acts, plenty of room to roam and sit and parking in the City Hall garage.
A Rock Show for Kids – $10 suggested donation for the Children’s Cancer Association. Thursday, March 14th from 10am-2pm at the Fader Fort (1101 E. 5th). MyMusicRx is a social enterprise to bring the healing power of music to the bedside of critically ill children around the world. Complimentary breakfast tacos and drinks while they last and hat making station for the kids. Taking public transport is probably a must unless you want to walk or pay to park.
Family Music Meltdown by Southwest – FREE. Thursday, March 14th from 11am-2pm and Friday, March 15th from 11am-1pm at Tamale House East. In addition to local favorites Joe McDermott and Laura Freeman, more acts may be added.
SXSJ – FREE. Thursday, March 14th-Saturday, March 16th from noon til 8pm on Thursday and noon til 9pm on Friday and Saturday in the parking lot of Jo’s Coffee on South Congress. South by San Jose is a really nice outdoor venue with other vendors sharing space in the parking lot. Jo’s has coffee and food, but the line can be long. A great jumping off point to explore SoCo, although parking nearby is limited.
Freddie’s Place – FREE. Thursday, March 14th until Sunday, March 17th, starting at 3:30pm on Thursday and Friday and 1:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Kids can play on the playscape, but it’s pretty close to the stage, so don’t forget ear protection. Parking is limited to their small parking lot and what you can find in the surrounding neighborhood.
Home Slice Pizza’s Music by the Slice (MXTS) – FREE with proceeds benefiting Urban Roots. Thursday, March 14th-Friday the 15th, 1-8pm. A great jumping off point to all the music listening/people watching on SoCo. Downside is that parking is harder to come by.
Flatstock 38 – FREE. Thursday, March 14th from 2-6pm, Friday the 15th and Saturday the 16th from 11am-6pm at the Convention Center, Hall 4. Flatstock provides an opportunity to see fine poster art in person and to meet the artists who created it. New this year, you can browse while you listen to bands playing from the Flatstock Stage. Since this is at the Convention Center, you’ll probably want to try one of the garages or opt for public transit.
Free Fun In Austin continues to highlight Austin area locations and activities that may not be available at this time. We encourage you to take all safety measures to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. It is our hope that the stories and features on this site will help inform your plans in the future.
Rock the Blacktop! – FREE. Friday, March 15th from 10am-1:30pm at Blackshear Elementary. Scotty Roo, Groundwork Orchestra, Los Super Avengers, The Spoils, and 5th grader, Alex V. will headline this outdoor, family funday.
Pan Americana Festival – FREE. Friday, March 15th and Saturday, March 16th from 4-11pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Local artists perform alongside international Latino music sensations, with everything from cumbia to funk, reggaeton to Tejano, salsa to rock and roll. Between bands, Latino filmmaking, theatre, dance and visual arts will be showcased. Parking is limited, but a free shuttle service will be available to and from parking lots at Sanchez Elementary School, Martin Middle School and Fiesta Gardens.
in.SX @ in.gredients – FREE. Acoustic porch shows on Friday, March 15th and Saturday the 16th from noon til 10pm. In-store, live recorded in.sessions Tuesday-Thursday starting at 5:30pm. A bit off the beaten path so parking should be easier.
The Native Transplants SXSW edition – FREE. Friday, March 15th at 6pm at the NATY Trailer Yard.
Folk Alliance International – FREE. Saturday, March 16th from 11am-7pm on the outdoor stage and later on the indoor stage at Threadgill’s World Headquarters. Threadgill’s has food, restrooms and a nice outdoor space. Parking in their lot or in adjacent garages.
Ramble Creek Recording Studio Day Show – FREE. Saturday, March 16th from noon to 7pm in La Patisserie’s backyard. Hosts encourage you to bring a lawn chair and park on Annie, being considerate of the neighbors and driveways.
Love on the Lawn Showcase – FREE. Saturday, March 16th from 2:30-9pm at Central Market on North Lamar. Featuring Ginger Leigh, Wendy Colonna, Jitterbug Vipers and more in the ultimate kid-friendly setting.
Hey Lollies Kids Show – FREE. Sunday, March 17th at 10:30am at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Music plus puppets and caffeine for the adults. A bit off the beaten path so parking should be easier.
Peelander Family Jamboree – FREE. Sunday, March 17th from 1-5pm at Springdale Farm. Music by Peelander-Z, The Octopus Project and the Minor Mishap Marching Band. A bit off the beaten path so parking should be easier.
A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 6-year-old son’s eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, making and consuming baked goods, and being silly. You can also find her writing at LiveMom,Savvy Source for Parents and CultureMap.