SXSW 2012 With Kids in Tow

Central Market Patio and Playground

Every time Spring Break rolls around I am torn.  School is out, so I feel like we should vacation somewhere exciting.  Last year I took the kids to Canada.  The year before we went to Washington, D.C.  But I have started to wonder, is it the right call to get out of Dodge, just when the rest of the world is flooding in for SXSW?  Maybe not.  Maybe the world is onto something. So this year, we’re mixing it up.  We’ll do a wee bit of travel and add in a good dose of exploring our own bustling city.  The only question that remains is, what parts of SXSW will be both entertaining and appropriate for children?  After poking around the internet for a few weeks, it looks like the answer is… a bunch!

There seems to be no shortage of free options for the week of SXSW, but will they work with kids in tow?  I sought advice from parents who have done it before and here are their recommendations for making your own SXSW kiddie adventure schedule:
  1. Choose open air venues where possible.  This will give your little ones more room to roam and allow you to distance yourself a bit from volume and crowds.
  2. Consider events on the outskirts of town.  The further away from the Convention Center you get, the more manageable you’ll find parking and crowd control.
  3. Remember that many of the SXSW lineups are still in flux.  Be sure to revisit each venue’s website to confirm details before heading out.  
  4. Take into consideration that many establishments are laid back about their performance schedules.  Bands slated to play at 11 a.m. may take the stage closer to noon.  Be prepared to roll with the punches.
  5. Have a Plan B.  And probably a Plan C.  If you go to an event you thought would be child-friendly but when you arrive, the venue is packed, smoky, or crazy loud… move on to the next best thing (which may be grabbing a treat or heading to the nearest playground).
And now for the fun!  Here is a small sampling of the free events that will be happening around town during the week of SXSW to consider:

ScreenBurn Arcade – Friday, March 9, from 3-7 p.m., Saturday, March 10, from 12-9 p.m. and Sunday, March 11, from 12-7 p.m. FREE and open to non-badge holders.  Take the kids to see the latest innovations in the gaming industry!  Children will enjoy game-making stations, demos, Stormtrooper photo ops, a LEGO pit, and more!  For a great article the highlights the family friendly aspects of ScreenBurn Arcade, click here. The nice thing about this venue is that for $7, you can park in the Events Center garage and avoid the hassle of trying to find a spot! Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road.

Central Market North Lamar – Live music, and dancing, and a puppet show, oh my!  This is a great spot for parents to enjoy music while letting their kids burn some energy on the playground.  There are also ducks to feed in the nearby pond.  Here is the lineup of FREE entertainment:
  • Friday, March 9, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.  –  The Carper Family brings together three of Austin’s most talented young country and bluegrass singers and pickers: Melissa “Daddy” Carper (vocals, bass), Beth “Mama” Chrisman (vocals, fiddle) and Jenn “Little Sister” Miori (vocals, guitar). 
  • Saturday, March 10, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Magical Marionettes Puppet Show. This variety show sponsored by Music Forever Music Together features marionette jugglers, singers, soldiers, acrobats, musicians, dancers, skeletons, grandparents and animals. Together they create a magical world of characters and stories that will delight both kids and parents. 
  • Saturday, March 10, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Austin Bluegrass Cover Band Featuring Graham Wilkinson
  • Thursday, March 15, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m – Slowtrain
  • Sunday, March 18, 4:30 – 9:00 p.m. – 5th Annual Nowruz Festival and Persian New Year Celebration.  Nowruz (meaning “New Day” in Persian) is the old celebration of the beginning of spring. Today it is celebrated primarily in Iran and in a few cultures surrounding the Iranian plateau, as well as in parts of Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. Here’s the lineup: Bereket (4:30-5:30 p.m.) Ravaan Dance Company(5:30-6 p.m.) Ojalá (6:30-7:30 p.m.) Atash (8-9 p.m.) 

SXSW Community Workshop: Austin School of Film Youth 3D Workshop – Saturday, March 10, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Under the guidance of professional award-winning animator Jeanne Stern, participants use their imagination to create miniature worlds that will then be presented as 3-D film on the big screen. No experience necessary, and lunch will be provided. This workshop is FREE and open to ages 11–18. Finished work will screen at SXSW on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at the Vimeo Theater (Austin Convention Center). George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina Street, Austin.

SXSW Community Screening: Faces of Austin – Sunday, March 11, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.  Faces of Austin is a short film exhibition showcasing the work of Austin filmmakers and their works that reflect the many diverse faces, voices, and experiences that make up Austin’s unique identity. Faces of Austin is presented by the City of Austin. FREE parking is located at the museum. The screening is FREE and open to the public. To get an idea of the kinds of shorts you may see, you can watch last year’s selections on YouTube.  On Facebook you can see the list of 2012 short films. George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina Street, Austin.

The Warby Parker Citizen’s Circus at The French Legation Museum – Monday, March 12 – Wednesday, March 14, starting at 1 p.m. daily. There will be over fifteen live bands, lawn games, food trucks, vintage clothing purveyors, and cocktails. Each night at 8:00 pm, marvel in a performance by The Citizens Band—a modern take on Victorian vaudeville with trapeze artists, song-belters, burlesque performances and all manner of theatrical mischief. The French Legation, 8th Street and Embassy Drive (one block east of I-35), Austin.

Guero’s Taco Bar – Tuesday, March 13 through Sunday, March 18.  Gueros will once again host the South by South Congress music showcase. Enjoy FREE music all afternoon and evening. Each day is presented by a different artist or organization.  Click here for the lineup.  The music will be outdoors, but it will be loud and likely crowded.  If you need a break, venture into the nearby Lucy in Disguise costume shop, Big Top Candy Shop, or grab a treat at Hey Cupcake!

School of Rock Presents: SXSW All Ages Day Party – March 14, from 2 – 6 p.m. School of Rock B Team set time is slated for 3:30 p.m. Other bands playing: Unsocialized, Vintage Daisies, The Klanks, Anthropos Arts, with other special guests to be announced. FREE (donations appreciated) and all ages! Scholtz Garden, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin.

Waterloo Records – March 14 – 17. These are “grown up” shows, but most of them are outdoors in the parking lot.  If a band catches your fancy, try your luck with the crowds, or head across the street to the playground on the roof of Whole Foods. You could also swing by BookPeople!

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.

Gospel at the Carver – Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17, from 6 – 9 p.m.  FREE music at George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.  On Saturday, March 17 there will also be a Holy Hip-Hop Symposium & Concert from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 1165 Angelina St, Austin.

Whole Foods – Live Live @ Lamar – March 14 – 17.  FREE music:

  • March 14 – Live @ Lamar Unplugged Concert. Noon – 2:30 p.m. 
  • March 15 – Playing in Traffic Music Showcase: 1 – 5 p.m. on the Plaza
  • March 16 and 17 – Planet Records. Noon – 11:00 p.m. on the Plaza

SX San Jose – March 14-18.  Music starts at noon. A 5-day community event with live music, local vendors, cold beer and good times in the Hotel San Jose/Jo’s Coffee parking lot.  Always and forever FREE to attend.  1300 South Congress Avenue, Austin. 

Christian Music LIVE at the Station  Thursday, March 15, from 6 – 9 p.m. Friday, March 16, from 6 – 9 p.m. and March 17, from 6 – 9 p.m. Presented by Mission:Possible! Austin. LIVE at The Station, an outdoor music venue at Mission: Possible! Austin, will be kicking off during SXSW with FREE live music. 1818 E. 12th St. 78702. 

Music by the Slice 2012 – Friday, March 16 at Home Slice Pizza on South Congress. The party is FREE (no RSVP, no badge required) and Home Slice will donate ALL of the proceeds from concession sales to charity! The charity for 2012 is Urban Roots – a sustainable farming program for young Austinites. Go here to see the lineup.

Mexican American Experience and The Pan Americana Festival – Wednesday, March 14 through Saturday, March 17.  Four evenings of FREE music at the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). Please note that there is no parking at the MACC, but guests can park at Sanchez Elementary or Martin Middle School and take a free shuttle. For more information about the event and the free shuttles, please visit the Mexican American Experience or The Pan Americana Festival websites. 600 River Street, Austin.

Auditorium Shores – Saturday, March 17, 2012.  Family friendly shows are early in the afternoon, outdoors on the Auditorium Shores stage at Lady Bird Lake. Here are the shows now listed on the schedule for Saturday, March 17, 2012:

Moms ROCK! – Sunday, March 18, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Texas M.I.L.K (Moms I’d Like to Know) presents a showcase celebrating motherhood and music. Come out for a FREE family-friendly day of music featuring mom musicians as well as indie-pop (and mom-managed) band Charlie Belle. Happy Salon and Spa, 1605 W. 6th, Austin, 78703.

Peelander Family Jamboree – Sunday, March 18, from 1 – 5 p.m. Springdale Farm is sharing their incredible spot for a big rock n’ roll rumpus with Peelander-Z and Friends! Shade and lots of it, giant octopus balloons, clean toilets, space bowling, coloring with Toy Joy, water, chickens to look at and eat, tigers, horns, food trucks. The lineup includes Peelander-Z, Mother Falcon and Anthropos Arts Allstars. The show is FREE but donations will be taken to benefit Anthropos Arts. Springdale Farm Austin, 755 Springdale Road.

See anything you might like to try?  Here is the above information in calendar form, to help make planing easier.  But don’t forget to double check the details with the event websites, before making the trek downtown.  I’d love to hear about your SXSW Spring Break adventures!

Thank you to Nicole Basham, Catherine Prystup of LiveMom, Jeanne Schwarz, @Austin Buzz, and Carol Ramsey of Growing Up Austin!



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