The season of South by Southwest — or SXSW — is approaching and as it does, the city of Austin is abuzz with preparations. You may have heard the POTUS and FLOTUS are keynoting? NBD.
Meanwhile, jet setters from around the globe who are tapped into the worlds that the music, film, and interactive portions of the festival represent are starting to make their plans and pack their bags for the event that officially runs March 11 through 20. And no matter how many bands make their way down south via dingy touring vans, plenty of VIPs flock to the festival too, of course — now more than ever. (See also: Obamas.) Basically, SXSW can keep anyone, whatever their interests, busy with a full daily schedule of parties, concerts, and wristband-only events.
But what should travelers do if they’d like to step away from the festival and see a little bit of Austin while down south? We're here to tell you.
1. Barton Springs
Let’s just get this out of the way right off the top because it’s a famous attraction for a reason — especially when the weather is warmer, which it often is during March in Austin. This spring-fed pool is not only gorgeous and conveniently located to many downtown happenings, but it’s also expansive. There’s room for everyone! So bring your swimsuit and get over to Barton Springs for a memorably refreshing dip. And if you’re looking for a swimming hole a little less crowded, take a hike through one of the many Greenbelt paths and take a soak in Barton Creek.
2. Mount Bonnell
If you ever get the feeling that you haven’t truly seen a city until you’ve seen it from above, you’re not alone. People flock to high points around the globe to take in the view. And if you like the idea of getting some visual perspective on Austin, head up to the top of Mount Bonnell. The panoramic vantage point is lovely and if you can get the timing just right, plan to be there for sunset.
3. Congress Avenue Bridge
Seeing the bats ascend from the Congress Avenue Bridge in the evening is a wonderful sight — a favorite among visitors. Tourists know about it and dot the surrounding area with picnic blankets for seating — but it would be a mistake to ignore this attraction just because it’s popular. The bats aren’t always out and about in March, but it’s definitely worth checking in to see.
Austin does brunch well and Geraldine’s does brunch extra well. With live music for its jazz brunch as well as a rooftop pool with an amazing view, this is where you want to do your midday wakeup eating and drinking!
With just 12 seats, this micro restaurant — just opened under the watch of Top Chef's Paul Qui — is super exclusive. Eating Japanese food at Otoko — if you can get a seat — is experiential dining at its finest in Texas. The problem is: You might already be too late for SXSW, but keep your ear to the ground for openings or tickets and you might find yourself enthusiastic to make last-minute plans.
6. Hope Outdoor Gallery
You might have already seen shots of this sprawling outdoor street art center; it’s very Instagram photogenic. Head up to this not-exactly-easy-to-find spot to peruse the newest graffiti additions before heading over to a nearby attraction, like Waterloo Records.
7. Alamo Drafthouse
You don’t want to miss the Alamo when you’re in town, even if you have to go to a location beyond the downtown location in order to catch a meal and a flick without the SXSW red tape. In short: it’s a movie, a meal (a decent meal!), and drinks ALL. AT. ONCE.
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