No, I don’t really hate you, but sometimes I hate SXSW. While the festival brings some kickass art (and a lot of money) to our not-so-tiny Texas town, it’s no secret that the presence of thousand upon thousands of LAers kinda drives us Austinites a little batty. Too often the art is overshadowed by the incessant marketing and media coverage that it’s hard to see where the festival originated. The restaurants and roads are full, everyone is dressed better than you, and apparently you’re not cool enough to get into the party, even though you live in the coolest city in the world. You’ve got a right to be a little frustrated. So I’ve made this for you: The Native’s Guide to Avoiding South-by.
hike in the greenbelt
Whenever people ask me what to do when they come to Austin, I find my advice is always centered around food or one of the many watering holes. Given the SXSW crowd will be swarming some of my favorite haunts, I find myself leaning towards swimming suggestions. But as always, Austin weather is unpredictable, and this year unseasonably cold. While swimming might not be an option either, the massive Greenbelt should be beautiful for a little hike. And after all this rain, there might even be some water in the creek, a truly rare sight.
Austin Greenbelt – Use the Capital of Tx Hwy entrance for maximum traffic avoidance
hide out at Aviary
Sshhhhh! I am sharing one of Austin’s best-kept secrets with you, so cherish it. What opened as a home décor store quickly turned into South Lamar’s secret wine bar, which turns out to be the perfect combination. Lounge around on the comfortably modern sofas while playing cards against humanity with Marco, the owner, bar tender, and badass while he tells you about that time he fell asleep on a beach in Thailand, or was it Greece? A more recent addition and even better secret is John, culinary extraordinaire and hot plate genius, who whips up some incredible small plates in the makeshift kitchen. When the weather’s nice there’s always the patio for some people watching on South Lamar. This place is more of a second home to me than just a wine lounge, so a more extensive description will be reserved for a later time, but let it suffice to say that you won’t see any SXSW badges here.
Aviary – 2110 South Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704
for the thrill seeker
A blessing and a curse, SXSW coincides with the spring breaks of all Austin area school districts and college campuses. It’s as if Black Friday and July 4th on the Guadalupe River had a baby. Where you may avoid the hipster overload, you’re more likely to run into spring breakers. While these places might be buzzing with the energy of 12 year olds hopped up on Monsters, at least you won’t be scoffed at because your mustache is genuine, not ironic.
K1 Speedway – 2500 McHale Ct, Austin, TX 78758
Indoor Skydiving – 13265 N Hwy 183, Austin, TX 78750
Blazer Tag – Southwood Mall, 1701 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Don’t worry, you’ll be able to go back to Elizabeth Street in a few weeks, but you have to eat sometime right? There might even be some specials around town showing appreciation for local endurance. In the mean time, head out to the hill country to try the Parisian owned Baguette et Chocolat, or Café Blue. Craving French food a little closer? Try épicerie! Kind of risky since the rise of Burnet’s kitchen district, but a cinnamon roll at Uppercrust and a pancake at Pacha never disappoint. You won’t get a table at Clay Pit, but you can try their little sister Tärka down on Brodie Lane. Instead of Hopdoddy’s, check out Wholly Cow on South Lamar, or maybe trek up to the Hopdoddy’s location on Anderson Lane. While badges have been spotted as far out as The Salt Lick in Spicewood, Moontower Saloon might just be far south enough to deter the festival goers without cars/copious amounts of cash for Uber fares.
get the hell out
New Orleans happens to be my own personal MO. Just get the hell out of dodge. While all the tourists flood downtown, I’m happy to take a road trip with friends and be a tourist somewhere else for a while. See you later Ruby Red and breakfast tacos, I’ll be sippin’ on hurricanes and nommin’ on some beignets.
At the foothills of the hill country, it only takes a 30-minute drive to realize Austin might not be the sprawling metropolis Austinites sometimes mistake it for. From beautiful Cyprus trees lining the Guadalupe to an environmental history to explore, this is the perfect time to take advantage of Central Texas’s ecological assets. Take a step out of town and realize that Texas is bigger than Austin, and it should be appreciated as such. Might just convince you Tim Riggins was right: Texas forever, man.
Enchanted Rock – 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Perdanales State Park – 2585 Park Rd 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636
McKinney Falls – 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744
Pace Bend – 2011 Pace Bend Rd N, Spicewood, TX 78669
take a day trip
You don’t have to watch Friday Night Lights to fall in love with small town Texas. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Fredericksburg has embraced its role in the scheme of Texas towns as home of peaches and German heritage. A few Austin establishments have tried, but bratwurst just tastes better in the hill country.
make the great pilgrimage
Face it: you won’t be eating at Franklin’s. While the east side joint is nothing to scoff at, there’s nothing like a city practically built around barbecue. Make your own barbecue tour in Lockhart, the undisputed Capital of Texas barbecue. Visit all the hot spots like Black’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz’s and educate yourself on all the family drama. Plus, do the math: the drive to Lockhart is 45 minutes. The line for Franklin’s is 3+ hours. Hardly even a choice there.
Black’s BBQ – 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644
Smitty’s Market – 208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX 78644
Kreuz’s Market – 619 N Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644
tour a brewery
Banger’s will be packed. Easy Tiger will be packed. Ale House, Craft Pride, every beer joint you love will be packed. Can you still get beer? Duh! But make a trip of it and find it at the source. There are tons of breweries in the Austin area and they can give you a tour of the place. So learn a little about what you consume why don’t you (you might even get a little free beer while you’re at it).
Jester King Brewery – 13187 Fitzhugh Rd, Austin, TX 78736
Independence Brewing Co. – 3913 Todd Ln #607, Austin, TX 78744
512 Brewery – 407 Radam Ln, Austin, TX 78745
Austin Beer Works – 3009 Industrial Terrace, Austin, TX 78758
Spoetzl Brewery (home of Shiner) – 603 E Brewery St, Shiner, TX 77984
suck it up
You know you want to, so just suck it up and go to a show. There’s an incredible amount of talent that comes in for just a week, and while their groupies might be a tad on the irksome side, there is really a lot to be appreciated about sentiment of the festival. Everyone else is enjoying it, so you might as well, too. You don’t have to get drawn into the ‘who’s who’ and ‘OMG what party should I go to,’ because what makes SXSW cooler than any other festival is that at least some people still try to make it about the art. Find somewhere where music fits your taste, the beer is cold, and the people aren’t too trendy, then go home whenever the hell you feel like it because no one really needs to stay out ‘til 2 Monday thru Friday. Because when life gives you a music, film, and interactive festival, make lemonade (not a Moscow Mule, you hipster).
Have your own way of avoiding SXSW madness? Comment with your own tips!