From the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek to the beaches of Tulum…
… there are no end of travel locales that provide the same wonderful amenities for all: an escape from the daily routine, a chance to try new things, and countless opportunities to being home incredible stories. These are the things the best vacations are made of, and the better the vacation, the better the stories. That unforgettable concert, the unforgettable meal, even a brush with celebrity – the sum of one’s time on a great vacation can power through the dreariest routine.
And, after years of bringing you the best of travel options, from snow-covered Vail and Beaver Creek to the charms of the Napa Valley and even to the crystalline beaches of Acapulco, we’ve decided that there is a new destination every thrillseeker, foodie, art-appreciator, self-improvement, or music aficionado must consider when deciding on their next vacation. It’s a great city in the heart of the Lone Star State, filled with all of the elements one needs to bring home the most memorable stories of any vacation. Walking distance from Austin, TX, and only appearing in mid-March, the most sought-after vacation destination has to be: South By Southwest, TX. and its peak (and only) season, from March 8 – 17, is rapidly approaching.
Of course, when we say it’s walking distance from Austin, we’re having a little fun. SXSW takes place within the legendary city limits of Austin, but there isn’t a native Austinite who will tell you that their city remains the same for the 10 days when SXSW begins. The city, itself, is transformed to make room for 1000s of bands, 1000s of creative activations and 100s of movies. Along with the aforementioned creative endeavors and expressions come the people and companies seeking to make their mark in the world, and seeking to impress the people on hand with exclusive activations, one-of-a-kind concerts, movie premieres, and parties to support nearly every single artist, sponsor, or corporation involved. It would be easy to liken it to an amusement park for grown-ups, if it weren’t for the long-lasting stories, sounds, and cultural effects that SXSW has on the world around it. It is a ready-made legendary vacation for any who decide to attend, so make your plans today.
How to Have the Best Time
There are those who will tell you that SXSW is possible to do and do well without a single dollar spent on access. For the most part, they’re right. One can spend days sending in RSVPs to parties and events and then schedule to be at the parties and events early enough to ensure entry. But SXSW becomes easier to navigate if you purchase any of their conference badges. Consider them a “grown-up fast pass” that ensures you’ll get to be where you want when you want, and asks a minimum of your RSVP energies.
Depending on your specified interest, you can purchase: An Interactive Badge – grants you access and priority to SXSW’s Interactive events, parties, and conferences, while also providing secondary access to both Music and Film events and conferences; A Film Badge – which puts you in the heart of the film universe for a week, with movie premieres, studio-supported parties and events, and the secondary access to both Interactive and Music events; Or you can purchase a Music Badge, which provides you primary access to every SXSW music venue and each of the thousands of performances, while allowing (you guessed it) secondary access to Interactive and Film events and conferences.
There is plenty of crossover, as each creative industry wants to take advantage of crossover appeal. Film events often feature appearances by touring bands in town for the Music Conference who also fit the mood of the film or, better yet, are featured in the soundtrack.
Still, for the ultimate experience (and, this year, for not much more money), the badge you want is the Platinum Badge. Not only does this badge act as a fast pass to all of the Music, Interactive, and Film events and performances, but it grants its wearer priority among all other badges. This is the platinum standard and virtually guarantees access to a venue, film, event, or conference session, provided one is on time or slightly early to the venue. There is no substitute for SXSW’s Platinum experience, and the stories that accompany this level of access make it well worth the while.
Where to Stay
Despite the fact that there are around five weeks until SXSW is open to the public, it is still a bit late in the game to begin planning your trip. Thanks to conference attendees and the bands and corporations descending on the Austin area during that time, there is a lot of demand on the hospitality industry in Austin. Still, there are a few resources to explore that could net an incredible find on making the most of your SXSW, TX getaway.
Austin-born and based HomeAway still has plenty of listings for available housing during SXSW, from just around $100/night to opulent offerings at over $1000/night. Check out their available homes and condos here.
Within the beating heart of SXSW, the J.W. Marriott is the most convenient place to stay for everything SXSW has to offer. The conference events happen either within five blocks of the hotel or in the meeting rooms/spaces of the hotel itself, meaning it’s the absolute dream lodging. It also tends to host a great number of the celebrities and artists who will be attending the conference, so it makes for fascinating people watching while you’re not reveling in the SXSW wonders. The cost can be a little steep, but when considering the cost savings on transport and time, there’s really no better place to stay…
…unless you’re going to SXSW, TX specifically for music. In that case, while Sixth Street will have the lion’s share of upstart bands trying to make a name for themselves, Rainey St. is where the names you’ll hear on the radio later this year make their debut. Sigrid, The Strumbellas, G Flip, Phosphorescent, Cold War Kids, lovelytheband and anyone StubHub brings to their showcases (more on this in a later article) have all made it a point to stop and perform on Rainey during SXSW. Even established stars like Ludacris have paid their respects. Hotel Van Zandt is like sleeping in the rafters at your favorite venue, where you merely need to come downstairs to see someone incredible – albeit, the accommodations are outstanding, and their social hour in the lobby and attention to customer service is the stuff of dreams. It affords the guest the opportunity to dive into SXSW or to stay above it all, while still being right in the middle of the action.
The Domain/Domain NORTHSIDE are worth exploring, either to escape the SXSW madness or to get a flavor of another slice of the ATX life. Hail your fave ride-share or venture by CapMetro train, and you’ll find a myriad of stores, hotels, bars and restaurants in a purpose-built, walkable neighborhood that includes apartments and offices. One of the newest eateries in the Domain is True Food Kitchen, co- founded by integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil. With that kind of ownership, it’s little surprise that True Food Kitchen is rooted in the philosophy that delicious dining and conscious nutrition can go hand in hand without sacrificing flavor, creativity or indulgence. They had us at delicious dining!
We will have more on “What to See,” “Music You Can’t Miss,” and “Parties that Make Memories,” as the schedule and lineup are released, in full. But, for now, make your plans, buy your badge, and book your room for the best vacation destination that only comes available once a year. Get ready to travel to sunny SXSW, TX this March.