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How to attend SXSW like a professional

Legend says Austin is the place to be during mid-March.

Jason Ballard of ICON in front of a red background.

ICON CEO Jason Ballard is returning to SXSW 2023 to talk about the future of affordable housing.

Photo by Raegan Labat

T-minus 24 hours until SXSW 2023 begins, but who is counting?

City Editor Figi here. 👋 This is my third year in a row attending SXSW, and believe me, you don’t want to go in blind. Let me set the scene — this festival attracts 250,000+ visitors annually and puts on more events per hour than is physically possible to attend.

The SXSW 2023 schedule

Start planning your festival early.

Graphic via SXSW

Buckle up and prepare to make Downtown Austin your home base for the next week. If you haven’t already, take a look at our ultimate guide to SXSW, guide to local musicians (plus recommendations), and upcoming guide to free events.

What to bring:

  • Water. There will be a lot of free beverages and booze, but not as much free H2O. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking, so make sure you’re staying hydrated.
  • Comfortable shoes. This festival takes place all over the city, so you should bank on walking a few miles per day... at least.
  • A power bank. Don’t underestimate all the photos, videos, and notes you’re going to take.
  • A clear bag, if you’re planning on attending events at the Paramount or State theatres.
  • Sunscreen. Temperatures are shaping up to be pleasant, with small scattered chances of rain, so you’ll want to protect yourself from the bright Texas sun.
  • Your SXSW GO app, which will keep your schedule at your fingertips, keep you up-to-date on start times, and notify you of any changes in real time.

How to get around

A map showing SXSW shuttle routes

SXSW has you covered with a free shuttle service to get you to those hard-to-reach venues.

Map by SXSW

Driving is likely going to be the least efficient method of getting around the festival. Leave your car at home, the hotel, or an all-day parking lot because it could be a burden with scarce parking and street closures.

You’re better off opting to take a rideshare service to downtown, where you’ll have a few options:

Don’t forget:

  • Eat local — Austin restaurants pull out all the stops during SXSW, so you’re bound to find some special menus or discounts.
  • Plan some down time. You’re going to be tired after a week of learning, exploring, and sight-seeing, so go easy on yourself.
  • Save some room for the freebies, because there will be a lot of them.
  • Register early for those must-do events — some of them fill up quickly.
  • Online tickets are available (a great option for the film festival), starting at $249.

Phew — got any questions? Feel free to reach out to your resident ATXtoday correspondents.