An Austin Innkeeper’s Guide to SXSW

Each spring, masses upon masses of people descend upon the city of Austin, Texas for the set of music, film, and interactive festivals and conferences known as South by Southwest (SXSW). This is only fitting, as the capital city has emerged over the years as an important center for music- and filmmaking, as well as a must-visit foodie destination. In addition to coming for the festival, travelers flock to Austin to experience its lingering small-town vibe and come-as-you-are attitude. And when you stay at an Austin bed and breakfast, you get the insider’s guide to the best of the city. These tips from local innkeepers will help you make the most of your stay as you navigate your way around the city during the festival.

Favorite SXSW venues

Austin, TX Sixth Street

Multiple innkeepers recommend the following SXSW venue:


Continental Club: With the national reputation as Austin’s premiere club for live music, this is the place to be on the final Saturday of SXSW, if not for the free party hosted by Mojo Nixon, then definitely for the jalapeno pancake breakfast.





Other recommended SXSW venues:

Saxon Pub: This award-winning listening room attracts a diverse crowd, from locals and artists just starting out to marquee celebrities and music industry big-wigs.

-Recommended by Park Lane Guest House

Stubb’s BBQ: Stubb’s has a long history of being a popular place for people to gather to enjoy great music and “legendary” barbecue. Musical giants such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash have all “played for their supper” here.

-Recommended by Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast on Lake Travis

Waterloo Ice House: This casual neighborhood watering hole embodies that Hill Country spirit of coming together with family and good friends for an ice cold beer and a plate of scratch-made comfort food. As an added bonus, this is also a popular performance venue for artists from the local Austin music scene.

-Recommended by Austin’s Inn at Pearl Street

Favorite free SXSW parties/shows

SXSW Music

Mojo’s Mayhem: Starting at 10:00 AM on the last Saturday of SXSW, this all-day show for the 21+ over crowd is totally free and offers the “best live music you’ll see without needing a wristband.”

-Recommended by Adams House

Threadgill's: The indoor and outdoor stage offer festival-goers access to free folk music show that lasts all day on Saturday.

-Recommended by Park Lane Guest House

FADER Fort: Those in-the-know will tell you that the FADER Fort is biggest little secret of SXSW. Sign up to receive their email updates to get the jump on all the details, including wristband availability and musical line-ups and then kick back and enjoy free performances and free drinks.

-Recommended by Star of Texas Inn


Where to eat

Austin is best known for its finger-licking-good barbecue and its perpetual battle between Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican fare. But, as our surveyed innkeepers have demonstrated through the diversity of their restaurant suggestions, Austin’s food scene has so much more to offer by way of notable cuisine.

Barbecue

SXSW BBQ

John Mueller Meat Co.: Located on the East Side just minutes from Downtown Austin, the John Mueller Meat Co. serves up traditional smoked brisket, beef and pork ribs, sausage, pork shoulder, and turkey along with classic sides such as potato salad, pinto beans, and baked squash. And, if you find yourself waiting in a long line for food, don’t be surprised if someone hands you a free beer to sip on while you pass the time.


la Barbecue: Also on the East Side, la Barbecue is a dog-friendly barbecue joint that serves brisket, ribs (beef and pork), pulled pork, turkey, and house-made sausage with coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans, and free beer on Wednesday-Sunday. They open at 11 AM and serve “’til sold out,” so get there on the early side or risk missing out.

-Recommended by Adams House

The Salt Lick: Using a collection of old family recipes that date back to the mid-1800s, The Salt Lick serves some of the best barbecue in the Texas Hill Country. Head to the Driftwood location for all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and beans for $19.95. Be sure to bring cash, though – they’re a cash-only establishment.

-Recommended by Star of Texas Inn

Smitty’s Market: Drive 30 minutes south of Austin to Lockhart, the “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” where Smitty’s has been serving smoked brisket, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and other barbecued meats since 1999. The restaurant doesn’t accept credit cards, so make sure you have some cash on you before you order.

-Recommended by Gateway Guesthouse



Breakfast/Brunch

SXSW Breakfast and Brunch

While our Austin bed and breakfasts can help you jump start your day with a satisfying breakfast before a full day at the festival, our surveyed innkeepers know that breakfast can be just as satisfying when you eat it for lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for places that serve breakfast all day, then head to the following recommended restaurants:

24 Diner: Inspired by the classic diners of the 1950s, this diner serves farm-to-table fare around the clock, using organic produce whenever possible. The Chicken and Waffles are especially popular with the locals, especially around 2 AM when the bars let out.


Austin Java: This dog-friendly restaurant is known for its wide variety of coffee drinks and its healthy and creative offering of omelets.

-Recommended by Austin’s Inn at Pearl Street

Bouldin Creek Cafe: This local favorite serves wholesome vegetarian food (with several vegan options) that is so flavorful and satisfying that you won’t miss the meat one bit. Because of its popularity, you may wind up waiting up to an hour for a table during peak breakfast and brunch times.

-Recommended by Park Lane Guest House



Mexican

Multiple innkeepers have recommended the following restaurant:

Austin, TX Tacos

Chuy’s: With multiple locations throughout the city, Chuy’s is committed to serving Tex-Mex cuisine featuring a combination of authentic Mexican and Southwestern flavors. No matter what you order to eat, be sure to order a round of frozen margaritas to go along with it.


Other recommended restaurants:

Curra’s Grill: Head to Curra’s for authentic Mexican food with an upscale twist. If you’re there for lunch or dinner, then the Avocado Margarita is a must-order.

-Recommended by Park Lane Guest House

El Alma: This friendly neighborhood restaurant is located in a multi-level structure built directly into the side of a limestone hill. Request a table on the expansive rooftop patio and enjoy specialty margaritas along with popular favorites such as the Carne Asada Tacos and the Duck Enchiladas with Mole.


El Naranjo: With its clean lines and modern décor, this restaurant located in a converted house on Rainey Street specializes in traditional interior Mexican food.

-Recommended by Gateway Guesthouse

La Condesa: This trendy restaurant in Austin’s Warehouse District serves high-end Mexican food and is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended, especially for those traveling in a group.


Manuel’s: Manuel’s, a favorite fixture on Austin’s restaurant scene, features regional Mexican cuisine prepared with fresh seasonal, sustainable, and all-natural ingredients and a menu that offers several gluten-free and vegetarian options.

-Recommended by Austin’s Inn at Pearl Street



Pizza

Multiple innkeepers have recommended the following restaurant:

Austin, TX Pizza

Home Slice Pizza: This neighborhood pizza joint on South Congress serves authentic New York-style pizza with dough that’s homemade and hand-tossed on the premises. Order a whole pie to share or by the slice.


Other recommended restaurants:

Austin's Pizza: Austin’s Pizza has 12 locations throughout the city and offers pizza topped with freshly made sauces with no preservatives. With 29 different topping and cheese options, pie possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

-Recommended by Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast on Lake Travis





Favorite food trailers

Multiple innkeepers have recommended the following food trailer:

Torchy’s Tacos: Despite being a food trailer, Torchy’s boasts an extensive vegetarian-friendly menu of affordable tacos that’s constantly evolving to keep up with the creativity and inventiveness of the kitchen staff. As their popularity grew, the restaurant expanded, opening several brick and mortar locations all around Austin. To get the full experience, visit the trailer (the flagship location) and order the Trailer Park with a side of their infamous Green Chile Queso.


Other recommended food trailer:

Gourdough’s:If you’re craving something sweet, then head to this food trailer housed in a vintage Airstream Trailer on South 1st Street for some of the most imaginative donut creations ever conceived, including the Flying Pig (topped with bacon and a maple syrup icing) and the Funky Monkey (topped with grilled bananas and cream cheese icing with brown sugar).

-Recommended by Adams House


Where to shop

Austin, TX vintage shopping

All of our surveyed innkeepers recommend stopping by South Congress Avenue, referred to by locals as “SoCo”. This nationally-known shopping district has an eclectic assortment of antique galleries, boutique shops, music venues, and art spaces to explore. Plus, the unobstructed view of the Texas State Capitol can’t be beat.

Other recommended shops:


The Domain: This promenade of shops is home to 100 upscale and mainstream retail stores and restaurants, including high-end boutiques such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus.


Austin Rocks Texas: This boutique clothing store specializes in rocker apparel inspired by Austin’s local music scene.

-Recommended by Austin’s Inn at Pearl Street



Favorite place to escape the festival

Austin, TX Bluebonnets

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Named after Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States, this 279-acre public botanical garden attracts 100,000 visitors annually. With its focus on native plants, research, and education, the Wildflower Center is a nationally-recognized leader in plant conservation and environmental sustainability.


Hyde Park: Located in Central Austin, this neighborhood is just north of The University of Texas and includes two historic districts, the Hyde Park Historic District and the Shadow Lawn Historic District. Take a stroll through the neighborhood and admire the Victorian and Tudor Revival architecture. Even though it’s only a few minutes from all the SXSW action, it feels as if it’s “1000 miles away”.

-Recommended by Adams House

The Oasis on Lake Travis: Known as the “Sunset Capital of Texas,” this restaurant on the western edge of the city with terraced views looking west over Lake Travis sits on a bluff that rises 450 feet above the water. Give its location, the restaurant is the perfect spot to sip on cocktails while watching the sun slowly disappear behind the horizon.

-Recommended by Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast on Lake Travis

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park: This public park features hilly trails that are popular with mountain bikers and a large off-leash area for dogs that’s popular with those traveling with pets.

-Recommended by Recommended by Decker Creek Bed & Breakfast & Biscuit

Hill Country: Stretching from the northern suburbs of San Antonio to the area just west of Downtown Austin, the area is known for its fusion of Spanish and Central European influences on food, beer, architecture, and music. In recent years, the Hill Country has emerged as the center of the Texas wine industry, as well.


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Named after Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States, this 279-acre public botanical garden attracts 100,000 visitors annually. With its focus on native plants, research, and education, the Wildflower Center is a nationally-recognized leader in plant conservation and environmental sustainability.


Zilker Park: This 351-acre public park in the heart of south Austin is considered by locals as the city’s “most-loved park”. With the Barton Springs Pool, the Zilker Botanical Garden, and fields for polo, soccer, and volleyball, the park serves as a year-round recreational hub.

-Recommended by Gateway Guesthouse

Favorite outdoor activity

Multiple innkeepers recommend the following outdoor activity:

Austin, TX Lady Bird Lake

Locals love taking advantage of the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin. Ten miles of trails designated specifically for walking and biking border Lady Bird Lake, and the facility serves as a social hub for the city’s walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Other recommended outdoor activities:

Barton Springs: Situated in Zilker Park, this set of four natural water springs is an absolute must-see destination. The water from the main spring fills the Barton Springs Pool, where Austinites enjoy year-round swimming in water that ranges in temperature from 68°F in the winter to about 72°F in the summer.

-Recommended by Austin’s Inn at Pearl Street

Barton Creek Greenbelt: With its diverse terrain, the Greenbelt is a popular spot for outdoor-enthusiasts willing to push themselves on the hiking and biking trails, rock climbing up the large limestone cliffs, and spelunking in the Airmen’s Cave, which, at two miles, is the longest cave in Travis County.

-Recommended by Star of Texas Inn

Travis Heights: A walk through this historic neighborhood in south Austin reveals an impressive mix of mansions, smaller homes, and chic apartment buildings. With its close proximity to the cafes and shops of South Congress Avenue, the neighborhood is one of the city’s most desirable residential areas.

-Recommended by Gateway Guesthouse



Additional things to check out

Texas State Capitol building

Texas State Capitol: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the capitol building contains the chambers of the Texas State Legislature and the office of the governor. Self-guided tours of the building and the grounds are available during business hours, so schedule some time for a tour if at all possible.

-Recommended by Recommended by Decker Creek Bed & Breakfast & Biscuit


Auditorium Shores:Located on Lady Bird Lake, this public park is 57.3 acres in size and is the home of a large off-leash dog area and numerous concerts and performances, including those of SXSW. Several memorials are located throughout the park recognize those who’ve made significant contributions to the city.

-Recommended by Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast on Lake Travis

The Paramount: Catch a film at the Paramount even if you don’t have a film pass or a badge for the SXSW Film Festival. It’s the “best place to see a film, especially after the music festival starts.”

-Recommended by Park Lane Guest House

Blanton Museum of Art: This art museum and research center at The University of Texas at Austin houses 17,000 works of art from the United States, Europe, and Latin America. It’s one of the largest university art museums in America.


Bullock Texas State History Museum:Explore the “Story of Texas” through three floors of exhibits showcasing a collection of Texas artifacts and watch special-effects films about the history and culture of the state.

-Recommended by Recommended by Decker Creek Bed & Breakfast & Biscuit

More SXSW Guides


Event Details

SXSW
Mar. 7 - 16, 2014
Austin, TX