With prices as high as $1,500 for an all access badge, having fun at SXSW 2015 can seem like an expensive affair. But fear not, intrepid penny pinchers. There are tons of free activities to enjoy during Austin’s biggest week of the year. You may need to RSVP, get there early and wait in line, but nothing screams Austin like doing SXSW on the cheap. Here are some great ways to do so this year.
The Guest Pass
The easiest way to enjoy free events is the SXSW Guest Pass. Available for pickup at a number of convenient locations, this credential gets you into free, officially sponsored events.
Click here for the full list of freebies. Here are a few highlights (note: not all events require a Guest Pass):
- SXSW Eco Light Garden: A wonderland of interactive LED’s and displays, the Eco Light Garden promises to be a sight to see. And the best part? It’s free! The garden opens on Sunday, March 15th, and runs all the way until Saturday, March 21st in Republic Square Park.
- Flatstock 48: Music and art combine in this fascinating look into the world of concert posters. They even have a stage for featured SXSW bands to do “2nd play” sets. Runs from 11 AM-6 PM from March 19-21st. More info can be found here.
- SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores: Jaded by the ever escalating price of wristbands? It just so happens the biggest stage at the festival is free to the public. Bands like Spoon and Intocable will be playing sets from Thursday, March 19th to Saturday, March 21st. Click here for full details.
Fair warning: most of the official SXSW shows require paid wristbands or all access badges. If you’re reading this with a naked arm, you’re pretty much out of luck. Wristbands are sold out as of this article. Badges are still available, but you may have to sell your car to get one.
But there’s hope for music lovers. Many of the showcase bands perform several times throughout the week, usually for free. Resources like @FreeatSXSW on Twitter and Do512.com have excellent, comprehensive lists of these 2nd play sets. Just remember, many of these shows require an RSVP that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in. Arrive 90 minutes early, bring a snack and hope the venue doesn’t fill up.
Some extra advice: If an event on Do512’s free page says “buy” instead of RSVP, don’t fret. The buy button just means you’re going to an external site to RSVP. Also, some freebies require you be a customer of the sponsor hosting the event. For example, Kid Cudi is playing a free show on Saturday, but you have to be a Verizon customer to RSVP.
Feeling thirsty or hungry? Those looking for a free drink or nosh can do well surfing the corporate landscape. If you don’t mind partying inside a giant commercial, dozens of companies hold promotional events all over town, many of which you can waltz right into.
Like the concerts, sites like Do512.com have listings, but many events can be discovered while walking around. If there’s a start date, get there early! Nothing worse than walking into an AMEX sponsored happy hour to discover all the booze is gone. Otherwise, walk in, grab some free swag and enjoy. Which brings me to…
The Great ATX Wander
My favorite thing to do during SXSW? Wander around aimlessly. Hear some good music coming from a tiny bar? Walk up and try to get in. What’s the worst the doorman can say? Nope, wristbanders only? Move on! Or better yet, grab a food truck taco, sit on the sidewalk and listen from the street. How Austin is that?
Eventually, you’ll get lucky and find something worth checking out. Even better, you’ll get exposed to something you didn’t expect. That’s the real joy of SXSW. A collage of music, art, film and tech, there’s always something new to discover. Stumbling across your new favorite folk singer or an inspirational art installation can make the entire week of traffic, tourists and product placement more than worth it. Especially when you didn’t pay a dime to experience it all.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite SXSW moment?