Of all the things that are wonderful about Austin, traffic and parking aren’t included. Throw in some crowds (SXSW, anyone?), funnel everyone into downtown and sit back to watch the ensuing road rage.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five savvy tips you can use to stay sane and ditch your car during SXSW.
#1 Embrace Walking
Thanks to some masterful organizing, the majority of SXSW sessions are clumped in the downtown area. It’s not that big, so challenge yourself to get those recommended daily 10,000 steps (and offset a few tacos and Mexican martinis).
Go to Google Maps to find a route (choose the walking icon under “Directions”) and then see if you can beat its estimated travel time. Need to drive part way? Park outside the SXSW zone. Try out the eastside, off of Nash Hernandez Sr. Road and near I35, in one of the several parking lots along the lake.
Explore Austin and track your movement by checking out the free fitness app MapMyWalk, which provides a community of walkers, pedometer and other cool features (and they’re a local company).
#2 Go Off-Road
Get off the street by taking the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The path encircles Lady Bird Lake and is an excellent thoroughfare for walking or biking into downtown. Avoid the crowds, stretch your legs and bask in the quiet of nature.
If you allow enough time, park across the river near the intersection of Riverside and I35 to cross on the highway’s pedestrian bridge. You can tour Austin’s historic Rainey Street district in the process.
#3 Share a Ride
Car2Go can be a lifesaver. Sign up for a membership so you can grab one of the blue and white Smart cars. They’re only big enough for two people, but there are designated Car2Go parking areas and cars can be reserved with the mobile app. It’s easy to walk in the morning and grab a Car2Go at night after a long day of sessions or shows. Or drive in the morning to take advantage of easy parking close in. Little known fact: Car2Go vehicles do not have to pay street meter parking.
You can also share bicycles through Austin’s B-cycle. Stations are located all over town. Sign up online; daily rental costs $8. The sturdy, bright red bikes have baskets and adjustable seats. Like Car2Go, you simply use a bike and then return it to a designated station.
And through March 21st, festival badge holders can score a complimentary B-cycle day pass voucher at the SXcycles depot (604 Driskill St) worth unlimited 30-minute-and-less rides for 24 hours once activated.
#4 Make it Public
Austin’s Capital MetroRail takes you right to the heart of SXSW, dropping riders off at the Austin Convention Center. One-way tickets cost $3.50, while a day pass is $7.
Plaza Saltillo (412 Comal, at the corner of 5th Street) is lovely, but there’s only a small amount of parking at the station. More street parking is available at MLK Jr. station, but the only dedicated Park & Ride stations are further north at the Leander, Lakeline and Howard stations.
Want a beer? Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery is just off the Crestview station on N Lamar. And yes, you can take your bike on the rail.
Let someone else do the driving by taking the bus. CapMetro fare is cheap, with single ride at $1.25 and a day pass costing $2.50. The Austin Convention Center is within walking distance of many bus stations. Routes can be planned and tickets purchased using CapMetro’s handy app.
#5 Find a Hidden Gem
The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River Street ) is located in the heart of the Rainey Street district. Sure, check out the wonderful exhibits, but it’s also a great resource for parking, finding Car2Go vehicles and general meet-up.
When there are no events scheduled, the center’s lot is open for public parking. There’s almost always a Car2Go tucked away, and the closest B-cycle station is at Rainey and Cummings Streets. And for those who are meeting fellow walkers, it’s an easy trail landmark. Just look for the multicolored snake sidewalk and Trail of Tejano Legends sculpture off the trail on Lady Bird Lake.
Don’t forget Alta’s Café. Trinity Street ends at the Waller Creek Boathouse (74 Trinity), and tucked in the top floor of the two-story building is Alta’s. This delightful café sits atop where the crewing sculls are kept and offers beautiful views of the sunset. Located right on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, the café serves coffee, craft beers, wine and assorted nibbles. Just two blocks from the Austin Convention Center, Alta’s makes a great pit stop as you utilize the Lady Bird Lake trail.
@theAustinot wants to know:
How are you ditching the car during SXSW this year?
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