SxSurvival Tips – How to Have the Best, Safest SXSW Ever!

by Traci Marie Mondragon

SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint. Let that be your mantra from March 11-20. Your body, your friends, and your spirit will thank you. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be that. Slow your roll. Stop and enjoy the week. Pace yourself!

Living, breathing, and going to the bathroom.

If you’ve heeded my other advice throughout this series, then you are well-equipped with a plan for loads of parties with free food, drinks, and amazing live music. You want to make the most of all this planning you’ve worked hard at! This means staying WELL throughout the week. This means:

  • Load up on Emergen-C
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Drink WATER (one after every 1-2 boozey beverages)
  • If a party has fruits/veggies available as part of their free snacks, eat them!
  • Take sit-down breaks when seats are available
  • A break could be as simple as sitting under a tree at one of those free parties, or going inside the convention center to cool off in the A/C (if it’s hot).

Speaking of the Convention Center… there are a TON of free, clean bathrooms inside! Most hotel lobbies also have lovely bathrooms, and because so many people are going in and out of all these downtown hotels, no one will stop you from using their facilities if you’re not staying there.

Pack the essentials.

  • Photo ID (everyone ID’s during SX)
  • Cell phone
  • Phone charger, extra battery, and/or wireless/battery-powered charger
  • Cash (preferably small bills for tipping)
  • Credit/Debit card
  • Refillable water bottle (there are water coolers all throughout the convention center also)
  • Maps, schedules
  • Light snacks
  • Emergen-C
  • Sunscreen
  • (because I’m a super girlie girl) powder, lip gloss, eyeliner  *optional

A cross-body bag or backpack can store all these items, as well as any swag you might collect throughout the day. Oh, and if you DO have a badge… DON’T be an idiot and keep your credit cards/photo ID inside the plastic badge sleeve. Taking that thing in and out of that is a great way to lose your badge, lose your ID/cards, or make it more difficult to scan your badge at official venues.

Getting downtown, parking, getting home safe!

If you’re driving yourself…

Give yourself about 2 hours to drive downtown, find parking, and get to where you’re going on time. No, this isn’t an exaggeration. Parking will be a nightmare, as will traffic in and around downtown.

A good tip for where to park, in regards to your plans for the day… park near where you plan to end your night. You’ll be so incredibly tired by 2am, especially if you’ve been out since before noon. It’s better to have a long trek at the start of your day, than at the end.

Many of the street meters will be wrapped up and only allow special permits to park by them, so don’t rely on where you “know” there is street parking. Garages may cost up to 5x as much as usual. So budget for parking, or be prepared to park much farther from downtown than expected.

Take Public Transporation!

If you just read the above, I might have scared you off from driving yourself. And while Austin isn’t exactly the most public transpo-friendly city, we’ve still got some great options.

Capital Metro runs later than usual during SXSW, and this site will help guide you to your destination with ease! Key tip if you live central/west: Highland Mall is pretty much shut down, and has a huge parking lot right across the street from a Metro Rail stop! The Metro Rail that also stops RIGHT in front of the Convention Center!

If you partied way too hard, use ride-sharing. GET HOME SAFE.

Above all else… make sure you get home safe. The ride sharing options in Austin no longer include Uber and Lyft, but we have Fasten and Fare, which are both good options.

I have a Badge…so now what?

by Traci Marie Mondragon

I’d like to thank everyone who read Vol 1 of my SXSW 2017 Advice Column. So, if you took my advice and signed up to volunteer, then you are going to earn a badge! Or maybe you’re just made of money and you purchased a badge. Either way… if this is your first time with that coveted plastic-encased-paper-holy-grail-on-a-lanyard, or you just need some helpful info on how to ROCK that badge, then this column is for you.

Keep in mind, I have been attending SXSW for over ten years, so I speak from experience. Also keep in mind that I’ve only ever attended because I’ve volunteered for that long as well…so I may not cover everything a paid registrant would know about. But I’ll do my best!

 

Badge Types/Admittance

There are BIG changes to the SXSW badge structure in 2017. Most notably, ANY badge type can get you into ANY part of the conference or festival. Here’s what I mean…

Your admittance priority into events is dependent on what type of badge you will have. Most venues will have two lines: one for Priority Access and one for Secondary Access.

Interactive = Priority admittance to Interactive panels/sessions/workshops and events (Secondary access to Film and Music events)

Film = Priority admittance to Film screenings, panels/sessions/workshops, and events (Secondary access to Interactive and Music events)

Music = Priority admittance to Music showcases, panels/sessions/workshops, and events (Secondary access to Interactive and Film events)

Platinum = Priority admittance into Interactive, Film, AND Music events!

All official events will have capacity limits of course, so your badge will not get you into events that are at capacity, and there are a few, rare private or ticketed events that even your badge alone is not enough to get you into.

 

Create a Schedule with a Plan A, B, C, and D.

SXSW has SO much to offer, and it can definitely be overwhelming. There are several different types of events, from morning till the wee hours of the night! But planning is key. And backup planning is crucial.

If you haven’t already, create an account at schedule.sxsw.com. There, you can search events you’re interested in, and add events to your custom schedule. There’s also an app!

Use the day/type filters to search only the types of events you want, or by conference type.. Play with the filters, or use the search field at the top right to search for specific bands, films, or speakers you’re interested in.

 

Best Kept Secrets

There are a few insider tricks I’ve learned over many years of SXSW’ing, through trial and error, and some by pure happy accident!

Interactive

Interactive parties tend to be overlooked by those who still think SXSW is just all about music. Often, these are great networking events with loads of free booze and food. Some of the best parties I’ve been to are Interactive parties. Those tech people know how to go hard! The Interactive closing party is always at Stubb’s, and has always featured some HUGE acts (Ludacris, Deadmau5), not to mention an open bar. At Stubb’s! Those drinks are usually like $7 or more a pop! There are SO many day and night parties during Interactive. So take advantage of this!

Film

Film panels often highlight specific films, and will feature the filmmakers and entire casts. These are often intimate settings with Q&A portions, so you can get up close to pick the brains of your favorite filmmakers or TV stars.

Music

ACC Day Stages. Inside the Austin Convention Center, in the 4th Floor ballrooms, are the music day stages. Super intimate settings feature artists both well-known and up-and-coming. These shows are a great way to see that band you love, but maybe conflicts with another band you love later in the week! The shows are never full, and you can always get a great spot up front, out of the elements, and the sound is always fantastic.

Some day parties and events offer priority entrance to badgeholders, over non-badgeholders who have just RSVP’d, so always go up and ask at the door if you see a HUGE line. It might be worth asking! The worst they can do is send you to the back of the line.

All-Conference

Not specific to badge type…the Registrant’s Lounge is open all week, and is a chill place to get a free drink, mingle, and get ready for all those evening parties, films, and showcases! Note: Volunteers are NOT allowed into the Registrant’s Lounge. Sorry, guys. We can’t get ALL the perks. The Registrant’s Lounge is located in Brush Square Park, just across 4th street from the Convention Center. Speaking of Brush Square, there are parties going on at both the East side tent and West side tent ALL week! These usually feature free drinks, snacks/food, and bands.

Convergence

In the past few years, SXSW has introduced new concepts to compliment the big three conference areas. These include SXSW Gaming, SXSW Sports, and SXSW Comedy. Many of these Convergence events are open to all Registrants, no matter your type of badge.

 

Finally…

Always remember to have several back-up plans. Even with that badge, there may still be long lines, or they might run out of food or drinks, or the band you thought was playing that party may have cancelled. Always have a backup plan.

Enjoy that badge! You’ve earned (or paid for) it!

How to Own SXSW Like a BOSS

by Traci Marie Mondragon

One of the greatest things about living in Austin is SXSW: that magical week in March when technology, film, and music combine to create a tangible energy in our beloved city.  If you’re reading this post, then you definitely know what SXSW is, and you’ve probably experienced it.  And if you’re a Baller ATX friend and follower… you probably can’t afford a badge.  But there are SO many ways to do SXSW right…especially if you’re broke!  I’m about to give you the secrets to having the BEST possible SXSW experience of your life.

 

Give a little to Get a LOT

VOLUNTEER for SXSW. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have enough time to volunteer! So many hours! It’s too much work!” Okay, quit being ridiculous and get it together!!! You’re an adult. You’re smart. You’re capable.

Make your schedule work and sign up to volunteer. You work some (mostly easy) shifts, you get a badge. A badge most people pay WELL over $1200 for. It’s almost unbelievable! There are still plenty of crews who need volunteers, so head on over to volunteer.sxsw.com to learn more!

You’ll get into SO many parties, lounges, panels, films, shows, etc. that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have that badge.

 

Can’t Volunteer?

RSVP till your fingers hurt. There are so many sites, Facebook groups, etc. that list free parties if you DON’T have a badge. So if you don’t take my first piece of advice, then do this. In fact, Baller ATX has a handy list to aid in your RSVPing.

 

Stay Safe

Gather your friends together and carpool, or better yet, split Rideshares. If the above tips are successful, you WILL be drinking A LOT. So be safe above ALL else.

 

Pace yourself!

SXSW means day drinking. My best advice? Stop drinking at about 8pm. Especially if you have a badge and will be going to night showcases. You won’t make it to that headliner you’re dying to see on the Friday night of Music if you are drinking from noon-4am every night that week. And even if you do you’ll feel miserable and probably won’t remember much.

 

Finally… Have FUN

If you’re anything like me, SXSW is your Christmas, birthday, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one amazing week. Make it count, make it last, and make it memorable. But most importantly make it safe so you can make it out again next year! And the year after that and the year after that…

 

Stay tuned for Volume 2 of Traci’s SXSW Tips Next Week!

SXSfree?

by Dominic Mondragon

Every year SXSW has many free official events that are easy to get into. I am gonna highlight some of them. Here is a link to all the official free SXSW events. I highly recommend using the free Mazda cars to get around town when you can. They leave from the convention center. Also, all events listed in this blog are free when using the SXSW Guest Pass if you don’t have a badge. Enjoy!

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Comedy HP.top banner image

SXSW COMEDY

One of the little known facts about SXSW is that all the Comedy shows are FREE to the public after badges/wristbands have been admitted, if the venues aren’t full. Unlike films and music showcases, Comedy doesn’t charge those without a badge. Simply line up in the “Standby” line at the venue, and 10-15 minutes before the show, you’ll find out whether or not you can get in to the show. See the complete schedule here. Your best bet to get into a show is at Esther’s Follies and the North Door, since these are bigger venues…but try your luck at any show you’re interested in seeing!

 

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SXSW OUTDOOR STAGE AT LADY BIRD LAKE

One of my favorite SX events every year are the free shows at Auditorium Shores. I have seen so many great bands on this stage during SX over the last decade. They have made it bigger and better the last few years since The Strokes played there a few years ago and overpacked the place. Get there early so you can get a good spot. The Thursday lineup isn’t out yet, but I know who the headlining artist will be, and I am super excited. If you have a badge, you can get a free shuttle ride over to the park, and they have a private area off to the right where you can get bleacher seats and free Titos drinks!

Thursday, March 17
Gates Open at 3:00PM

Lineup TBA

Friday, March 18
Gates Open at 3:00PM

5:00PM – Tijuana Panthers
6:00PM – Beach Slang
7:00PM – Wolfmother
8:00PM – Coheed and Cambria

Saturday, March 19
Gates Open at 12:00PM

2:00PM – Kelvis Ochoa
3:00PM – X Alfonso Y La Flota
4:00PM – 3BallMTY
5:00PM – División Minúscula
6:00PM – Systema Solar
7:00PM – Grupo Fantasma
8:00PM – Intocable

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Calling all Gamers… The SXSW Gaming Expo is FREE and open to the public!

If you’ve never been, it is a must-attend for anyone who loves video games. There are tons of vendors showcasing the newest games that are coming out, and always sign ups, giveaways, and freebies for all who attend. I have personally won a few games from the expo in previous years just by visiting vendors. They have added SO much to the Gaming component of SXSW this year, and have moved it from the Palmer Events Center over to the Austin Convention Center… so you’ll be right in the middle of all the SX action!

WHEN

Thursday, March 17 | 12:00–8:00pm
Friday, March 18 | 12:00–8:00pm
Saturday, March 19 | 12:00–8:00pm

WHERE

Austin Convention Center, Southside
Exhibit Halls 1 & 2

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FREE MOVIES during SXSW at the Long Center!

If you have never been to a movie on the long center lawn, it is a great way to spend a late afternoon in downtown Austin. Take a blanket and your favorite food and beverage and watch a movie under the stars. SXSW badges can get here by using the free shuttles from the convention center.

SX will show 4 free movies during March 12th-March 14th including Heavy Metal Parking Lot: 30th Anniversary Screening and Darkon on Saturday March 12th, Smokey and the Bandit on Sunday March 13th, and The Powerpuff Girls – Horn Sweet Horn on Monday March 14th. The Powerpuff Girls will also feature a parade of some sort.

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FLATSTOCK

Basically, this is a huge poster show where you can see the world’s best poster art as well as purchase it. I have never personally purchased anything so I am not sure if you need to bring your own tubes, but I visit flatstock at least once during SX to see all the awesome artwork.

WHEN

Thursday, March 17 | 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Friday, March 18 | 11:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday, March 19 | 11:00am-6:00pm

WHERE

Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4, Level 1

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SXSW Music Gear Expo

One of my favorite free SX events, this is a MUST for all musicians! They have a ton of vendors showing off everything that is new, current, and hot. I personally go every year to get the freebies and try out new stuff. As a guitarist, I have scored a ton of free strings, and even free Monster Cables.

WHEN

Thursday, March 17 | 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Friday, March 18 | 11:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday, March 19 | 11:00am – 6:00pm

WHERE

Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4, Level 1

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SXSW Job Market

New for 2016, the Job Market Stage will feature talks from industry leaders covering the latest trends, techniques and perspectives in the world of talent acquisition.

WHEN

Saturday, March 12 | 10:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday, March 13 | 10:00am – 5:00pm

WHERE

Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 1

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SX Create 2016

The hardware hacking and maker arm of SXSW is at it again with more space, more fun, and even more hands-on excitement. From 3D printing to drones to biohacking and much more, this community event showcases the disruptive solutions that are shaping our future. SX badges can get here by using the free shuttles from the convention center.

WHEN

March 11–13, 2016 | 11:00am–6:00pm

WHERE

Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road)

 

 

 

SxSurvival Tips – How to Have the Best, Safest SXSW Ever!

by Traci Marie Mondragon

 

SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint. Let that be your mantra from March 11-20. Your body, your friends, and your spirit will thank you. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be that. Slow your roll. Stop and enjoy the week. Pace yourself!

Living, breathing, and going to the bathroom.


If you’ve heeded my other advice throughout this series, then you are well-equipped with a plan for loads of parties with free food, drinks, and amazing live music. You want to make the most of all this planning you’ve worked hard at! This means staying WELL throughout the week. This means:

  • Load up on Emergen-C
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Drink WATER (one after every 1-2 boozey beverages)
  • If a party has fruits/veggies available as part of their free snacks, eat them!
  • Take frequent breaks

A break could be as simple as sitting under a tree at one of those free parties, or going inside the convention center to cool off in the A/C (if it’s hot).

Speaking of the Convention Center… there are a TON of free, clean, well stocked bathrooms inside! Most hotel lobbies also have lovely bathrooms, and because so many people are going in and out of all these downtown hotels, no one will stop you from using their facilities.

Pack the essentials.


  • Photo ID (everyone ID’s during SX)
  • Cell phone
  • Phone charger, extra battery, and/or wireless/battery-powered charger
  • Cash (preferably small bills for tipping)
  • Credit/Debit card
  • Refillable water bottle (there are water coolers all throughout the convention center also)
  • Maps, schedules
  • Light snacks
  • Emergen-C
  • Sunscreen
  • (because I’m a super girlie girl) powder, lip gloss, eyeliner  *optional

A cross-body bag or backpack can store all these items, as well as any swag you might collect throughout the day. Oh, and if you DO have a badge… DON’T be an idiot and keep your credit cards/photo ID inside the plastic badge sleeve. Taking that thing in and out of that is a great way to lose your badge, lose your ID/cards, or make it more difficult to scan your badge at official venues.

Getting downtown, parking, getting home safe!


If you’re driving yourself

Give yourself about 2 hours to drive downtown, find parking, and get to where you’re going on time. No, this isn’t an exaggeration. Parking will be a nightmare, as will traffic in and around downtown.

A good tip for where to park, in regards to your plans for the day… park near where you plan to end your night. You’ll be so incredibly tired by 2am, especially if you’ve been out since before noon. It’s better to have a long trek at the start of your day, than at the end.

Many of the street meters will be wrapped up and only allow special permits to park by them, so don’t rely on where you “know” there is street parking. Garages may cost up to 5x as much as usual. So budget for parking, or be prepared to park much farther from downtown than expected.

Take Public Transporation!

If you just read the above, I might have scared you off from driving yourself. And while Austin isn’t exactly the most public transpo-friendly city, we’ve still got some great options.

Capital Metro runs later than usual during SXSW, and this map will help guide you to your destination with ease! Key tip if you live central/west: Highland Mall is pretty much shut down, and has a huge parking lot right across the street from a Metro Rail stop! The Metro Rail that also stops RIGHT in front of the Convention Center!

If you partied way too hard, use ride-sharing. GET HOME SAFE.

Above all else… make sure you get home safe. The ride sharing options in Austin are pretty solid. Here are some discount codes to help ease the cost:

Get $15 off your first Uber ride. Redeem here.

Download Lyft for rides in minutes. Use this invite code for $50 in free ride credit!


 

Again, safety is key. And remember… SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have a Badge…so now what?

by Traci Marie Mondragon

I’d like to thank everyone who read Vol 1 of my SXSW 2016 Advice Column. So, if you took my advice and signed up to volunteer, then you are going to earn a badge! Or maybe you’re just made of money and you purchased a badge. Either way… if this is your first time with that coveted plastic-encased-paper-holy-grail-on-a-lanyard beauty, or you just need some helpful info on how to ROCK that badge, then this column is for you.

Keep in mind, I have been attending SXSW for nearly ten years, so I speak from experience. Also keep in mind that I’ve only ever attended because I’ve volunteered for that long as well…so I may not cover everything a paid registrant would know about. But I’ll do my best!

 

Badge Types


What you get into is dependent on what type of badge you will have.

Interactive = Interactive panels/sessions/workshops and events

Film = Film screenings, panels/sessions/workshops, and events

Music = Music showcases, panels/sessions/workshops, and events

Gold = Interactive AND Film

Platinum = Interactive, Film, AND Music

 

Create a Schedule with a Plan A, B, C, and D.


SXSW has SO much to offer, and it can definitely be overwhelming. There are several different types of events, from morning till the wee hours of the night! But planning is key. And backup planning is crucial.

If you haven’t already, create an account at schedule.sxsw.com. There, you can search events you’re interested in, and add events to your custom schedule. There’s also an app!

Use the day/type filters to search only the types of events you want, or by conference type. For example, if you JUST want to see all the parties for the Interactive portion of SXSW, Select Interactive, Events, All Days, then for Event Type, select Party. Play with the filters, or use the search field at the top right to search for specific bands, films, or speakers you’re interested in.

Blog 2 Pic 1

 

 

 

Best Kept Secrets


There are a few insider tricks I’ve learned over many years of SXSW’ing, through trial and error, and some by pure happy accident!

Interactive
Interactive parties tend to be overlooked by those who still think SXSW is just all about music. Often, these are great networking events with loads of free booze and food. Some of the best parties I’ve been to are Interactive parties. Those nerds know how to go hard! The Interactive closing party is always at Stubb’s, and has always featured some HUGE acts (Ludacris, Deadmau5), not to mention an open bar. At Stubb’s! Those drinks are usually like $7 or more a pop!

Film
Film panels often highlight specific films, and will feature the filmmakers and entire casts. These are often intimate settings with Q&A portions, so you can get up close to pick the brains of your favorite filmmakers.

Some films that may be music or tech related will allow Music or Interactive Registrants, respectively, into screenings, in addition to Film, Gold, and Platinum Registrants. Often this will be highlighted in the program/directory you receive at Registration, or color-coded in the online schedule.

Music
ACC Day Stages. Inside the Austin Convention Center, in the 4th Floor ballrooms, are the music day stages. Super intimate settings feature artists both well-known and up-and-coming. These shows are a great way to see that band you love, but maybe conflicts with another band you love later in the week! The shows are never full, and you can always get a great spot up front, out of the elements, and the sound is always fantastic.

Some day parties and events offer priority entrance to badgeholders, over non-badgeholders who have just RSVP’d. These include Fader Fort (must also have Fort wristband), Hype Hotel, and the Spotify House. This means you’ll get in to get those free drinks faster than your non-badgeholder friends!

All-Conference
Not specific to badge type…the Registrant’s Lounge is open all week, and is a chill place to get a free drink, mingle, and get ready for all those evening parties, films, and showcases! Note: Volunteers are NOT allowed into the Registrant’s Lounge. Sorry, guys. We can’t get ALL the perks. The Registrant’s Lounge is located in Brush Square Park, just across 4th street from the Convention Center. Speaking of Brush Square, there are parties going on at both the East side tent and West side tent ALL week! These usually feature free drinks, snacks/food, and bands.

Convergence
In the past few years, SXSW has introduced new concepts to compliment the big three conference areas. These include SXstyle, SXsports, SXgood, and SXSW Comedy. Many of these Convergence events are open to all Registrants, no matter your type of badge.

 

Finally…

Always remember to have several back-up plans. Even with that badge, there may still be long lines, or they might run out of food or drinks, or the band you thought was playing that party may have cancelled. Always have a backup plan.

Enjoy that badge! You’ve earned (or paid for) it!

 

SxSw Tips and Advice

by Traci Marie Mondragon
sxsw-crowd-ap

 

You live in Austin. You are young and love to have a blast. So you know about SXSW. I mean’ you KNOW about it. You can’t afford a badge, so you RSVP like cray to get into as many free events as you can. Maybe you end up waiting in a line for an hour here and there but you GET INTO THOSE PARTIES DAMMIT. But have you ever wondered if there was an easier way? A secret society that seems to be forming around you and wish you belonged to? I’m your gal. I’m about to give you the secrets to having the BEST possible SXSW experience of your life. Promise. Pinky promise.

First:

VOLUNTEER for SXSW. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have enough time to volunteer! So many hours! It’s too much work!” Okay, quit being a damn baby and get it together!!! You’re an adult. You’re smart. You’re capable.
Make your schedule work and sign up to volunteer. You work some (mostly easy) shifts, you get a badge. A badge most people pay WELL over $1000 for. It’s almost unbelievable. Do it. (UPDATED) Both volunteer calls have already happened for 2016, but there may be a 3rd one. Head over to volunteer.sxsw.com to see if you can sign up and email to see if you can still be part of a great festival. You won’t regret it.
 You’ll get into SO many parties, lounges, panels, films, shows, etc. that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have that badge. Even things you can get into without a badge (i.e. Fader Fort) will give you priority access if you have a badge. It’s worth it on so many levels.
Volunteer Call 2016

Second:

RSVP your life away. There are so many sites, Facebook groups, etc. that list free parties if you DON’T have a badge. So if you don’t take my first piece of advice, then do this.

Third:

Gather your friends together and carpool or better yet, split Ubers. If the above tips are successful, you WILL be drinking A LOT. So be safe.

Fourth:

Pace yourself!

SXSW means day drinking. My best advice? Stop drinking at about 8pm. Especially if you have a badge and will be going to night showcases. You won’t make it to that headliner you’re dying to see on the Friday night of Music if you are drinking from noon-4am every night that week. And even if you do… you’ll feel miserable.

Finally, have fun!

If you’re anything like me, SXSW is your Christmas, birthday, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one amazing week. Make it count, make it last, and make it memorable. But most importantly make it safe so you can make it out again next year! And the year after that and the year after that!
Party