SXSW. It makes your head hurt trying to figure out what Roman numerals those are. AKA: South by Southwest, the annual festival-palooza that hits Austin every March is right around the corner. Naturally, that gets a lot of folks thinking about visiting the central Texas town but, if you haven’t already made arrangements, this year’s festival is probably out of the question for you unless you’re very ambitious, very lucky and very determined. Even next year’s festival might be questionable. Yes, it really is that big and you really need to plan that far in advance.
Don’t let that dissuade you from visiting Austin this year, though! And if you are visiting for (or around) SXSW, get away from the madness and check out the rest of this cosmopolitan Texas town. Austin scored the top spot in Trip Advisor’s US Destinations on the Rise in the 2012 Travelers’ Choice survey, ranking higher than Memphis, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and two Portlands, among others. (See the whole list at Trip Advisor’s 10 Destinations on the Rise.)
You really can’t discount the impact of SXSW, which has been drawing throngs since 1987 when it was just a little ol’ showcase for up-and-coming indie bands. It has contributed heavily to Austin’s undeniable cool factor, especially now that it’s a massive yet still cool mega-festival of music, film, technology and entertainment. Somehow, though, it has yet to dent the humble atmosphere of Texas’ capital city, which is also a college town and cultural mecca, home of the University of Texas at Austin, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library & Museum, the Mexic-Arte and Carver museums. Want more? It’s the Live Music Capital of the World, and hosts the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix inaugural race from 2012-2021. Yes, there’s more! Austin has plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts with beautiful parks, the popular Lake Travis and Lake Austin, and the Veloway – a three-mile course in South Austin for cyclists, skaters and rollerbladers.
If you’re among those who look for great towns without all the madness of a media circus, come anytime other than March. The 2013 schedule has SXSW activities broken into three categories over two weeks: Film, March 8-16; Interactive, March 8–12; and Music, March 12–17. The remaining 50 weeks feature plenty of live music – Austin has more original music clubs in a concentrated area than any other city in America, perhaps the world – along with some other great but less crowded events.
Foodie fun hits town April 26-28 (2013) in the Austin Food & Wine Festival, presented by Food & Wine Magazine and featuring sommeliers and wine makers from across the country, live entertainmnet, and celebrity chefs including Travel Channel favorite Andrew Zimmern this year. Fans of the PBS show Austin City Limits should be in town the first half of October for the Austin City Limits Festival, expanding to cover the first two weekends of the month this year. And the F1 speedsters return to Austin November 17th for the 2nd Annual US Grand Prix along with Austin’s first ever Formula 1 Fan Fest.
Great restaurants, fantastic resorts and superb scenery make Austin and the surrounding Hill Country a great place to visit any time. It’s a great base for day trips through the Texas wine trail, and to explore the eclectic towns settled by European immigrants of the 19th century, which proudly celebrate their heritage even today. And, of course, there’s a rich vein of American history running through the region, including Admiral Nimitz and the National Museum of the Pacific War, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch and National Historical Park. Just as there’s more to South by Southwest than indie bands looking for a label, there’s more to Austin than SXSW.