SXSW is a wild time. It’s my first year living in Austin for it, and I never could have imagined the chaos that is this festival. Of course, the influx of quality music, films, ideas, innovators, and artists is simply amazing. On the other hand, it’s hard to get a beer at some of my favorite bars or food at my go-to restaurants with all the crowds. It’s also hard to get a decent priced Uber, and it’s simply impossible to drive many places. I’ve seen a few lists about avoiding the crowds entirely and staying home or leaving Austin during South By. I’m sure this is a viable option for many (especially if you throw your room on AirBnb or Craigslist.) But I still want to enjoy Austin this week. So I’ve put together a short guide for those, like me, who want to avoid the insanity of SXSW while still enjoying this beautiful city. Here are a few tips:
1. Download the Avoid Humans app.
For simplicity’s sake, this app is probably your best bet at avoiding the crowds. Launched by Austin-based ad agency GSD&M, Avoid Humans draws upon Foursquare and Instagram data to find the nearest places with the least amount of humans. They’ve got four categories – nightlife, food, coffee, and refuge – making it an all encompassing app for underrated entertainment in Austin. Though be warned, these places won’t have many reviews on Yelp. So if you’re the type of person who lives and dies by anonymous internet reviews, then, well, you should probably spend your week in line at Hopdoddy.
2. Download the RideScout app.
Avoid Humans helps you find entertainment more efficiently, but that still leaves the problem of congested transportation. Of course, there are the obvious options: cabs, Uber, Lyft, walking, Google Maps, and Austin’s public transit system. But what if there were an app that combined all viable transportation options and showed you the cheapest and most convenient options? You know where I’m going with this, and the app’s name is RideScout. Popular among travelers and tourists, it can also be super beneficial for locals who need to get creative while avoiding SXSW traffic. It’s free to download, so give it a spin.
Another super simple way to save time and money while getting around downtown Austin is to use Uber’s new UberPool option. It’s just ride sharing, so if someone happens to be traveling on the same route as you, you’re allowing the driver to pick them up too and split the fare. You might even make a friend or two.
4. Fast track your bar tab with TabbedOut.
Though I try to stay out of the crazy crowded bars, every once in a while I’ll stumble into a larger than normal crowd at Star Bar or Rattle Inn (some of my staple bars). When this happens, I’m just happy to know about TabbedOut, an Austin-based startup. The app is a mobile payment system that allows you to close out your tab on your phone. It’s clutch when you’re at a restaurant, too, and simply don’t want to flag down your waiter multiple times to get and pay your check. Oh, and you can split tabs with your friends, too, as an added bonus. Again, this app is free so give it a try.
5. Don’t eat at any place on an Eater/Thrillist/any other blog’s list.
Not only do I – completely subjectively – think that the majority of the restaurants on these lists are overrated, but there are thousands of other tourists reading and acting upon these lists. My expert advice is to use these lists as ‘not-to-do lists.’ Plus, often (though not always) the authors of these lists either don’t live in Austin or they’ve been here for <1 year. I’m certainly not proclaiming to be any more of an insider to Austin’s restaurant scene, but then again, I’m not writing articles like “30 of the best bloody marys in town.” (Zagat did make a pretty great list of underrated spots though.)
6. Find something else to do.
Instead of fighting to find a restaurant, bar, or concert that is worth going to, just give up and find something else to do. This is Austin, there are unlimited activities. Especially because it’s spring and the weather is finally nice, you can undoubtedly find some outdoor activities to fill your time. Here are some ideas.
- Sailing. Lake Austin (or Lake Travis) are beautiful sailing spots this time of year. I went this Saturday, and there weren’t actually too many people out. You can also rent kayaks, SUP boards, or canoes.
- Hiking. I’ve never regretted a trip to the greenbelt. And this time of year, what better place to get away from the noise and escape into nature?
- Brewery tours. Austin is becoming quite the craft beer mecca, and SXSW is a good time to spend some time exploring these breweries.
- Indoor skydiving.
- K1 Speedway.
- Blazer Tag.
7. Enjoy a concert of two.
South By happens once a year, and it brings an influx of people, arts, and culture to Austin. Suck it up, and enjoy a concert or two. Once you stop complaining about all the tourists, you might realize you’re actually having fun.
Any tips we missed? We’re still trying to figure out the best ways to avoid the SXSW chaos while mowing lawns in Austin, so shoot us your favorite strategies to do so!
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