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Ten Ways to Spend your Free Time at South by Southwest

If you’re heading to South by Southwest this year, you’re in luck! Austin is a fantastic city with a plethora of things to do - especially for a film or music enthusiast like yourself! So, whether you have any buffering time between the festival and your flights, or you have a quick meal or evening to fill - we have you covered with plenty of fun ways to spend your time in Austin. 

1. Take in the Art Scene

Austin, Texas has a thriving art scene that offers a wide range of experiences for art enthusiasts. The city is home to numerous museums, galleries, and art spaces, showcasing works of art from both established and emerging artists. The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest university art museums in the country, with a diverse collection of over 18,000 works of art. The Contemporary Austin, with two locations in the city, features contemporary art exhibitions and installations. The East Austin Studio Tour, which takes place every November, offers a unique opportunity to visit artist studios and see their works in progress. In addition to these institutions, Austin is known for its vibrant street art scene, with colorful murals and installations found throughout the city. Whether you're a seasoned art collector or simply appreciate beautiful works of art, Austin's art scene has something to offer for everyone.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

2. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

In March, the wildflowers in Texas are in full bloom. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a great place to see them up close. The center is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, which is known for its beautiful wildflowers. In March, the wildflowers are in full bloom, creating a stunning landscape that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. The center's gardens feature over 900 species of native plants, many of which are in bloom during this time of year. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the gardens, walk the trails, or participate in one of the many educational programs offered by the center. The Wildflower Cafe offers fresh, local cuisine with outdoor seating overlooking the gardens. With its stunning beauty and educational opportunities, a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in March is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Texas.

Photo by Jessie Shaw on Unsplash

3. Explore Zilker Park

Zilker Park is a popular spot for outdoor activities in Austin. In March, the weather is typically pleasant, making it a great time to enjoy the park's trails, gardens, and attractions. Whether you're looking to relax and enjoy a picnic, take a dip in the refreshing Barton Springs Pool, or participate in one of the many events, Zilker Park is a destination that should not be missed when in Austin in March.

Photo by David Phillips on Unsplash

4. Enjoy (even more) Live music

If you haven't gotten your fill of music at South by Southwest - don't fret. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, with a thriving music scene that offers live music every night of the week. Check out famous venues like the Continental Club or ACL Live. Austin's music scene is known for its diversity and creativity, with genres ranging from rock and country to blues, jazz, and beyond. Some of the most well-known music venues in Austin include the iconic Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, the historic Continental Club, and the popular Stubb's Bar-B-Q. With so much to offer, Austin's live music scene is a must-see for anyone who loves music and wants to experience the city's vibrant culture.

Photo by Maxwell Collins on Unsplash

5. See the Austin Rodeo

The Austin Rodeo takes place in March and is one of the most popular events in the city. The rodeo features a variety of activities, including live music performances, carnival rides and games, a petting zoo, and of course, the main event - the rodeo competitions. Visitors can watch professional cowboys and cowgirls compete in a variety of events, such as bull riding, barrel racing, and calf roping. In addition to the rodeo competitions, the event also features a livestock show, where visitors can view and learn about a variety of animals. Food and drinks are also a highlight of the event, with a wide range of delicious Texas-style cuisine on offer. With so much to see and do, the Austin Rodeo is a fun-filled and exciting event that offers a unique and memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

6. Bat Watching at Congress Avenue Bridge

Bat watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge is one of the most popular and unique activities to experience in Austin, Texas. The bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, with over a million bats making their home in the crevices of the bridge during the spring and summer months. Visitors can witness the bats emerging from under the bridge at sunset in a spectacular display of nature. This nightly event draws large crowds of people who gather on the bridge or the adjacent park to watch the bats take flight. In addition to the bat-watching, the area around the bridge is also home to a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, with restaurants, bars, and music venues lining the streets. Whether you're a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a unique experience, bat watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge is a must-see attraction that will leave you in awe of the natural world.

Photo by René Riegal on Unsplash

7. Explore the Food Scene.

The city is known for its vibrant culinary culture, with a diverse range of cuisine that includes traditional Texas barbecue, Tex-Mex, farm-to-table, and fusion cuisine. The city is home to hundreds of restaurants, food trucks, and markets, offering visitors an endless variety of food options. Some of the most popular spots in the city include Franklin Barbecue, known for its mouth-watering brisket, and Torchy's Tacos, which offers creative twists on classic Tex-Mex dishes. The city's food scene also includes a variety of international cuisines, such as Japanese, Italian, and Indian, providing visitors with a wide range of dining options. In addition to the restaurants and food trucks, Austin also hosts a variety of food festivals throughout the year, such as the Austin Food and Wine Festival and the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest, which offer visitors a chance to sample the city's best food and drinks. 

Photo by Megan Bucknall on Unsplash

8. Browse South Congress Avenue

Looking to add a little bit of Austin funk to your wardrobe during SXSW? Look no further than South Congress Avenue! This vibrant street is the perfect place to find unique and stylish pieces that are sure to stand out from the crowd. Start your shopping adventure by checking out Allens Boots, a legendary cowboy boot store that's been outfitting locals and visitors alike for over 40 years. Then head to Parts & Labour, where you can find one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing handmade by local artisans. And don't miss out on the vintage treasures at Big Top Candy Shop, where you can indulge your sweet tooth while browsing through racks of retro clothing and accessories. With its eclectic mix of stores and bustling energy, South Congress Avenue is the perfect destination for anyone looking to inject a little bit of Austin charm into their wardrobe.

Photo by Justin Wallace on Unsplash

9. Pick up New Moves at the Honky-Tonk

If you're looking to experience the rich cultural heritage of Texas through dance during your visit to Austin for SXSW, then you're in luck! The city offers plenty of opportunities to indulge in traditional Texas dance forms. Start by checking out The Broken Spoke, a legendary honky-tonk that's been hosting live music and dance events for over half a century. Here, you can learn how to two-step or swing dance while enjoying live music from local country artists. For a more intimate setting, head to The White Horse, a popular dive bar that hosts regular Texas swing and two-step dance lessons. And for a truly authentic Texas dance experience, make your way to Gruene Hall, a historic dance hall located just outside of Austin that's been attracting dancers for over 140 years. With its rustic charm and live music, Gruene Hall offers a unique and unforgettable Texas dance experience.

Photo by Hari Nandakumar on Unsplash

10. Take a Dip in Barton Springs Pool

Don’t forget your swimsuit! Barton Springs Pool is a popular spot to cool off in the heat of summer, but it's also a great place to visit in March when the weather is mild. The natural spring-fed pool is open year-round and is a refreshing spot to swim and relax. Located in Zilker Park, this pool is well worth the small admission fee, with a length of over 1,000 feet, up to 18 feet in depth, and a diving board. Taking a zip in Barton Springs is a quintessential Austin experience you don’t want to miss. 

Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash