The annual South by Southwest festival officially kicks off Friday, with thousands of people flocking to Austin, Texas, to enjoy over a week of media presentations, music showcases and film screenings. This year, the event is celebrating its 30th year, and President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are even expected to attend.
The festival draws massive crowds to Austin, a hot spot vacation destination in itself. Deciding where to eat, drink and stay can be overwhelming. Below is a guide to the best hotels, restaurants and bars to make your trip to South by Southwest a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, hotels are sold out for the first portion of South by Southwest, from March 10-14. However, there are still a few hotels with rooms available beginning March 14.
Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown: This hotel nabbed four stars, and touts scenic views of Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin.
Marriott Austin: This hotel is located just 4 miles from downtown Austin and the Austin Convention Center where the festival is based.
Courtyard Marriott-Downtown: This hotel is across the street from the convention center and boasts an indoor lap pool.
Wyndham Garden Hotel: This hotel is located just a few miles from the convention center and only 4 miles from the Austin airport. It has a restaurant and lounge.
Westin Austin Downtown: This a brand-new four-star hotel, located one block from the convention center.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que: At this traditional barbecue eatery, customers can choose from a large array of smoked meats including brisket, pork ribs, chopped beef, jerky and homemade sausage. Classic and delicious sides include potato salad, pinto beans and mac ’n’ cheese.
Torchy’s Tacos: You can’t go to Texas without chowing down on some delicious tacos. Torchy’s Tacos boasts a creative menu and includes everything from breakfast tacos featuring scrambled eggs topped with smoked beef brisket to the Democrat, a taco consisting of shredded beef barbacoa, avocado, queso fresco, cilantro and onions. March’s taco of the month is the Roscoe: a crisp waffle, fried egg, fried chicken and a slice of bacon served with a side of maple syrup on a flour tortilla.
Bouldin Creek Cafe: For vegetarians, there’s much more to Austin than just barbecue. Bouldin Creek Cafe offers a cool atmosphere with a front patio and quirky interior. Many of the cafe’s lunch specials are vegan, like the Muscle Man Curry, which features broccoli, chickpeas, zucchini, oyster mushrooms, potato and red onion, sautéed with Massaman curry sauce and served with brown rice. For dinner, try the South Austin Stir Fry or the Autumn Enchiladas.
Jack & Ginger’s Irish Pub: This popular spot is relaxed and low-key, and features a weekly trivia night and an outdoor patio. Relax after day of festival activities with a Blood Orange Margarita or Hemingway Daiquiri, and on Thursday choose from four Texas craft beers for $4 each.
The White Horse: This bar is a favorite for Austin locals and is well-known for its live country music and whiskey tap. The White Horse also boasts two pool tables, an outdoor patio and a vintage Pac-Man.
Freedmen’s: For a true Texas bar, check out this saloon-like cocktail lounge and beer garden. Located in a historic Austin building, it serves smokehouse barbecue and retro-inspired cocktails. Try the Smokin’ Cactus, a cocktail featuring Xicaru mescal, grapefruit, lime, jalapeño agave, syrup and smoked sea salt.