Best Hotels, Food & Attractions in Austin, TX for SXSW
Food & Wine
Austin Texas is always a terrific destination but come March the city is flooded with visitors from around the globe to experience the annual South by Southwest Festival aka SXSW. Covering tech, film, music, entertainment and everything in between the city is transformed by this global convergence. The energy of the city is contagious but it can be overwhelming to navigate during the festival, don't worry — I got you!
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Where to stay in Austin, Texas
Austin Proper Hotel
Close to Ladybird Lake, this style standout has spectacular views across the city and a locals vibe in its four bars and restaurants, including the hotspot rooftop pool.
$50 daily food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
South Congress Hotel
Everything you need under one stylish, mid-century roof: three restaurants, two bars, a rooftop pool and more.
Lively urban getaway with chic rooms and two restaurants in downtown Austin.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.
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Things to do in Austin, Texas
You will likely be consumed by jumping from a panel to a screening to an event but here are some not to miss activities for when you need a break from the networking and keynote slides on a giant screen.
Grab a coffee or tea at Mañana in the South Congress Hotel and stroll around South Congress: Just across the river from the madness of SXSW is South Congress, a street lined with cute shops and restaurants. Go all-out Texan with some boots from the local favorites Allen’s Boots or Heritage Boot and a custom hat from Maufrais.
Take a dip at Barton Springs Pool. Located in Zilker Park, the Bartons Springs Pool measures three acres in size and is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. It’s a natural treasure that is the heart and soul of Austin.
Get out to Lockhart or Driftwood for some good BBQ. Sure you can get good BBQ at Coopers or Terry Black’s downtown but nothing beats getting out of the city and visiting a true and tested fire pit for the full experience. Lockhart is about 30 min from Downtown Austin and also offers cute shops and a quaint town square to enjoy and work off some of the BBQ. The Driftwood is also about 30/45 min away from downtown and offers distilleries, craft breweries and wineries if you want to make a whole day of it!
Visit Laguna Gloria, an urban oasis, only five miles from downtown. The former home of Clara Driscoll is nestled right on beautiful Lake Austin. Laguna Gloria is a historic landmark site featuring contemporary outdoor sculptures by renowned international artists, a stunning natural landscape, and historic ties to Texas culture. It’s the perfect escape for a moment of peace and quiet.
Explore East Austin. East 6th St. is a hotbed of action. Plan an evening to head east for some drinks and just bar-hop your way through this funky neighborhood.
Listen to some live music. There is no shortage of events and parties during SXSW but if you find yourself longing for something that feels a bit more authentic and does not have drink tickets at the door check out: The Elephant Room, The Continental Club or C-Boys.
Walk, jog, or ride the boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake. You will likely need a bit of a sweat to help yourself feel better about all the free cocktails and random food you will be consuming. Take a stroll and take in the sights on Lady Bird Trail. Easily accessible from downtown this trail runs as long or as short as you need it to.
Check out the Driskill. You will be downtown for most of your visit, do not miss stepping into The Driskill on the corner of 6th Street and Brazos Street. Better yet go upstairs and grab a drink at the bar named one of the 10 Best Hotel Bars in America by USA Today and The Best Bar in Texas by Southern Living. Sit down on one of their big leather couches and put your feet up with a nice refreshing cocktail in one of the most iconic hotels in Texas!
Learn how to two-step at the Broken Spoke. Break out the hat and boots you got during your stroll through SoCo at a True Austin institution! They host open and free classes every Wednesday-Saturday 8-9PM.
Check out an Austin FC (MLS Soccer) game. With three matches happening in March, grab some tickets and check out Los Verdes, Austin's first and only pro-sports league. Q2 stadium is only 10-15 min from downtown and has a terrific selection of local food/drinks to give you the full experience. Get to the stadium area early and meet the fans at Hopsquad Brewing. Team colors are green and black, get ready for some chanting and an amazing atmosphere.
Day Trips from Austin
For a fun day trip, check out Fredericksburg and the surrounding wineries.
Places to eat & drink in Austin, Texas
Places to eat in Downtown Austin (Close to the Convention)
La Condesa - Great modern Mexican. Good for lunch, brunch or dinner.
Coopers BBQ - No frills BBQ spot next to the JW Marriott.
Tacodelli - Quick bite on the go, amazing tacos.
ATX Cocina - Lively with modern Mexican cuisine, great for dinner.
The Peacock - A beautiful Mediterranean restaurant inside the Austin Proper Hotel.
Lonesome Dove - Great happy hour and dinner.
Flower Child - Quick, healthy fast-casual.
Comedor - Stunning interior, great food, recommend for dinner.
Drinks in Downtown Austin
Garage - Speakeasy tucked under the parking structure next to Comedor.
P6 - Once a rooftop parking garage, the LINE hotel has reinvented this old space as a glorious lounge for open-air dining and top-notch drinking. Incredible river views.
Here nor There - This one requires some planning but it’s absolutely worth it. Just download the app and book a required reservation (read: you don’t need to be a member). Once in, you’ll find thoughtfully put-together cocktails in a fun vibey space. If nothing on the menu catches your eye, order an Irish Coffee, it’s the best one you will ever have.
Places to eat in East & South Congress
This area is not necessarily walkable from the convention area but is only 5 min away via a quick uber or lime scooter!
Junes All Day - American bistro in South Congress. Beautiful restaurant offering a great wine selection.
Uchi - Best sushi in Texas, great for happy hour or a special dinner.
Suerte - Mexican on the East side of town. Amazing dinner and do not sleep on their brunch - the breakfast pastries are not to be missed.
Drinks in East & South Congress
Whistler’s - Whisler’s is a local favorite with a wonderful seasonal rotating cocktail menu. The ample patio seating and popular food truck, Golden Tiger, always have me coming back. Try a mezcal old fashioned! If you are a mezcal fan, do not miss the Tobalá outpost above the main structure.
Shangri-La - No frills dive bar that is always fun. Just a stone through away from Downtown, head East for some easy patio drinks.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Foodie's Guide to Tacos, Coffee & More in Austin, TX by Fora Advisor Parker White.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Austin, which is part of our larger series on travel to Texas.