You’re headed to SXSW Interactive. You know what panels and speakers you want to hear, what gadgetry you want to explore. But where should you snap that quintessential Austin photo? Where do the cool kids hang? Where can you get some brisket?
We’ve got you covered. As a resident of Austin and a repeat attendee at SXSW, here are my 9 Best Places To Explore At SXSW.
Best Place To Grab Food On The Go
Here in Austin the best foods are served out of trucks. Seriously. The city is well known for its food truck trailer industry. If you’re looking for some delicious Texas BBQ, look no further BBQ Heaven downtown (7th St & Red River St). Located in a Twin Liquors parking lot, what the trailer lacks in physical impressiveness it makes up for in taste. If you have the hankerin’ for ribs or brisket, head here.
Runner up: Maybe you’re looking for something a little less heavy on the sauce. Then head over to Kebabalicious (Congress Ave & 3rd St). This trailer does Mediterranean fast and right.
Best Place To Break Out Your Shiny MacBook
Let’s face it. A lot of us gadget geeks who flock to SXSW Interactive love to sit among likeminded compatriots. A little trek from downtown, Thunderbird Coffee (2200 Manor Rd) offers dynamite lattes, a selection of beers and the opportunity to rub elbows with Austin’s graphic designers, artists, sound and video editors and bloggers.
Runner up: Just a little walk under the overpass, Progress Coffee (East 5th St between Brushy St and San Marcos St) is a bastion for the city’s upwardly mobile but hip elite. They also make a strong cup of Joe as well as a mean egg and cheese biscuit sandwich.
Best Place To Hideout
SXSW can be overwhelming. If you find yourself needing a break from the bright lights and noise, descend into the downstairs haven that is the Elephant Room (315 Congress Ave between 4th St & 3rd St). By Austin standards, this is a small bar. Jazz in the evening, the Elephant Room is a relaxing joint to slow-sip a drink and carry out a conversation.
Runner up: Located in Austin’s popping Warehouse District, The Ginger Man (301 Lavaca St. between 4th St and 3rd St) is bullish on beer selection and bearish on live music. Soft-lit with your classic pub vibe and a small patio, this is a great spot to catch up with pals.
Best Spots To Immortalize Your Trip
Want to snap a photo that captures the essence of the city. No problem. These are the perfect three locations. The Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is a favorite of runners, cyclists and spontaneous nighttime concerts with an incredible view of the downtown skyline and Town Lake (aka Lady Bird Lake). For a more classic photo make the short trip up Congress Street to the Texas Capitol building, the largest state capitol in the country. Finally, the Daniel Johnston Mural (21st St and Guadalupe St), a simple of sketch of a strange frog-like creature offering a friendly greeting, has become a symbol of Austin weirdness.
Best Way To Get Around
Do you think you’re going to call cabs all week? Forget it. The sudden influx of visitors turns our tiny metropolis into a bustling tourist hub, which makes hailing a taxi tough and after 2 a.m. practically impossible. Instead, take a ride with one of our friendly pedicabs. Yes, the rickshaw dreams of yore are alive and well. These folks know the downtown area well and work for tips – and they usually have tips to offer as well. Be generous!
Runner up: A rental car? Enh. Avoid the congestion. Why not rent a bike instead. There are plenty of places that provide rentals including Bicycle Sport Shop, Barton Springs Bike Rental and Austin Bike Tours + Rentals. Be sure to call ahead, though.
Best SXSW Interactive Wrap-Up Party
Oh, man. Geosocial is going to be blowing up at Gowalla’s See The World party. The place will be hopping with tech geeks and music aficianados. Indie pop duo Matt and Kim will be playing. But the host bar, The Belmont, is not huge so if you want in, show up early.
Runner up: None. This is the one to be at.
Best Place To Hobnob With Hipsters
If you’re standing on Austin’s famous Sixth Street bar district downtown, turn east and start walking. Undergoinga surge in new bars and lounges, East Sixth has become the hipster capitol of the Capitol. Once you walk under the overpass you’ll find Shangri-La, which is known for its sock hops, the swanky East Side Show Room with its speakeasy vibe, the dirt lot dance parties at Cheer Up Charlies, the Liberty does it cheap and easy with a big backyard patio, and there’s The Grackle, which is the neighborhood’s latest addition.
Runner up: If you like your beer with loud music and amazing burgers, head to The Jackalope (affectionately known as “The Jack” locally) on the corner of 6th St & Trinity St. This is where the tattooed come to blow off steam. Don’t bring the kids, though. Not that kind of bar.
Best Place To Nurse A Hangover
Had a few too many last night? We’ve all been there, friend. For a little hair of the dog make moves to Rio Rita. Don’t let the 60’s mod feel fool you. Rio Rita (East 6th & Navasota St) is famous for making the best Bloody Marys…anywhere. Couple that tomato-based goodness with a cup of coffee from the bar and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Runner up: Need brunch and a mimosa stat? Halcyon (4th St & Lavaca St) has bottomless mimosas and fresh French toast. You can even get a cigar.
Best Breakfast Tacos
This might be last, but it is definitely not least. Breakfast tacos are a staple of the Austin diet. For the best, and by far the cheapest, you’ll need to hitch a ride to Tamale House (Airport Blvd & 51st St). Housed in an unassuming storefront, this Austin institution dishes out two-topping tacos for 85 cents. Stock up on the salsa in the corner. But bring cash. They don’t take credit.
Runner up: People stand in line down the street for a taste of Juan In A Million’s (2300 East Cesar Chavez St) spicy meals. You can get a massive (and I do mean massive) breakfast taco for just a few bucks.
Need tips while in town? Hit me up on Twitter: @noyesjesse. I’ll do my best to provide timely, nerdy advice.