The Top 14 Free SXSW Parties and Events You Need to Attend this Year

South By Southwest isn’t just for badge holders. The whole city gets involved to celebrate with free food, drinks, live music and good times. Here are our picks for the parties worth the wait in line. RSVP to all of them and get out there.

1. Rachael Ray’s Feedback House

Food Network’s Rachael Ray LOVES Austin, even calling it a “Utopian City” during her panel at the Texas Women’s Conference. Every year she returns and celebrates at SX with her Feedback Festival. This year, she and John Cusimano are taking over Stubb’s BBQ, where guests will enjoy incredible food and live music.
• March 21st 10am-4pm
• Stubb’s BBQ 801 Red River Street Austin, TX 78701
RSVP here

2. Austin Startup Crawl

Take a shuttle and line your pockets with business cards. With over 50 startups hosting, this kick-off to SXSW is a networking frenzy. You’ll interact with the the idea makers of Austin and learn about all the latest in tech and startups. Hosted by Capital Factory and Hipchat, the 2015 ATX Startup Crawl promises to be the biggest yet, with tons of free cold beer, swag and snacks at every stop.
• Capital Factory 701 Brazos Street, Suite 1601 Austin TX 78701
• March 12 5pm-10pm
RSVP for your map

3. Hype Hotel

Hype Hotel is a daily party curated by music bloggers. This year’s curators include yvynyl, Turntable Kitchen, All Things Go, Blah Blah Blah Science, Consequence of Sound, Gorilla Vs. Bear, Crack In The Road, Disco Naïveté, Cruel Rhythm, ISO50, and Unholy Rhythms. We can’t wait to hear Spoon.
• 1100 East 5th Street, Austin, TX
RSVP here for wristbands and full schedule
• March 18-21, 12pm-6pm

4. Pandora Discovery Den

Pandora’s 4th annual Discovery Den is happening March 18-21 at The Gatsby. This party is a breeding ground for discovering and launching new names in music – featuring 37 artists from eight countries and four genres (electronic, hip hop/R&B, Americana and rock) – from the legendary, like Wyclef Jean, to the emerging, like ODESZA and Big Data.
• The Gatsby 708 East 6th Street Austin, TX 78701
• Weds. Mar. 18 – Saturday, March 21 2pm-11:30 PM
RSVP here

5. Spotify House

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.18.39 PM
One of South By’s most highly anticipated parties, Spotify House has one hell of a line up this year. We are looking forward to live performances by Misterwives and getting down to talented DJ sets. You never know who might show up at Spotify House (like Snoop Dogg last year), so don’t miss out!
• 901 E 6th St. Austin, TX 78702
• March 18-21
See website for full schedule

6. SXSW Gaming Expo

The Gaming Expo is the epicenter for the video game culture at SXSW. The Geek Stage covers all aspects of the geekdom – video games, comics, board games, animation, toys and more. Be sure not to miss panels with Ben Blacker, who will be discussing his Nerdist podcasts including the Thrilling Adventure Hour and Marvel’s Thunderbolts.
• Fri. Mar. 13- Sun. Mar. 15 12:00–8:00pm
• Palmer Events Center 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704
• Free with Guestpass

7. South By San Jose

This five day community event held in the shared parking lot of Hotel San Jose and Jo’s is always and forever free to attend. You’ll want to join in the live music, local vendors, cold beer. Don’t miss the Ting Tings and Milo Greene on Saturday the 21st.
• Hotel San Jose 1316 S Congress Ave, Austin, Texas 78704
• Mar. 18-21 Music begins every day at noon
More information here

8. Family Picnic with Do512

This BYOB family picnic has everything: a playscape, magic show, balloon art, face painting, an instrument petting zoo (we aren’t sure what that means). Food trucks like Dock and Roll, Gregorio’s and Cool Haus will be there, among many more. Live music includes the Ton Tons from Houston! We love them.
• Midway Food Park 1905 S Capital of Texas Highway
• Tues. Mar. 17 2-8:30pm
Free with RSVP

9. Neiman Marcus Make Some Noise

Neiman Marcus is celebrating influential women in film, technology, fashion, music, food, art, and business on Rainey this year with their Make Some Noise Party. Friday, March 20 features panel discussions with actresses Laura Dern and Rosario Dawson, and The Kitchen’s Katie Lee. Atlantic Records is hosting the sound. Dress to impress.
• Weds. Mar. 18 6-8pm; Thurs. Mar. 19 12-8pm; Fri. Mar. 20 12-8pm
• 78 Rainey St. Austin, TX 78701
RSVP here

10. StubHub and Culture Collide at Clive Bar

Ticket resource Stubhub is hosting its SXSW Culture Collide parties on Rainey St. this year. The day we have marked down is Tuesday, Mar. 17 when Portugal the Man, Future Islands and The Delta Riggs take the stage.
• Clive Bar 609 Davis St, Austin, TX 78701
• Mar. 17-19
RSVP here

11. Spin Party at Stubbs

Here for its 13th year, The Spin Party at Stubb’s is definitely worth the wait. Headlining this year is hip-hop duo, Run the Jewels with Twin Shadow, L.A. rapper and Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt, electro-pop group Kate Boy, and post-punk foursome Viet Cong. Come early for the Tito’s Taco brunch from 11 AM – 12:30.
• Stubbs 801 Red River Street Austin, TX 78701
• Friday, March 20, 11 AM – 5 PM
RSVP here for your SPIN laminate


12. KGSR Mornings at the W

KGSR’s Andy Langer, Kristen Kurtis and Kelly Jordan are hosting this year’s morning SXSW broadcasts at the W Hotel. Music begins EARLY, but the lineup is not-to-be-missed. Each artist will play two songs, then answer questions from the broadcast hosts. We are most excited to hear The Ting Tings, Kopecky, Bright Light Social Hour, Max Frost on Friday.
• The W Hotel Austin 200 Lavaca St.
• 6am to 10am Wednesday thru Friday, and 8am to noon on Saturday.

13. Day Parties at Waterloo Records

Free and open to the public, the Waterloo parties bring the corner of Lamar and 6th to life. Their daily lineups are awesome, with 7 bands each day. We are excited about their country set on Thursday, when Robert Earl Keen and Asleep at the Wheel take the stage.
• Waterloo Records 600 N. Lamar
• Mar. 18-21; 12pm-6pm
• Free, no badge or RSVP required

14. Countryfication by Brooklyn Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery is taking over the Grackle in their “big fuzzy party” called Countryfication. It includes a petting zoo by Tiny Tails to You, beer, free ice cream by Jeni’s and live music. And turtle races. I’m down.
• The Grackle 1700 E 6th St, Austin, Texas 78702
• Mar. 15, 2-4pm

Food Lines Worth the Wait

When you need to refuel between the party madness, be sure to hit up these Austin food icons that are worth the wait of their famously long lines.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Hopdoddy’s burgers are really special. Every weekend, but especially during SXSW, diners wait in absurdly long lines for a taste of their crafted burgers, including everything from the El Diablo with habaneros and serranos to the teriyaki ahi tuna with sprouts and honey wasabi. Their tap selection is carefully curated, including only the best craft brews. The perk of waiting in this line: they’ll bring you cocktails or a boozy milkshake while you wait.
• Two locations: North (2438 Anderson Lane) and South Congress (1400 S. Congress)
• Open daily 11am-10pm

Micklethwait Craft Meats

You might have to fight the line with Jimmy Kimmel, who visited the truck last year during SXSW in a throwdown to determine who was making the best BBQ in Austin. Since 2012, Micklethwait has specialized their all in-house menu of sausage, brisket, and sliced pork shoulder as well as baking their own bread and desserts and specialty sides. Don’t miss: Brisket, jalapeño bread and cheese grits.
• Daily, 11am-sold out
• 1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702

Franklin BBQ

The legend and crown jewel of line-standing for meat in Austin is, indeed, worth the wait. During SXSW, visitors from far and wide will stand in line for over 6 hours for BBQ. Not kidding. If you do, make sure you bring a camp chair, a cooler of beer, and sunscreen.
• Franklin BBQ 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
• Open 11am-Sold out Tues.-Sun.

The First French Bistro

For an alternative to the lines, food and wine lovers should check out The First French Bistro, featuring Michelin-starred Chef Gérard Bossé and Angers Chef Rémi Fournier. Austin forager Valerie Broussard is working with them locally to source the best ingredients in Austin for their premiere pop-up at the French Ligation museum all throughout SXSW
• French Ligation Museum, 802 San Marcos St
Make reservations here

Photo credits: Spotify House, KGSR, Robert Earl Keen, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Fed Man Walking

Want more SXSW? Click below for the rest of our expert picks…

SXSW Interactive


SXSW Film: Editor’s Picks

SXSW Music


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