How to avoid hurricane ‘SXSW’

Brigit Benestante

When the storm called South By Southwest rolls into town next week, it will be hard not to rip those pretty little badges off the necks of festival-goers. While thousands of people flock to Austin every year for the festival, many people living in Austin area are left with a traffic nightmare and hour-long waits for food. Locals tend to try to keep away from the influx of out-of-towners. Here are some ways you can do that, too.

First things first, if the traffic weren’t already bad here, it would be about to get 10 times worse. Roads downtown and in South Austin will be blocked off, and bus routes will be disrupted, not to mention that about 50,000 people attend the festival, many of whom are flooding in from other places.

In the case of traffic — and avoiding SXSW in general — North Austin is your friend. Geographically, it is the farthest Austin area from downtown. Another way to avoid the bumper-to-bumper frustration is to keep away from motor vehicles altogether — cabs will be almost impossible to hail, and buses may run later than usual. Walking is going to be the most efficient method of transportation. Just try not to drive downtown, and, whatever you do, avoid I-35 and MoPac. Parking will only be a sad dream during this time.

Second, your favorite Austin food places are probably going to be out of the question during SXSW, unless you like a four-hour wait. That means no Home Slice, no Polvos, no East Side King, no Franklin Barbecue and no Hopdoddy. These restaurants, which already have lines on normal weeks, will be packed. 

As an alternative, this week would be a great time to brush up on those cooking skills you’ve been meaning to work on. Get to Whole Foods or H-E-B. to stock up as soon as possible before the stampedes arrive. If you don’t want to cook, try going to chain restaurants and stores not within close proximity to the festival. That means Jimmy John’s, Whataburger and Chipotle are some good friends of yours. 

As suggested by the @SXSWLikeaLocal Twitter account, “Move ‘lunch’ to 10:30 so you don’t accidentally strangle anyone wearing a badge on your way to Jimmy John’s.” If it is impossible to stay away from your favorite coffee joint, go before 9 a.m., when all of the badge-holders will still be sleeping in their overpriced hotel rooms.

Third, any standard Austin activities are out of the question. This means Zilker Park, Alamo Drafthouse and South Congress will be so crowded that you’ll want to pull your hair out.

Instead, try going somewhere not in Austin. The Hamilton Pool Preserve and Enchanted Rock are great options, considering they are well outside the city limits and far away from the chaos. If transportation outside of the city is an issue, try thrift-shopping at the Blue Hanger store on Burleson Road in Southeast Austin. If you want to see a movie, the theater in Pflugerville might be your best bet. Mayfield Park is a good substitute for Zilker, and it has peacocks you can Instagram — what more could you ask for? There are also the beautiful gifts of Netflix and your bed, which can entertain you at any time of the day for as long as you want them to. 

Lastly, stay away from Twitter, where your badge-holding friends will be boasting about the acts and celebrities they’re seeing.

Social media will also be flooded with status updates detailing SXSW surprise guests and endless parties, most of which are conveniently unattainable without a badge or almost impossible to get to. Try shutting down your Twitter and Facebook accounts for a week. If you can’t resist, follow people and accounts that sympathize with your situation. You’d be surprised how many of your neighbors will complain about the sea of people that has landed outside their door steps. Misery loves company, especially when you’re an Austin local during SXSW.