A Beginners Guide to a Free SXSW

I love living in Austin, Texas! The city is well known for its weird vibe and awesome music scene. Plus, there are always (really, always) great events and happenings going on.

But for 12 days in March, the city becomes host to one of my favorite events: SXSW.

What is SXSW? South by Southwest is an incredible ten-day event exhibiting film, music and interactive shows.

For a newbie, the whole thing can seem a bit (or a lot) overwhelming and extremely expensive. But, did you know you can do SXSW for basically free?!

You don’t need a pricey badge in order to experience the best of the massive event or get free swag, food and drinks. You just have to know where to look!

Every year there are countless free unofficial SXSW events and parties sponsored by magazines, tv shows, labels, brands, and more. Most of them you simply have to RSVP online, or wait in line the day of.

How do you find these illusive parties you ask? And how do you survive the week?

Both are great questions! Below are some of my go-to resources and tips to help you live your best life during SXSW.

Please Note: I occasionally recommend resources and products, some I receive an affiliate commission for at no additional cost to you. I can guarantee all recommendations are my unbiased and honest opinion.


How To Find Free Events


It’s exactly what it sounds like – a spreadsheet full of parties and activities going on during SXSW. I am so ridiculously thankful for the people who spend countless hours scouring the internet and organizing all of these details in one place. Seriously, they really are must haves!

Dirty Team

For a measly $10 you can have access to one of the most comprehensive events list for SXSW. The Dirty Team does a fantastic job of keeping up with what is going on. It’s kind of baffling, honestly.  Get it here!

Side Note: Request to join their Facebook Group. It’s worth it.

A Girl From TX Blog

This spreadsheet is free, yes, free! The lovely Michelle put together a great list of full of events, places to eat and a few other things. Get it here!

I just recently discovered her blog and instagram, make sure to check this fellow Texas gal out! It is great!


I am not on Twitter much. In reality I basically use it to read hilarious Bachelor/Bachelorette fan comments. However, I also use it during SXSW to stay on top of new events popping up. Here are a few of my favorite accounts to follow.

@SXSWMF (my favorite)

Another Side Note: Make sure you stalk your favorite acts on Twitter. A lot of performers like to spring surprise shows during SXSW and will announce it on social media.


What You Must Know

○ Be flexible. Seriously, the day will probably not go exactly as planned, but that is part of the fun of SXSW. (This coming from the girl who usually has to have everything planned out.)

○ Be patient. There will be some waiting in lines, it’s going to happen.

○ Use ride share apps like Uber and Lyft. Do not try to drive and park in downtown Austin, it would be a major mistake!

○ Don’t expect free food and drink at every party. That is just not realistic, but it’s always a great bonus when it happens!

○ Use the SXSW Guest Pass. The guest pass basically gets you into the free official SXSW events. It is a limited selection, but that includes the SXSW Outdoor Stage, SXSW Wellness Expo, SXSW Marketplace, Flatstock 69, and more.


What You Must Bring

○ ID
○ Cash
○ Sunglasses
○ Sunscreen
○ Comfortable Shoes
○ Bag (to carry free stuff)
○ Phone (for Instagramable pictures, of course)
○ Battery pack

Here are just a few different options of my go-to SXSW essentials.

Like I said up top, SXSW is one of my favorite events of the year. It is the perfect kick off to spring and there is just so much to do and see and experience. Now, go have fun!

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