A young fan at SXSW 2011, taking a walk in the wagon along South Congress.
Two truths about Austin, Texas during Spring Break:
- The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive conferences bring 10,000+ people to town for day-time sessions and night-time live music shows, film screenings and parties.
- Kids of all ages are home for Spring Break and Moms and Dads are looking for fun things to do.
Most of the time the two never meet, since a typical SXSW event requires an expensive badge or wristband, is likely to start at 1:00 in the morning and is probably in a bar.
But, while there might be thousands of things you can’t do, there are a few that you can do and who needs more than one or two things to do anyway? It’s easier that way, you don’t have to sift through the enormous schedule of events or search the Internet for hours. Here are my suggestions…
Top 5 SXSW Kid-Friendly Events in 2012
(NOTE: This content is copyright protected by the Creative Commons License. Links to this site are welcome.)
Wednesday, March 14 – Saturday March 17, 11am – 5pm, South Congress between Annie and Riverside
South Congress walks are free and funky and likely to be remembered by everyone. Bands play for free in just about any spot they can find with room for a drum set and an amp. The people-watching is world-class, since SXSW has it’s own sense of fashion, equal parts cowboy boots and tattoos. The day-time is the best because parking (mostly in neighborhoods) isn’t crazy yet, the sidewalks aren’t too packed and it is too hard to keep up with kiddos at night anyway. Bring a wagon, if the kids might get tired of walking. The walks are free, but bring a few bucks to tip the bands. If you stop for a bit to eat after the lunch rush or before dinner, Guero’s has great food and free music on the patio.
[UPDATE: Auditorium Shores on Saturday Afternoon was the original #4 recommendation, but these shows have yet to be confirmed. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday night shows are confirmed, but not Saturday afternoon. Check that link for updates.]
Sunday, March 15, 11am – 5pm, Happy Salon and Spa, 1605 West 6th Street
Moms Rock is a showcase celebrating motherhood and music with live music by Mom musicians and kid’s activities including making your own musical instrument out of recycled materials. There isn’t a cover charge, but bring a few bucks for food from a few favorite food trailers and raffles for cool prizes. The venue is a little odd, it’s in an alley between 5th and 6th streets, behind a hair salon and between businesses that are closed on weekends. It is mostly contained, to be safer for the kiddos. Parking is off-street parking only, so you will want to allow for some time to park and walk. The event is hosted by Texas M.I.L.K. (Mothers I’d Like to Know), a growing collection of conversations with the Lone Star State’s most fascinating Texas Moms.
#3. Educational Video Game Play Dates
Friday, March 9 – Sunday March 11, Palmer Events Center (Note: These is part of SXSW Interactive, so is the first weekend of Spring Break.)
If you have kids 5-13 who like video games and if you like video games to be fun AND educational, this is for y’all. Airy Labs creates educational video games for the iPhone and iPad and they are inviting kids over for a play date to try out what their latest games. They can play “junior scientist” and you can meet Andrew Hsu, the Airy Lab founder. He has a unique perspective on education and games and how they can live peacefully together. To sign up for a play date, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook Page. (Thanks Heidi from Free Fun in Austin for the tip!)
Wednesday, March 14 – Friday, March 16, 7am – 11am, 98 San Jacinto Boulevard
It makes me giggle to think of the musicians who usually play in a bar late at night playing in a well-lit hotel ballroom at 7am. If feels like an Alice-in-Wonderland potion-gone-wrong, but I’m not complaining because this is a pretty decent venue for my kids. KUT hosts these morning, downtown shows during SXSW each year and broadcasts them on-air. The lineup this year includes Jimmy Cliff, Ruthie Foster and Ray Wylie Hubbard. There is a $10 charge for each adult and $5 for parking at the hotel, but the $10 is a fund raiser for the Seton Shivers Cancer Center AND it gets you live music, breakfast tacos and coffee. (KGSR hosts a similar series of morning shows at the W Hotel, but they recommended that theirs might not be great for kids.)
#1. Your Favorite Babysitter and Green Side of the Pond Showcase at Jovita’s (no link available at this time)
Friday, March 16, 7:30pm – 12am, 1619 South 1st Street
Your Favorite Babysitter isn’t a new band, it is a suggestion. For one night during SXSW, get a babysitter for the kids and head out for a grown-up night of live music. Jovita’s isn’t technically a SXSW venue, but that is good news, since you don’t need a wristband or badge. Four of the five bands are pop, alt country or rock bands from Scotland who also have SXSW gigs. The fifth band plays traditional Scottish music and they are from Austin. Strange, huh? You can check out the music ahead of time at the links below. Get there at 6:30ish to get a table for dinner, then stay for the music. There isn’t a cover charge, but tipping the bands is encouraged. (Jovita’s is an all-ages venue, so you could bring older kids who have a later bedtime, but you can also pretend that I didn’t mention that.)
7:30-8:15 French Wives (Scotland)
8:30-9:00 Tango in the Attic (Scotland)
9:15-10:00 Woodenbox (Scotland)
10:15-11:00 Three Blind Wolves (Scotland)
11:15-12:00 Poor Man’s Fortune (Austin)
Have a great time! If you take one of these suggestions, I would love to hear how it went in a comment!
About the Author: Carol Ramsey writes GrowingUpAustin.com and helps families find grown-up live music in kid-friendly venues at AustinKidsDance.com . She lives in Austin with her husband and three girls, 3, 4 and 15 years old.