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Where in Austin to Stay for South By Southwest (SXSW)

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Decided this is the year you are committing to South By Southwest? That’s step one! Now it’s time to figure out where you are going to stay for SXSW. Austin, TX is a big city but it isn’t too big – there are limited accommodations for a huge amount of people. This article will go over where you should stay for SXSW and how you can get the best deal possible.

Discounted Hotels for SXSW Attendees

One of the main advantages of getting an official SXSW badge is access to official SXSW Housing and Travel. This is basically Austin hotels offering discounted rates for people who are attending the actual convention. Hotels offer discounted rates for stays beginning March 14th and last through the entire convention. If you have a badge this is the best way for you to book your SXSW hotel – it is highly unlikely you find better rates at the participating hotels through Priceline, Hotels.com or another travel website. The hotels are still expensive through South By Southwest, but it is better than if you were booking on your own. So in summary if you have a badge snag your hotel through here, if not then you have some work to do to find a deal

Hotels Tips for People Without a SXSW Badge

So admittedly it’s harder to find a deal for SXSW if you don’t have a badge. Here is my biggest advice if this is your situation:

  • Book Early: The earlier you book, the better a deal you are likely to find. I know sometimes hotel prices drop last minute but this isn’t one of those situations, and we have the data to prove it. Below you can see the average hotel price in Austin for SXSW for SXSW 2017. Prices remained fairly steady until a couple months out of SXSW where they absolutely skyrocketed. Also keep in mind this data takes into account hotels across Austin, not just Downtown. Downtown hotels filled up quite quickly, so if you want the best price and best location book early. If you want more useful data and hotel info I highly suggest you check out our SXSW Hotels Page.

    SXSW Hotel Prices

  • Cost vs. Convenience: The SXSW hotel basically comes down to prioritizing either convenience or how much money you spend. Everyone wants to stay in Downtown Austin for easy access to the convention, shows, nightlife and more. This makes staying there the most expensive option as well. If you aren’t concerned about money then Downtown Austin is where you want to be. If you need to save money I suggest you look outside of the Downtown area, but at a hotel with a good transportation option such as the SXSW Shuttle.

  • Airbnb Is an Option: Austin during SXSW is a great time to also look into Airbnb. It will also be expensive, but you can find better rates than the hotel. It’s also a nice option for if you have a group and can split a large house or apartment, which is often cheaper than multiple hotel rooms.

  • Know your Transportation Situation: Austin public transportation is not great admittedly. I would have a clear plan on how you are going to get to Downtown Austin before booking anything outside of the immediate Downtown (walkable) area. The vast majority of events going on during SXSW, whether it is concerts, parties or movies, will be happening in Downtown Austin.

Where To Stay in Austin For SXSW

So let’s get into where you should stay in Austin for SXSW. I will go over the pros and cons of each area, and some transportation options. The goal is to give you an objective look at what you’re getting yourself into with each area of Austin.

Downtown Austin for SXSW

Downtown Austin for SXSW

Downtown is in the heart of the action making it the ideal location for SXSW if you can afford it. This area fills up quickly so you need to be on top of your planning if you want to be Downtown.

Best Way to SXSW: Walking! That’s the whole point of staying Downtown: you can walk everywhere for South By Southwest.

Pros

  • SXSW takes place at the convention center right Downtown, so staying in Downtown provides the easiest access to the actual convention.

  • The vast majority of SXSW events take place in Downtown Austin

  • You can drink as much as you desire and still be able to walk home

  • Access to the best food and nightlife of Austin

  • The area with the most hotel options

Cons

  • Expensive. Like really, really expensive with many hotels being $400+ a night

  • Sells out early so you need to commit to SXSW early and book far in advance.

East Austin for SXSW

East Austin for SXSW

East Austin is a trendy, hipster neighborhood just to the east of Austin. Depending on where you stay in East Austin for SXSW you could still walk to many SXSW events. At worst it will be a short commute. It’s got all the staples of hipster neighborhoods with good local establishments, craft cocktails and trendy restaurants.

Best Way to SXSW: You may be able to walk to SXSW still, but if not you can either take a short bus ride (#2 bus for $1.25) or ride a bike. You should only be a few miles away at most.

Pros

  • A longish walk or bike ride into Downtown Austin

  • Plenty of Airbnb / Condos in the area for rent – this is likely a much cheaper option than getting a hotel in the Downtown area

  • Cool, hipster neighborhood with plenty of food, bars and culture

  • Likely the best area in terms of close proximity and still having nightlife / things to do for SXSW

Cons

  • Limited hotels in the area so Airbnb is the best option

  • Likely outside of walking distance to many events for South by Southwest

  • Second most expensive option for SXSW

The Arboretum Area for SXSW

While it is the furthest option from SXSW, the Arboretum area offers many hotels, shopping, nightlife and cheaper hotel rates. If you don’t mind being away from Downtown Austin it can be a solid option.

Best Way to SXSW: Likely you will need to drive or take a ride share. Public transportation will be slow from this far out. An Uber is likely to run you roughly $25 from the area.

Pros

  • Plenty of shopping and restaurants in the area
  • Much cheaper hotels with some options even below $200 if you book in advance

  • Quiet and more peaceful at night if you are looking to relax, recharge and avoid crowds

Cons

  • The further from SXSW and thus the most laborious commute in daily

University Area for SXSW

If you like the youthful atmosphere then you should consider staying in the Unversity Area of Austin. It is located about 10 minutes north of Downtown and offers some cheaper hotels for SXSW.

Best Way to SXSW: In general we don’t recommend driving yourself unless you enjoy traffic and parking disasters. However, you can drive if you please. You can also take about a 10-15 minute bus ride for just $1.25. There are a few stops right by the University so snagging a ride should be fairly easy. You can also bike as Austin is quite flat and it is only a couple of miles to the convention center from the university.

Pros

  • Vibrant culture with many shops and museums

  • Not too far from Downtown Austin – about a 10 minute commute into the city costing you just $1.25 each way. Biking is also a great option, so getting to SXSW and Downtown isn’t too difficult

  • Much cheaper than Downtown Austin

Cons

  • College atmosphere may be unappealing to many

  • Have to figure out transportation daily; you cannot walk

Austin Airport for SXSW

Austin Airport for SXSW

Staying at the airport is always a nice budget option, especially if you are going more for business and networking than partying. The Austin-Bergstrom Airport is not too far from Downtown Austin, making it a viable option for SXSW.

Best Way to SXSW: Most people take either a cab or ride share to Austin from the airport. Uber and Lyft are now back in Austin so I would say these are likely your best option daily unless you are renting a car and planning to drive. A Lyft or Uber will be about $20 from the airport.

Pros

  • One of, if not the, cheapest option for SXSW accommodations

  • Easy access to the airport

  • Quiet and uncrowded at night if you prefer to avoid crowds

Cons

  • The airport is about 8 miles to the southeast of Downtown Austin, making it a commute into SXSW each day

  • Literally nothing going on around you so it really is just an option if you are looking for a place to lay your head at night

Summary

If you have the money then Downtown or East Austin are your best options. They will give you the easiest access to all of the SXSW events and have the most nightlife. You will also pay for this convenience as they are the most expensive areas. If you are looking for a more budget friendly option for South by Southwest check out the University Area or even potentially near the airport.

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