SXSW Interactive begins Friday the 13th and I know there are a number of out-of-towners coming in to Austin. In the spirit of making sure everyone has a good time, below are a few suggestions for optimizing your SXSW experience. For information about the things I've mentioned here check out our full SXSW Interactive Guide.
1) Twitter is the back channel of choice. I know you've heard this a million times but it is true. There are tons of panels, parties, meetups, ect- you don't want to get stuck somewhere that sucks, even for a second. Twitter will help you track which panels you should skip, which parties have run out of booze (it happens), and which meetups you need to drop everything to get to. Furthermore, believe in Twitterkarma- if you put good information out there, you will not only help the community but also yourself.
2) Plan for food. Suffice it to say, well eating at the conference is not exactly the easiest feat. The places immediately surrounding my the convention center (Dona Emelia's, Roys, PFChang's, Champions, Mongolian BBQ, Moonshine, IronWorks BBQ) fill up FAST at regular mealtimes. Either try to eat at off times or walk a little bit to avoid the crush. North of the convention center, 6 st has a bevy of options. I love the burgers at Casino el Camino & Jackalope and healthier fare at Pecan St. Cafe & Iron Catus. Vegetarians & Vegans should walk up Sabine Rd to Koriente. Additionally SXSW food discounts can be found on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/events/photos/3yeaZ7tHhW-nrxEQ2ORdwQ?selected=4zsKlZ...
3) Big parties = Long lines. Ever SXSWi has 2-4 marquee parties every night. These parties often include open bars and food (the best combination EVER) but there's a catch: These parties often are so packed it is impossible to partake in the food and libation. To avoid standing in an hour long drink wait, buck the "casually late" trend and show up early. It is better to wait 30 minutes for the doors to open than to show up later and find out the food & drinks have run out.
4) Public transportation in Austin sucks- use it often, regardless. Yeah yeah yeah, we know Austin is behind our non-Texan peers when it comes to public transportation but that is not to say it is completely lacking. To sort out confusion the most important lines to look for are: a) The airport flyer #100- only $1 for a ride to or from the airport downtown. b) The #4 bus travels across downtown on 6th st from 35 to Mopac. This is a quick way of getting to and from Wholefoods or any of the events on west 6th st. c)'Dillos are a cheap way of getting around town- try the 451 (East-West 5th and 6th St) and 450 (North-South on Congress Ave).
5) Coffee & quiet? Find it on the east side. OK, so coffee is easy to come by at SXSWi but combining coffee and a quiet place to relax, catch up with work, or have a small meeting/interview is hard to find. The answer is to look east. Just a short walk east from the convention center on 5th & 6th streets are (in order of proximity to downtown) Progress Cafe, Rio Rita, and Cafe Mundi.
Full reviews of the places mentioned here can be found in our SXSW Interactive Guide