Living here, I love Austin all year round, but I especially love Austin during the time leading up to and during South by Southwest. What I love most is that while the city’s population has grown from around 846,000 in 1990, to approximately 1.7 million twenty years later, it still has a small college town vibe.
This is evident in how it’s full of quirky little eateries and entertainment outlets, and new ones are popping up all the time. Newer additions to the Austin landscape are The Highball, adjacent to and owned by the management of the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, Haddington’s on West 6th Street, and the Barley Swine on South Lamar.
Another recent development is the burgeoning beer scene. Last year at this time there were three microbreweries in Austin; Independence Brewing, Live Oak Brewing and 512 Brewing. Recent additions are Thirsty Planet Brewing, Circle Brewing and Jester King Brewing. There are also some brewpubs in town that brew small batches of their own beer (and serve food). Among the best is Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que on Barton Springs. These are all available in better establishments around Austin, so you should forego the huge volumes of free Miller Lite and Shiner Bock at parties and explore a nice local beer bar.
And come March, all this gets the huge injection that is SXSW, which has been growing up just as Austin has. Even in this, it’s 25th year, there are big changes afoot.
The Interactive conference has blossomed to cover what I’ve heard are 8 “campuses” around downtown, including the Convention Center and nearby Hotels. While nothing has been announced yet, expect some way of getting between the venues. SXSW Film’s regular shuttles continue to get you between the silver screens, and you just need to sneeze to get between the stages on 6th Street during SXSW Music.
As for me I’m really looking forward to my 6th year volunteering at SXSW. Can. Not. Wait.
This year Eric Young is one of the SXSW Crew Chiefs and is one of many volunteers that help the event run successfully. He also blogs at austinbeergeek.blogspot.com.