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South by Southwest (SXSW) by Austin

South by Southwest

It’s an annual event so famous that it’s known by an acronym – SXSW.

South by Southwest started in Austin, Texas, in 1987 as a music festival, drawing about 700 people. Today, it takes place over ten days, attracts thousands, and is four festivals in one: music, film, comedy, and interactive media. Together, they attract innovators from a variety of fields including: the arts, entertainment, business, health care, technology, government, and journalism. This year, SXSW takes place March 10–19.

Music still plays a major role at the festival, which draws more than 2,000 performers from across the United States, and more than 60 foreign countries. There’ll be industry insiders and musicians hoping to be discovered, as well as fans who just want to take it all in. The city becomes a giant venue for live music, with dozens of performances taking place every night in bars, clubs, parks, hotels, and even churches. You’ll hear everything from indie rock to electronic to pop, Americana to hip-hop, world music, and more.

The SXSW Film Festival lineup includes more than 125 features, with dozens of world premieres starring some of Hollywood’s biggest names and a wide range of documentaries. The Comedy Festival has a packed schedule—day and night—with improv, standup, and sketch comedy performers. The tech industry is also represented, with speakers from heavy-hitters like Google and Microsoft, as well as some of the hottest social-media companies.

The lineup of speakers at SXSW offers something for everyone. From science, industry, and government they include Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—who is a leader in new technology in the Defense Department—Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford, Google’s chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf, and New Jersey Senator Corey Booker. In the world of entertainment, “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be there, along with “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, musician Mick Fleetwood, and actor Seth Rogen. Authors in the lineup include Cheryl Strayed, who penned the memoir “Wild,” and Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo.

Of course there’s much to do in Austin beyond SXSW. The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, located on the University of Texas campus, offers an in-depth look at Lyndon B. Johnson’s life and long career of public service. The 19th century red granite Texas State Capitol is open for free guided tours seven days a week. Lady Bird Lake, named after the former first lady, is a reservoir on the Colorado River and a major recreation area for the city. The lake is a popular spot for kayaking and canoeing and it is home to the Austin Hike and Bike Trail.

After all that activity you’ll work up an appetite. Austin is home to terrific food, including barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine. Scholz Garten, a downtown beer garden and restaurant in business since 1866, is one of the city’s culinary landmarks. Then head over to 6th Street, where you’ll find a bustling neighborhood for nightlife, filled with bars and clubs.

For help planning a trip to Austin for South by Southwest, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793 or

© Travel Leaders Group