As much as we all grumble and moan about SXSW taking over the city, I am sure I’m not alone when I say I was STUNNED to hear of its cancellation this afternoon.
When you think of SXSW, or at least when I do, the last thing that comes to my mind is ‘family-friendly’ but I had done my homework this year and wrote up a list of solid recommendations I was so excited to share with you in my first post for AM. Once I got over the selfish sense of let down, a flood of thoughts ran through my head – concern for local business, the disappointment for the enterprising young professionals who were bound for their first big conference, the cash-strapped musicians that were hoping for a break, and also the question of how bad is this Coronavirus thing anyway?!
As a mama bear who would do anything to protect her cub, I had to applaud the city of Austin for taking such extreme precaution.
Sure, when you think of how much of a melting pot our city is and how many people visit or even relocate here on the daily it’s staggering, but the thought of hundreds of thousands of bodies intermingling like that and the fact that people travel here from all over the globe for the massive SXSW festival it is without a doubt the right decision for our community.
Instead of being too bummed about this year’s event cancellation, do what you couldn’t do with the masses in town and vacation in your home city with your family. There are plenty of alternatives and the local businesses depending on the influx of cash that would appreciate seeing the “I’d rather stay home during South-by” locals to help them recoup some of the anticipated losses they’ll get hit within the weeks ahead. Bonus, traffic won’t be awful, and your favorite places won’t be filled without of towners so don’t let this cancellation scare you away – that’s what it was for – keeping our community vibrant, healthy, safe and virus-free.
Here are a few alternatives to enjoy the week (minus the congestion – no pun intended):
Enjoy some tunes at the unofficial SXSW Kids Music Showcase hosted by The Thinkery
I know many Austin moms who would agree that the Thinkery is generally a great idea for kids of all ages – adults included. So, why not hit up the Thinkery for their annual Kids Music Showcase? The performances will feature local music students from Bandaid School of Music, Songbird Rising Suzuki School, and Suzuki Strings of Austin. As of now, it’s still happening. When: Saturday, March 14th 10AM – 2PM
Spark interest in STEM learning by visiting the Austin Nature and Science Center
If you were hoping to spark interest in STEM learning this is a place you can still do it – it just may not be as flashy as what the tech giants would bring to town. Still, this place has been an Austin mainstay since long before the first SXSW festival hit the town. Opened in 1960, their mission is to provide activities that increase awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. Centrally located on the western edge of Zilker Park in the Zilker Nature Preserve, the Austin Nature and Science Center also has free parking – something that’s becoming extinct in downtown.
Pretend you’re at SXSW Interactive in a virtual reality playspace
Take a short ride to Round Rock and you’ll be rewarded with a unique, kid-friendly virtual reality experience. At Monster Mini Golf and Laser Tag, you’ll find the traditional kiddie activities like mini-golf, laser tag, and arcade games, but there’s also a complete VR experience with “mixed reality” meaning some of the other senses (besides sight) are also engaged. Kids won’t care it’s not the latest and greatest cutting edge technology from some hot-shot tech company – they’ll be blown away by it anyway!
Check into “unofficial” music lineups that may still be on!
There are a handful of venues that never disappoint when it comes to lining up good music – we’re the live music capital of the world for a reason! Check out Spider House Ballroom, The Farout Lounge and Stage, and live music at the legendary Waterloo Records. There will be musicians that still make the pilgrimage to town on non-refundable flights. The musical guest ‘fallout’ will have some benefit to us all as select artists hit the town anyway. Obviously, expect venue lineups to be subject to change and check social media for live updates before you pack up the fam or pay a babysitter to go out on the town. The Austin Chronicle posted this list of un-official events to give you a guideline for where to look.
Stick to the normal routine and visit your favorite downtown places.
I said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s crucial at a time like this, if you already had babysitting on lock, stick with the plans to cash in on me time. Make it a regular night (or day) on the town with the grown-ups even if the festival’s not bringing cool experiential showcases and a plethora of open bars to town. Instead of braving the madness, make it the usual. Check out some of AMB’s date night recommendations for inspiration. If you planned to take the kids – eat, drink, and shop the local spots you’d likely avoid if there was a crowd of out of towner South-by folks who’d be hassling you for bringing them. Enjoy less traffic and non-surge time Uber rides while you’re at it.