How To Get Around (Or Avoid) SXSW 2019

Mar 6, 2019

The challenge: Getting to South by Southwest 2019 – or avoiding it altogether – with as little pain and suffering as possible.

We're here to help. But you should know, getting around during this year's fest may be a little bumpier than before.

One reason: Spring break for UT Austin and Austin ISD students is not the same week as SXSW this year. That means you won't see dips in commuter traffic like you may have grown fond of in years past. 

And with 125,000 people working downtown and hundreds of thousands likely to attend SXSW, that's a lot of competition for space on Austin's roads – several of which will be closed.

So, armed with that mental preparation, here's your guide to getting around SXSW 2019.

Rules Of The Road

Parts of downtown Austin become pedestrian-only zones during the festival, which runs March 8-17. That vehicle ban extends to dockless scooters, too. 

Even bicycles must be walked through the pedestrian-only zones, mostly centered around East Sixth, Red River and Rainey streets.

Scooters and bicycles are banned on sidewalks throughout much of downtown, even outside of SXSW week (see a map here). 

The Lady Bird Lake trail around downtown is also off-limits to scooters. 

RELATED | What Are The Rules Of The Road For Scooters In Austin? 

The City of Austin's mobility guide map shows you exactly where you'll need to go if you plan to drive or bicycle around the festival. 

Your South by Southwest 2019 transportation guide from the City of Austin.
Credit City of Austin

Here's Your Best Bet For Getting There

If you're close enough to walk or bicycle to downtown during SXSW put on your most comfortable shoes and hit the pavement. (Twenty-four-hour access to Austin's rentable bike program is $12.) 

Highs are forecasted to be in the 70s for the beginning of SXSW week, but the chance of thunderstorms could derail your plans.

That's where your second-best bet comes in: the bus. Austin's public transit system, Cap Metro, is staying open late during the festival. MetroRail, as well as MetroRapid buses, are running until 2:30 a.m., with some night owl routes operating until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. (Keep in mind, the clock jumps an hour ahead at 2 a.m., Sunday, March 10.) 

Find Cap Metro's full SXSW offerings at CapMetro.org.

South by Southwest also operates a free circulating shuttle that runs between the Austin Convention Center and most festival venues. Shuttles typically run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily. 

You can find ride-hailing pickup and drop-off zones scattered throughout downtown and East Austin during the festival.