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Cutting through the chaff of SXSW’s “official” and “unofficial” content sessions, the never-ending parties, managing crowds and simply trying to get around, exercise, or, goodness forbid have a little fun while exploring Austin is challenging.

Below is my updated annual list to help you do just that. Enjoy, and remember- it’s Austin. Don’t forget to pack an empty water bottle, dancing boots and a healthy sense of humor. I promise you, most of the “We Know It’s Great but Don’t Move Here” shirts are being worn by tourists.

Last but not least, if you are interested in attending the CMO Club, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Adometry and Media6Degrees and Pecha Kucha events below, make sure to shoot me an email and I’ll get you more details.

Simply Getting Around

If you’re not within a mile of the convention center during your visit, you’ll need a vehicle. A rental car will work if you can get one, but the area near the convention center will be jam packed with traffic, and many roads will be blocked off. There aren’t a lot of great parking lots either, so if your hotel offers a shuttle, bike taxi or other transport, take advantage.

If you are lucky enough to be considered for Tagged’s annual “Limo” program, you can get a wristband and go in style. I also heard from an official source that UK based company eConsultancy will have a double-decker bus in service to court its crowd from place to place. Finally, as Matt Cohen (CEO of OneSpot) reminded me, there are conveniently located parking spots for Austin’s Zip Car and Car2Go programs. If you sign up in advance, they may be the most efficient way to get around. Visitors who are within a mile of the C-Center can hoof it and save the hassle, realizing boots or walking shoes versus heels will really come in handy.


This year’s Interactive is five days, beginning on March 8th (lightly attended) and wrapping up on the 12th.  While everything may sound exciting upon first read, my suggestion is to mix it up by weaving in official sessions, unofficials, and a little R&R with your peers and new friends.

Below are the content sessions and digital industry parties that are currently generating the most buzz. I’ve asterisked the ones in red that the agency or I have an affiliation with and may be be able to help you get access to.  Feel free to email me if you find these events appealing and I’ll do my best to help out.

Friday, March 8th

3:30-4:30PM Games: Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.

Palmer Events Center, Room 4-5
Raise your hand if you agree with either of these statements:

  • Gamers are primarily by young or teen boys.
  • Games are usually played alone in the home on game consoles.
  • You may be surprised at how many people would have their hand raised…especially brand marketers and agencies who make decisions about promoting /advertising on games as part of their digital marketing mix. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Games Committee is here to dispel the myths about gamers based on current research that shows how games truly are played by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

    Join us and meet today’s game players.

    Presenters: Bill Hopkins, VP/GM-Nielsen GamesThe Nielsen Company, David Berkowitz, VP, Emerging Media, 360i, Susan Borst, Director, Industry Initiatives for Social Media, Content Marketing, Games & B2B, IAB

    5:00 – 9:00 PM UNofficial Mobile Meetup

    Sponsored by RadioShack, SubtleData, Health 2.0 and Wireless Industry Partnership

    Gingerman, 301 Lavaca St.

    Are you a mobile nut, mobile blogger,mobile developer, mobile entrepreneur?  Come commensurate with your fellow mobile nuts over a few beers (or ciders or whatever).

    We’ll be getting together at 5:00pm on March 8, the opening day of SXSW Interactive. We’ll be on the back patio.

    We don’t care if you carry an iPhone, Nokia, BlackBerry, Windows Phone or Android – come hang out and let’s talk mobile and get to know each other.

    We’ll gather at the Ginger Man Pub – a short 5 minute walk from the Convention Center.  They have like 50+ taps of some amazing beers and a large selection of cider as well.


    8:00PM – 9:00PM

    Descendants of Erdrick with a special announcement from Richard Garriott

    Palmer Events Center, Exhibit Hall 1, 900 Barton Springs Rd.

    Richard Garriott founded gaming company, Origin, and also went to space! This is totally weird and a great way to kick-off SXSW

    SXSW GEEK Stage – Descendants of Erdrick is a rock band dedicated to re-imagining the soundtracks of classic video games, specializing in covers of the “epic” role-playing/adventure genre of games. The band’s repertoire covers games ranging from The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man, to Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Each instrumental “medley” of songs is aimed at engaging the listener and telling a story, often using sound effects and visuals alongside the music to establish a mood.

    Saturday, March 9th

    9:30AM-10:30AM, Sources in the Social Media Age

    Presented by Edmund Lee (Bloomberg News), Greg Galant (Shorty Awards & Muck Rack), Joe Ciarallo ( and Peter Kafka (All Things Digital)

    Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.

    As social media destroys previous conceptions (or perceptions?) of reporters, their sources and the “audience,” journalism is being re-defined by the minute. It’s also letting people on all sides of the equation get away with things they couldn’t have before. For example, sources can demand to review the quotes from their interview with the reporter, and the reporter is more willing to do so than ever, knowing that the source could just as easily take to Facebook or Twitter with the information. Sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

    11:00AM – 2:00PM Is Intuitive Marketing Dead? Featuring Nate Silver*

    Invite Only – Sponsored by Adometry, Media6Degrees, Neustar and ThinkVine

    Bungalow, Brew Spirits and Good Vibes, 92 Rainey St.

    11:00am-2:00pm: Brunch Served – Fine Interior Mexican Cuisine, Bloody Mary Tastings with Locally Distilled Austin Spirits

    12:00pm-1:00pm: Open Dialogue with Nate Silver, “Is Intuitive Marketing Dead?” Moderated by Steve Basile

    1:00pm-1:30pm: Book Signing, “The Signal and the Noise”

    1:30pm-2:00pm: MingleOpen dialogue with Nate Silver

    Nate will provide a few opening remarks and then we will have a question and answer period moderated by Steve Basile. Austin is a cultural and foodie mecca

    We will be featuring classic regional Mexican cuisine – not your usual Tex-Mex! Austin Vodkas? You bet. Sample Tito’s, Savy, and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodkas. “The Signal and the Noise” book signing

    Nate Silver’s book is available for the first 100 guests and he will sign copies.

    11:00AM-12:00PM Brand Fans, the New Brand Marketers

    Presented by Jen Saenz (FritoLay), Kevin Knight (Facebook) and Shiv Singh (PepsiCo)

    Omni Downtown, Capital Ballroom, 700 San Jacinto St.

    Before Time’s Person of the Year was “You” – a corporate powerhouse was already putting “You” in control. Since 2006, PepsiCo has been at the forefront of crowdsourcing – letting fans produce the Doritos brand’s Super Bowl ads and create the next flavor of Mountain Dew, or, more recently, empowering consumers to help the Pepsi brand introduce the Super Bowl Halftime Show and inspiring fans to create the next Lay’s potato chips flavors. PepsiCo has proved that this DIY approach resonates with fans – and no one defines your brands like your fans. This panel, featuring Frito-Lay senior director of brand marketing Jen Saenz, PepsiCo Beverages global head of digital Shiv Singh and Facebook creative strategist Kevin Knight, is moderated by Mashable business editor Todd Wasserman and provides an opportunity to learn how to tap and inspire the “creative genius” among your DIY-inclined fans, how to control the risk of “letting go” and take fan engagement to the next level. Sponsored by PepsiCo.

    2:00PM-3:00PM, 2013 SXSW Newbies Meet Up (Requires Badge)

    Driskill Hotel, Driskill Ballroom, 604 Brazos St.

    If you are new to SXSW, aren’t in town with vets, and/or simply want to get a lay of the land and meet new people, this is the event to attend.

    3:30PM-4:30PM Al Gore on The Future

    Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

    From the former vice president and #1 New York Times bestselling author comes An Inconvenient Truth for everything—a frank and clear-eyed assessment of the emerging forces that are reshaping our world and will continue to do so in the decades to come.


    5:30PM-11:00PM CMO Club Dinner, Reception and Surprise Musical Performance* CMOs and select members of the media only

    The Rattle Inn*, 610 Nueces St, Austin

    CMOs from around the country are in Austin for SXSW. If you are a member of the press or the CMO for a brand that would like to attend this event, please contact me by email.

    Sunday, March 10th

    9:00AM-1:00PM, Interactive Advertising Brunch*

    Sponsored by SmartBrief & TBD

    Featuring Live Music by Darden Smith

    Parkside Rooftop, 301 E. 6th St.


    This event is open to IAB members and guests. It’s a great way to catch up with industry peers and media partners. Brunch and mimosas on the house!  If you are a member of the press or the CMO for a brand that would like to attend this event, please contact me by email.


    11:00AM-12:00PM, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky Talks with Fortune’s Jessi Hempel

    Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon ABC, 500 E 4th St.

    A spirited conversation with Airbnb’s cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky in which we delve into the process of designing and building a platform for sharing homes, explore the company’s new push into the travel guide area with its Lonely Planet competitor, and talk about the challenges of scaling a truly disruptive business model.


    11:00AM-12:00PM, Consumer Data: Can I Get Satisfaction?

    Presented by Rick Orr

    Four Seasons, Four Seasons Ballroom, 98 San Jacinto Blvd.

    Since the dawn of spam and server hacks, there has been trepidation on the part of the consumer in sharing their personal data with the companies they interact with, for good reason. But, there is a way for consumers to leverage their data to his or her advantage. Many companies today are mining the data they capture about their customers, such as spending habits and purchase preferences – and chances are, whether they realize it or not, they are benefiting from it. Recent articles site that Fiat uses their customer data to find out how to target new customers and provide better service to the ones it already has. Wal-Mart uses purchasing habit data to deliver the right item to the right customer. American Express suggests products to its customers based on analysis of the customer’s monthly expenditures, and often provides deals on those items. This session will discuss how the consumer should re-evaluate the companies they interact with and how their data can benefit them.

    1:30PM-2:30PM Blast PR’s Client and Partner Happy Hour*

    Parkside Downstairs 301 E. 6th St.


    This happy hour event will bring together members of the Digital Oldtimers, Women in Media Mentoring, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and CMO Club on the agency.

    5:00PM-6:00PM Affinity, Intent & The War for Marketing Dollars

    Presented by Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott

    The Four Seasons, San Jacinto Ballroom, 98 San Jacinto Blvd.

    Every day people conduct billions of searches on Google, and in the process they create what John Battelle famously called a ‘database of intentions:’ A massive record of the world’s desires that helps the company generate tens of billions of dollars in advertising revenue. But Facebook, perhaps the only other company that has collected as much data as Google, has had nowhere near the same luck turning its data into dollars. Why? Because unlike Google’s ‘database of intentions,’ Facebook has unwittingly built a ‘database of affinity:’ A massive record of what people like rather than what they intend to do.

    The database of affinity is potentially as valuable as the database of intentions — but neither Facebook nor marketers have managed to unlock or measure that value. The question is: Who can find the hidden value in this database of affinity, and how will this change marketing?

    Monday, March 11th

    11:00AM-12:00PM, The Mashable Variety Show

    Presented by Pete Cashmore, CEO and Founder, Mashable

    Long Center, Dell Hall, 701 W. Riverside Dr.

    The Internet has grown exponentially throughout the years. It has gone from a place that no one understood to a world that no one can take their eyes off of. The Internet has evolved from a place to get your news, pay your bills, go shopping or catch up with old friends to the greatest community that anyone has ever been a part of.

    Pete Cashmore, Founder and CEO of Mashable, will explore this revolution and what it means. He will explore how the world has grown and changed due to the constant re-invention of the Internet, covering how marketing strategies have evolved, how news delivery has moved from your doorstep to your newsfeed, and how the Internet itself has allowed the world to reconnect through images, stories and sometimes, cats! Have your cameras ready for surprises and special guests!


    3:30PM-4:30PM A Conversation with Steve Case

    Steve Case (Revolution) and Lance Ulanoff (Mashable)

    Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.

    To keep America’s economic and innovation engine running, we must tap into the “secret sauce” that made the United States what it is today… our entrepreneurs. Reflecting on his experience building AOL into an online powerhouse, to (today) investing in disruptive, consumer-facing companies like Zipcar, LivingSocial and Exclusive Resorts among others, Steve Case will share his thoughts on what actions we must take to make sure America remains the world’s most entrepreneurial nation.

    In a conversation with Mashable editor Lance Ulanoff, Steve will explore the possibilities for a “Rise of the Rest” in US entrepreneurship, where new hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity will grow outside of Silicon Valley in cities like Washington D.C., Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Raleigh, Cleveland, Detroit and many others.

    Steve will also share his thoughts on disruption – why it’s essential to innovation, and what industries are ripe to be disrupted by new tools and technologies.


    7:00PM – 10:30PM, Pecha Kucha Austin #16*

    Pentagram Design, 1508 W. 5th St.

    Open to the public, this event will feature official Pecha Kucha 20 image x 20 second per image “chit-chat” presentations by many of Austin’s finest. #16 will be the first Pecha Kucha Austin held outdoors.  Presenters include artist Jan Heaton, music producer Noel Waggener, digital data visionary Richard Bagdonas, creative director Ron Pippin, photographer Mat Sturtevant and musicians Patches King, Graham Reynolds, Lance Keltner, Charlie Faye and Jon Dee Graham. For more information, email me or join the “Pecha Kucha Austin” group on Facebook and RSVP for the event.

    Tuesday, March 12

    11:00AM-12:00PM, Jane Pratt: Secrets of a Publishing Renegade

    Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.

    Jane Pratt, founder of Jane and Sassy magazines, reveals what went on behind the scenes as she burnt bridges, said things she shouldn’t say out loud, and built a platform for women to express themselves honestly. Now, with, her first online publication, Jane is once again revolutionizing the way media talks to women.

    At SXSW Interactive, Jane will reveal (and later deny) truths about why the current print model doesn’t work, the myths traditional media has been feeding you, and the outrageous anecdotes from 25 years in media she only shares with her closest friends.

    Standing at the helm of a group of digital properties, Jane proves you can make a success out of doing whatever you want as long as you stay committed to your vision … and are willing to go up against everyone from Si Newhouse to the Moral Majority.

    3:30PM -4:30PM Change the Ratio: Conversations with Rachel Sklar

    Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.

    Writer and disrupter Rachel Sklar talks to assorted high-profile tech leaders about the interplay between diversity, meritocracy, privilege and innovation, and how the tech industry is transforming as it goes mainstream (and why that’s a good thing). Lots of special guests and Vine-able moments! (Is that a word yet? It is now.)


    Austin is well known for its Tex-Mex and Bar-B-Q. But, recently, we’ve experienced a culinary explosion.  Here’s a list to favorites to choose from…


    Old-SchoolPolvos – Great Mexican with a true Austin vibe that can be best realized with a Mexican “Martini” or margarita. (South Austin)

    New SchoolLa Condesa – Fancy Mexican in the heart of the hip ‘Second Street’ district, which is also referred to as “Little Dallas”. Great open-air bar with a corresponding upstairs bar that is easy to book for events.


    Old School – Bar-B-Q – The Green Mesquite on Barton Springs, Stubbs on Red River or Iron Works (right next door to the convention center)

    New SchoolLamberts – The best late-night bar-b-q with great bands upstairs (factoid – It’s in the old historic venue once occupied by the much beloved Liberty Lunch music venue)


    (FYI – For Brunch – Trio, Lamberts and Moonshine are typically great options)

  • Bess – eclectic bistro owned by Sandra Bullock
  • Second – A fabulous restaurant and bar with great food and indoor, outdoor space on Congress Avenue at the bottom of the Austonion building. Directly next door is one of the best fine dining restaurants in the country, Congress, and in the middle a tiny, hip bar- Bar Congress.
  • Trio (near the convention center) – restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel (drinks in their lobby is much more fun)
  • Parkside (near the convention center)– eclectic, hip, fun
  • Malaga – Spanish tapas
  • Haddington’s – Hip, British
  • La Condesa – upscale Mexican
  • Lamberts – Upscale Bar-B-Q
  • Eddie Vs – Seafood
  • The Roaring Fork at the Stephen F. Austin (Downtown)- Steak
  • Maiko – Japanese
  • Moonshine(near the convention center) – Eclectic, higher-end comfort food served within one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Austin. Very close to the convention center with outdoor/indoor seating.
  • The restaurants at the Driskill hotel and Stephen F. Austin are great too…


  • Bar Congress & Second (Congress Street- the small bar adjoining the Congress Restaurant and 2nd – its other restaurant)
  • The bar at La Condesa
  • Malverde – The club/bar above La Condesa
  • Annie’s on Congress
  • The Lounge at the Four Seasons (near the convention center) aka “Austin’s Living Room”
  • The five or so bars in the new W Hotel. Lots of people go right now but they are much like the W bars in any other city. There’s not really anything “Austin” about them.

    EASTSIDE COCKTAILS (the late night scene side of town)

  • East Side Show Room
  • Justine’s (it’s a hike but worth it)


  • Perla’s Seafood (If you are going to the “Continental Club” for live music or staying at the San Jose and/or the St. Cecilia, you don’t even need to go downtown.)
  • Vespaio (Italian) or its sister café next-door, Enoteca (more casual) See rationale above.
  • Uchi (South Austin) or Uchiko, (North Austin) two of the finest Japanese restaurants in the country
  • The bar at St. Cecilia (itch – you must be with a hotel guest)
  • Lucy’s Fried Chicken (new) – It’s amazing.
  • Olivia – Amazing eclectic fare from the farm to the table
  • The Elizabeth Street Café (new)  – Vietnamese
  • Lenoir – (new) French


  • Hotel St. Cecilia (Amazing)
  • San Jose
  • Four Seasons
  • Kimber Modern
  • The W
  • Austin Motel  (you are on a budget and want Austin funk)
  • Stephen F. Austin
  • Driskill
  • *If you are bringing in clients and a round of golf is in order, book rooms at the Barton Creek Resort & Spa and set up your tee times.

  • StubbsBig shows ranging from Spoon to Wilco to Patti Smith. Great gospel brunch on Sundays
  • The Mohawk The “it” club for alternative
  • The Historic Victory Grill Off the beaten path, but has a speakeasy back room that attracts great soul and jazz
  • The Elephant Room So Austin- such great jazz.
  • The Continental Club The granddaddy of local music venues. Go!
  • Saxon Pub Great shows.

  • Emos The name describes the music!
  • Check out the Austin Chronicle Music Listings our free weekly for great recommendations. There are hundreds of live music shows each week.  The editors’ picks are usually spot on as well. And, unlike other cities, there is usually NOT a door or capacity issue, until SXSW music begins.  It’s still a good idea to call ahead and/or reserve a seat if you can.

    Austin is a wonderland for fitness enthusiasts, especially in March when the weather is usually at its best.

    Outdoors + Yoga                                                                     


  • Visit Zilker Park if you have children or just want to hang out, wander around and/or go for a run. They have a large park and train that transports children around part of the famous Lady Bird Lake hiking trail. It’s very safe and just next door to Barton Springs.  There are restaurants within walking distance. It’s a great hour or half-day adventure, hot or cold (It’s often hot). For $3 you can swim at Barton Springs, our natural swimming hole, year round.
  • Running

  • Run around Lady Bird Lake “Hike and Bike” trail which separates “North” Austin from  “South” Austin  and is central to most hotels. You can run 3-13 miles around the lake. It’s beautiful- you’ll see the city and there are multiple watering holes and restrooms along the way.
  • Hiking, Mountain Biking, Climbing

  • Hike our Greenbelt while you are here.  There are 13 miles (or maybe even more) of creek side trails “underneath” the city and tons of hiking, biking, climbing spots throughout.  If you don’t have equipment, REI (located near the flagship Whole Foods) rents it!
  • Hike or Bike Mt. Bonnell Road!
  • Road Biking

  • This is a bike city but not so easy to bike. It’s a little easier due to the installment of new bikeways. But, you need to know where to go to be safe. I would suggest you call Mellow Johnny’s and sign up for a morning ride with dozens. You’ll enjoy it. Jack & Adam’s Bicycles also has group rides and is owned by two of the nicest guys in town.
  • Daily kayaking or paddle boating

  • The docks down at Ladybird Lake . There is also another private boat rental on the shore of the Hyatt Regency, which is very convenient and accessible.
  • Swimming

  • Austin has dozens of natural swimming holes and lap swimming pools that are available for many hours (some year round and heated). Certain pools are available to use for free. Others are accessible for $3.
  • Yoga

  • Black Swan Yoga
  • East Side Yoga
  • Also, Yoga Yoga is everywhere…
  • Other

  • The Town Lake YMCA also has a pool,  hundreds of classes and day passes. It may also be reciprocal.  It’s equivalent to high-price clubs in many other cities.

    The Norm

  • Whole Foods
  • REI
  • Anthropologie
  • …all located next to one another

    The Best

  • Books: BookPeople
  • Music: Waterloo Records
  • Men’s Clothing: (Tie) Stag or Service Menswear (both on South Congress)
  • Women’s Clothing for the Serious Collector: Blackmail (South Congress: Ring and do not take photos without asking) and By George (The N. Lamar location – don’t be fooled)
  • Women’s Clothing for the Whimsical Shopper:  (Think “I just need a cute dress for the day or this evening” Stella Blue or Maya Star (both on South Congress)
  • Cowboy Boots: Allen’s Boots
  • Hair Salon: Ron King Salon and Wet Salon
  • Make-Up: Rae Cosmetics

  • Visit Culture Map Austin for the most expansive and current arts and entertainment listings.