SXSW: A Crash Course in Arts for Your Entire Family

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

Winter is hanging on and the natives are getting restless! If you don’t get your expressionistic kid out of the house, who knows what finger painting/collage/drum kit fiasco awaits? When the Ides of March roll around, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive into the South by Southwest Festival (March 6-19, 2017); a two-week, multi-discipline arts fest that includes music, film, and interactive gaming in Austin, Texas.

With the warm(er) weather and an avalanche of new artistic expression, SXSW, as the cool kids and just about everyone else are abbreviating it, is a great place to share a pop culture experience with your child, tween, or teen. The all-ages festival embraces new and different like nowhere in the world.

Pre-Game Deets

The colossal festival has so many sections and events, you’ll want to choose your poison carefully. While the focus is on “industry” (networking events are a major component), there is still plenty to do for fun-loving fans. You can get a badge specifically for the music, film, or interactive component; two of the three, or all three. Consult with your kid and look at the schedule to see which badge and fest focus is right for you. There are no children’s pricing options.

Headlining the festival is the music component, for which Austin is famous. It features shows, panels, interviews, and mentorship opportunities led by respected insiders and new talent. Daily performances all around the city will feature more than 2,000 bands.

The film festival, with daily screenings, is an eclectic collection of new films from established and emerging filmmakers. Panels, workshops, and keynote speakers add to the “industry” side of the film festival.

Best for kids might be the Interactive component, which features a gaming expo and keynotes with industry creatives building the next digital gaming systems and collaborative experiences. Attend an awards show to discover new machines and technology with your young geek.

All badges include entrance into the SXSW trade show, gaming expo, convergence programs, transportation shuttles, outdoor stage, and SXsocial, an app to connect you with other participants and keep you abreast of all the happenings.

After registering, book your hotel room immediately. Badges also give you priority hotel booking in Austin, so book through the SXSW Housing Authority to take full advantage.

Check the weather report before you pack. Although ice and snow won’t be an issue, you’ll likely have to contend with heat, cold, dryness, and other climate factors; so be prepared. And if your kid isn’t into walking around, you’re in trouble! The best way to get around Austin, and the fest, is on foot and by shuttle. You might want to bring two pairs of sneakers each so you can really pound the pavement!

Hit the Ground Running

Once you arrive and find your hotel, it’s time to pick up your badge at the Austin Convention Center, which will probably be a zoo. Registration opens at 9am and will probably be a madhouse, so either arrive early or don’t go until mid-day.

Once you pick up your badge and swag bag, you’ll have all the materials you need to plan your day. Depending on the age of your partner in crime, you’ll have to determine your own pace.

You can always change your plan, but at least have an idea of where to begin and what to see. Designate a meeting point in case either one of you gets lost. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to take a break!

Inside Austin

In Austin’s dry climate, you’ll need to keep hydrated, so make sure each of you has a water bottle. Refill stations are located all over the city. You can walk or use Austin’s bike-share program, B-cycle, to cycle around the convention center and venues, which will also require some serious hydration.

The self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” doesn’t do well with the conventional, so be prepared to stop, take time out, and take a look at what’s right in front of you. Besides the festival bands, you might find a local artist, coffee shop performance, street-side curiosity, or any number of other distractions that will be well worth your time.

For the Love

Austin’s casual, freewheeling culture and embrace of artistic expression makes it a great place to take your aspiring creative any time of year. But during SXSW, they’ll be able to learn about these fields from the inside, maybe test the waters at a networking coffee hour, and – most importantly – talk to you about their dreams of expression.

Taking your child’s artistic ambition seriously by bringing them to a festival like SXSW is a great way to show your support and have a little fun along the way.

Will you be attending SXSW this year? What awesome events does your city have to offer? Share with us!

Tags : travel   hip happenings   art events   austin   texas   

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