MUSIC!: That being said, music is still a huge part of SXSW. It's the glue that holds it all together. If you want free shows that definitely don't require a badge, look no further than the Austin Show List. A local resource for years, it only lists SXSW shows not requiring badges.
PARTY!: For all of your badge-less partying needs, I recommend the "SXSW Party List."
EATS!: As I'm sure you already know, one can really only stay in the mosh pit for two to three hours tops before needing some kind of replenishment. When it comes to free food and drinks at SXSW, no site cuts to the taste (get it?) more than SXFN (South By Free Noms).
MORE TIPS! · If this is your first time in Texas, let alone Austin, you may be wondering to yourself, "Hey, where are all the southern accents, pick'em up trucks, and 'Four More Years' stickers?" Well, just like any city with culture and a feisty nature, Austin offers a blend of all types of people. There's a strong tech community as evidenced by OtherInbox, HomeAway and a little company you may have heard of called Dell. There's even delicious, modern cuisine for the discerning foodie such as Uchi, Jeffrey's, and Driskill Grill.
· It might be cold. One year while walking down Congress, I was so cold that I literally had to duck into a bar to warm up. Luckily, in a serendipitous turn of events, my friend's band was playing. Point being, monitor the weather a few days before you head out as Austin is known for having dramatic changes in temperature from day-to-day.
· While Austin has a great downtownwhich has grown enormously since I moved therethe actual city is quite expansive and extends way beyond the hustle and bustle of SXSW. If it's not too late, I recommend making sure your hotel or housing is close enough so that you can easily get back and forth to the conference as quickly as possible.
The thing to remember is that while Austin is a real city, it's not a major metropolitan city like a Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco. However, during SXSW it kind of feels like one, but it doesn't have the cab resources to match. My advice to you is to think ahead, learn bus routes or rent a bike.
[Photos: SXSW & Andy Miles/Jaunted]