SXSW for Kids 2013 Sucked and Rocked, So I Guess I Broke Even

Ah, SXSW for Kids 2013. I recommended eleven fun SXSW things for parents and kids to do together in a post last week. I was really looking forward to this!

Growing Up Austin

Here is Sparkles and I enjoying a breakfast taco at KGSR’s morning broadcasts on Wednesday. Hey, wait a minute! That looks like a bagel and the patio at Whole Foods on 6th street. Well, that is where we went instead, when every parking space within a mile of the W. hotel was taken.

Growing Up Austin

Here is Blue Eyes, Sparkles and Buttercup at Roky Erickson’s Ice Cream Social at Threadgill’s. Hey, wait a minute! That looks a lot like the patio at El Mercado on North Burnet. Well, that is where we went instead, when every parking space within a mile of Threadgill’s was taken. When we made the call to give up on this one, Sparkles started crying about missing the ice cream. I told her we could get some ice cream somewhere else. Then she cried some more, about missing the puppet show. What puppet show? Ohhhh, she heard us say that the Meat Puppets were playing at Threadgill’s. No, we explained, they are a different kind of puppet.

 Ben Caplan

Did we manage to make it anywhere? Sparkles, Buttercup, a friend and I made it to Austin City Hall on Thursday afternoon. The City Hall Plaza setup had lots of room to dance and shaded places to sit. There was even room for the girls to practice cartwheels. After some tunes, we went into City Hall and saw The People’s Gallery, with an exhibit of local artists. Beatrice Baldwin’s were my favorites. Her pieces were colorful, with interesting textures, physicality and themes. We went back outside to hear Ben Caplan, who had a lot of energy and a big, compelling voice. But the space wasn’t contained and it was surrounded by traffic on three sides. I had to keep a careful watch, so I couldn’t really listen to the music. And even though we had a drop-off and pick-up ride, the traffic was a lot to handle. Overall, given the ratio of effort and fun, I figure I broke even.

Frightened Rabbit

Sparkles and I made it to KUTX’s broadcasts on Friday. The parking lot was full, but the valet service was still available for $10, then it cost $20 to get in. We heard the last song of Dana Falconberry’s set and then a few songs from Frightened Rabbit. We watched the TV in a side room instead of the live show, because it was too crowded. Then Sparkles didn’t last. It’s a risk when I see live music with my kids, sometimes they get nutty and sometimes we have to leave. I paid $30 all together for 3 songs, at $10 per song. Well, Dana’s song was pretty darn good, so I figure I broke even again.

But, breaking even isn’t something to write home about, or write a blog post about, especially when the post recommends that other people bring their kids to SXSW too. As of Friday night, I told Blue Eyes that everything SXSW my blog had to come down, because SXSW is too big now. Justin Timberlake AND Prince? WTF? What happened to our sweet little festival where unknown bands dreamed of getting their first record deal? I volunteered at SXSW twenty-something years ago when ZZ Top performed. It was the first SXSW performance by an already-signed, already-famous band and people said it then – the spirit of the festival would be crushed if it became just another place for big bands to play.

I don’t know if all that has happened, but this year, it feels like it has gotten so big that it doesn’t make as much sense for people who aren’t conference attendees or who don’t live or work downtown. It’s especially iffy for families with kids, when the crazy logistics are even harder to manage.

On Saturday morning, I managed to say it out loud in front of my family. Should we try one more time? My favorite part of SXSW has always been South Congress, with the people watching, shopping and a free band on every corner. Should we dare to try one more time?

Blue Eyes, Sparkles, Buttercup and I got to South Congress about 11:00 and there was space in the parking garage behind Guero’s and Hopdaddy, free for 2 hours, but $30 if you are late. The parking spot was so pretty, I took a picture of it.

Growing Up Austin

We had 2 hours to have fun and NOT be late. We ate lunch at Hopdaddy, where amazingly enough, the line wasn’t long yet, then caught Tyburn Jig on Guero’s patio.

Tyburn Jig


I love to watch the girls dance. The weather was perfect. The margarita was sweet. I don’t know whose idea this was, but we ended up at Amy’s across the street to get ice cream cones, then headed back to the music.

As we were heading out to meet our parking deadline, Blue Eyes leaned over to me and whispered three sweet words in my ear, “You wanna stay?”

He got the car and brought the kids to Great Grandma’s. I started making the rounds – Guero’s, San Jose Hotel, Snack Bar, Continental Club, Freebird’s. The sets were short, so when one ended, I moved on to another. Sometimes the venues were close enough that I could hear more than one band at the same time, and head to the one that drew me more.  I didn’t need to research the bands or make a schedule, I just listened and wandered about and I heard great things. Here are a few of my favorites…

Halley Anna





Not Sure?

Don’t Know for Sure, and that isn’t the name of the band, it’s that I don’t really know, even though I really liked them. According to the schedule, it is What Made Milwaukee Famous, but these guys don’t look like the Google images for that band, so I don’t really know. Do you know?

Then, after quick nap and dinner at home, the girls and I went to see one more show, in the neighborhood, really low-key, with easy parking. We caught a few songs by Meg Barnhouse and Kiya Heartwood at BookWoman. It was a sweet end to a delicious day.

Meg Barnhouse and Kiya Heartwood
Saturday was everything I’ve ever wanted SXSW to be, busy-Mom-with-kids style. So, which is it, did SXSW with Kids 2013 SUCK or ROCK? Both. Next year, I’ll recommend less with kids and I’ll do less with my own kids. I’ll get there earlier and take the train more. But I won’t give up on it all together either. I’ll be back next year, hoping to do better than breaking even. See y’all then.

Top Ten SXSW Kid-Friendly Events 2013

SXSW 2013

South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin’s world-famous music, film and interactive conference, is almost here. You might be thinking – SXSW is about loud music in crowded bars late at night, requiring an expensive wristband or badge, with no parking and long lines – so why mention it on a parenting blog? But, if SXSW has about six million events that are not kid-friendly, who cares, if it has at least one? And they don’t have just one, they have ten. These options don’t require a SXSW wristband or badge, are sometimes/mostly free, are during the day and (mostly) easy to get to. My SXSW for Moms-with-kids tips – pick one or two events, stay just one or two hours, get home for dinner and drink water instead of beer. If you are ready to take it on, here is the info…

NASA’s James Webb Telescope Exhibit
FIRST week of SXSW, during SXSW Interactive! Friday – Sunday, March 8-10, 12:00pm – 11:00pm
Long Center lawn, 701 W. Riverside Drive
The music portion of SXSW (March 12-17) gets all the girls, right? But the Interactive (March 8-12) and Film (March 8-16) conferences are pretty sexy too. NASA is playing a large role in the Interactive conference this year, with exhibits, panels and speakers. Most important, the James Webb Telescope Exhibit outside of the Long Center is free and open to the public. The exhibit includes a life-size model of the successor to the Hubble Telescope that is 100 times more powerful. The telescope will study how the universe was formed, if our solar system is unique and if we are alone in the cosmos. Imagine that! The model is the size of a tennis court, is four stories high and weighs 12,000 pounds. The NASA Experience Tent features displays, videos, multimedia products and hands-on activities. The model and the tent are designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of science and technology. That is pretty darn sexy!

Texas M.I.L.K.’s Mom Rocks
Sunday, March 10, 11:00am-5:00pm
Freddie’s Place1703 South First Street
Mom Rocks is back this year and it is one of my favorite events, because it is FOR Moms and FOR kids, on purpose. Live music is provided by Mom musicians including Sara HickmanThe Jitterbug Vipers and Shelley King. Kid’s activities are music related, pretty fun and free. Vendors from local businesses have some not-so-free options that I enjoyed very much last year.  The event moved to Freddie’s, one of Austin’s best kid-friendly live music venues, and they will have food available.  The event is hosted by Texas M.I.L.K. (Mothers I’d Like to Know), a growing collection of conversations with the Lone Star State’s most fascinating Texas Moms.

SXSW International Showcases at City Hall Plaza
Wednesday – Friday, March 13-15, 3:00pm-7:00pm
City Hall Plaza, 301 West 2nd Street
The City of Austin is hosting SXSW 2013 showcasing artists from around the world to play free for the public at Austin City Hall. How about this for a music-hiking-art combo – check out the art installation and music at Austin City Hall, then walk a few hundred feet south and walk the trails around Lady Bird Lake. This is a Growing Up Austin trifecta that doesn’t happen every day. The art exhibit is a rotating exhibit of local Austin artists that have won a juried competition. Rumor is that there is a lot of variety in style and mediums.  Paid parking is available at the city hall parking garage. UPDATE: The stage is outside, in front of City Hall, and close to very busy streets. This option is best for 5+ years old and babies, unless your toddlers are easy to manage.

School of Rock’s SXSW Showcase
Wednesday, March 13, 1:00pm – 6:00pm
Scholz Garten1607 San Jacinto
The School of Rock is an music school that combines traditional music lessons and ‘band’ lessons, like how to how to get along with your band mates and how to play in front of people. I take my kids to see grown-ups play music, so why not take them to see music made by people closer to their own size? Their house band, The B Team, and other kid bands will play music for free and food and drinks will be available. Parking shouldn’t be bad for this event, since it is a bit north of the action and there are several parking garages close by.

South Congress (SoCo) Walk
Wednesday, March 13 – Saturday March 16, 11am – 5pm
South Congress between Annie and Riverside
South Congress walks are free and funky and likely to be remembered. Bands play in just about any spot they can find with room for a drum set and an amp. The people-watching is world-class, since SXSW has it’s own sense of fashion, with equal parts cowboy boots and tattoos. The day time is the best because parking (mostly in neighborhoods) isn’t crazy yet, the sidewalks aren’t too packed and it is too hard to keep up with kiddos at night anyway. Bring a wagon, if the kids might get tired of walking. The walks are free, but bring a few bucks to tip the bands. If you get hungry, Guero’s is a great place for a sit-down meal indoors or a tasty snack on the patio. Indoors gets crowded, especially during SXSW, so off-peak hours are best. For Guero’s parking, head south on Congress, turn right on Elizabeth, then right into the first driveway. The parking garage on your left is free for two hours, with a validated ticket from the restaurant. UPDATE: Also good bets: South by San Jose at the San Jose Hotel and Music by the Slice at Home Slice Pizza (especially for Mother Falcon on Friday night.)

KUTX Live at the Four Seasons
Wednesday – Friday, March 13-15, 7-10:30am and Saturday, March 16, 8-11:30am
Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto Blvd., Hotel Ballroom
KUT host live music performances at the Four Seasons downtown in the mornings during SXSW. The shows aren’t setup for kids specifically, but they are in a mostly contained space during the day, so it works. The lineup this year includes Amy Cook and Dana Falconberry, who both play way too early, unless your kids are early risers anyway. They request a $10 donation, benefiting the Seton Shivers Cancer Center, and they provide a breakfast taco, granola bar and coffee. Parking is available at the hotel at a discounted rate of $5 per car. UPDATE: Both broadcast series, KUTX and KGXR, have been especially packed this year, with reasonably close parking filling up by around 7am. This option is best if you and your kids are early birds.

KGSR SXSW Live Broadcast at the W.
Wednesday – Friday, March 13-15, 6am – 10am and Saturday, March 16, 8am – noon
W. Austin Hotel, 200 Lavaca Street, Great Room, 2nd floor
KGSR also hosts live music performances in the mornings during SXSW. This setup feels less kid-friendly, in a way I can’t define, except I called them once to ask them about it and they said it wasn’t kid-friendly. It is true that it gets crowded and very serious music fans are present, so it isn’t an option for everyone, especially certain toddlers, like my very own Buttercup. But, if you don’t have too many kids and they are babies or five+ years old, then why not head on down. The line-up is especially good, with the Divine Fits, Emmeylou Harris, Courtyard Hounds and more, so you might want to time it right, to see one of your favorites. They request a $5 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas and the first 300 people get a complimentary breakfast item. To enter, take the stairs at the corner of 2nd and Lavaca that lead to the ACL Live at Moody Theater, then head left towards the W Austin. Paid parking is available at the hotel and at the City Hall garage at 2nd and Ceasar Chavez. UPDATE: Both broadcast series, KUTX and KGXR, have been especially packed this year, with reasonably close parking filling up by around 7am. This option is best if you and your kids are early birds.

Roky Erickson’s Psychedelic Ice Cream Social at Threadgill’s
Friday,  March 15th, 11:30 AM – 7:00pm
Threadgill’s World Headquarters South, 301 W Riverside Dr
Threadgill’s World Headquarters is a home cooking restaurant and music venue in one. It’s hard to know which is more famous, the vegetable plate with choices like Red Beans and Rice, San Antonio Squash and Stewed Okra with Tomatoes or its musical history as home of the country+hippie mix, with legendary performers like Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin.  Threadgill’s has an outdoor stage that is self-contained for the kiddos, with seating for the grown-ups and room to dance for everyone. The parking is pretty decent, especially if you get there early. There is a $10 cover charge, but kids under twelve are free and so is the Amy’s ice cream.

SXSW at Auditorium Shores
Saturday, March 16, 1:30pm- dark
Auditorium Shores, 800 W Riverside Dr
Auditorium Shores has been the home of free music during SXSW for a long time. Sparkles saw her first SXSW here, when she was nine months old. Most of the action is in the evenings, when there are huge crowds, difficult parking and a dark skies, which makes for a lot of trouble with the kids. But, they also have Saturday afternoon shows, when the bands are still good and the younger adults are still home in bed. There are art and fashion vendors, if you want to do a little shopping. Food and drinks are available. If you get there early, the Palmer Events Center should have paid parking.

Austin Rodeo
Friday, March 8 – Saturday, March 23, 11:00am – 8:00pm
Travis County Expo Center7311 Decker Lane
This might not seem like part of SXSW, but most of the events in this post aren’t official SXSW events and the rodeo meets all the criteria for grown-up live music in a kid-friendly venue.  Rodeo Austin is held for two weeks every March, always overlapping with SXSW. They have mostly country and classic rock concerts on multiple stages; this year includes Restless Heart, Three Dog Night and Merle Haggard. They have a pro rodeo competition with steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding. The fairgrounds remind me of the last scene in the movie Grease, with fun houses, carnival games and cotton candy. They also have mini-roller-coasters, which were a big hit with niece and nephew when they were elementary-school-age. There is also a Kid’s Town where kids can ride a pony, visit a petting zoo and be a farmer for a day. The rodeo is an long-term commitment, because it is a bit of a drive out of town and parking takes a while. It can get pricey too. General admission is just $8 for adults and $5 for kids (under 2 are free), but parking is another $10 and the food, games, rides and concerts cost more.

Your Favorite Babysitter and Threadgill’s World Headquarters
Wednesday – Saturday, March 13-16, 9:00pm-ish, check lineup for exact times
Threadgill’s World Headquarters South, 301 W Riverside Dr
Your Favorite Babysitter isn’t a new indie band, it is literally, your favorite babysitter. Because, why should the kids have all the fun? Why not get a night out and enjoy the big event in our great city? It is a bit of a trick, with the wristbands and badges and all, but here is an option – check out the evening shows at Threadgill’s World Headquarters. During SXSW they have a great lineup of some of Austin’s most established musicians, including Marcia Ball, Jimmy LaFave and Del Castillo. (I would also mention Bob Schneider, but he doesn’t start until 11pm. What is up with that?) It isn’t exactly a daring lineup and it might be old news for people who see live music all the time, but hey, I don’t see live music all the time, so why not see some of Austin’s best? And there are the practical considerations as well. If you get to Threadgill’s early to have dinner first, you will most likely find parking at the restaurant. And, the show in the outside stage has a dirt floor and seating, unlike some indoor places with concrete floors that are impossible to stand on for long if you aren’t twenty-five anymore. The cover charges are a bit pricey, between $12 and $25, but the music and the venue are worth it.

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Well, shoot, that was eleven, not ten. Remember that provides information about grown-up live music in kid-friendly venues year-round, so check that out. Also check out (kid-friendly hikes right in town) and (places for kids to see and do art). If you LIKE Growing Up Austin on Facebook (see button on the top, right of the page) or subscribe to an RSS feed (just below that), you will get regular updates. Have a great time!

SXSW for Kids – A Parent’s Review 2012

After I wrote Top 5 Kid-Friendly SXSW Events 2012 and ANOTHER Top 5 Kid-Friendly SXSW Events 2012 people have been asking me about my SXSW for Kids experience, so here is my official review.


The Untold Story of American HeroinesBlue Eyes took the kids on Sunday night, so I made it to two events with a girlfriend. The Wonder Women! The Untold Story Of American Superheroines, a Benefit for GENaustin included excerpts from the documentary and a Q&A with the producer and director. It made me think about ways I can encourage my girls to be powerful and strong, especially since they seem biologically and irrevocably attached to the princess story.

Growing Up Austin

After that, we went to Red Eyed Fly for Frey’s Cafe, a gathering of SXSWi folks who tell live, true stories. Do you know that I tell live, true stories? On this night, I didn’t know much about the people or the event, I just did it, in a brave or misguided way, and it didn’t work out too well. I tried to write a non-offensive black humor story. Whatever you do, don’t do that. I was making fun of this stupid dog, that wasn’t even mine, that died in my car. But I also tried to be sweet to the dog, so I wouldn’t offend animal lovers. So people couldn’t tell if I was sad or mad or if it was OK to laugh. Maybe next year I’ll tell the story of last year’s terrible story. 🙂 (Note that this is a picture of a video and I did not post the video. :))

Monday – Tuesday

Growing Up AustinI went on a vacation to San Antonio with a girlfriend and our combined four little girls, ages 2-4. Leaving town is a valid approach for families during SXSW. The trip was equal parts pure joy and madness. There were too many little girls. I’m not that strong. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to lose my keys/phone/camera/purse/laptop and I continued the tradition, leaving my phone at the hotel Tuesday morning, then leaving it again at a restaurant Tuesday night. I’m lucky I didn’t lose the car. I know in time I will remember the pure joy parts more than the rest, and there were plenty of them.


KUT at the Four Seasons SXSW 2012 The Punch Brothers

My girls and I made it to the KUT Live at the Four Seasons for a total of about 20 minutes. We saw a few songs by The Punch Brothers, who were amazing, but after the first song, Sparkles found cilantro in her breakfast taco. I know it is considered a good practice for a chef to add something green for flavor and color, but for some kids he might as well poop on that breakfast taco. Sparkles wouldn’t eat it. She was super mad that they didn’t have cereal, her favorite breakfast at home. She was kicking and screaming and carrying on so we left. This is also a valid approach for families during SXSW.


[Uh, a picture of this would have been cute. I guess I got too relaxed.]

My penciled-in idea for Thursday was Guero’s in the afternoon, but the girls were playing sweetly in the driveway with their babies and cribs and blankets, getting them all to take a nap. After San Antonio and The Punch Brothers, I had started to think I might need to sign-up for The Super Nanny TV show, so I decided that I wasn’t going to mess with a good thing.


Amy's Ice CreamsThis is a picture from me and the girl’s at Roky Erickson’s Ice Cream Social at Threadgill’s. You might look at this and say it looks like Amy’s Ice Creams on Burnet. Well, Friday morning had a new set of surprises that changed our plans, so I punted on SXSW and went for a sure thing. Punting is yet another valid approach for families during SXSW.


Growing Up Austin

We were all there. Me, Blue Eyes, Noel, Sparkles and Buttercup, at Guero’s, free parking in the garage, free live music in the patio, chips, salsa and tacos calling our names, when we got the phone call. The cable guy was on the way to our house. Did he know I was just about to order my favorite margarita in the whole world? It was a type of emergency, though, because we had no Internet at the house, which could be interpreted to be partially or mostly my fault, so I volunteered to leave my possibly only hour of SXSW in 2012 to meet the cable guy. This is a picture of our modem instead of Chris Crump.


Elizabeth McQueenI told my Blue Eyes and Noel that I really wanted to see at least one show during SXSW 2012 and given our pending application for The Super Nanny, I could use some help. The five of us went to Moms Rock from Texas M.I.L.K and we saw Elizabeth McQueen. I especially liked the song about chickens which encouraged some inspired dancing. Texas M.I.L.K. did a great job organizing the event for families, with temporary tattoos, art and crafts and a bubble machine for the kids. I couldn’t decide between all the beautiful things from M Squared Jewelry, so I bought two necklaces. It was a sweet, easy and fun time and a perfect send-off for SXSW 2012, with time left in the day to relax, enjoy some time around the house and get ready for the following week.

But, I didn’t do that. I texted a friend and we headed to Peelander-Z at Springfield Farms. It was drizzly, parking wasn’t easy, the lines for ice cream were long and it could have gone bad. But lucky for me, the band was worth it in an over-the-top kind of way, with wild costumes, group limbo, just about everybody drumming and the guitarist jumping out of a tree.




Some might read this review and say it isn’t much of a SXSW review at all, just about everybody in the city saw more SXSW than me, but this is a MOM’S SXSW review and I think it is just as valid. This IS what SXSW for Moms is like. You can’t do it all, you have to go with the flow and you need to really enjoy the times when it all comes together. I can’t wait until next year. See y’all then…