Top 5 SXSW Kid-Friendly Events 2012

Growing Up Austin - SXSW for Kids

Sparkles at SXSW in 2011, on a walk along South Congress

UPDATE: If you are looking for 2013 SXSW for Kids info, go HERE.

Two truths about Austin, Texas during Spring Break:

  1. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive conferences bring 10,000+ people to town for day-time sessions and day-and-night live music shows, film screenings and parties.
  2. Kids of all ages are home for Spring Break and Moms and Dads are looking for fun things to do.

Most of the time the two never meet, since a typical SXSW event requires an expensive badge or wristband, is likely to start at 1:00 in the morning and is probably in a bar.

But, while there might be thousands of things you can’t do, there are a few that you can do and who needs more than one or two things to do anyway? It’s easier that way, you don’t have to sift through the enormous schedule of events or search the Internet for hours. Here are my suggestions…

Top 5 SXSW Kid-Friendly Events 2012

#5. South Congress (SoCo) Walk

Wednesday, March 14 – Saturday March 17, 11am – 5pm, South Congress between Annie and Riverside

South Congress walks are free and funky and likely to be remembered. Bands play for free 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, 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 stop for a bit to eat after the lunch rush or before dinner, Guero’s has great food and free music on the patio after noon-ish.

#4. Moms Rock from Texas M.I.L.K

Sunday, March 18, 11am – 5pm, Happy Salon and Spa, 1605 West 6th Street

Moms Rock is a showcase celebrating motherhood and music with live music by Mom musicians and kid’s activities including making your own musical instrument out of recycled materials. There isn’t a cover charge, but bring a few bucks for food from a few favorite food trailers and raffles for cool prizes. The venue is a little odd, it’s in an alley between 5th and 6th streets, behind a hair salon and between businesses that are closed on weekends. It is mostly contained, to be safer for the kiddos. Parking is off-street parking only, so you will want to allow for some time to park and walk. 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.

#3. Educational Video Game Play Dates

Friday, March 9 – Sunday March 11, Palmer Events Center (Note: These is part of SXSW Interactive, so is the first weekend of Spring Break.)

If you have kids 5-13 who like video games and if you like video games to be fun AND educational, this is for y’all. Airy Labs creates educational video games for the iPhone and iPad and they are inviting kids over for a play date to try out what their latest games. They can play “junior scientist” and you can meet Andrew Hsu, the Airy Lab founder. He has a unique perspective on education and games and how they can live peacefully together. To sign up for a play date, email or visit their Facebook Page. (Thanks Heidi from Free Fun in Austin for the tip!)

#2. KUT SXSW Live Music at the Four Seasons

Wednesday, March 14 – Friday, March 16, 7am – 11am, 98 San Jacinto Boulevard

It makes me giggle to think of the musicians who usually play in a bar late at night playing in a well-lit hotel ballroom at 7am. If feels like an Alice-in-Wonderland potion-gone-wrong, but I’m not complaining because this is a pretty decent venue for my kids.  KUT hosts these morning, downtown shows during SXSW each year and broadcasts them on-air. The lineup this year includes Jimmy Cliff, Ruthie Foster and Ray Wylie Hubbard. There is a $10 charge for each person (kids 6 and under are free) and $5 for parking at the hotel, but the money is a fund raiser for the Seton Shivers Cancer Center AND it gets you live music, breakfast tacos and coffee.

#1. Your Favorite Babysitter and Green Side of the Pond Showcase at Jovita’s (no link available at this time)

Friday, March 16, 7:30pm – 12am, 1619 South 1st Street

Your Favorite Babysitter isn’t a new band, it is a suggestion. For one night during SXSW, get a babysitter for the kids and head out for a grown-up night of live music. Jovita’s isn’t technically a SXSW venue, but that is good news, since you don’t need a wristband or badge. Four of the five bands are pop, alt country or rock bands from Scotland who also have SXSW gigs.  The fifth band plays traditional Scottish music and they are from Austin. Strange, huh? You can check out the music ahead of time at the links below. Get there at 6:30ish to get a table for dinner, then stay for the music. There isn’t a cover charge, but tipping the bands is encouraged. (Jovita’s is an all-ages venue, so you could bring older kids who have a later bedtime, but you can also pretend that I didn’t mention that.)

7:30-8:15        French Wives  (Scotland)

8:30-9:00      Tango in the Attic  (Scotland)

9:15-10:00     Woodenbox  (Scotland)

10:15-11:00    Three Blind Wolves  (Scotland)

11:15-12:00     Poor Man’s Fortune  (Austin)

And remember that and work year-round to bring you information about grown-up live music in kid-friendly venues! Like us on Facebook or subscribe to the RSS feed to get the latest stories and info.

[UPDATE: Also check out a follow-up post, ANOTHER Top 5 SXSW Kid-Friendly Events 2012 for more ideas.]

[UPDATE: The SXSW Auditorium Shores shows on Saturday afternoons, starting at 2:00pm, have been confirmed. Check out the web site for details.]

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17 Responses

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  1. Sydney

    Wow, that’s a lot of suggestions! SXSW comes sooner every year and I know I don’t have time to plan…wait a second who’s that babysitter?! 😉


  2. There is so much information on-line, it is a lot to sort through. These are my top picks, to keep it simple.


  3. Mom

    Austin never ceases to amaze me with its opportunities of events and entertainment – or is it the author of this blog who never ceases to amaze me. Great info.


    Carol Reply:

    Ah, thanks, Mom!


  4. Maggie

    Those are great suggestions! Thanks, I think I’ll check out at least a couple of those (with and without the kids!) :^)


    Carol Reply:

    Yeah, I like to do some of both too.


  5. Kellena

    I would never have even attempted SXSW events with my kids but thanks to this post, now I wouldn’t miss it! See you at Auditorium Shores!!


    Carol Reply:

    Ah, hang on to those plans for Auditorium Shores! Saturday afternoon plans are in the works, but they haven’t been confirmed yet. (Someone should let them know that they might want to start calling some bands!) Check their web site before you head out, or stay tuned here for more details. (I updated this post to take out this recommendation for now. I’m sorry for my mistake!)


  6. Torie

    My kids would be in heaven at the video game one! Thanks so much!


    Carol Reply:

    Great! There is more info about the Screen Burn event here…


  7. jennifer

    Do you know if the Four Seasons is hosting bands in their ballroom, or on the back lawn like they did during ACL?


    Carol Reply:

    Jennifer – KUT is hosting bands at the Four Seasons on Wednesday – Friday mornings during SXSW. Check out #2 above for more info!


  8. Mom

    Austin Rodeo sounds awesome! A taste of our Texas heritage.


    Carol Reply:

    The rodeo is a great time! I used to take my niece and nephew when they would come visit during their Spring Break.


  9. Hi there, simply become alert to your weblog through Google, and located that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if you happen to continue this in future. A lot of folks will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!
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    Carol Reply:

    What do you mean by brussels? Is that a spell check thing? 🙂 Thanks for the compliment. provides year-round information about regular grown-up live music in kid-friendly venues. Check it out!


  10. casey



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