Living in Austin during mid-March is like entering an entirely different universe, one where traffic is worse, celebrities are everywhere, and often ridiculous pop-ups take over the city.
Over the past few years, every SXSW brings with it even more Instagram-worthy activations that quickly become the social media highlight of the fest. This year is no different. In addition to a bloody Game of Thrones pop-up and the apocalypse coming promising to rain down on Rainey Street, attendees can also enjoy a macabre vampire library, a Ferris wheel made of cheese, and much more. Get your phones ready — SXSW 2019 is promising some of the most outrageous activations ever.
The Visible Music Box — March 8
What’s more fitting for the Live Music Capital of the World than a pop-up recording studio? Visible, the phone company that prides itself on transparency, is coming to Austin with a see-through studio where SXSW attendees can swing by, belt out their favorite tunes, and take home a recording for Spotify or Soundcloud. Badges only, open from noon to 7 pm.
RealSelf House of Modern Beauty — March 9-10
RealSelf, an online platform for those researching cosmetic medical procedures, is coming to Austin to host a two-day beauty activation with experts in the beauty industry. The House of Modern Beauty, at 84 Rainey St., will transform into part boutique, part spa, and part gallery. Guests can look forward to interactive art installations (perfect for the 'gram), free body contouring, Restylane, lasers, and more. Open to all, open from 10 am to 8 pm.
Culture Trip Presents SoHo in SoCo — March 9-11
The U.K. tech start-up is coming to the States this SXSW for a can’t-miss immersive experience at the iconic Austin Motel. There will be an open bar, poolside games, CBD facials, panels moderated by influencers like Chelsea Francis, and more. Dance the night away on night one with DJ Paul Sethi, while night two brings a Hong Kong-style fashion market. Night three promises to be fierce when RuPaul's Drag Race star Manila Luzon will be in the house. No badge needed. RSVP required.
Pop-up Vampire Libraries — March 9-12
What We Do in the Shadows, FX's campy vampire comedy series, will make its bloody world debut March 8. And to celebrate the premiere of the series, there will be horror-themed library pop-ups around the city featuring spooky titles. The three libraries will be at Rainey Street's El Naranjo, Sixth Street's Bat Bar, and Red River's Iron Works BBQ. All three are open to SXSW attendees all day long. No RSVP required.
Vice’s Four-Day Pop-up Roller Rink — March 9-12
Throw it back to your childhood, pull on those lace-up skates, and shake off that SXSW scheduling stress. Vice returns to SXSW, this time transforming a parking lot into a skating rink for four fun-filled days featuring DJ sets, happy hours, and the Viceland bus. The event will be held a block from the Austin Convention Center in the Carmelo’s lot at 504 E. Fifth St. Vice will also be shooting content every day for their latest series, Vice Live, hosted by writer and comedian Zack Fox. Open to the public daily from 1-5 pm for 18-and-up and 6-9 pm for 21-plus only.
Netflix: The Highwayman House — March 9, 11-12
Go back in time inside the basement of Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden. This interactive pop-up is taking over the Rainey Street favorite and turning it into a 1930s speakeasy to promote Netflix’s newest film, The Highwayman, starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner as Texas Rangers on a mission to hunt down the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. To get visitors fully into the spirit, they will be greeted by a person in character and given a new identity with RFID bracelets to use as they go through the activation. Open to the public from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP required.
Cheeselandia Wisconsin — March 12-13
Mark your calendars, cheese lovers! Cheeselandia Wisconsin is back for another epic SXSW activation at the JW Marriott, and this time it's state fair-themed. Imagine 600 varieties of cheeses, a five-foot Ferris wheel made up of thousands of pounds of native Wisconsin dairy, and delectable fondue stations. Plus, guests will be able to be treated to even more cheesy fun while in line with stackable cheese wheel tech games, an AR experience through Cheeselandia, and a Tinder-esque game to find their perfect cheese match. Badges only, open March 12 from 9:30 am to 6 pm and March 13 from 11 am to 6 pm.
DoorDash Tiny House — March 12-14
Free food, booze, and daily musical performances? Count us in! DoorDash is coming to Austin this SXSW in partnership with Torchy's Tacos to build a tiny house in the middle of downtown at 98 Red River St. Get away from the SXSW craziness with a breakfast taco (or four) and some velvety queso in hand in the backyard. No RSVP or reservations required. Open daily from 11 am to 9 pm.
Cholula Hot Sauce Presents Tacotopia — through March 31
Marketed as an “Instagrammable wonderland,” Tacotopia is a pop-up taco museum unrolling in Austin this March. This over-the-top, colorful show has plenty of backdrops to light up your feed. Tacotopia runs now through March 31 at 3208 S. Congress Ave. Tickets available for purchase online.