It's the time of year when our fair city is taken over by bespectacled tech folks in badges, giant Doritos, and Chevy Express vans packed with gear. It's also the time of year where Austin turns into a soundstage for what brands call "activations."
Over the past few years, these buzzworthy events have become a hallmark of SXSW, and this year is no different. From a garden of deadly tulips to Hugh Jackman's cafe, SXSW 2018 will play host to some of the weirdest, coolest, most Instagrammable events imaginable.
A Colossal Wave — March 9-17
Taking over the first through third floors of the Austin Convention Center is A Colossal Wave, "an interactive sub-aquatic virtual world." As a participant, you can drop a bowling ball on the third floor, creating a virtual reality tidal wave that crashes into brilliant colors, or put on a pair of VR goggles and watch as your fellow attendees' singing unleashes "voice fruits." Though beautiful, this official 2018 Art Program Installation is a thoughtful examination of an individual's impact on the environment. SXSW badges only.
Hermèsmatic —March 9-18
It's fitting that Hermès is hosting a complimentary experience in the former home of Uncommon Objects. Pop in throughout the festival to hand dip and dye your own vintage Hermès scarfs in colors such as denim blue, fuschia pink, or intense violet. Don't have a scarf? (Or simply can't bear to part with your classic design?) Hermès will also have pieces from its one-of-a-kind, dip dyed collection on hand. No RSVP required, runs 10 am-7 pm daily.
Westworld — March 9-11
By now you've probably heard that Westworld is building a real-life, interactive Sweetwater just outside the city. While reservations were snatched up weeks ago, it's still possible to take part: either con someone with an extra reservation, or try your luck with Lyft. Unlock a secret code, and the ride-hailing service will offer you a free ride to the park as well as entry. Reservations required.
FOX Sports House— March 9-12
The Olympics are so February 2018. This year, FOX Sports is kicking off (ha!) its celebration of the World Cup by taking over Hangar Lounge. Friday's launch party promises tattoo artists, interactive photography, music, tacos, Moscow Mules (the World Cup is in Russia — get it?) and a selection of international beers. Programming will continue throughout the week with panels, discussions, and meet and greets with network hosts. Open to all SXSW participants and registration is available here.
Bravo's InstaCon — March 10-11
Part of its Imposters activation, Bravo is building three professional photo sets in a parking lot of Fourth and Colorado streets to help "con" your friends into believing you're on a private jet, a high-end yacht, or in a luxurious ice hotel. Participants will get two photos to post on social media, and we get the smug satisfaction of knowing that Bravo is renting out a parking lot on the corner of Fourth and Colorado for what we can assume is quite a large sum. Open to the public, runs noon-8 pm daily.
Great Big Story — March 10-11
Great Big Story is taking over 311 Colorado St. for an epic two-day event. Guests can traipse through a garden of deadly tulips, take a look at Japan’s Dekotora culture (which are basically insanely colorful, decked-out trucks), and escape a larger-than-life claw machine. A staff of professional photographers will be on-hand to guarantee Insta-worthy shots. Pre-registration is no longer available, runs 11 am-7 pm daily.
The Ultimate Roseanne Experience — March 10-12
Ahead of ABC's March 27 reboot of Roseanne, the producers are recreating Lanford, Illinois right here in Austin, Texas. Inside the Volcom Garden at 1209 E. Sixth St., fans can hang out in the Conner's living room (complete with the family couch and iconic crochet blanket), kitchen, and Dan's garage. Meanwhile, the Lanford Lunch Box will be serving up diner fare like sandwiches, pie, and, of course, Canoga Beer (though this version will be root beer). Swag includes collectible koozies, T-shirts with classic Roseanne quotes, custom needlepoint-inspired totes, pins, and more. Uber fans should note that Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman, and Emma Kenney will be popping in for meet-and-greets on Saturday and Sunday. No RSVP required, runs from 11 am-6 pm daily.
Hugh Jackman's Laughing Man Cafe at AustraliaHouse — March 11-16
Taking over Lucille at 77 Rainey St. is the AustraliaHouse, a space dedicated to our friends down under. Programming includes TED-style talks on innovation, music, and film, as well as a happy hour with chef and Take Home Chef star Curtis Stone. Hugh Jackman's Laughing Man Cafe will be open through the duration of the fest, and the Hollywood star is slated to appear on a March 12 panel. SXSW badges only. Hours for the house vary by day, but a full schedule is available here.
Max Richter's Sleep at SXSW 2018 — March 12
This isn't so much an activation as a really cool, kinda weird, probably once-in-a-lifetime event. Composer Max Richter brings his eight-hour opus to Bass Concert for one (entire) night only. Attendees are invited to tuck in for the night on a Beautyrest mattress while Richter's performs piano, strings, electronics, and vocals intended to lull the audience to sleep. Come dressed for comfort, and sleep well knowing that after your mattress will be donated to an Austin-based charity following the performance. SXSW Platinum and Music badges only, runs from midnight-8:30 am.
Eden East presents A Night with The Herbal Chef — March 14-15
Explore the burgeoning hemp industry at Eden East with a special five-course, prix-fixe hemp dinner. Hosted by Eden East chef Sonya Cote, Christopher Sayegh of Las Vegas' The Herbal Chef, Natalie Gazaui of Eberly, and Mineral Health, this $85 dinner will also feature surprise snacks and fermented delicacies that promise to leave diners feeling "blissful." Guests will be treated to a live performance by Todd Roth, too. Reservations required and can be made here. Seatings begin at 7 pm.
Hello Kitty Cafe Truck — March 17
Hello Kitty fanatics will want to ditch downtown on March 17 for a special, one-day only appearance of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck at 11410 Century Oaks Blvd. in the Domain. The outrageous van will offer limited edition treats and collectibles, including petit fours boxes, macaron sets, limited edition T-shirts, and signature bow headbands. The van is only bringing what it can fit, so fans are urged to come early. No RSVP required, runs from 10 am-8 pm.