Free Events for the Cash-Strapped at SXSW

Festival films, music, and more, on the cheap

Part of the tired, poor, college-debt ridden, huddled masses looking to get a foot in the door at SXSW without breaking the bank? Never fear. SXSW offers its usual round of events free to the general public with a guest pass as well as some new festival phenomenon sure to get an eyebrow raise out of even the most curmudgeonly and disgruntled of Austinites.

While these events are free, they do require a SXSW Guest Pass. The passes grant access to everything from the festival’s largest venue to a job fair. To get dibs on all the free and happening things, sign up on SXSW’s website and have a pass emailed to you. After that, consider using the SXSW GO mobile app to create a customized schedule to get the most of out of the weeklong jamboree.

Scads of venues, brands, organizations, and bands will be hosting their own unofficial showcases to ensure you know how cool they are. Capitalize on their insecurity and see some free music. See our exhaustive list of day parties for more.

The crowd at Lady Bird Lake's outdoor stage for last year's tribute to Prince (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

SXSW Wellness Expo

Saturday-Sunday, March 10-11, 11am-6pm
Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.

This new event for 2018 focuses on getting everything from mind, body, and soul realigned. Hoping to connect health-minded individuals and wellness companies with each other, this two-day wellness bonanza is the perfect place to stretch into some yoga poses or take a break from the SXSW madness with free meditation classes.

SXSW Job Market

Saturday-Sunday, March 10-11, 10am-5pm
Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.

SXSW attendees looking for new employment opportunities on the horizon may just find them at the annual Job Market with companies ranging from Amazon to Victoria’s Secret. The market will also include a competition where participants vie for in-demand jobs in an online leaderboard with winners receiving a Platinum badge.

Outdoor Film Screening: Cartoon Network on the Green

Monday, March 12, 6:30pm
Long Center Terrace, 701 W. Riverside

For those young at heart or the truly young, Cartoon Network will screen fresh-out-of-the-studio episodes of favorite shows like Ben 10 and Unikitty! as well as a sneak peek of Teen Titans Go! to the Movies. Before screening even begins, there will be games and chances to grab some free swag.

Flatstock (Photo by John Anderson)


Thursday, March 15, noon-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 16 & 17, 11am-6pm
Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

Presented by the American Poster Institute and an annual favorite of SXSW, this year’s Flatstock promises to be a Woodstock ’69 for poster artists and poster aficionados. Check out some fine art and chat with the artists who designed them at this event that will be anything but flat.

SXSW Marketplace

Thursday, March 15, noon-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 16 & 17, 11am-6pm
Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

In its second year, SXSW Marketplace will be located at the epicenter of the madness, just a hop and a skip away from Flatstock 65. The marketplace brings together local and national brands in hopes of creating a unique one-stop, pop-up shop for all your shopaholic needs.

Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake

Thursday-Saturday, March 15-17, 5pm
Lady Bird Lake, 800 W. Riverside

SXSW’s largest venue will be holding its annual charity concert events with Los Lobos, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Roky Erickson headlining.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at

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