Photos:  Stefano Fabrizio Darold for AMFM Magazine

[ubergrid id=22567]In the late 1800s, Austin  became known as the City of the “Violet Crown” for the wintertime violet glow of color across the hills just after sunset.  Even today, many Austin businesses use the term “violet crown” in their name.

FREE Events!

Hundreds of music fans line-up in the wee hours of the morning to gain access to the KGSR live-broadcast at W Austin which serves as “the voice of SXSW” providing intimate access to great musicians and a handful of surprise guests in town for SXSW’s Music, Film and Interactive festivals.   The standing-room-only show features as many as eight live acts each morning (still TBD) and broadcasts live on 93.3 KGSR. Since setting up shop at W Austin four years ago, the KGSR live-broadcasts have featured acts including Ed Sheeran, fun.,The Lumineers, Tom Morello, Jimmy Cliff,  Vance Joy, Fitz & The Tantrums, and many more. The broadcast will take place over four days at W Austin beginning Wednesday, March 18th through Saturday March, 21st from 6 am through 10 am.  On Saturday the hours adjust to 8 am – 12 pm.

Freebirds World Burrito Four Day Live Music Event returns to the St. Vincent de Paul stage for their sixth annual four day celebration of live music, fresh food and fundraising. Browse local artisan booths and enjoy Freebirds fare while listening to a music lineup featuring local Austin favorites and more. 2015 lineup includes Ray Wylie Hubbard, Whiskey Shivers, American Aquarium, T Bird & The Breaks, Rodney “The Pie Man” Henry and many more. Funds from donations, food and beverage sales at this year’s showcase will go towards a new a mobile store and distribution center that will supply clothing, personal hygiene items and household necessities to underserved parts of Austin.

Where to Relax and Rejuvenate:

SXSW is so busy and everyone is running around and before long you’ve realized “wow, I’ve really done a number on my body.” For that reason AWAY Spa at W Austin encourages both hotel guests and locals to take a break from the festival this week with the South X Sore Feet treatment. Treat your feet with incredible sole-softening scrub, hot towel wrap and a massage that will help you relax from a long night out. 30 mins/$60. For an insider tip: Monday-Thursday all spa guests can take advantage of the spa & hotel’s amenities like the stunning WET deck pool & full service gym.

A pop-up on the TRACE restaurant patio, AWAY will be offering complimentary chair massages on March 11th and 12th. If you book a spa appointment during Sx they’ll throw in a $20 discount. So go ahead and get zen in the middle of it all and then come back when your tootsies need a little love after days of walking and dancing.

Mecca Gym & Spa is a luxury retreat where strength and fitness meet relaxation and rejuvenation. Conveniently located on the bustling intersection of 6th and Lamar downtown, Mecca provides calm above the chaos with world-class spa services and personalized fitness. The gym and spa also welcomes both non-members and members.

Founded by a former NYC Rockette, Jennifer McCamish, Dancers Shape is Pilates-based barre fitness studio in Austin. The unique approach to fitness not only incorporates elements of ballet, Pilates, yoga, and circuit training but also promotes injury prevention, athletic rehab and more. McCamish recently worked with many current NFL players creating a unique fusion class they are able to do in the off-season to help existing injuries and prevent new ones from occurring.

Where to Grab a Quick Bite

Recently named “Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015” by GQ, St. Philip brings together thoughtfully sourced ingredients in imaginative ways.  Inspired by the aroma of baking bread, the bubbling of melted cheese on hand tossed pizza crust and the promise of fresh-from-the-oven pastries and sweets, the team that brought you the acclaimed Uchi and its sister restaurants will feature seasonal dishes, hearty meatballs and delicious sandwiches along with a beverage selection of craft beers and drinks.  The bakeshop opens at 7 am, serving coffee and a rotating selection of freshly baked pastries, bread, cookies and savory treats.

Freebirds World Burrito is the fast casual burrito joint with an unapologetically independent approach to serving burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, bowls and salads that feed both the belly and the soul. They provide great food and engaging service in a high-energy atmosphere, standing for freedom of choice both in expression and at mealtime. Through their charitable arm, Freebirds World Works, they’re also able to help the communities in which they serve and continually encourage others to lend a hand, too. Freebirds World Burrito is owned and operated by Tavistock Group.

People say you can’t get fresh seafood in Austin, guess again. For some late night southern comfort eats, head to Turf N Surf, a unique po’boy shop in the back area of Lavaca Street Bar in downtown Austin. Originally a food trailer, the popular spot features Chef Ralph Gilmore’s inspired menu, serving everything from the sea from crawfish po’boys to lobster rolls and everything in between.

Can’t Miss Dinner Spots

El Naranjo – Does SXSW have free food? YEs. But where do you go when you are craving a real meal (and a really good one)? Where can you step away in the middle of it all and find a reprieve? Try El Naranjo. Set in the “middle of the action” on Rainey Street, the restaurant owned by Executive Chef Iliana de la Vega serves traditional Mexican fare (sorry no Tex-Mex) that mirrors her upbringing in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Go ahead, eat some mole, drinks a world-class margarita and then step outside right back into the madness.

laV is inspired by the French spirit and as generated significant attention from Austin’s culinary community and has been named one of Eater Austin’s “Most Anticipated Restaurants” among other accolades and attention. Conceptualized by managing partner and advanced sommelier, Vilma Mazaite, the space which has been built from the ground up, evokes visions of a French Provençal home – warm and inviting, casual yet vibrant. The space seems as if it has been a long-time fixture in the neighborhood and is comprised of three individual destinations – the tasting room, bar & lounge and dining room. The food, executed by Executive Chef Allison Jenkins who previously helmed Ajax Tavern in Aspen, is influenced by diverse yet complementary styles of cuisine American Tavern, French Provence and Mediterranean cuisine. The dishes, comprised of fresh, local ingredients make-up an ever-changing menu that’s driven by seasonality and persistent creativity. 2013 James Beard Semi-Finalist Janina O’Leary serves as the team’s Executive Pastry Chef and is in charge of the stellar dessert choices and a great bread program. Vilma began working with wine director Rajat Paar and helped open the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, eventually landing a position working for renowned chef Mario Batali at his famous Babbo restaurant. Wine is an essential component to the laV experience and the tasting room offers everything from prestigious grand wines to unique and local pours by way of flights, tasting portions and wine experiences.

With an eye to embracing the rich and vibrant local culture in Austin, W Hotel’s restaurant, Trace, offers a menu that celebrates local, seasonal ingredients and responsible sourcing on all levels.  Trace’s “Conscious Cuisine” unites culinary talent with sustainable practices to create a memorable dining experience, ideal for sharing.

Celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey (Top Chef Miami Finalist and Co-host of ABC’s The Taste) brought hit (and award winning) restaurant Searsucker to Austin. The social dining experience offers guests exceptional dishes, uniquely crafted cocktails and fun, upbeat music and often evolves from a dinner dining experience to a late night, laid-back and sophisticated social scene.
From the James Beard Award-Winning Chef, Uchi, and sister restaurant Uchiko are in a class all its own. Celebrating its 11th  year anniversary this year the restaurant has been praised by Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, WSJ and the list goes on. A tip for a guest looking to try the acclaimed food on a budget: try sake social. Daily from 5:30-6:30 guests get steals on a variety of beverages and can try some of the most popular dishes for $10 or less.

Fixe celebrates the soul of the south with Sunday Supper served seven days a week in a warm and spirited atmosphere.  Bringing to life familiar tastes imagined in progressive ways, Chef James Robert and his team pay homage to his roots with an eye to tradition, a commitment to quality, and a passion to bring their guests an unexpected and memorable culinary experience.

Where to visit

Situated in the heart of the “Live Music Capital of the World” on Willie Nelson Boulevard, W Austin Hotel opened its doors in December 2010.  Named to Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List in 2011, W Austin amplifies the city’s diverse and creative atmosphere, headlining the vibrant Second Street District of downtown with next door access to the famed Austin City Limits music venue. In the Living Room, four distinct spaces create an intimate retreat of cozy corners, where locals return regularly to partake in authentically Austin, hand crafted cocktails. Another big draw is the Records Room itself, a cozy den-like retreat that features a large fireplace and more than 8,000 vinyl records lining the room’s walls. And for those looking to do more than just sip and peruse the collection, the records can be played on the vintage McIntosh stereo that’s set up in the adjacent Secret Bar. The space serves as a vibrant backdrop for a series of W Happenings related to music and fashion, W’s core passion points. Bonus: if year’s past have an indication you can expect some pretty sweet DJ pop ups in the Records Room.

Watering Holes

Want to escape the crowds for a laid-back taste of Austin? Head South to Independence Brewing, one of the city’s oldest craft breweries, and try signature brews straight from the source including Power & Light (inspired by the Austin’s classic Seaholm Power Plant) and city namesake, Austin Amber. Check out the brewery’s newly updated tasting room, complete with a wraparound bar, additional seating and beer taps.; Tasting room hours: Thursday and Friday: 5-9 pm; Saturday: 1-7 pm

Set away, yet close, to the activities of downtown Austin, Mean Eyed Cat is unabashedly what Texas’ capital city is all about, and has been a staple of local life ever since 2004. Featuring an excellent draft selection of local and craft beers, in addition to a full bar and creative cocktail list, patrons enjoy the interior rooms – a homage to the great Johnny Cash – and the open wooden patio, which is sheltered under an immense, 300+ year old Texas Live Oak. Stubb’s world famous Texas BBQ is available, with an assortment of delicious sides.

Rattle Inn, a West 6th Street staple since 2012 features three bars within the space: one hosts nightly live music, a rooftop patio that overlooks the Austin skyline, and the newly transformed “Rattle Room”.  The Rattle Room, with a speakeasy vibe and sophisticated menu, is the only bar on West 6th Street to serve craft cocktails, using local and homemade  ingredients.

Gibson Street Bar exemplifies the distinctive character that is South Lamar, nestled in the notorious 78704 zip code just south of downtown. They offer 16 craft beers and many more in the bottle. Gibson offers delicious cocktails and a great wine and bubbles list, priced for all to enjoy.

Star Bar – Established in 1993, Star Bar is the original west 6th street bar. The bar offers two great patios, perfect for people watching and to watch the game. Star Bar has 11 rotating taps dedicated to dispensing the best beer available in Texas and three certified beer servers on staff.

Lavaca Street bar is a staple of the established area of downtown Austin serving beer and sports 7 days a week.

Brazos Hall is a turn-of-the-century warehouse building at the corner of 4th and Brazos, now converted to Austin’s premier event space. With its restored long-leaf pine floors, brick walls and wood rafters, Brazos Hall is a venue unlike any other in the heart of downtown. In addition to the 10,000 square feet in the Main Hall, Brazos Hall offers a 3,500 square foot Rooftop Deck with downtown views.


Uniquely Austin 

An Austin shopping institution, By George has long delighted stylish shoppers with a wide array of men’s and women’s offerings, from classic to more progressive collections. The newly re-launched SoCo store  now offers men’s, kid’s and home styles in addition to the women’s collections the boutique has come to be known for. Stop by SoCo on March 18 from 5-7pm for a music-meets-fashion in-store event with Maison Kitsune and Canadian band, Heat.  No time to shop in between events? No problem. ​Shop Store-to-Door with By George as a personal concierge stylist will be on call to select and deliver styles for you to see, try and buy on the spot.  Shoppers who aren’t able to make it to one of By George’s two Austin locations can now find the same boutique experience on

Face it, Austinites love working out (have to balance the BBQ habit somehow) and helping keep workouts fun is FitFit, a line of unique, bold active apparel. Based in Austin and made in Brazil, the leggings are perfect for yoga, running, or even lounging. One of the hottest new trends in active apparel, FitFit’s vibrant leggings are not only breathable, comfortable and fast-drying, but also stretch and fade-resistant.

Branch Basics is a 100% human-safe, biodegradable, all-purpose soap utilized to clean nearly every surface in the home. Created as an answer to two of the founders’ chemical injuries and the desire to rid their lives of the harmful synthetic chemicals, Branch Basis is so versatile it can replace virtually all cleaners and is so powerful it is even more effective than its toxic counterparts.

Meredith Ellis Design moved to Austin, TX after working in LA and New York City for over 18 years. The stylish daughter of Texas Interior Designer, Barbara Thomas, Meredith has worked with Bunny Williams, Thomas Beeton and Michael Smith.  Her vast experience and elaborate network allow her to tap into the best vendors, antiques dealers, craftsmen, and artists for her clients. She currently has projects in LA, Dallas, Austin and the Texas Hill Country.

Petrified Design is the brain child of Austin residents Gable Bostic and Tyson Pendergrass, whose furniture thoughtfully blends repurposed materials with clean geometry and an overall modern feel. Each piece made by hand, their design aesthetic feels both homey and edgy at the same time. The team is constantly releasing new pieces that are clean, simple and modern and perfect for entertaining.


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