Austin's best weather of the year comes during the fall and spring. To take advantage of those prime seasons, festivals fill just about every weekend in the party-loving city. The biggies, of course, are South by Southwest (SXSW) in March and Austin City Limits Music Festival, which is held in either September or October. Both are huge: ACL Fest draws about 75,000 people per day. In 2014, about 44,500 people registered for the three festivals and conferences of SXSW (Interactive, Film and Music) that span 10 days. If you are planning a fall or spring visit to Austin and don't plan to attend ACL or SXSW, steer clear of those festival dates. Hotel rates go up, and you'll have to deal with more crowds and traffic around town. But that still leaves you a lot of time during our two best seasons—not to mention plenty of other fabulous festivals—to enjoy.
South by Southwest
SXSW started in 1987 as a music festival in downtown Austin and went on to add film and technology segments. But music remains the best-known part of SXSW, and it’s also the part most likely to draw vacationers. Music badges go on sale the summer before the festival, but it's also possible to spend SXSW Music at free and/or unofficial events.
Austin City Limits Music Festival
The beloved TV show became a music festival in 2002, and, in fall 2013, expanded from one weekend to two at Zilker Park near downtown Austin. Acts span all genres, from roots to rock to rap—there's even the "Austin Kiddie Limits" stage for the youngest music fans.
Austin Film Festival
Downtown’s historic Paramount Theatre takes a starring role for premieres and other screenings at this fall festival, which was founded in 1994. AFF focuses on the art of screenwriting, and since the event usually overlaps with the also-awesome Texas Book Festival, October has become quite the writerly time in Austin.
Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival
Moontower is one of Austin's youngest festivals, but when it debuted in spring 2012 with such polish and self-assurance—it was as if it had been around for years. Past performers include Aziz Ansari, Maria Bamford, and Kids in the Hall. Headliners play the Paramount Theatre, but the festival also spreads out to other venues.
Fun Fun Fun Fest
Founded in 2006, this is another youngster of a festival that has come on strong and shown that it can stand with the Austin mainstays: Attendance hit 65,000 at the 2013 edition. FFF is known for its eclectic and progressive lineup of music and comedy. Past acts range from Tenacious D to M.I.A to Ice-T.