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Austin during sxsw - avoid or go??

We are visiting someone in San Antonio this March. Wanted to go up and spend a few days in Austin, then fly home from there. However, we see that the South by Southwest festival is during the exact time we were going to visit Austin. A quick look shows me that hotel prices are jacked WAY up...and I'm thinking it might be a nightmare.

We like music and film... but wonder whether we would be lost with such a huge venue in town?? When i looked at the sxsw web site, i saw something about checking into the convention center and getting a badge.... this just turned me off. Are there any/many free venues, or does one have to vie for tickets to see something?

If it's worth going for a couple of days, any recommendations on a reasonably priced place to stay where one can walk to some of the venues??

Had really been looking forward to exploring Austin for the first time, but just don't know whether this is the right time???

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