Every minute of every day is full to overflowing with opportunities to feast your eyes, ears, and mind. It’s non-stop action.

The very depth and breadth of experiences that make the festival so amazing can also be kind of challenging. Sometimes you just need to slip away from the masses and take a few minutes in a less crowded space.

Here are some spots where you can go to take five, refresh, and restore before jumping back into the ring. Some are even within ambling distance.

Sometime in March, an enormous colony of Mexican free-tailed bats returns to its summer home—the underside of the Congress Avenue bridge. After they come home to Austin, the 1.5 million bats emerge every night to feed. Some onlookers have compared the sight of the bats spiraling into the night sky to a cloud of smoke swirling over the water. It’s just a toss of the dice whether the bats will be back in Austin by SXSW, but a stroll across the bridge at sunset is pleasant, regardless.

Footage of bats spiraling out of the night sky. Congress Ave Bridge, S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX

This graffiti park is one of the largest outdoor galleries in the country. Street artists use the skeleton of a never-completed building as a canvas,--one that changes daily, so that even frequent visitors always have something new to discover. Hope Gallery offers commanding views of the city if you’re up for the hike to the top.

It’s possible (though not probable, we know) that Midnight Cowboy’s super-secret location on 6th St. might offer respite from the craziness at street level. Reservations are required, phones are prohibited, and parties larger than eight will not be accommodated. You have to ring the buzzer marked “Harry Craddock” to gain entry. All of these factors may come together to create a two-hour oasis—granted, one that you will have to plan well in advance.
An above and below exploration of the Barton Springs Pool. 22ba01 Barton Springs Rd. Austin, TX

An underground spring feeds the three-acre pool, which stays 68-70 degrees year-round. Swim or lounge on the grassy banks and look for the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, which calls this little pool home. Fun fact: Robert Redford learned to swim at Barton Springs Pool when he was five years old, visiting family in Austin.

Rainey Street can feel like a carnival, but No Va is an oasis. Ditch the sausages and fried street food and head for kale or apple salad, salmon ceviche, or caramelized Brussels. (They’ve got killer mac and cheese, too, if comfort is what you’re after). Private dining rooms and a balcony space are [available for reservation,](http://www.novaonrainey.com/private-parties) too. [Menu.](http://www.novaonrainey.com/hours)

Long live the Eddy! Take an Uber and make up the price difference with $12 Dos Equis pitchers and $3 mugs of Shiner Bock. Pac-Man, pool, and a particularly divey aesthetic of neon, vinyl, and faux wood paneling make this bar feel homier than home.

Since the Cathedral of Junk is in a backyard in South Austin, you’ll need to [call the owner/builder](http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/7816) to gain entrance to the mazelike Cathedral, constructed of around 60 tons of tvs, auto parts, electronics, bottles, and all other manners of discarded materials, aka junk, aka garbage. It’s more impressive than it sounds.

Torchy’s Tacos, a local chain that is spreading like wildfire all across Texas and into Colorado, has circled the wagons (food trucks, actually) around an open-air pavilion where umbrellas, shady trees, and frozen hot chocolate offer tasty relief from the dust and sun. [Menu.](http://torchystacos.com/menu/)

Yes, it will be packed at any given time at the Driskill, but the hotel is so massive that you wont feel crowded—and even if you do, it’s so lovely that it’s worth it. Jesse Driskill built the hotel 130 years ago, aiming to create the finest hotel south of St. Louis—and succeeded, in our opinion. When you tire of drinking, play a game of Driskill Bar tic-tac-toe! First person in your party to spot a politician, a musician, and a cowboy in a ten-gallon hat sitting alongside each other at the bar, wins. It won’t take long. Menu.

This is a great place to head to if you don’t want to venture too far from home base. Homemade pretzels the size of your head, along with craft meats, cheese, and beers, make this beer garden a popular spot year-round in Austin. See their [SXSW calendar.](http://easytigeraustin.com/calendar/) [Menu.](http://easytigeraustin.com/easytiger_menu_web.pdf)

Ok, you’ve tried everything. Communing with wildlife, hanging on the fringes, consuming your leafy green veggies alongside your Lone Star. Nothing is working. You feel like an extra on Walking Dead and you’ve only been in Austin for two days. You need to push through this.

It’s time to hook up with an expert.