SXSW 2023 is officially over, and attendees are left with memories of an unforgettable experience filled with interactive activations, mind-blowing technology, and incredible performances. From a fully immersive virtual reality experience to a pop-up diner featuring TV and movie meal references, this year’s festival had it all. In this guide, we’ve rounded up the 12 best activations at SXSW 2023 that left a lasting impression on attendees. Whether you were there or not, read on to discover the highlights of this year’s festival and get a glimpse of what made it such a memorable event.
Prime Video’s “Prime, Texas” SXSW
“Prime, Texas” was an immersive experience held at SXSW 2023, where guests were transported into the world of nine of their favorite Prime Video original series. Held at the Hotel San José in Austin, the event allowed visitors to enjoy locally sourced, Texas-inspired food and beverages, such as curated cocktails at the risqué XXXclusive Bar and pies themed to their favorite characters from The Summer I Turned Pretty at Cousin’s Beach Pie Stand. The event also featured a semi-permanent tattoo parlor and a denim customization booth with local artists.
The Prime, Texas main stage featured music from DJs and refreshments at the Six Saloon and Prime Cantina. Guests could pose for photos at the Carnival Row wings installation or in the Everything Grows in Harlem plant shop, while also receiving a key to Prime, Texas from Mayor Kirk Watson. Overall, the event provided an exciting opportunity for fans to immerse themselves in the worlds of their favorite Prime Video shows while enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of Austin.
During the opening weekend of SXSW, SHOWTIME hosted a VIP preview of their interactive experience at Fair Market, Camp Yellowjackets, celebrating the release of the second season of their Emmy-nominated series. The event featured stars Tawny Cypress, Sophie Nélisse, Samantha Hanratty, Courtney Eaton, Steven Krueger, and Kevin Alves, as well as special guests Bobby Berk and Emily Hampshire. YELLOWJACKETS follows the story of a team of high school soccer players who survive a plane crash and descend into savage clans, with the second season premiering on Friday, March 24 for all SHOWTIME subscribers.
House of Robb
The House of Robb provided SXSW attendees with an upscale oasis featuring panel programming, culinary delights from local chefs, cocktail hours, and more. The event, sponsored by Robb Report, highlighted amazing people, food, cocktails, wine, luxury experiences, craftsmanship, and a curated SXSW experience. The panel presentations were diverse and immersive, but the standout moments were the wine and spirits tastings. The tastings showcased not only the depth of flavor but also the origin, creation, and mission statement of each company. Mijenta Tequila, in particular, stood out as a carbon-neutral product dedicated to empowering its Mexican city of origin. The distillery not only produced great tequila but also made a positive impact.
The Lodge by Paramount+
The Lodge took over The Clive Bar on Rainey St. in Austin, TX, offering a vibrant slope-side hub filled with celebratory experiences centered around Paramount+ originals and franchises such as Star Trek, Fatal Attraction, and Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. The Lodge is a continuation of the Mountain of Entertainment campaign, which brings the ultimate “mountain lodge” atmosphere to fans in Mammoth, Austin, and Steamboat. Guests enjoyed custom cocktails at the 1923 Speakeasy Bar, Star Trek 10 Forward Bar, and Ice Cave sports bar. Creative photo-ops featuring popular shows like Beavis and Butt-Head were also on display.
Dolby also brought something special to the festival with Dolby House, their first experiential takeover at SXSW. Open to the public and badge holders, Dolby House features immersive installations on the future of Dolby in music, movies, streaming, gaming, sports, and podcasts. Attendees can also get a first look at Mercedes’ exclusive S-Class sedan and Sonos’ new Dolby Atmos smart speaker, the Era 300. To sweeten the deal, free food and drinks are served daily, including delicious treats from local Austin food truck Waffle Love.
Australia House SXSW
Tourism Australia made a grand entrance to SXSW 2023 in Austin on March 12th with a spectacular opening reception event at AUSTRALIA HOUSE @SXSW. This kicked off a week-long celebration of inspiring conversations, immersive experiences, and brilliant music and food offerings. The event featured a specially curated menu by renowned chef Nornie Bero, who fused Indigenous Australian ingredients with fresh Texan-sourced produce. Guests also enjoyed cocktails by Starward Australian Whisky, Australian beer, and wine.
The reception also featured a short acoustic set by Yolŋu surf rock band King Stingray, who performed their cover of the Men at Work hit, “Down Under,” which was the official song of Tourism Australia’s 2022 global brand campaign, “Come and Say G’day.”
HBO Max Coffeehouse
HBO Max hosted a Coffeehouse, providing an exclusive destination for attendees to access content from across the HBO and HBO Max portfolio. Inspired by the cultural significance of coffee houses as spaces for multicultural and counterculture communities to meet and exchange ideas, the event aimed to highlight the power of representation and storytelling in the entertainment industry. Visitors were treated to a range of content and experiences, showcasing the diversity and inclusivity at the heart of HBO Max’s programming.
Actor Gabriel Luna and The Chi creator Lena Waithe visited Coffeehouse, an inclusive SXSW destination sponsored by HBO Max’s Human by Orientation and Pa’Lante! initiatives. Luna spoke at a panel for The Last of Us, and guests enjoyed drinks inspired by HBO Max characters. Other events included a documentary filmmaker roundtable and an acoustic set by Ambar Lucid, followed by a cocktail party with DJs Chorizo Funk and Gabriela Alma Lopez-Bucio. A White Lotus brunch with Evan Ross Katz and Adam Vary also took place.
Variety Power of Comedy Party
The Variety Power of Comedy event during SXSW on March 11th was a night of comedy and food collaborations between powerhouse brands such as Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, and SONIC Drive-In. Sponsored by Inspire Brands, the roast honored comedic performers including Eric Andre, Chelsea Handler, and Anna Kendrick, and featured exclusive food and beverage collaborations across the entire portfolio. Harry Jowsey measured the heat of each roast, and notable guests such as Katie Couric and Bob Odenkirk were in attendance.
President Camacho (Terry Crews) “Press Conference”
Fans of Idiocracy were overjoyed when Terry Crews unexpectedly appeared as Camacho on the first Saturday of SXSW, but it seems his appearance was not indicative of a possible sequel or documentary for the cult-favorite movie. At a wacky press conference held at Favorite Pizza, Camacho announced his bid for presidency for “2020FO” and outlined his plans for issues such as oil dependency and immigration, humorously declaring that “cars should run on farts” and “all are welcome! Except for Australians.” Camacho then took to the streets on the back of a Jeep, using a megaphone to announce his candidacy before hosting a massive rally at Banger’s, complete with an endless supply of Brawndo. Although fans hoped Crews’ reappearance as Camacho would signal a return to the Idiocracy universe, it seems the actor was actually promoting his new creative agency, aptly named Super Serious. So, don’t call it a comeback!
BMI, the Broadcast Music, wrapped up another successful year of events at SXSW 2023, showcasing some of the best emerging talent in music. From March 13-17, BMI hosted a series of mixers and showcases featuring artists across genres including Latin, pop, rock, and hip-hop. Among the lineup, BMI’s Howdy Texas party, presented at Still Austin Whiskey Co., featured performances from nine Texas-based artists. The Yeti Music Showcase, presented in partnership with BMI, offered attendees a chance to check out seven emerging artists, including Snōōper and Zoe Ko. BMI’s Sonidos showcase at Parish brought the best emerging talent in Latin music with electrifying performances from Caravanchela, Neysa Blay, Jona Camacho, and more. Finally, BMI’s Brunch at Geraldine’s Hotel Van Zandt featured a diverse range of artists like Arcy Drive, Baby Rose, J Guero, and Sunny War, and many more. The event was a huge success and was sponsored by Austin Music Movement, Liquid Death, Topo Chico, and more.
Roku’s debut event at SXSW, Roku City featuring the Best Buy Home Theater Experience, was a fully immersive experience that brought to life the brand’s popular screensaver, Roku City. Attendees were treated to an area of love, complete with a mad scientist and amazing storm sequences on the wall. The Roku City Rooftop Diner offered a pop-up menu filled with favorite movie and TV meal references, while the Roku City Park provided a serene environment to stroll under the trees, watch monsters, and sip on Roku City’s finest coffee. The Roku City Style Shop allowed attendees to choose a new look with creative purple accents. For movie lovers, the Best Buy Home Theater Experience provided the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax while checking out the latest Roku devices and new Roku Originals and entertainment on The Roku Channel. Overall, Roku City at SXSW was a standout experience at the festival.
Create & Cultivate’s Future Summit Austin, presented by Mastercard, opened with a keynote from TikTok’s “Big Sister” Tinx, who shared her insights on staying on the cutting-edge of trends and what’s next for social media. The full summit featured founders and entrepreneurs from the most disruptive brands, sharing their plans to stay ahead of the curve. Meanwhile, the Brand Experience Hall showcased THC brands from across the US, and the Pitch Presentations on The Money Stage gave investors the chance to hear from brands seeking funding and advisors. The evening ended with the Clio Awards, which recognized the best of the best in cannabis advertising and marketing. Create & Cultivate is a market-leading platform and community that creates content and experiences to connect, inspire, and advance women-led entrepreneurship and business ventures of all sizes.