How to Spend a Million Dollars in Austin for SXSW
Heading to SXSW? Fly on a private jet, book a private concert with Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett -- this and more in a million-dollar weekend during the Austin fest.
SXSW in Austin, Texas, may have started as a music festival introducing up-and-coming bands in 1987 but it's since expanded to film (introducing new directing talent) and interactive (showcasing emerging technology). The most left-leaning Texan city, known for its deep roots of beer bars, Tex-Mex and indie art and culture, is now seeing a once-a-year, rotating door of millionaire spenders throughout the 10 days of the festival, many of whom will scout new talent, take over luxury hotels and immerse themselves in one of the most internationally recognized entertainment festivals in the world. A million-dollar weekend could add up this way:
Fly in on a Private Jet
Most domestic airlines are sold out for SXSW and, if seats are available, economy fares are hovering in the thousands. Go local and book with Texas-based Flexjet using the 365-day, Flexjet 25 jet card debit option. With this plan, guests put down a $100,000 deposit from which the cost of flights is deducted. Flexjet’s Challenger 604 is one of the world’s best-selling large business jets, with gourmet meals, a full-size bed offering 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and all monitors linked to DirecTV. (For commercial flights, last week British Airways debuted its nonstop service between London and Austin on the new 787 Dreamliner. It was such an anticipated route, the mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, declared March 3 "British Airways Day." The new Beyond the Red Carpet route, a campaign to reflect British Airways’ commitment to film, music and tech, departs from London Heathrow five days a week, with daily service starting in May. Business-class fare averages $6,000 per passenger but last-minute tickets for SXSW were almost double. flexjet.com
Flexjet Challenger 604 for four passengers from LAX to Austin round-trip (at $12,695 per hour for six hours total): $76,160
Take Over the Lake Austin Spa Resort
With only 30,000 hotel rooms in Austin, the city notoriously sells out months in advance thanks to the nearly 50,000 SXSW attendants. Just 30 minutes from downtown, Lake Austin Spa Resort has been wooing the highbrow since 1997, and many notables are checking in. Sandra Bullock is a repeat guest, and Esquire magazine's editor-in-chief David Granger recently spent time here. Lake Austin Spa Resort is also where George Bush Sr. watched his son present the State of the Union address in 2008. The 19-acre, 40-room resort is a private, secluded haven with a lake house spa, mostly organic cuisine with ingredients sourced from their very own garden and a number of fitness classes throughout the day. Last year Lake Austin Spa Resort was named the No. 1 Destination Spa by Conde Nast Traveler. Buy out the entire hotel for your crew, or for ensured privacy, which is typical for corporations. lakeaustin.com/spa-resort
Four-night buyout at Lake Austin Spa Resort: $240,000
Dine at the New LaV Restaurant
The buzziest restaurant in Austin is LaV, which opened last week, just in time for SXSW. The contemporary-swank restaurant serving Provence-inspired fare features an all-female culinary team, including 2013 James Beard semifinalist Janina O'Leary. LaV's heart is its wine list, featuring 1,200 labels, the most in Austin, and including the exclusive 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Book the two-story wine cellar for 12 that doubles as a private dining room. A three-course meal averages $70-$100 per person. lavaustin.com
Six bottles of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild at $12,500 apiece ($70,000) + dinner for 10 ($1,000): $71,000
Book a Private Concert With Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett
Private bookings of famous musical acts are not uncommon at SXSW, where even iconic pop artists like Lady Gaga make cameos. Victoria Hentrich, a party planner for the rich and famous, can arrange private concerts by acts including Willie Nelson (who's originally from Texas), The Beach Boys, Sting and Tony Bennett. victoriahentrich.com
Private concert with Willie Nelson ($100,000 cash) and Tony Bennett ($250,000): $350,000
Have Your Private Concert at Travaasa Farms
Travaasa Austin, an award-winning resort 30 minutes from downtown, is a luxe hideaway for discerning locals. The resort’s 10-acre, completely rustic Travaasa Farms is often rented out for lavish private parties. The farms features sprawling spaces and include stables with eight horses, a greenhouse and chicken coop, should you want to throw on your jeans and cowboy boots for a real Texas adventure. travaasa.com
The Farm at Travaasa private rental for 10 to 200 people: $55,000
Buy Fine Art, Including Trending "Puff Doggy Dog" at Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery
Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery located in downtown Austin is a nationally known gallery exhibiting rare and well-known art, including works by Picasso, Matisse and Rembrandt, as well as contemporary artists like Michael Klung, Jill Pankey and Michael Kessler. A music-inspired piece of Snoopy as Puff Doggy Dog by Tom Evarhart is currently for sale. Not bad timing considering Snoop Dogg is teaming up with Airbnb in hosting Airbnb Park from March 11 to 15, where he will have his own designed Snoop-themed airbnb pop-up. russell-collection.com
Puff Doggy Dog art at Russell Collection: $175,000
Prepare for Last-Minute Curveballs With a 24-Seat Bus
Torrential downpours, blocked roads, construction and general calamity left visitors to the first weekend of SXSW completely unprepared for the worst. Since most private cars and limos are completely booked, go with a bus. Due to rain this year, the cast and crew of Space Station 76 hired a 24-passenger bus that took them 2 miles from the movie screening to the Ketel One-sponsored afterparty, where castmembers like Patrick Wilson and Matt Bomer mingled with other VIP guests.
Last-minute, 24-passenger bus arranged by your hotel: $250 per stop.