SXSW 2018: 8 Offbeat Things to Do in Austin When You Aren’t Seeing Movies or Bands - Dread Central
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SXSW 2018: 8 Offbeat Things to Do in Austin When You Aren’t Seeing Movies or Bands

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South by Southwest began as an indie music festival in 1987; it’s since become an immense, multi-faceted convention with a film component, widely regarded as America’s premier annual music and cinema extravaganza. Team Dread Central will be in attendance this year, bringing you horror reviews and interviews with today’s movers and shakers. Be sure to say “Hello” if you see one of us!

As many travelers know, Austin, Texas, is an amazing city to visit, even when SXSW (as South by Southwest is often referred to) isn’t in full swing. If you’re looking for some offbeat things to do and see in between your favorite movies and bands, we’ve put together a list that will appeal to genre fans and anyone looking for an odd adventure.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

The SXSW Festival runs from Friday, March 9th, through Sunday, March 18th. You can learn more and purchase tickets on their official website (CLICK HERE).


Chicken Shit Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon (Sunday, March 11th & Sunday, March 18th)

Dubbed “The Best Little Beer Joint in Texas”, The Little Longhorn Saloon is more than just a place to quench your thirst with a pint of suds. The establishment has become legendary for holding Chicken Shit Bingo tournaments every Sunday between 4 pm and 8 pm.

So, what exactly is Chicken Shit Bingo?

Imagine a chicken coop with a wire grate on the bottom placed above a giant chart containing each Bingo letter/number combination. When an overfed chicken does his or her business, the droppings fall through the grate, and where it lands gets called out to the audience, just like a traditional Bingo game.

The Little Longhorn Saloon is located at 5434 Burnet Road; you can visit their official website HERE.


Haunted ATX (By Booking Only)

Like just about every town and city in the world, Austin has a paranormal history that may be of special interest to horror fans and those with a penchant for the macabre. Haunted ATX offers fun and educational tours of the city’s most supernatural location. Best of all, you get shuttled around town in a hearse!

According to their website, “Haunted ATX offers the ONLY mobile haunted tour in Austin. Climb into a classic Cadillac hearse that has been converted into a spooky limousine and visit several historic Austin landmarks that are reportedly haunted or have experienced paranormal activity!”

You can either sign up for an open tour for $49 or choose the VIP experience, which is a private outing for you and your select group for $129 per passenger. Learn more about specific locations and book your paranormal adventure HERE.


Museum of the Weird (Daily)

Real mummies, Fiji mermaids, and shrunken heads are just a few of the oddities on display at Austin’s famous Museum of the Weird. It’s one of the last authentic “dime museums” in the world.

What’s a dime museum? Their website explains: “Originally introduced to the mass public by P.T. Barnum in the 1800s, dime museums became popular forms of entertainment (and pseudo-education) around the late 19th to early 20th Century, and were also the birthplace of the sideshow.”

The Museum of the Weird is located at 412 E. Sixth Street in Austin, and it’s opened daily from 10 am to midnight. During SXSW, however, they might be closing early, as the Museum’s employees are also excited to see the films and bands coming to town; call in advance to make sure they’re still open (512-476-5493) and learn more about the establishment on their official website HERE.


The Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata (Curated Tour March 14th, 4 pm)

While the exact hours of The Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata are difficult to determine on their website (and messages left at the establishment were not returned), there’s a curated tour scheduled for Saturday, March 14th at 4 pm, making it a perfect pre-club or pre-theater detour during SXSW.

The Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata is another throwback to the dime museum days of P.T. Barnum; it differentiates itself, however, by being an in-home, family-run museum. Their featured artifacts are part of what they call The Impermanent Collection.

According to their official website“The impermanent collection embeds within its displays, its aesthetic, and its very representational methods a rough map of the histories of collecting. Our panoramic vision glides from saintly relics to wunderkammern, and from public museums founded in the Enlightenment’s wake to mutant museums marketed for urban leisure — namely, dime museums, world’s fairs, and theme parks.”

The Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata is located at 1808 Singleton Ave. off E. MLK. To inquire about additional tour time or museum hours, you can (try to) call them at 512-289-9517. There is a suggested donation of $5.


Austin Panic Room (By Booking Only)

Immersive haunts and escape rooms have become all the rage in recent years, providing fans of Halloween festivities with year-round entertainment. It should come as no surprise, then, that Austin has a top-notch experience for those looking for some intense thrills.

The Austin Panic Room operates under a simple premise; according to their official website: “You and a group of friends or fellow coworkers are locked in a room, and you have 60 minutes to escape. How? By solving a series of puzzles using your deduction skills and clues found throughout the room!”

The Austin Panic Room allows you to choose one of 5 experiences: The Oval Office, in which the fate of the country is in your hands; Cabin Fever puts participants in an Evil Dead type scenario with a raging blizzard outside; Phase III has “kidnapped victims” escaping the lab of a mad scientist; Prison Break is pretty self-explanatory; and Abandoned School turns you into a secret agent looking for classified blueprints.

The Austin Panic Room is located at 1205 Rio Grande Street; you can book your escape experience HERE, or contact them by phone at 512-920-2845 or via email at info@texaspanicroom.com.


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Gas Station (Closed Mondays, Food from 12 pm to 6 pm)

When horror fans come to Los Angeles, there are literally hundreds of historic film location to check out. In Texas there’s really only one genre flick with a solid association. Of course, I’m talking about Tobe Hooper’s seminal slasher The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. You can absolutely find addresses for the houses used in the original TCM, as well as the 2003 remake, but looky-loos aren’t usually welcome or appreciated at what are actually personal residences.

There is, however, a location used in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre that will greet you with open arms—and a plate of BBQ! Formerly the Last Chance Gas Station in Bastrop (just 40 miles southeast of Austin), the location has been transformed into a family-friendly destination for horror fans. In addition to restoring the exterior to its 1974 façade, there’s a BBQ joint, a gift shop, and cabins where you can spend the night. Rooms even contain VCRs so you can watch the original TCM on VHS!

Team Dread Central will be in the house on Wednesday, March 14th to enjoy some eats and interview the Gas Station’s owner, Roy Rose. Come on down and eat a heap of BBQ with us! The Gas Station is located right off Highway 304 between Fairview Lane and Wild Turkey Road. You can arrange an overnight stay by calling 512-321-7297 or visiting their Facebook page HERE.


The Hamilton Pool Preserve (Reservation Required)

Fans of indie horror will never forget Teeth, the pitch-black horror comedy directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein about a young woman who discovers she possesses a legendary “vagina dentata”. The most infamous (and cringe-inducing) scene takes place at a little-know Austin treasure: The Hamilton Pool Preserve. Yes, this is the make-out spot where Dawn (played by Jess Weixler) separated her overly amorous suiter from his manhood.

If you can make it past the association with Teeth, Hamilton Pool is a place of unprecedented natural beauty, and yes, you are allowed to go swimming (though there’s no lifeguard, and the water temperature will cause major shrinkage!).

Located at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs, reservations are required and will set you back $11 per person; there’s also a $15 per car fee and it’s a cash-only establishment. The weekend of March 10th thru 11th is already filling up fast, so if you’d like to make a SXSW detour to Hamilton Pond, don’t delay in booking your date/time HERE.


Sunset Bat Watching on Congress Bridge (Daily) and Bat Watching Sunset Cruises (By Reservation Only)

Austin’s answer to the swallows of Capistrano are the bats of Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. Beginning in March, an annual migration sees colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats making their homes in the buttresses, pylons, arches, and posts of the bridge. Though Austinites I’ve talked to say the majority of the 1.5 million peak population will arrive in April and May, it won’t be too soon to greet the first arrivals during SXSW.

The bats come out to feed in mass around 20 minutes before sunset every night. You can watch from the bridge for free or book a bat-watching cruise that will float you underneath the bridge for a view of the colonies in all their glory. Lone Star Riverboat offers one-hour excursions at a cost of $12 per adult. You can find out more and make reservations online HERE.

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