Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. To show that I can play well with others I’ve teamed up with the good folks at websites like Cinematical (A Guide to SXSW Venues), Film School Rejects (How to pick what movie to see at SXSW), UGO (Must See Panels), Badass Digest (Best Nightlife/Booze-em-ups in Austin), Hitfix (A Survivor's Guide to SXSW for Out of Town Visitors), JoBlo (A Guide to the Late Night Screenings) and Gordon and the Whale (Great food spots in Austin). (Ppssst... Gordon and the Whale, don't forget Gourdoughs, right across the street from the S. Lamar Drafthouse... gourmet donuts, my friends. Gourmet motherfuckin' donuts.)
So, my task is to write up a little guide to cool places around Austin SXSW attendees might want to stray from the festival to hit up while in town. I’m trying to narrow these five must-hit spots down to those places of highest geek interest. Every one of them are places I have been, enjoyed and revisited over my 18 years in Austin.
1142 South Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
This is the easiest recommendation to hit for the average SXSW attendee as it’s located in the same parking lot as The Alamo S. Lamar, one of the main South By venues. In fact, The Highball is owned and operated by Tim League, the head honcho of The Alamo Drafthouse.
You can feel his influence as stepping into The Highball is what I imagine it is like to step into Tim’s brain. There’s ‘60s style mixed with an absurd karaoke stage, private karaoke rooms, old fashioned mark-it-yourself bowling lanes, a bar with absurd drinks, from soft to hard, a menu as weird as anything you’ll find within the Alamo Drafthouse itself and even some great Skeeball lanes that spit out tickets you can save up to purchase items like Highball flasks and even Uncle Rico’s shoes from Napoleon Dynamite.
And for you bloggers reading this, there are also power plugs around the joint, so if you have a couple hours between movies The Highball is like an Oasis where you can chill out with a brew while catching up on work. It’s a nice little stress reliever during the day, but expect the nightlife to be a little out of this world. Put your hipster wading boots on when hitting after dark.
AUSTIN BOOKS AND COMICS
5002 North Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751
This is a little bit of a trek, but Austin Books and Comics is your one-stop shop for anything comic related. If you want to try to dig up back issues of What If? or want the newest issue of The Walking Dead you can more than likely find it here.
There’s also quite the selection of geek merchandise, statuettes, toys and apparel. Austin Books also caters to just about every taste in comics, from the mainstream Marvel and DC books to the smaller publishers to the downright indie “print them up in back shed” books.
And they can also claim, legitimately, that Michael Cera’s first exposure to Scott Pilgrim was due to their inventory. I remember when I interviewed Jonah Hill and Cera for Superbad their hotel room was overflowing with Austin Books merch, including all the Scott Pilgrim books released at that time. Austin Books even has photograph proof of this:
4970 W. Highway 290, #240
Austin, TX 78735
For used DVDs, Blu-Rays and Video Games there’s no more competitively priced place in Austin than Buybacks. It used to be a CD Warehouse before the movie geeks running it decided to branch off and do it their way. Buybacks is a little bit of a chain, but you’d never know it walking in the door. It feels like an Austin mom and pop place.
I love the more central Waterloo, but when it comes to pricing there’s no contest. Everything from Criterion to used new releases to out of print DVDs, video games (for all systems) and music the only place you might find better pricing is the Amazon Marketplace and this place usually has that matched or beaten.
An easy half of my A Movie A Day library came from this store and perhaps a solid quarter of my massive DVD/BR collection was purchased here.
So hit ‘em up, but leave something for the locals, okay?
WATCH THE BATS LAUNCH
The Congress Avenue Bridge, Downtown
It’s a rite of passage for Austinites to watch the bats launch from the Congress Avenue Bridge. You haven’t gotten the true Austin experience without it.
March is around the time the bats migrate back up to Austin and settle in their home hanging out under the Congress Avenue bridge, which is all of a 5 minute walk from the Convention Center, the heart of SXSW.
Show up about half an hour before dusk and you should see them swarm out to go eat up all those goddamn mosquitoes. It’s pretty breathtaking when they’re in full force, but click on the website above and call the hotline to make sure enough bats have made their way up from Mexico to make it worth the trip.
8940 Research Blvd., Suite 100
Austin, TX 78758
And finally we gotta talk about Pinballz Arcade, the vintage arcade residing in North Austin. With nearly 100 pinball machines and vintage arcade cabinet games (everything from Ms. Pacman to the T2 shooter game) this place is nostalgia heaven.
If you want the vintage ‘70s Star Trek pinball or the newest of the new with all the bells and whistles you have it. The machines are rigged to take both tokens and quarters and vary from two coins to six coins, but most are between 50 cents and a dollar to play.
My two favorite machines in the joint are the Indiana Jones pinball, which, for whatever reason, I’m really, really good at and the Monster Bash machine that incorporates all the famous Universal Monsters into one game.
This place is the tits and if you even think you like ‘80s gaming you must see this place before you leave Austin.
These next 10 days are going to be crazy, but lot sof cool stuff going on. Hope some of you visiting my fair city get a kick out of some of the stuff listed above!