Fantastic Fest Guide #1: Venues and Transportation
Earlier this year we did a survival guide for SXSW, which has some valuable tips in it, but there's plenty we can say for surviving Fantastic Fest. This is a guide just for venues and transportation during the fest.
Fantastic Fest basically has three venues: Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar as the primary venue for films, the Highball for the social side, and the Paramount for the gala screenings. Alamo and Highball are less than a hundred yards away in the same retail plaza. It takes me less than two minutes to walk between the two. It's over a mile to the Paramount, which may not seem far, but most people will find it exhausting to walk.
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar has six screens ranging in capacity from 87 seats to 220, all with 35mm capability. Two theaters are also equipped with Sony 4K digital projection (one large theater, one smaller). There will also be HD projection available during the festival. While South Lamar is not the original Alamo Drafthouse, it has become Festival Central, and for Fantastic Fest, three screens or more will be dedicated for the festival. Tableside food and drink including beer and wine is available, and the food is freshly prepared. Your waitstaff is well informed and can answer any questions the menu doesn't.
Don't bother getting to the theater any earlier than 2 hours before the screenings, although you can sit at a patio with tables in the back that just might become your second home. Free wireless network service is available, and they've beefed it up since last year.
The Highball (1120 S Lamar) is the latest venture by Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League, and is just a few doors down from the Alamo South Lamar, in the same plaza. There's bowling, skeeball, and karaoke, as well as a full bar and a diner. The menu is still being finalized, but will be fresh and locally sourced, and Chef Trish Eichelberger has moved from the Alamo Ritz to the Highball. The bar will include 15 premium drinks and the beer cooler is state of the art, with 12 of the 20 beers on tap being local. This is Party Central for the festival, so enjoy the opportunity before everyone else can.
The catch is that some features will not be finalized, as the Fantastic Fest crowd is essentially beta testing the Highball, including the menu, so it's a very soft opening. But that also means that badge and ticket holders will help shape the future of the Highball. And be the first feet in those bowling shoes.
The Paramount (713 Congress) is a vintage theater that used to house vaudeville acts, and if you look up, you can see a hole in the ceiling Harry Houdini is reputed to have made in 1916 for one of his performances. With a 1200-seat capacity, it's the choice location for premieres and gala events.
Wireless: No. Bus Routes: All central routes, including 3, which travels to the Alamo South Lamar and Highball. Parking: The Paramount site has parking info, and the Downtown Austin Alliance has parking lot info as well. Jette recommends St. David's parking garage, which is reasonably priced and not far away.
The Alamo South Lamar and the Highball are in the same retail plaza, but the Paramount is about a mile and a half away. That may seem close enough to walk, but it'll take time, and it usually saps the energy out of most people, especially with Austin heat. Top that off with inconsistent, some narrow, and some missing sidewalks along the route, and it can be dangerous, especially at night. If you do choose to walk, do not walk across the South Lamar car bridge; it's illegal and very dangerous. There is a foot bridge you can use instead.
Shuttles: Fantastic Fest will be providing shuttles for badgeholders to and from gala events and other special events. Look for the schedule posted at the Alamo South Lamar. Seating is limited.
Mass Transit is available from Capital Metro with one route connecting the Fantastic Fest venues (#3 Burnet & Manchaca). The stop for Alamo South Lamar is at Lamar & Lamar Square. The southbound stop is on the same side of the street as the Alamo, and is also the stop for the 338 and 484. The 484 is a Night Owl, which is great for those of us living in South Austin and not wanting to pay for cabs. The 338 will get you as far as West Sixth Street, from which you can walk to the Paramount and stretch your legs for several blocks without any major inclines, and lots of watering holes and restaurants along the way.
The Paramount is accessible by all central routes, but only the #3 will get you to the Alamo South Lamar (and quickly, too). The hitch is the route is a block off Congress on either side. The southbound stop to get to Lamar is on Colorado (west of Congress Ave), and the northbound to the Paramount stop is on Brazos (East of Congress Ave).
All buses servicing the venues are local, with single fares of $.75 and day passes of $1.50 (available on the bus). A 7-day pass is also available at various outlets (but not on the bus). Check schedules online at the site to verify service to and from your hotel at the times you expect to need them, or call 512-474-1200.
Taxis are not as plentiful as in larger cities, but we do have a few options in Austin. Yellow Cab (512-452-9999) conveniently has an online reservation system that includes a fare estimator. You also can use Roy’s Taxi (512-482-0000). Tip: A cab stand is located on the southbound side of Congress and Sixth, a couple of blocks down from the Paramount.
UPDATED: Traffic. Austin "rush-hour" traffic is pretty sluggish, but when there's a UT game, it's crazy. On Saturday, there is not only a UT game, but the Pecan Street Festival is this weekend as well. Pecan Street Festival is both Saturday and Sunday, shutting down 6th from Congress to I35 (although it's a great opportunity for picking up Austin-y arts and crafts, and hearing local music for free). And on Sunday, it's the Silicon Labs marathon, which will cause delays until around noon.