Updated Wed July 21, 2021
Here’s the immersive experiences and immersive art installations in Austin and surrounding areas as of this latest update.
What is an “Immersive Experience”?
I’m generous in my interpretation of what the word “immersive experience” means, but generally speaking they surround you with art, sound, video, or more and make you feel like you are immersed in a fictional environment or world.
In some immersive experiences, the experience is passive – you just walk around the world and look at it. So called “instagram houses” are of this sort. In other immersive experiences you can interact with the environment through physical objects or sensors that know where you are. In others, like VR experiences, it’s a 360-degree interactive video-game environment. The most immersive of all might be “Immersive Theater” where “all the world’s a stage” and actors interact and incorporate audience members into the story.
Here’s the list of everything I could find or have experience in Austin that I would call “Immersive”.
Austin’s homegrown “The Eureka Room” is a boutique participatory immersive experience room. It’s fun, weird, and almost certainly like nothing you’ve experienced before. Various short programs are played in a 100 square foot room with lights and projections and reflections surrounding you. But despite 14,000 LEDs, it’s not about the technology.
Without giving away too many spoilers: this is some weird sh*t. It’s sort of like doing absurdist ice-breakers from some really strange parallel universe. There’s an inflatable turkey and a lot of high-fiving. Wallflowers need not apply.
There are limited showings available on the Eureka Room website, but often a special showing can be set up. You’ll need at least four people in your group, preferably six. Bring your most energetic and weirdo friends and they’ll have an awesome time.
This national chain of immersive spaces features rotating immersive artists from around the world. If you went to Hopscotch when it was in Austin, this is a similar experience. Lots of cool things, including interactive exhibits and a VR experience. They currently have 15 installations plus a snack bar with some alcoholic drinks.
Originating in Austin and then moving down I-35 to San Antonio, this Immersive Experience features many Austin artists and is located in a 20,000 square foot space within walking distance of the Riverwalk. Also features a full bar and lounge.
Housed in the space that temporary immersive experiece Mesmerize (see lower) was in, The Museum of Future Present centers around the theme of music and has 16 unique installations from artists as varied as comedian Hannibal Buress and the music group The Cinematic Orchestra.
It’s not open just yet and details are fuzzy. It bills itself as “A VISUAL MIXTAPE OF SPACE, TIME, AND MIND”. Sound cool.
This pop-up first opened in New York and has opened locations in Singapore and now Austin. Visitors will be given to 5 different ice cream treats and According to Houstoniamag.com, “The installations will include a 1960s retro diner, where guests can enjoy coffee, treats, cocktails, and a life-size animal cookie in the well-known Carnival Room.” This is a place for selfies if there ever was one.
Immersive Van Gogh (Multiple Companies)
So apparently there are many, many, many, many different companies doing “Van Gogh Immersive” shows across the country. I guess projecting out of copyright art onto walls and charging $40 a person is pretty profitable. 🙂
Here’s the ones that will be visiting Texas
This is out at COTA and is for a limited time only. It moves on to the next city mid-August. It doesn’t indicate how big the exhibit is, but I’ve been told it’s in one room and non-interactive projections play on a 40 minute loop. AT $50 a visit, reviews have been mixed.
Van Gogh Expo (Houston and Dallas and San Antonio)
500,000 square feet of projections. That’s a lot of Van Gogh!
Seasonal Austin Immersive Experiences
A collection of Austin artists who have a tradition of making elaborate over-the-top immersive experiences for the weeks of the East Austin Studio Tour in November. Previous creations included a giant dome, a mystery house, and a working rollercoaster. Wow!
An annual collection of lit art in Waller Creek. Usually about 10 artists. Usually very crowded – because it’s FREE. In 2021 it is moving from the smells-like-pee area of the creek to the new fantastic Waterloo Park.
Nickel City as Moe’s Bar
This eastside bar has dressed up for the last few Halloweens as Moe’s Bar from The Simpsons.
A “multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top interactive Christmas pop-up experience.” (Usually begins sometime in November).
Miscellaneous Austin Immersive Experiences
This place is in a category by itself. It’s Christmas all-year round at this famous bar off of Burnet Rd. (PSA: “Burnet” is pronounced BURNit, dernnit!)
Dadageek offers project-focused classes in immersive art and electronic music. They have regular shows of their students’ and teachers’ work.
This UT degree program offers ” a convergence of disciplines in audience engagement, storytelling, and emerging technology”.
Dadageek offers project-focused classes in immersive art and electronic music as well as a creative community of like-minded techies and tech wannabes.
Closed / Moved Austin Immersive Attractions
Mesmerize (Currently Closed and Looking To Relocate.)
A home-grown Austin immersive experience in Native Hostel downtown. Local artists teamed up to create this unique and Instagram-ready space in the back room of the coolest and hippest bar-venue-hostel in town. Projections, strange rooms, and interactivity. Plus a bar.
The Art of Ice Cream Experience (Closed)
This was located in the Red River district in downtown Austin, but it closed during the pandemic.
The FOMO Factory (Closed)
The FOMO Factory used to have a location in Austin but currently the only location is in Houston.