Westworld at SXSW Provides a Glimpse of Living “Without Limits”

Bartendar at the Hotel Coronado in the HBO Westworld town of Sweetwater at SXSW

Publisher of Silicon Hills News

The Westworld at South by Southwest experience provides an entertaining look at the wild west town of Sweetwater and a life of living “without limits.”

But it is a decidedly tame version of HBO’s Westworld hit television series. That series depicts a Wild West theme park run by robotic hosts that allow the visitors, who pay $40,000 a day to go there, to do whatever they please including killing, raping and more. HBO describes the show as “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin.” Eventually, the Westworld hosts gain greater intelligence and memory and retaliate against their oppressors. Season Two debuts Sunday, April 22nd on HBO. The series is based on the 1973 film “Westworld” written by Michael Crichton.

At the SXSW version, visitors gather at the Mesa Gold Station, also known as the EastSide Tavern, to be transported about 30 minutes outside of Austin to an undisclosed location. Hosts, dressed all in white, serve French 76 cocktails and appetizers like brisket tater tots because “even humans need to recalibrate.”

Guests also pick up a cowboy hat: either black or white, which are assigned based on the results of a personality assessment administered during the reservation process. I got a white hat.

Once on the bus, the host instructs the guests the only rules upon entering Westworld at SXSW is to not touch anybody or break anything. He also told us there were secrets hidden throughout the park.

An elaborate flier on the bus told us to “Escape this reality. Live without Limits.”

Upon arrival, all visitors enter through an old train car meant to resemble the “Black Ridge Limited” which brings guests and hosts into the fictional town of Sweetwater. A host greets visitors in front of a case filled with guns, knives and other weapons.

WestWorld host greeting guests at the arrival point to the town of Sweetwater.

After leaving the railcar, visitors enter Sweetwater and see an old Wild West town filled with people dressed from the period. Cowboys and Cowgirls walk horses up and down the dusty street and the horses are real. The town also features landmarks from Westworld like the Mariposa Saloon and the Hotel Coronado.

At the Mariposa Saloon, bartenders served bourbon, a player piano pumped out tunes and a blackjack dealer hosted an active table of card players in the corner.

Ladies of the evening dressed in lavish gowns walked about asking patrons if they wanted to go upstairs.

Occasionally a fight broke out.

Touring the outbuildings and walking around takes about an hour. The Post Office had mail for every visitor. My mail had no words – just a drawing of the creature Delores, a character in Westworld, dreams about. It looks like a person dressed as an astronaut. Other people received letters from Roy Baggert, Sheriff of Sweetwater welcoming them to town or warning them. Other locations include the bank, the barber shop, the graveyard and the town square.

The flier also told us “in the midst of the action, guests often overlook the most nuanced details of the park. Take a minute to discover something you hadn’t noticed before.”

In the graveyard, a guest used a nearby shovel to dig up a fresh grave and in it, she found a wooden maze, like the one depicted in the show.

A building in the back had a red button that when pushed revealed a Westworld technician working on a giant human robot.

At the Coronado Hotel, bartenders served Tequila gimlets to guests and guests dined on brisket, sausage, beef jerky and beans.

A fight at the Mariposa Saloon

During our visit, a giant fight broke out and townspeople ran everywhere. A gun went off and a guy, Mr. Frank Dellacourt, ended up dead. A guest started yelling gleefully that he had visited the park seven times and he had never been able to kill the guy. He got his picture taken with the dead body. Meanwhile, three people dressed in hazmat suits came out to take the body to be reprogrammed. A lady told the other hosts to cease all motor functions while the hazmat crew worked.

Overall, an entertaining experience and great work by the actors at Westworld SXSW and worth visiting if you can snag one of the remaining tickets. The advance tickets, which included half of the appointments to visit the park, sold out immediately, but HBO is releasing new tickets daily throughout SXSW for more information follow @WestworldHBO on Twitter and then register at DiscoverWestworld.com.

“In addition, fans who aren’t able to make an appointment online can follow @Lyft on Twitter for a special code that will unlock free Lyft rides to the park,” according to HBO.

HBO has previously hosted immersive theatrical experiences for Westworld at San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con in 2017. HBO began production on Austin’s Westworld park experience last November. “It took a 40-person crew five weeks to build the park onsite in Texas,” according to HBO. The cast features 60 actors, six stunt people and five bands, primarily from the local area and six horses.

HBO has five luxury Westworld shuttles, eight co-branded Lyft cars, and one Delta shuttle flight to transport guests to the park throughout the weekend.

Here’s a Facebook Live video I did from my visit:

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