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Not going to ACL Fest? Here's where to go to escape the crowds in Austin.

Michael Barnes
Austin 360
Bats swarm at Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area. It's quite the show in the Hill Country.

During the first two weeks of October, not everybody will join the crush at Zilker Park's Great Lawn to hear music during Austin City Limits Music Festival

OK, so each year, an estimated 450,000 people do so. And interest remains high this fall because the mega-fest didn't hold an in-person edition in 2020 because of the pandemic.

If you'd rather escape the crowds and the traffic of Central Austin, however, head out of the city for these alluring events located no too far away.

Devil's Sinkhole Festival

Sure, you've watched the bats emerge from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, but have you seen them rocket out a giant hole in the ground? That's the big draw at Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, a Hill Country wonder set aside by the federal government on the advice of Lady Bird Johnson in 1971.

To celebrate the golden anniversary of this federally approved batty phenomenon, attend a free festival Oct. 1-2 at the state natural area. Head directly to the park that lies five miles north of Rocksprings on U.S. 377.

More:Everything you need to know about ACL Fest, including COVID rules

The Devil's Sinkhole Society will stage free "emergence shows," while the San Antonio Astronomical Society will host stargazing after the bats have left to eat their weight in insects. Gates open at 6:45 p.m. for the evening shows.

During the day, nature, conservation and history groups will operate booths at the natural area (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 1 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 2). Other attractions include geology walks, nature walks and an appearance by modern-day Buffalo Soldiers.  

The site is about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Austin, so you might want to look into lodging ahead of time in Junction, Fredericksburg or Kerrville.

More info: devilssinkhole@swtexas.net

"Princess Eudocia Ivanovna Galitzine as Flora" by Melissa Slight, from the original by Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, chalked during the Round Rock Chalk Walk in 2017.

Round Rock Chalk Walk Arts Festival

More than 60,000 people stroll around the chalky art during this annual fest that takes place the first weekend in October.

Besides the art, one can sample treats from food and drink vendors or attend musical and theatrical performances. Or just hang out — will divine autumn weather be in the cards at all?

One can purchase art, of course. You can even buy a square and some chalk to create your own masterpiece. The event is at 2 to 9 p.m. on Oct 1 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 2.

Formerly held downtown, the event now takes place at Dell Diamond, usually home to the Round Rock Express, at 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd.

More info:roundrocktexas.gov/event/chalk-walk

Chappell Hill Scarecrow Fest

The tiny town of Chappell Hill — population 600, located east of Brenham — is home to one of the sweetest renovated town centers in this part of Texas.

The village's Scarecrow Fest, organized by the Chappell Hill Historical Society, has been a tradition on the second weekend of October for more than 40 years. As at other fall festivals, plenty of vendors will be selling their wares on the grounds.

More:Texas Book Festival announces full author lineup for 2021

What sets this Oct. 9-10 fiesta — once all about antiques — apart is the scarecrows. They are everywhere.

Nearby historic Washington-on-the-Brazos and Brenham make attractive add-on destinations.

More info: chappellhillhistoricalsociety.com

Oktoberfests abound in Central Texas, but few are as authentic or as longstanding as the celebration of German food, drink, music and culture in Fredericksburg.

Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg

Each fall, one can choose from many Central Texas celebrations of German food, drink and culture. The one in Fredericksburg, because of its German heritage going back to the 1840s, is among the most authentic and longstanding.

Yes, you will hear oompah music. Yes, you can polka. Yes, there will be yodeling, dirndls, lederhosen and stein hoists. And you can eat all the bratwurst, sour kraut and pretzels you can handle.

All events take place at the Marketplatz in downtown Fredericksburg: 6 p.m. to midnight Oct. 1, 10 a.m. to midnight Oct. 2 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 3). 

Those German Texans show up with stamina: Did you notice that Saturday's festivities last 14 hours?

More info: oktoberfestinfbg.com

Turkeys are herded down the street in Cuero during a Turkey Trot in the 1930s.

Cuero Turkeyfest

You can't beat this one for local tradition: In 1912, the town of Cuero held its first Turkey Trot, as 18,000 fowls sashayed down Main Street to the delight of an estimated 30,000 spectators from all over the region.

The trots returned periodically until 1972, when the original format was discontinued. Town leaders, however, did not give up, and thus was born Turkeyfest, which includes a turkey race, the Great Gobbler Gallop. 

It was joined by an annual parade, concerts, cook-offs, dances, vendors, games, food and arts. Yet the turkeys have not flown away. The fastest of the poultry wins the "Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph."

This year, the Turkeyfest takes place in early October, starting out with a carnival on Oct. 7. Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Oct. 7, 5 p.m. to midnight Oct. 8, 11 a.m. to 1a.m. Oct. 9 and noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 10.

More info: turkeyfest.org

Want to keep tabs on ACL?

Even if you head out of town, we'll be in Zilker Park for two weekends. Get complete coverage of ACL Fest, which starts Friday, at austin360.com.