Talking about weird things to do in Austin, Texas is not uncommon considering the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan has lived on for years after the accidental quote reached the minds of locals and the concept lived.
Following a stressful first introduction to the USA after having my ESTA visa rejected I was happy to hang my hat for a week or so to check out the city’s self-proclaimed oddness and get stuck into all of the wonderful and weird things to do in Austin, Texas; come at me, bro!
Is Austin Really That Weird?
Is Austin really weird or was it an accidental misnomer that got out of hand?
In my opinion, it is the latter. Don’t get me wrong, the USA has plenty of cities and states where you can explore unique and non-typical activities and Austin tries to hang onto its self-professed eccentricity but if you look too deeply into the claim it can come off as a little contrived and try-hard.
So the best way to combat that is to realise that most countries have cities that have unique things to do in them and to treat Austin with the same respect – it’s best to embrace the weird that you are searching for than to complain about it not being weird enough.
If you want to experience truly weird; get yourself to Turkmenistan or North Korea instead!
1. Bat Watching at Congress Avenue Bridge
Every evening from March to October, the Congress Avenue Bridge becomes the stage for one of Austin’s most spectacular natural events where over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge in a swirling mass to hunt for insects, creating a breathtaking spectacle against the backdrop of the setting sun.
This phenomenon, the largest urban bat colony in North America, offers a unique wildlife viewing opportunity right in the city’s heart.
The bridge and its bats have become an iconic part of Austin’s weirdo identity, whether viewed from the bridge itself, a nearby boat, or the shores of Lady Bird Lake, watching flying rodent-looking animals at sunset is a solid entry for weird things to do in Austin.
2. Bargain Hunt at Uncommon Objects
Uncommon Objects on South Congress Avenue is not your typical antique shop. It’s a treasure trove of the bizarre, the historical, and the mystical.
Each item in the store, from vintage medical instruments and old carnival signs to peculiar taxidermy, tells a story of Austin’s past and present.
The shop has been an Austin staple since 1991, evolving from a small antique collective to a labyrinthine museum of oddities where visitors can spend hours exploring. It’s a hat-tip to Austin’s love for the unique and the strange, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to take a piece of Austin’s eccentricity home with them.
3. Visit The Cathedral of Junk
Nestled in the backyard of a South Austin residential neighbourhood, the Cathedral of Junk stands as a towering testament to one man’s creative spirit and dedication.
Built by Vince Hannemann in 1988, this colossal structure is made entirely from over 60 tons of discarded items and junk. Walking through its many rooms and vaulted ceilings adorned with everything from bicycle wheels to kitchen utensils, visitors are transported into a fantastical world.
The Cathedral is a living art project, continuously evolving as new items are added. It’s a celebration of recycling and imaginative reuse, offering a unique, immersive experience that challenges the conventional notions of art and beauty.
4. Hike Mount Bonnell
For those seeking a blend of adventure and scenic beauty, a hike up Mount Bonnell is a must. As Austin’s highest point, it offers panoramic views of the city skyline and the Colorado River.
The 102-stair climb to the summit, while exhilarating, can be challenging, and it’s wise to be cautious to avoid the need for a slip and fall lawyer in Austin. This climb is a rite of passage for visitors and locals alike, providing a perfect backdrop for sunset views and picnics and a common place to ask the big question to your partner. The area around Mount Bonnell, with its storied history dating back to the 1830s as a popular tourist destination, is steeped in legends of doomed lovers and frontier battles.
5. Peter Pan Mini-Golf
An Austin institution since 1948, Peter Pan Mini-Golf is a brightly coloured mini-golf course filled with characters and obstacles straight out of a storybook.
This family-owned business has preserved its vintage charm while continuing to delight visitors of all ages with its two 18-hole courses.
Giant statues of Peter Pan, T-Rex, and various other fantastical creatures add to the playful atmosphere, making it a fun and nostalgic experience.
6. Secret Bar at the Firehouse Lounge
Hidden behind a bookshelf in a historic firehouse, the Firehouse Lounge offers an intimate speakeasy experience in the heart of downtown Austin. The lounge, accessible only by those in the know who slide the bookshelf aside, serves up classic cocktails in a cosy, dimly lit setting.
Its prohibition-era vibe is complemented by live music and expertly crafted drinks, making it a firm favourite among locals and adventurous travellers. The Firehouse Lounge’s blend of history, secrecy, and craftsmanship captures the essence of Austin’s nightlife, offering a taste of the city’s love for the wonderful and the weird.
7. Country Music At The Broken Spoke
The Broken Spoke is known for its live country music, dance floor, and authentic Texas atmosphere. Since opening its doors in 1964, it has hosted some of the biggest names in country music such as Willie Nelson and Dollie Parton. It has remained a staunch defender of traditional country in a rapidly modernising city.
Walking into The Broken Spoke is like stepping back in time, with its vintage decor, sawdust-covered floors, and walls lined with cowboy boots and photos of musical legends.
It’s a place where locals and visitors come together to dance, enjoy cold beer, and experience the heart and soul of Texas music culture.
8. Hunt for Austin Street Art
Austin’s streets are a canvas for artists, showcasing vibrant murals and street art that reflect the city’s creative spirit and cultural diversity.
From the iconic “I love you so much” mural on South Congress to the ever-changing graffiti park at Castle Hill, the city’s street art scene is an open-air gallery waiting to be explored.
These public artworks tell stories of Austin’s history, dreams, and social movements, offering a colourful backdrop to the city’s urban landscape. Hunting for street art in Austin reveals the city’s pulse and its residents’ love for artistic expression.
10. See a Movie at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is not just a movie theatre; it’s an experience. Founded in Austin in 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse has revolutionized the movie-going experience by combining first-run movies with restaurant-quality food and drinks served right at your seat. Known for its strict no-talking policy, themed movie nights, and cult film screenings, it’s a haven for cinephiles.
The Alamo Drafthouse embodies Austin’s love for film and food, offering a unique blend of entertainment and culinary delight that goes far beyond the traditional theatre experience.
11. Drink a Cocktail at Floppy Disk Repair
Floppy Disk Repair Co. is Austin’s nod to the nostalgic and also the secretive. This speakeasy bar, hidden behind the guise of a retro computer repair shop, requires a password for entry, adding to its mystique.
Inside, visitors find a world of inventive cocktails and a moody atmosphere that harks back to the early days of computing.
The bar’s creative drinks and covert vibe make it a must-visit for those looking to uncover one of Austin’s hidden gems. If you want more of the same make your way down to Swifts Attic, the same vibe but healthy competition to this Austin speakeasy bar.
12. Texas Selfie Museum
In a city that celebrates individuality and creativity, the Texas Selfie Museum offers a modern, interactive experience where art meets technology.
With various themed rooms and installations designed for the perfect selfie, the museum taps into the zeitgeist of social media culture. It’s a space where visitors can express themselves and capture moments in fun and imaginative settings. The Texas Selfie Museum reflects Austin’s vibrant arts scene and its embrace of digital culture, offering a fun, immersive way for visitors to engage with art and leave with memorable snapshots of their Austin adventure.
On that note, selfie lovers who love weird travel will find plenty of unusual things to do in Bangkok – the city of extreme selfies and unapologetic weirdness!
Austin tries its best to stand alone and keep up the message of “Keep Austin Weird” with the best of intentions and I’d like to think that I did a decent job at hand-picking the very best weird things to do in Austin, Texas.