With a mantra like “Keep Austin Weird,” the city’s seemingly endless variety of oddities and eccentricities should come as no surprise. Originally intended to promote local businesses, Austin’s slogan also highlights the creative nature of its residents.
In fact, there are so many bizarre things in Austin that most locals don’t bat an eye when over a million bats emerge from beneath Congress Avenue Bridge nightly at dusk or that a Cathedral of Junk attracts thousands of visitors each year.
If you’re interested in getting weird too, here are the most notable things to do in and around downtown Austin:
CATHEDRAL OF JUNK
4422 Lareina Dr. | 512-299-7413 | By Appointment Only
Standing quietly in the backyard of a small house, Cathedral of Junk is a massive structure made of discarded flotsam and jetsam—metal pipes, bicycle parts, hubcaps, lawnmower wheels, utensils, cables.
The monstrous construction consists of over 60 tons of junk. Magnificently designed, the 3-story structure, complete with vaulted ceilings, stairways, and hallways, is made all the weirder by being in a quiet residential neighborhood.
MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD
412 E. 6th St. | Open Daily | 10am-Midnight
Fancy a freakshow? Museum of the Weird, known to be one of the last true dime museums in the US, offers an experience that is as close to an old circus sideshow as it gets. See authentic freak animals and shrunken heads, real mummies and Fiji mermaids.
The gift shop sells wonderfully-weird trinkets and retro collectibles, but the back of the shop is the best part. Consisting of four parts, the museum features a collection of bizarre exhibits, strange artifacts, and life-size wax figures of historic sideshow celebrities. Visitors can also enjoy live performances that involve stomach-turning stunts like sword swallowing.
HIPPIE HOLLOW PARK
7000 Comanche Trail | 9am – Twilight
On the shore of Lake Travis, folks have been swimming in the nude for decades. The park is located just outside of Austin (about 18-miles from downtown). Over 85,000 people visit every year.
Known to be Texas’ only clothing-optional public park, people enjoy the freedom of walking around completely naked without fear of getting busted for public indecency. Nudists can check out the annual Big Nude Day, an event organized by Hill Country Nudists.
CONGRESS AVE BRIDGE BATS
Congress Avenue Bridge | Mid-March – Early November
From spring until fall, the Congress Ave Bridge serves as a bat cave to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Nightly, people line up to witness the droves of tiny bats ascend into the sky. For a spectacular view of the show, consider a curated bat-watching tour or kayak excursion.
Need a home base to get weird in downtown Austin? Stay steps from the 6th St. and Rainey St. nightlife districts near Congress Ave at Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott Austin Downtown.