Note: This list is part of a much bigger collection I’ve put together of 101+ Weird and Unique Things To Do In Austin.
I wouldn’t necessarily call these Austin places “weird” as much as I would call them “unique” or “unusual”. You might beg to differ. As with my other Austin lists, these are in no particular order. Do whatever unique Austin thing calls to you.
305 S Congress Ave
March through Fall is the best time to view the bats under Congress Avenue bridge. I’ve been there year all times of year and there’s always some, but the definitely peak in August with a million and half of these Mexican free-tailers. Some nights they come out when there’s still some light left in the sky and other nights not until it’s really dark and hard to see them. If you don’t like the smell of guano, this is not the place for you.
You can sit on the lawn and look up at them, stand on the bridge and look down at them, go on a boat tour, or rent a kayak, canoe or giant paddleboat swan.
Despite what you’ll read over and over again, this is not the largest population of bats around. Bracken Cave Preserve has TEN TIMES as many (15 million) and is the world’s largest bat colony. Plus they often come out sooner because it’s quieter there. While not open to the public, if you jump through some hoops and plan far ahead you can gain admittance.
2131 William Barton Dr
This is probably my favorite place in all of Austin. It’s magical. It’s cold. It’s big. It’s relaxing. It’s just fantastic. Sixty-eight degrees all year round and open all year round (sans a couple weeks in spring for cleaning), this is a great place to chill out, literally and figuratively. Early morning swim starts at 5am and if there’s no moon you will be in nearly complete darkness. Night swim from 9-10pm is free and has a unique feel distinct from the daytime.
A few things to know: You can’t bring food or drinks (other than water) in here. The lifeguards patrol the grounds to keep rule-breakers from attracting ants that crawl over the rest of us. The bottom of the pool for the most part is natural, so if squishy sand and seaweed type stuff is not your jam, maybe head over to Deep Eddy Pool instead.
Hamilton Pool, Texas 78620
This unique natural swimming hole and (very tiny sometimes nonexistent) waterfall is one of the Travis County Parks. There’s a short walk down some natural and uneven stairs and a small sandy beach you can hang out at. The link I shared above has some great photos to give you an idea of what to expect.
Many people walk down the path, take a right and head for the pool, never exploring what is to the left. If you walk left at the T in the trail, you’ll shortly come across another swimming hole in a river. Certainly not as dramatic, but usually more private and laid back. It’s unique and special in it’s own right so I recommend at least checking it out.
Due to limited capacity at the pool, you’re going to have to reserve spots far in advance.
#4 Toy Joy
4631 Airport Blvd and 403 W 2nd St
“Keeping Austin Fun Since 1987”. This is a super fun store filled with unique new toys and many of the classics. This isn’t a Toys-R-Us but more of a boutique toy shop. You can explore their two different locations and discover all kinds of interesting, strange, and unique toys. Definitely worth stopping in if you are downtown or near the Airport Boulevard location.
1706 S Congress Ave and 1712 S Congress Ave
Big Top bills itself as “The Most Amazing Candy Shop The World Has Ever Known”. They offer loads of new and vintage treats you haven’t seen in ages (don’t worry they’re fresh!), plus taffy, shakes and malts. There’s over 400 bulk candies and over 4000 wrapped candies.
Monkey See Monkey Do is Big Top’s sister shop. They sell a range of toys, collectibles, gag gifts, kitchy things, action figures, and all kinds of oddities and nostalgia. Absolutely stop in if you’re on South Congress.
In 1894, these spotlight towers used to be the only streetlights in town. There’s 13 of them left around central Austin. There’s not much to do but look at them, but you could make a nice bike tour out of them (here’s one possible route) or at least keep an eye out for them (here’s a map of them) if you’re in the neighborhood (especially at night). Due the their uniqueness and longevity, they’re often used in depictions of Austin in tv, movies, and advertising. “Party at the moontower” is a famous line uttered by Austin resident Matthew McConaughey in the movie Dazed and Confused.
#7 Snake Island
Lady Bird Lake
This tiny island in the middle of Lady Bird Lake often goes unnoticed, despite laying in plain sight. You’ll need a kayak or similar to get there but when you arrive, who knows what you’ll find. In the past I’ve found everything from campers and firepits, to tree swings, to drug needles. There’s also a grave. I assume the grave is for a dog since it’s marked “Squiggles”. There’s not much to do, but it does feel secret and like some sort of accomplishment if you make it there. The closest place to rent a kayak is EpicSUP on the shore of the IH Hostel off of Riverside Drive.
1100 Congress Ave
The Texas Capitol building is a cool place to explore but I want to give specific attention to the area outside the building. There’s some really unusual stuff out there. Such as the Statue of Liberty and statues of Texas children that exist for no other reason than to “honors and celebrates the youth of Texas”. There’s also a controversial Ten Commandments monument and war memorials and an atrium obscured by a hedge that looks down into the complex underground. It’s a nice place to walk around and hang out, as well.
1100 Congress Ave
Frequent pleasingly short tours are given of both chambers (when not in session) and the rotunda and I’d recommend them. They’re free. But don’t let that be the end of your exploring. There’s more than meets the eye and most visitors miss the underground stuff. Check out the basement of the capitol. It’s not obvious but if you go around the back of the staircase in either wing, there are doors that open to a staircase leading under the capitol. From there, if you head to the center of the building you’ll find a hallway that leads back to some more doors, which open to a whole other building that is underground.
This, strangely, is where they put the gift shop.
Continue toward the back and you’ll see an antrium ceiling and a recessed outdoor area which aren’t obvious from the capitol grounds. There’s more you can explore from here. I’m not sure if you’re allowed or not, but one evening we wandered through some open doors and offices and ended up surfacing on the north side of 15th street. This complex is huge. If you have some clout (I don’t) you might find a way to see the official “hidden spaces”.
#10 Esthers Follies
525 E 6th St
Since 1977 Esther’s has provided locals and tourists with great comedy and amazing magic right in the middle of 6th street. They claim to be “Texas’ most celebrated comedy troupe” and I have no doubt they are. The turnover of 6th street businesses and bars is high, which makes Esther’s Follies longevity seem downright miraculous. Clever, funny, and fun it’s worth checking out this Austin institution.
Just north of 110 Inner Campus Drive
This turtle pond on the UT campus was constructed 80 years ago and is located by the UT tower. It’s cool and well-known, but unless you’re already near campus I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it. If you just want to see turtles, there’s loads of them all over Lady Bird Lake. But if you’re taking the UT Tower Tour, there’s no reason you shouldn’t check it out. Unless you hate turtles for some weird reason.
110 Inner Campus Drive
This famous and unfortunately infamous tower can be visited on a tour which takes them up to the viewing deck and gives them history of the tower, its uses, and the UT Tower shootings of 1966. Reservations required. If you’re just looking for a view of downtown, I think there’s better places but it’s still a cool place to check out.
Formerly the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, this museum is a nice collection of posters and memorabilia from Austin music shows and events. While the name implies “Pop Culture”, most of the collection leans toward the 60s/70s/80s Austin music scene. Currently they are looking for a new home.
310 W Willie Nelson Blvd
I did this tour when a friend came to town and it was way cooler than I thought it would be. Not only do they take you around the parts of the venue you see when you are going to a show, but they walk you around backstage, into sound rooms and down back hallways. It literally is behind the scenes. The tours are limited to 10 people so it feels intimate and secretive. If you have any interest in the show or seeing how a show like this looks backstage, I recommend you check it out.
1207 Barton Springs Rd
When I first came to Austin I went here with some friends and was surprised to see most people had shown up with coolers of beer. At mini golf. Most of the “weird Austin” guides focus on the cool statues and the fact that this place has been around since 1948. But for me, the thing about this place is that it has its own special vibe. There’s two different 9 hole courses. You don’t have to bring drinks of course, but you’ll probably be waiting for the group ahead of you so be prepared to hang out.
1506 S Congress Ave
In many ways, this place defines the old Austin of South Congress. Sure, you don’t need a costume right now.. but go in anyways. This place is amazing and maybe you do need a costume after all. If nothing else, it’s great to explore this cavernous costume shop and visit one of the original weird SoCo shops.
1200 S. Congress to 2300 S. Congress
If you have heard anything about Austin, you’ve probably heard of this area. Ever-changing, ever crowded, full of all sorts of random places from fancy restaurants to weird shops, it’s worth walking up and down at least once. There’s loads of guides you could use to plan, but honestly it’s all on the same strip and you’re not going to miss anything. I recommend you just go and let yourself be surprised but what you stumble upon.
4200 S IH 35 Frontage Rd, Georgetown, TX 78626
This cave was discovered during an IH-35 expansion in 1963. It’s way cooler than I thought it would be (literally and figuratively). It looks a bit like a tourist trap, but it’s a bonafide cavern and worth checking out if you’re into caves or in the Georgetown area. There’s a few different tours you can take, depending on your interest.
#19 Two Stepping
This isn’t line dancing. This is partner dancing. Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner. But you might want to worry if you try to line dance. Don’t know how? There’s loads of free lessons at venues all over town. If you skip the lesson you’ll wish you hadn’t when you see everyone else having fun. Most people change partners each song when they’re out dancing, so you don’t have to worry if you show up solo.
The White Horse, The Little Longhorn Saloon, and The Broken Spoke all have music nearly every night of the week that you can dance to. The best source for two-stepping music is the Austin Honky Tonkers website or Facebook page.
#20 Texas Toy Museum
314 1/2 Congress Ave
Just to be clear: this is not about Texas toys, but all toys. But there’s no doubt it leans heavily toward the toys of the 80’s. This is a hands-on museum where you can touch many of the toys and video games they rotate through their exhibits throughout the year. They also buy vintage toys if you’ve got some cool and unusual ones collecting dust in the attic.
Various locations around downtown
An immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience in downtown Austin. You use an app to listen to parts of stories, choose the narrative, and get the next location you need to go in order to hear the next part of the story. Available in english and spanish.
Want more weird, unique, and unusual stuff to do in Austin?
There was too much to write about on one page so split it up into related categories to help you find what you need faster:
- Weird Austin Activities. These are things you can do almost any week of the year.
- Weird Austin Events. These are events or things that happen sporadically. Plan ahead!
- Weird / Unique Austin Bars and Restaurants.
- Unusual Austin Things To Do. Unusual but not unique to Austin and really not that weird (but still cool).
- Overrated / Closed / Illegal Austin Attractions.
Too many lists for you? See a summary of all 101+ Austin Things To Do here!