This Weird Austin list and map are the absolute best, most comprehensive, and most up-to-date guide to weird, unique, and unusual Austin attractions, activities, events, bars and restaurants.
(The map of weird Austin stuff can be found at the bottom of this list.)
Location: East Austin. Contact for location. By appointment only.
Weirdness: Immersive interactive weirdness like you’ve never experienced.
It’s hard to explain the Eureka Room but its mission of “charming absurdity” might give you some idea. This immersive experience room might be the weirdest thing in Austin. What happens there? Well, you interact with other people in strange ways inside an 8×8 room filled with 14,000 LEDs. There’s various programs on the menu that you can choose from that last 10 to 20 minutes. Since much of the fun relies on surprises, descriptions are limited to avoid spoilers.
Unlike many immersive experiences, this is not a passive endeavor for visitors. If you like to participate and can embrace some akwardness and a sense of absurdist play, this is for you. If you prefer predictable experiences that you can just watch passively, this is probably not for you.
Location: 1808 Singleton Ave. (By appointment only)
Weirdness: Weird artifacts and displays in a delightful home.
This funky house museum shows of a collection of.. well.. a little of everything. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And the parts include many strange and curious objects. The mission of the museum is “to preserve endangered modes of collection, offer a venue where the public can share objects and their stories, and contemplate diverse processes of collecting.”
Location: 412 E 6th
Weirdness: An assortment of weird and creepy objects plus a famous iceman.
It might not look like much from the street, but this place is packed with weird oddities, ghastly things in jars, and wondrous items like The Fiji Mermaid Plus a wax museum and many other surprises. I was very surprised at the collection and the detail of this museum. If this is your sort of thing, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Location: 727 E Dean Keeton St
Weirdness: Weird law stuff. It is a bit scattered around boring lawyer books so you’ll have to search for it.
Who would have thought lawyers could be so interesting? The UT Law Library had over 1000 pieces of legal-related art donated to them by Elton M. Hyder, Jr. And there’s some really weird stuff in there. Many of these artifacts are scattered around the Law Library’s many bookshelves and study carrels, making it sort of a treasure hunt for weird lawyer stuff. Be warned: this is a serious library and is pin-drop quiet. If you’re not in the mood to keep your mouth shut, don’t go here – they know how to sue.
Location: 300 W 21st St
Weirdness: Ranges from mainstream to weird.
The main gallery of the HRC isn’t terribly big, but it does contain the world’s first photograph and a Gutenberg bible. Not terribly weird, I know. But the good stuff is upstairs. They have a vast collection of manuscripts, movie costumes and props, and other curious items including Tarot Cards made by Aleister Crowley, and Edgar Allan Poe’s writing desk.
And many, many of the items you can request to see – and often touch – for yourself. (There’s a bit of a registration and training process, but it doesn’t take long).
According to their website, “The collections feature holdings in theatre, dance, music, opera, and popular entertainments, such as the circus, vaudeville, pantomime, minstrel shows, puppetry, and magic. From drafts and promptbooks to designs and box office receipts, the materials in the collection emphasize the creative process from concept and staging to publication and revival.”
#6 Sparky Park
Where: 3701 Grooms St
Weirdness: Funky-weird electrical parts.
Sparky Park was created on the site of a former City of Austin electrical substation. There’s some cool electrical-themed art there in a small grotto and a renovated building that is used for events. It’s a so-called “pocket park”, which means it’s pretty small and you can see it all in about 10 minutes. It’s charming and interesting though, so if you’re in the neighborhood it’s definitely worth checking out.
#7 Fairy Alley
Where: Next to 1507, Treadwell St
Weirdness: Magical-weird fairy world.
Tucked into an Alley in south Austin, is a tiny fairy land enchantingly detailed and lovingly maintained and updated.
Where: See website for locations.
Weirdness: Weird trees in a sort of treasure hunt.
This somewhat secret society of “urban wanderers and wonderers, artists, philosophers, scientists, nut-gatherers, tree-climbers, and others” is always on the search for strange trees. They have a wonderful map of some of these trees that makes a nice bike ride, long walk, or easy drive.
Where: 4422 Lareina Dr
Weirdness: Whole lotta weird junk to climb and explore. Amazing place
Probably Austin’s most famous weird location, this towering building/pile of junk is explorable and infinitely instagrammable. Plan ahead, though: You will be turned away without a reservation. I recommend you reserve days in advance.
#10 Casa Neverlandia
Where: 305 W Milton St
Weirdness: Arty fantastical weird house.
This amazing art house in south Austin features many funky rooms and is a fantastic place to explore on a guided tour. There’s multiple firepoles for getting around. Ok, well. Getting down. Paid tours by reservation only.
Where: 1506 East Side Dr
Weirdness: Arty mosaic’ed infrastructure.
Stefanie DiStefano’s art is found all over Austin (and also all over Smithville, where she moved to from Austin years ago). Larry Monroe was a beloved Austin DJ and is honored with this wonderful memorial. You can also see Stefanie’s work in Patterson Park, near the pool.
Where: 3600 Lyons Rd
Weirdness: Weird performance and interactive art space.
This is not really a museum, per se, but a multi-disciplinary art space. More often than not that means live performances but they also hold art shows and other events. The performances are wildly popular in certain artistic circles, but don’t expect things like air conditioning and or other high-brow comforts from this edgy venue. The only way to get their schedule is to be on their mailing list.
#13 Collection Rert
Where: 2608 Rogers Ave Unit B
Weirdness: Outsider and found art for and by everyone.
An art space in a private residence with frequent shows both inside and in the large backyard. Show openings typically have live music and other interesting and quirky performances. It’s both a very down-to-earth and far out intimate art venue “dedicated to creating uncommon cultural experiences and providing opportunities for artists to experiment”
Where: 710 W Cesar Chavez St
Weirdness: Mysterious door in unexpected location.
On the outside balcony on the roof of the library there is a (thankfully locked) door that opens into the building and directly over a three-story drop into the atrium. But don’t just go for the death door – the library is an interesting place to explore and hang out. The roof feels more like a club than a place for bookworms and there’s many other great places to read as well.
Where: 950 Springdale Rd
Weirdness: Odd art in the park.
This free park is filled with sculptures large and small created by various artists. It’s not a huge place and you could see in all in 15 minutes. Or you could hang out and have a curious picnic as part of a Springdale Rd crawl – there’s breweries and other interesting things on this mishmashed semi-arty street.
#16 Kempelen’s Owls
Where: 600 W 2nd St
Weirdness: Creepy owls that come alive somehow.
A stone’s throw from the library, these giant owl statues have glowing eyes looking down on you from 20 feet in the air. They will turn their heads – if you can discover how to trigger them.
Where: 1604 Fortview Rd
Weirdness: Weird dome building with fish inside.
A geodesic dome covered with a fake rock surface is the home for this fish and pond store. I lived in Austin for 20 years and hadn’t heard of this place. Unless you live in the neighborhood you probably haven’t either.
Where: 602 Copeland St
Weirdness: Dark arts and creepy weird.
This curious and unusual store/museum/carotmancery specializes in rare and strange items, the occult, cartomancy and dark arts oddities. The couple that owns it holds events and are also in a band.
Where: Student Activities Center, 2201 Speedway
Weirdness: Dome that makes the sky change color.
Artist James Turrell’s works explore light, color, and perspective. The University of Texas has one of his works on the roof of the student center. It’s basically a dome you sit inside. At the top is an oculus (a hole) that you can see the sky. At dusk they do showings where you sit inside the dome as different colored lights appear and make the changing color of the sky appear to change even more. I’ve never been here when it rains, but it probably sucks.
While not in Austin, you might want to check out Turrell’s other works, including the not-quite-ready Roden Crater, a huge former volcano he’s hollowed out. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you will.
#20 Terry Parks’ Art
Where: 608 San Gabriel Ranch Rd, Liberty Hill, TX
Weirdness: Huge labor of love and infinite details weird.
I met Terry Parks (aka Terry Tunes) at an Austin Chronicle “Best of Austin” party. He’s what might be called a “yardist” and makes amazing sculpture collages out in Liberty Hill. Both he and his art are weird, colorful, and wonderfully friendly. You can see his art by appointment. Contact details and more can be found here.
#21 Smut Putt Heaven
Where: 509 Gate Tree Lane
Weirdness: Weird collections of the unusual in a yard.
Scott Stevens is a yardist extraordinaire. His yard has a few different themes: baby doll heads, some colorful snake type creations, and Alice Cooper. Scott is a huge Alice Cooper fan. You can contact him here to see if you can visit.
Where: 4117 Commercial Center Dr
Weirdness: More special than weird. But an unusual collection.
This museum and private collection is open two days each month. This isn’t just “classic cars”, there’s all kinds of strange and unusual vehicles here plus a few famous ones from the movies.
Where: Three locations. See website.
Weirdness: Homegrown drive-in labor of love – in the city!
There’s drive-in movie theaters and then there is the Blue Starlight. This theater is one-of-a-kind because it has been lovingly homemade by its founder, Josh Frank. “Mini” is not a joke. The original version had room for about six cars and three of them had their view obstructed by the other four. It’s way better now and you can bring chairs and bikes to enjoy the films as well. Much of the speakers and operational equipment has been salvaged from theaters of yesteryear, which gives it a fantastic vintage feel. Due to demand caused by the pandemic they have quickly expanded to multiple locations.
#24 Weird Wednesdays
Where: Alamo Drafthouse, 1120 S Lamar Blvd
Weirdness: Out of their gourd B-movies.
According to its inventor, The Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, Weird Wednesday is a “weekly celebration of genre movies that are too outrageous for prime time. This is a one-way ticket to the fringes of the unknown, where imagination and ambition dance on the graves of logic and reality.” I don’t think I could say it much better than that. I’ve got a few times and seen some insanely bad and bizarre stuff. You never know what they’re going to find.
#25 Me Mer Mo
Where: 1500 E. 6th Street (Volstead Lounge, Mondays)
Weirdness: The weirdest collection of musicians and performance artists in town.
Austin’s long-time weekly show for indescribable musical weirdness and related performance art. You are absolutely guaranteed to see some really strange and unique stuff at Me Mer Mo Monday.
Where: Various locations.
Weirdness: Watching a chicken’s dunghole in hopes of winning big.
The first place in Austin to do this (and perhaps the first place anywhere, but I doubt it) was Ginny’s Little Longhorn, now called The Little Longhorn Saloon. They put a sheet of plywood on a pool table, marked off a bunch of numbered squares, covered in a mesh cage of chicken wire to keep the star attraction from flying out and pooping all over the bar. Players (gamblers, really, but since gambling isn’t legal in Texas I’m calling them “players”) purchase numbered tickets for a couple bucks each. Then the chicken is placed onto the board and fed a generous amounts of chicken feed. For the next 1-20 minutes eager tourists stare at the chickens arsehole hoping to see the winning excrement appear and drop on their number.
Where: Various locations.
Weirdness: Most are mainstream, but there’s some real strange ones out there.
There’s loads of murals, mosaics, and other street art around town. They could easily fill up their own site. The most famous and oldest ones are Jeremiah the Frog and I Love You So Much, but there’s loads more I’ve shared a good link above, but you might want to google around – they change often!
Most “Weird Austin” sites mention the Mueller Sunflowers. Few mention the Mueller Spider and Dragon, and none that I know of mention the Mueller Octopus. Mueller is a large neighborhood filled with interesting things to see. It’s a decent walk between these things or a nice bike ride or a trivial car ride.
Where: 501-531 Campbell St.
Weirdness: Famous daily humor from a tex-mex restaurant.
Possibly the best marquee in the whole world, this sign is updated daily with humorous plays on words and puns. There’s not much to do there but you can take your photo by it. Oh wait! They have a Tex-Mex restaurant, too. Almost forgot about the whole reason the sign is there.
#29 This Weird Wooden Art I Found
Where: 719 Shady Lane
Weirdness: Who put this here? What and why. I don’t know.
There’s a few cool sculptures carved from trees in front of this random driveway on Shady Lane. I could find no other information on them.
Location: 37th Street and Guadalupe
Weirdness: Extreme old-Austin weirdness.
A strange and wonderful collection of haphazard and themed decorations line this street near campus in an annual Austin tradition that nearly died out a few years ago. There’s lots of detail so it’s much more enjoyable to walk it than try to see it from you car.
Where: 37th Street
Weirdness: They rescue stuffed animals!
When: December. See website for other dates.
This organization has been adopting out forgotten and forlorn stuffed animals to qualified applicants for over a decade. Each stuffed animal (SA) has it’s own story and personality, translated to you by SARF founder Wendy Mitchell. The application process is no joke – hundreds of applications will drop on her desk sometimes for just a dozen SAs.
There are popup shows around town at places like the Thinkery and rumors of a forthcoming permanent space, but for now the best place to see them is during the 37th Street Lights show. There’s also a lot of content and explanations on the SARF’s website, thesarf.org.
#32 Fusebox Festival
Where: All around Austin
Weirdness: The most edgy and experimental art they can find.
When: Springtime. See website for details.
An edgy, strange, usually subversive, sometimes incomprehensible performing arts festival featuring many, many performers from around the world. For Free. Some performances are in traditional theaters but many of them create one of a kind experiences in parking garages, old warehouses, private homes, bridges, and other unique locations.
These amazing animal and insect shaped bikes live in a secluded area near downtown. Wings flap, heads move, and they get attention whenever they show up. When will they show up? The only way to see them is to go to one of their events. Check out the mind-blowing photos on their website in the meantime. Hire them for your next parade or event and let your attendees ride the zoo themselves!
Formerly the Keep Austin Weird 5k and Fest, this event evolved into “the slowest 5k you’ll ever run” with run stops such as a foam pit, obstacle course, slip and slide, donut shop, and ice cream stop. There’s also a live music festival and alcohol along the way. 15 stops in all.
One of Austin’s longest-running “weird” events (45 years!!). From very humble beginnings it has grown into wordslinging event that attracts punning pros from across the country. There’s various types of competitions, but the main event is a head to head battle in series of brackets leading up to the crowning of Austin’s Pun Champion of the World! Bring a chair, some sunscreen, and get there early to get a good spot!
#36 Creek Show
Various artists are hired to create cool nighttime installations of lights and art in a stinky creekbed downtown. Thousands of people attend every year. In 2021 the installation will move to the completely reconstructed Waterloo Park which likely will smell a lot better. It’s never as big as I’d like it to be, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Walk around the Zilker Botanical Gardens during this favorite annual event and see if you can locate all the many places your local fairie architects have been building over the last year. They’re small fairies, so look closely!
#38 Fantastic Arcade
Fantastic Arcade is “a celebration of indie and cult videogames, hosted by The Alamo Drafthouse and curated by Juegos Rancheros”. I’ve been there and they have some of strangest, most bizarre games I’ve ever seen. One of them involved me trying to get health insurance by knocking a bunch of stuff over. Other games have included “a competitive cat petting game for two players” called “comPETition” and “Ghost Dentist VR” where you play a “ghost with a dental practice”.
Possibly the most popular event at the Wildflower Center, Fortlandia is a collection of unique forts scattered around the Center which are designed and built by local artists and architects. Touching, climbing and instagramming are encouraged.
Live comedians make fun of movies, perform skits, and have fun with the audience in these “Mystery Science Theater 3000” styled shows. Mocking and celebrating both terrible movies and popular movies, these shows can be rowdy fun (so don’t go expecting people to stay quiet). They have both online shows and live shows at the Alamo Drafthouse. Voted “Austin’s Best Comedy Troupe.” by the Austin Chronicle.
Amy’s Ice Creams’ servers are known for their serving flair – tossing and catching your ice cream around as they prepare it with whatever mix-ins you have ordered. Not all of the servers do this and some are better than others. This even is a friendly competition to see which “scoop” (what they call their ice cream slingers) will be declared the best. There’s also a team competition. Here’s a brief history and some videos of the event.
This is the granddaddy of all Austin weird events (or at least the longest running one at 57 years!) and attracts a large crowd at Pease Park. There’s costume contests, vendors, drum circles, live music, more drum circles, and a lot of people doing their own thing. Plus drum circles.
While there are official Eeyore’s things happening at the day-long event, it has a very informal vibe of people hanging out, playing in drum circles as I mentioned, and just kicking back with friends in the park. It maintains a very loose association to its namesake, Eeyrore the chronically depressed donkey from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
Austin’s most popular eccentric 25-piece marching band, Minor Mishap brings their own brand of hijinks to a winter solstice parade. Bring a lantern of your choosing and join in the magic they create in this fun parade.
There’s wresting, there’s Professional Wrestling, and then there’s Party World Rasslin. I think their website says it best: “The performances combine physical comedy and absurdist premises with heartfelt stories and characters. It’s a DIY undertaking comprised of performers, volunteers, and artists.”
What does that mean? It means talented wrestlers, computers fighting dinosaurs, character backstories that rival Middle Earth, characters with names like “Mad Bladder”, bouts such as “Pastaman vs. Hot Dog” and side entertainment like “Live Surgery with Gary The G.O.A.T”
This event features SPAM cooking contests, SPAM eating contests, SPAM throwing contests, and SPAM costume contests. This was one of Austin’s original weird events, but it was on hiatus since 2007. In 2019 it returned for the first time in 12 years, then in 2020… pandemic. There are plans for it to return again in 2021. Fun fact: there are 15 flavors of SPAM, including pumpkin spice. My experience at SPAMARAMA has been that there’s usually only the one main flavor, SPAM-flavored SPAM.
This all improv, all genre, 10-25 piece jam and performance band experience has been playing Austin shows for almost a decade. You never know what you’re going to get. Usually danceable, always interesting to watch, the band has had everything from multiple theramins to tap dancers, harpists, clarinets and horns, percussion, rappers, singers, howlers, and one time brought a trampoline. Current and past players have also been part of White Denim, Neko Case, Ralph White, and other local and national bands. Fun!
Only open sometimes and not much at that, but when it is it’s an amazing place to hang out and explore. Keep an eye on their facebook page and elsewhere for movie showings and other parties. Their website makes it look more like a photoshoot venue, but it’s way more.
I once played guitar at their show with two other guitarists. We pulled guitar strings back and forth over our guitar strings for 30 minutes. It’s that kind of show. Weird sounds, far our artists, loads of experimentation. If that’s your jam then this is the place for you.
#49 Bat Fest
A unique festival on Congress Avenue bridge. Bat drinks, bat costumes, and a curious collection of bands play this annual tradition. One year Flock of Seagulls played and I wondered if that was the closest to a “bat” named band they could get. Another year they booked the Toadies. Is this an animal thing? I don’t know but hope so. Some years they’ve had the batmobile from the Batman TV show of the 60s.
Dance in the dark with others – without judgment and without all the other less appealing aspects of going out dancing. “Proven to make you feel better!” and part of a larger movement you can read about here.
1106 E 11th St
This is a special place. This laid back outdoor music venue has food trucks and an awesome homegrown charm. It’s not classy, it’s real. Stepping into the venue as a band is playing is like stepping into a different world. Possibly Austin’s most unique venue. (Pro tip: most shows you can BYOB and there’s great food trucks in the yard).
The venue is hidden in plain sight on east 12th by the Victory Grill in Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, a couple blocks from Franklin’s Barbecue. It’s named for the East Austin jazz legend, Kenny Dorham.
2207 Justin Ln
This unique Austin bar in a tiny old strip mall on Justin Lane off of Burnet Road has been celebrating Christmas every day since 1972. Nearly every inch of the place has some sort of holiday adornment. Many of the decorations have been around for years and there’s a jukebox that plays country crooners and other random selections. It shares the space with a barbecue joint and there’s a small patio out front. Sometimes a group of bagpipe players practices in the parking lot across the street.
1110 E 52nd St
This circus themed bar has a giant pink elephant statue on the stage and the walls are covered with smoke-stained murals of cirus performers. (Smoking is no longer permitted). There’s a other oddities and pieces of vintage Austin as well. There’s live music most nights from many different genres. Some people say it has a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe. Take that for what you will.
The Carousel Lounge is also one of Austin’s last remaining beer-wine-setups bars. What does that mean? They have a special license that allows them to sell beer and wine. And it allows you to bring your own bottle of liquor. You can’t drink it straight, though. You buy a setup of ice or some other mixers. Though of course you can make the drink as stiff as you want.
1621 W 5th St
This bar is an homage to Johnny Cash and his song Mean Eyed Cat. The walls are covered in quotes, photos. posters and other memorabilia of Cash but also keeps some of the ambience of its previous incarnation – a chainsaw repair shop. There’s not as much live music there as there used to be but you can find it on occasion.
#55 Don’s Depot
1600 W 5th St
Don’s Depot is a real treat. Part old train depot, part old train, part piano bar, part dancehall, this place is one of my favorites in town. It’s a mix of older-aged regulars, younger folks, and tourists. The women’s restroom is famous for its strange decorations and aged luxury. There’s live music every night that they’re open and most days are the same group that has played for years. Don himself plays often. Highly recommended if you want something off the beaten path and Texasy and weird.
5434 Burnet Rd
Often still referred to as “Ginny’s Little Longhorn”, this institution calls itself “The Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint In Town”. Great live music six nights a week, cold beer, two-stepping and the original home of chicken shit bingo in Austin. If you’re looking for a bar that has a soul and feels like Texas, this is one of your best choices in Austin.
#57 Sam’s Town Point
2115 Allred Dr
This is one of those places that most locals don’t even know about, despite having been there for decades. Great music every night. Usually rock or two-stepping-friendly music in two doublewide trailers hidden in the woods of south Austin. This honky tonk has its bonafides in spades. A great outdoor area as well. Many musicians actually live on the property, creating an environment like nowhere else in Austin. Check out The Austin Chronicle’s piece on it from 2019 to learn more.
#58 The Cloak Room
For years this has been pretty much the only bar near the capitol complex and attracts many Texas legistlators when session is in. It’s one of Austin’s few basement bars and not the easiest to find. I couldn’t even find a website or Facebook page for them. It’s dark down inside this bar. Very dark. There’s usually just one bartender working the place and she’s not going to rush for you but you should know what you want when she asks. Last time I was there, the bartender was out feeding a small zoo of racoons, possums and stray cats.
1413 Webberville Rd
Hands down my favorite bar in Austin. Live music most nights, this ramshackle live music joint on what used to be the edge of town is Austin’s home for African and other “world music”, though all types of bands play there. Messy string lights, velvet curtains, a floor that feels like it might fall through, and a low ceiling that looks like it might fall on you, a patio filled with scattered rusty furniture, very little AC, and a friendly parking lot attendant give this place more character, soul, and charm than most bars in Austin could ever dream of having.
#60 The Driskill Bar
604 Brazos St
The Driskill is Austin’s most famous hotel and the ambiance is what I’d call “Texas classy”: paintings of cowboys and landscapes, statues of bulls, leather chairs, dark woods, and carpeting. There’s live music most nights, typically singer-songwriter or small duo ot trio playing country music on guitars or the house piano.
#61 Purposely Hidden Austin Bars and Restaurants
I’ve split “hidden bars” into two categories. Here’s some of the ones that they made so only those in the know would know: Midnight Cowboy, Floppy Disk, Whisper Room, Milonga, Garage, Firehouse lounge, the secret bar in the W. There’s more if you know where to look or how to google.
#62 Not Purposely But Hidden Austin Bars and Restaurants
These are the bars that are not hidden on purpose, but when you go there you feel like you discovered something special. Some of my favorites: Butterfly Bar, Techo, The Continental Club Gallery, The Tigress, Ego’s, Small Victory, and The Cloak Room. Honorable mention (it’s too big to be secret but since it’s on a side street and has waterfalls I think it feels hidden): Cosmic Coffee
#63 Taquero Mucho
508 West Ave
Everything in this restaurant is pink. It is an Instagrammer magnet and uber-popular bachelorette party stop.
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.
#67 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.
#70 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”.
#73 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.
#82 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.
#83 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.
#85 The Oasis
This place almost qualifies as “weird” to me but I’m going to put it under unique. When people talk of The Oasis it’s usually about the great view of the lake or the ridiculously overpriced drinks. But look beyond that and you’ll see a place loaded with uniqueness: the layout, the art and sculptures, the Italianateish architecture, the all inclusive color palette. It might not be your style but I don’t know anywhere else that has this look and feel.
#86 Watch The Texas Lottery From A Secret Room In The Alley
611 E. 6th Street
Sure, most people know you can watch the lottery through their window on dirty 6th. But did you know that there’s a secret viewing room inside the building? To access the room, walk down the alley next to the building, then take a left and go around the dumpster and through the gates. You’ll see the lottery commission’s back door. Inside there is a small soundproof viewing room of only about eight seats and only a pane of glass between you and your future millions.
#87 Axe Throwing
There’s way too many to list here but I’ve linked to Yelp to find some of the best ones. If you prefer to browse ahead of time, this rominghunger.com has a nice directory.
#89 Rooftop Pools
There’s many hotels in Austin that offer non-guests access to their pools for the cost of a daypass. Here’s an article on Curbed that lists some of the better ones.
Location: Freaking everywhere.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here. Many people love ‘em and use them to cheaply and quickly get around town. FYI: They are supposed to go in the bikelane or road – not on the sidewalk.
See website for schedule and locations.
4209 Airport Blvd (Sundays)
Austin has multiple farmer’s markets. One of the most popular is the Texas Farmer’s Market at Mueller, where every Sunday there’s dozens of vendors, live music, and lots of people watching near an idyllic lake under a former airport hanger.
#93 Brewery Tours
When I moved to Austin we had one brewery and one brewpub. Now the city is full of brewery options. Austin Brewery Tours or Texas Tipsy Tours can help guide you or visit CraftBeerAustin.com or BigWorldSmallGirl.com for a map of locations and other info.
I’m not going to lie. I hate float tanks. It’s like lying naked in the dark in a salty puddle. But I’ve got friends that love this futuristic and new-agey experience. If nothing else, it’s worth trying once. Many locations in town including the The Ocean Lab,
2951 Ranch Rd 620 S #102
Sit in a room that expells salty air and achieve (alleged) health benefits. Similar to the float tanks, this is not my thing but I appreciate that other people might want to check it out and I thought it was worth experiencing at least once. Check out the (bat-less) Austin Salt Cave for this unusual experience.
When I went to the Austin Salt Cave it was to see the Singing Bowl Lady. This was a relaxing experience of listening to a woman talentedly play Tibetan bowls. The vibration of the bowls she plays can be felt deep within your body, which is a unique and strange feeling. If you don’t want to do it at the Salt Cave, she has many other locations where you can do the experience.
200 Greenwood Hills Trail, Burnet, TX 78611
Ride a ski lift with your bike to the top of a (Texas) Mountain, then ride down. To be honest, I’ve never been here but it looks fun if you’re into mountain or BMX biking. It’s out of town but I thought it was worth a mention.
#98 Goat Yoga
12700 Hill Country Blvd S-115
While you do yoga, goats climb on you. Part petting zoo, part yoga class, this strange but cute activity happens all over Austin and has even been featured on Shark Tank. Goga Yoga is probably the most well-known Goat Yoga place in town.
#99 Bubble Soccer
601 Deep Eddy Ave
Individuals run around in a big inflatable bubble and knock into each other while playing soccer or other fun games. Austin Bubble Soccer is the main game in town.
#100 Nerd Nite
Location: currently online. Seeking new home.
Once a month, hundreds of nerds gather in a bar or theater to listen to speakers talk about whatever they nerd out about. It’s not just science and sci-fi. Whatever you are passionate about, you could give a talk about. You never know what you’ll see or learn at Nerd Nite. It started in New York, but there is a passionate following in Austin. This ain’t no highbrow show. It’s casual and there’s drinking. Most shows are FREE.
(Currently Closed) Every “weird Austin” list on the internet has this listed despite the fact that it’s been closed for years. They are opening a new location across from the airport but as of this writing, it has not been opened yet. That is supposed to open in 2021 according to this article.
Currently looking for a new owner.
An annual tour of those strange houses you’ve always seen and wondered about. Or never seen and will be surprised about. Their website alone features 100+ homes you can check out virutally and the real tour allows you to meet the owners and other like-minded tourists. Unfortunately the couple running the tour have retired from it and are looking for someone to take it over. Could that be you?
#103 Secret Beach
Secret location. Unless you know how to google.
If you have ever been to a beach before this won’t seem like much of a beach. It’s really just a bit of the Colorado River where people go swimming (illegally) in the drainage runoff from all of the area downtown Austin. At least, when there’s enough water flowing. The uniqueness and noteworthyness is because this is central Texas and we don’t have that many beaches. If you live in Austin you probably like it. If you live in a place where there are beaches you’ll just be like WTF.
3800 Mt Bonnell Rd
Writing this is heresy, but someone needs to say it: Mt. Bonnell isn’t that interesting. It’s 100 stairs up to a small and crowded patio that overlooks a water treatment plant. Downtown can be seen far off in the distance through the haze. You’ll probably have to stand on a table to see it. Facing the other direction you’ll see the river and some rich people’s houses and a bunch of tourists walking around wondering when they’ll get to do something they enjoy.
Yes, it’s the tallest point in Austin but seriously, unless you are from a place that doesn’t have any hills this probably isn’t worth your time. I’ve been there at least a couple dozen times so I am confident that my opinion is fact. You’re better off driving a half mile down the hill to check out Laguna Gloria or the Peacocks at Mayfield Preserve.
#105 UT Brains Collection
Secret Lab, University of Texas
Between 1952 and 1983, the Texas State Mental Hospital collected and preserved the brains of deceased patients. They now reside at the University of Texas and are used for educational purposes. They are not open to the public, but if you wish to pay a semester’s tuition you might get to see them as a student.
Under The University of Texas
When I moved to Austin in the 90’s I heard a lot about UT’s nearly now near 100-year old underground tunnel system. There are reportedly over 8 miles of them spanning the campus, all of them off limits to everyone due to various safety concerns. In 2005 a short documentary about the system was made, called Subterranean City: The UT Steam Tunnels Be warned though. A spokesperson for the university stated “Anyone caught trying to enter the tunnels, anyone caught in the tunnels — they will be arrested and they will be put in jail”.
#107 Giant Cornhole
My backyard. Want to buy it?
The world’s largest playable cornhole game lives in Austin. In my backyard under a blue tarp. It is about 300 square feet and the bags measure about 4 feet across. It was quite an ordeal and adventure making giant cornhole.
Giant Cornhole was made as a promotional item for the company I started, Big Weekend Calendars, which make the Austin Events Wall Calendar, a wall calendar that tells you when over 250 events and activities happen throughout the year.
This event had a short life but was one of my favorites. It was a tour of many weird art yards in Austin, with a few art homes thrown in for good measure. While we now have the (unrelated) Austin Weird Homes Tour, art yards are their own special thing and I would love to see this event return.
#109 (Name Unknown)
Years ago I went on a hike to a random park in South Austin and noticed that someone had placed weird art sculptures in the woods. It was cool to try to find the rusty art hiding in and around trees. I didn’t write the name of the park down and have not been able to identify which park it was. If you know it, please email me.
#110 IRLXD Events
It’s more than likely you landed on this page here from a google search. While this site might appear to be dedicated to weird things to do, it’s actually just one page on my blog.
I’m an IRL Experience Designer in Austin and I specialize in absurd, strange, and surprising experiences.
I’ve created many different experiences, but you might want to check out the series I did for Big Weekend Calendars to get an idea of what I create. Or see what’s happening at my Eureka Room. Or read the IRLXD blog to see what I’m currently working on.
The Map of Weird, Unusual, and Unique Austin Stuff to Do!
When I travel I always make a map so that I can plan a little better. Here’s a map of any places I listed above that have addresses.
TIP: Click the weird little rectangle in the upper left of the map’s menu bar to show a list of locations.
What does it mean to be weird?
I’m very particular about what I’d call “Weird” or “Austin” or “Unique” and have taken the time to make these distinctions for discerning experience-seekers such as myself.
If you’re curious about my methodology, I’ve explained it on my page, Keep Austin Weird or Keep Austin Unique?
More to come!
This list is updated often. If you find something you think belongs on this list or if you find errors, please contact me and let me know. I hope you found it useful.
Last update: 9/16/2021