When I visited Austin for the first time, I was a little surprised how un-weird the city was. “Keep Austin weird” is the popular local slogan, after all.
In looking over my photos, I realized that some were weird, but most were totally normal. Some pics, of the capitol building and the University of Texas, were a lot more artsy and/or scenic than weird.
However, I recently traveled to Austin again, and this time I made a point to seek out the weird and quirky stuff. And I found a lot more this time!
Here are some quirky (and not-so-quirky) sights from the capital city of Texas, and list of suggested weird things to do in Austin.
My Favorite ‘Keep Austin Weird’ Activities in the City
Museum of the Weird
Located right downtown on Sixth Street, the Museum of the Weird is an obvious stop for anyone who wants to start off an Austin trip with some weirdness.
The museum is seen by some as a bit of a tourist trap, but admission is only $13 and it undeniably has a lot of weird stuff.
The museum focuses on freaky stuff like shrunken heads, Bigfoot plaster casts, cows born with two faces, a fish that grew fur, and a two-headed chicken. The museum even acknowledges that some of these may not be real.
There’s a gallery of life-size figures from film and television, including Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and King Kong.
The museum also claims a 3000-year-old mummy discovered in Egypt in the 1800s.
Not many real mummies are on display in the U.S., so this is truly a weird and unusual sight.
Greetings From Austin Mural
Located at 1720 S. 1st Street, the “Greetings from Austin” wall is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the area. You will certainly see other tourists here, no matter when you come.
It’s located in the Bouldin Creek area, one of the cooler parts of the city. There’s free street parking and a lot of cool shops and restaurants in the vicinity.
Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan Statues
Outlaw country legend Willie Nelson moved to Austin in 1973 when he found Nashville too stuffy. Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan moved to Austin around the same time.
Both have been honored with statues in their honor. Vaughan, who passed away in a 1990 helicopter crash, has a statue along the Colorado River on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
Willie, meanwhile, has an 8-foot bronze sculpture downtown. Fortunately, he lived long enough to witness the honor in person.
Nelson was instrumental in the creation and success of Austin City Limits, a wildly popular concert show for decades.
Not every city is so quick to embrace its rock & roll icons. You have to give Austin credit for that!
The Famous Bridge Bats
Every night from spring to autumn, millions of Mexican bats emerge from beneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.
Right around sunset, the insect-eating flying mammals come out, while hundreds of onlookers on the bridge and in the park below witness the spectacle.
The bat viewing in Austin is truly one of the activities that gave the city the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.
Murals and Street Art
Austin so many murals and pieces of street art that I couldn’t possibly list them all. One of my favorites is the Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin wall near downtown.
Here’s another famous Austin mural, the one that simply says “I love you so much.” It’s in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood.
The location of the “I love you so much” mural in Austin is 1300 S. Congress Avenue.
This mural downtown was striking:
My favorite weird piece of Austin street art:
Quirky Eateries: Bouldin Creek Cafe, Amy’s Ice Cream, Salty Sow
Many Austin restaurants and coffee shops have a quirky vibe and wonderfully weird atmosphere. I’ll just mention a couple of my favorites.
Bouldin Creek Cafe (just a couple blocks from the Greetings from Austin mural) has been serving up vegan and vegetarian food since 2000. It’s a funky shop with local art for sale on the walls and a hipster crowd.
Salty Sow is a unique gastropub that promises “swine + wine + beer.” They serve up cocktails with a whole lot of meaty dishes, such as duck fat fries, roasted bone marrow, Wagyu cheeseburger, and catfish tacos.
Amy’s Ice Cream is a scoop shop with a lot of creative flavors and mix-ins. And it’s open late! I had coffee ice cream with brownies and marshmallows mixed in, and it was divine.
Amy’s makes the list of quirky places because of its funky vibe and odd flavors. Among the noteworthy flavors at Amy’s were Irish Cream, Flan, Zilkermint Chip, and Belgian Chocolate.
Also, I have to shout-out one of the most creatively-named Austin restaurants: a Mediterranean place called Halal Y’all.
The first time I visited Austin in the ’00s, Alamo Drafthouse was totally weird, because it was a movie theater with tables that served food and beer. And they had gained a reputation for kicking out rude patrons.
These days, a lot of cities have similar cinemas, so Alamo isn’t quite as unique. But it still deserves props for being one of the first of its kind.
Not every city has a public pool fed by underground springs with a perfect 70 degree temperature. Barton Springs is a 3-acre pool in Zilker Park available for swimming most of the year.
Barton Springs is the home of a rare blind salamander that is federally protected. That’s quirky and weird!
More Austin Photos: Quirky and Offbeat Stuff
Remember – keep Austin weird.
No, seriously – keep Austin weird.
I love this Willie Nelson shirt designed to look like the Starbucks logo. You can find this shirt in the gift shop of the Museum of the Weird, along with numerous other “Keep Austin Weird” shirts.
The Austin Motel sign is extremely popular. Perhaps you can figure out why.
I played a lot of giant guitars during my visit to Austin.
A shot of some of the many, many bars in downtown Austin. The Jackalope had an alternative, indie kind of vibe.
The employees at this bar couldn’t be bothered to write the specials on both sides. That is just too much work!
Emo’s is one of the most famous music venues in the city.
If you’re offering reliable auto service, I suppose the Lemon Detective is an appropriate mascot.
More Austin Pics: Nightlife, Capitol Building, University, Sunsets
This is the section for photos of the non-quirky stuff in Austin.
Austin isn’t like most of Texas. But its Texas-ness still comes through sometimes. Inside a cowboy bar with my friend Jason.
It’s 3 am inside a local dance club.
The capitol building was a stunning sight.
Especially from the inside.
The presence of Texas University looms large in Austin.
Austin has a cool skyline, especially when viewed from the walking trails in Zilker Park.
Keep your eyes open for turtles along the water. They are everywhere.
Buildings reflect off the river at dusk.
My local friends were able to grow a ridiculous number of plants in their backyard due to the constant warm weather.
Sunset arrives over the bridges.
What do you think of the Keep Austin Weird slogan? is it really as weird of a city as it claims?