Austin has long held a reputation for being a hub of music, but this is really just the beginning when it comes to the attractions of the modern city. Today, Austin is a hotbed for all kinds of artistic talent as well as history and culture. The city has world-class museums, a fantastic ballet and some incredible shopping and eating options. When you add this eclectic mix to Austin’s ongoing prowess in the music industry, it is clear to see why so many tourists flock here every year for a weekend break.
With so much to do, you would be forgiven for being slightly bewildered when choosing what to do first when you touch down in the city. Unfortunately, those who have not done their research often fall into doing many of the things that most Austin residents would consider tourist traps. We have met tones of people who are not get much further than the State Capitol building, so for this reason we have decided to put together a list of lesser-known things to see and do – enjoy!
- Museum of the Weird
No many of the dime-museums in the tradition of P.T. Barnum survive to this day, but this oddity is definitely one of them. When you are walking around Downtown, look for Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts – the museum is located inside. With a wide range of outlandish attractions, including mummies, monsters, shrunken heads and other freakish things, you cannot fail to come out with a sense of the “what if?” no matter how skeptical you were when you entered.
- Cathedral of Junk
As the name might suggest, the Cathedral of Junk is just that – a cathedral constructed entirely from refuse. The brainchild of a single man who let his penchant for collecting stuff in his backyard get out of hand, this oddity is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience a piece of the unique quirkiness that has become synonymous with Texan capital.
- HOPE Outdoor Gallery
The HOPE Outdoor undoubtedly one of the hippest attractions in a city that is famous for hipsters. Located at ‘The Foundation’, a failed 1980s condo development site, the gallery really is an incredible exhibition of everything related to street art. Today, the park is renowned across the world as the only park of its kind in the United States, playing host to works of muralists and other street artists. The gallery also provides a setting for community groups and education classes.
HOPE Outdoor Gallery is located across from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, so it may make a good first stop when you arrive by air. Please note that travelers from the UK or Europe will need to apply for an ESTA visa for entry on arrival – check out this fantastic ESTA guide for more info.
- Mueller SunFlowers
Not even most Austin natives are aware that this public art installation is in fact the largest in the whole city. Just off the Interstate 35, the Mueller SunFlower park is as eerily beautiful as it is useful. The 15 flower-shaped sculptures are decked out with solar panels that harvest the sun’s energy for use in the city’s electric power grid. The best time to visit is in the evening when a small amount of the energy collected during the day is used to power a light show of thousands of blue LEDs in a beautiful demonstration of the potential of a sustainable future.
- Sometimes Islands
In the middle of Lake Travis on the northeastern edge of the city lies the peculiar phenomenon of a series of vanishing islands. When the water level controlled by the Mansfield Dam gets low due to recent years of drought, the humps of an island peninsula rise from the surface of the lake like a mirage. When the islands appear, they make a popular spot to go for a stroll out into the middle of the lake.
- Austin Haunted Limo Tours
For those people who enjoy the weird side of life there is the Austin Haunted Limo Tour. While most of us have been on a ghost tour before in other cities, this one is conducted with the passengers strapped into spooky Cadillac hearse. The tour takes punters to many of the sites where paranormal activity is reputed to have taken place, including Littlefield House and Driskill Hotel.
As is demonstrated by the six unusual things to do in Austin, the city makes a great place to visit if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary whether you are a national tourist or you are coming from further afield.