Like an oasis spring in the desert, Austin rises out of the sand and overflows with culture, charm, and personality. It has a reputation for being a weird city, but that should encourage you to pay a visit rather than deter you. A lot of Austin's charm is predictable things like a thriving nightlife or a rich international food scene, but if you ask an Austinite about unique local things to do in Austin, the answers are sure to surprise you.
Congress Avenue Kayaks provides rentals of kayaks and paddleboards for either half hours or half days. You might want to go for a shorter rental if you haven’t hit the gym recently, but it’s a highlight of any visit to Austin either way. You and your companions can easily go exploring the riverside or even take the short trip over to the Congress Avenue Bridge and go bat-spotting. That’s right, bat-spotting.
From March to October, it’s bat season in Austin. As many as 1.5 million bats underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge form the largest urban bat colony in the United States. About twenty minutes before sundown, they begin to take flight each day in such great numbers as to turn the sky black. It’s an otherworldly sight: and to make it all the better, the bats are there all the way up until Halloween.
The Cathedral of Junk is a tremendous assembly of other people’s trash, turned into a structure you can walk around inside. The only explanation the creator Vince Hanneman has ever given about this work of modern art is ‘why not make a trash castle?’ But in a way, isn’t that profound enough? Either way, the Cathedral of Junk is some of the most bizarre fun you can have in Austin.
One of the best destinations for art lovers, feminists, and art-loving feminists, Women & Their Work is a major voice in empowering women artists. They have a suite of rotating exhibits that draw crowds around the year, but their support doesn’t end at the visual arts—Women & Their Work is a regular venue for the performance arts, as well.
South Congress might be the weirdest part of Austin. Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds is a brilliantly-named shop where you can buy enough costumes, wigs, and makeup to assume a totally new identity. Another store is simply named “Uncommon Objects,” a hyper-eccentric shop where you can find one of America’s richest selection of purchasable antiques.
With Austin Duck Adventures, you can take a comprehensive tour of the city in one of their amphibious buses. You’ll start out on land, but eventually, the bus will drive straight into the water and float right along. If you’ve never ridden a waterbus before, it’s a novel experience that a regular bus tour can’t compare to.
You can walk along the carefully curated paths of the beautiful Zilker Botanical Garden and enjoy the lush, vibrant, and diverse assortment of greenery there. However, don’t trample any little people underfoot! The garden is dotted with handcrafted villages of gnomes and fairies, and finding them all takes the form of a sort of treasure hunt. That said, if any Irish faeries request your name, do not give it to them.
The Jones Center is a great spot for anyone who appreciates contemporary art. People often visit to see the Moody Rooftop and Jim Hodges’ famous sculpture Liberty and Justice For All (A Work in Progress). To top it off, you can take breathtaking views of the Austin skyline from the Moody Rooftop too.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum is the leader in education about the great state of Texas, a position the museum has held for over fifteen years. The museum holds hundreds of artifacts, works of art, and pieces of history. One of the most interesting exhibitions it features is the Texas Story Project, which compiles countless firsthand stories of living in Texas throughout its history. The blend of traditional museum exhibits and person-focused storytelling really makes for a unique site that should be on your Austin itinerary.
If you love recycling, this is a bar for you; the founders constructed the bar entirely by recycling old freight containers! Despite the unusual construction, the bar has interior lighting, an impressive sound system, and everything else you'd expect fo find in a hole-in-the-wall bar like this. It’s surprisingly roomy, and it’s a favorite locale among the locals. It’s always full of people dancing, drinking, and having a good time. The Container Bar exclusively hires top-notch DJs who really know their way around a turntable.