Beautiful Austin, Texas is full world-class attractions, from the Texas Capital, to McKinney State Park, to Barton Springs, to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. While these are the attractions that helped put Austin on the map, however, they sure aren’t all the city has to offer.
It should come as no surprise that a city as proudly weird as Austin is full of all manner of offbeat attractions, many of which don’t appear in guidebooks.
Not convinced? Check out the four wonderfully unusual attractions below, and you’ll see what we mean.
Cathedral of Junk
They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. In the case of Austin’s Cathedral of Junk, that expression definitely rings true.
The Cathedral of Junk, which is exactly what it sounds like, is the creation of Austin native Vince Hannemann. Hannemann began building his backyard cathedral in 1989, when he was in his 20s, collecting whatever junk he could find for his purposes—usually old bicycles. Gradually, however, people began to donate items, which meant that he no longer had to forage for scrap, and that he could focus on building.
Years later, Hannemann’s backyard is the home of a massive, multi-room cathedral composed of more than 60 tons of junk. He built it so sturdily that it even got a seal of approval from local engineers after his neighbors complained about it.
The cathedral—and the many junk-created fixtures he’s built around it—can be explored by anyone who’s willing to pay Hannemann’s $5 entry fee. It can even be rented for parties and, you guessed it, weddings. Just be sure to call ahead to arrange your visit at 512-299-7413.
Museum of the Weird
At the top of this article, we promised you wonderfully weird attractions. How about a whole museum dedicated to all things weird?
That’s exactly what you’ll get at Austin’s aptly-named Museum of the Weird.
The museum is the creation of artist and entrepreneur Steve Busti. It’s located at 412 E 6th St., in the back of his shop, the Lucky Lizard.
Wander into Busti’s weird museum, and you’ll find everything from a mummified feejee mermaid (the head and torso of a monkey combined with the tail-end of a fish), a one-eyed pig, several shrunken heads, a two-headed chicken, the mummified remains of several other bizarre creatures, and a number of interesting displays and exhibits dedicated to some of the area’s most enduring mysteries.
Tickets cost $12.
Congress Bridge Bats
It’s a little-known fact that Austin is home to the largest largest urban bat colony in North America—a colony thats’s estimated to be 1.5 million bats strong.
These bats make their home under Austin’s Congress Bridge from March to November. If you’re lucky enough to visit the city during that timeframe—particularly on hot nights in August—you have the opportunity to witness the almost indescribable sight of those hundreds of thousands of bats taking flight in unison. The best views can be enjoyed from the nearby shores of the river, and from boats on the river itself (kayaks and paddle boards can be rented from a number of nearby vendors).
Skyspace: The Color Inside
Artist James Turrell is known for his “Skyspaces”—innovative installations that implement changing colors, shadows, and alternative frames for viewing the sky above. His Skypaces can be found in Arizona, Japan, Ireland, London, the Netherlands, California, Las Vegas, and now, on the rooftop of the student union building at the University of Texas
Turrell’s Austin installation is officially named “Sky Space: The Color Inside.” It seats 27 people, and uses hidden lights and other tricks to distort the view of the sky. Unsurprisingly, this display is best viewed at sunrise and sunset.
If this sounds up your alley, you can arrange your visit here.