30 Surreal Places in Austin You Won’t Believe Really Exist
Let's get surreal (and weird)!
Austin may be weird. And wacky. And wonderful. We don’t have to tell you this. But, all that weirdness also lends itself to some seriously legit surreal-ness, too.
From natural wonders to manmade marvels, quirky pit stops, and fanciful destinations that are all pretty much within city limits, it’s a hotbed of hard-to-believe things.
But, believe them. Because, with this list, we’re just keepin’ it surreal (and weird).
Where: 4422 Lareina Dr.
You’ll be singing the praises of this place that puts all new meaning into “junk shop.” Vince Hannemann has been artfully crafting his power tower of trash since 1989 and it is a sight to behold with about 60 tons of junk. It can even be rented for events like weddings and birthday parties. Yes, believe it or not, people have said “I do” here.
Where: 100 Congress Ave.
Holy, Batman! The bridge is home to 1.5 million bats, which makes it the largest urban bat colony in North America. They emerge nightly, from about March to October, blanketing the sky in the most unusual fashion.
Where: 1602 Fortview Rd.
Described as "your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids,” this one-of-a-kind emporium of transcendent junk and antiques galore has more curiosities than you can imagine.
Where: 4699 N. Interstate 35 Frontage Rd.
These are no ordinary sunflowers. The futuristic blooms have a certain alien quality with their gigantic cobalt-blue “petals” glowing like a beacon in the sky. The electric garden is sustainable public art installation that’s powered by the sun and establishes a bold entrance to the Mueller eco-conscious community.
Where: 1100 Baylor St.
Graffiti for good? It’s a real thing at this public art space. Part of the HOPE Campaign (Helping Other People Everywhere), the inspiring graffiti park was created with the help of famous street artist Shepard Fairey. It’s the only paint park of its kind in the U.S. and was developed to provide muralists, street artists, and other groups the opportunity to create large-scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive, and educational messaging.
Where: W. 9th St. and Guadalupe St.
Austin is the only remaining city in the world with these towers that once served a purpose beyond their inherent cool factor. Erected in the 1890s, they illuminated the night in the early days of electricity — and were prompted by a series of Victorian-era murders that plagued the city. Now, 17 of the original 31 towers remain, still lighting the sky from dusk until dawn.
Where: 3701 Grooms St.
In its previous life, the park was an electrical substation. Now, it’s a whimsical place to explore an assemblage of karst stones, mirror balls, shells, and mosaic-like pieces.
Where: University of Texas at Austin, Student Activity Center, Third Floor, Rooftop Garden, 2201 Speedway at 22nd St.
This minimalist Skyspace by artist James Turrell has maximum impact with an ever-changing spectrum of colors and a window to the clouds and sky beyond.
Where: 2209 S. 1st St.
The pint-sized structure is a mere 97 square feet and made entirely of bottles, mortar, mosaics, and wood.
Where: 305 W. Milton St.
Neverland really does exist. This dreamscape of a place is actually the home and studio of its artist James Talbot. He gives tours of this imaginative wonderland, where there’s a ping pong loft, multiple fire poles, treehouse, and an outdoor bridge — among many other things. It’s like a giant play land for grown-ups.
Where: 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd.
The view is sublime from this 775-foot-tall limestone outcrop overlooking the Colorado River. From sunrise to sunset, it’s definitely worth the climb.
Where: 3505 W 35th St.
Peacock-ing is totally okay here — as long as it involves the real peacocks that roam the enchanting grounds.
Where: 403 W. 2nd St.
All the toys come out to play at this nostalgic, quirky store that has everyone channeling their inner kid at heart. The sheer number of toys, trinkets, and tchotchkes is nearly overwhelming.
Where: 304 E. 44th St.
It looks like something from a fairy tale, but it’s really the former home and studio of artist Elisabet Ney, a famous German sculptor who moved to Austin in 1882. You can see the world’s largest collection of her work here.
Where: 401 Congress Ave.
With a certain Gotham City vibe, this 33-story superhero building is one of the city’s most iconic structures with its pyramidal crown and reflective exterior.
Where: 412 E. 6th St.
It's surreally spooky and strange, and the freak flag flies high at this haunt. It’s one of the last true dime museums in U.S., paying homage to those popularized by P.T. Barnum in the 1800s. Naturally, your ticket includes a live sideshow performance — and lots of other freak-ish things.
Where: 5434 Burnet Rd.
The chickens are ready. Are you? If you haven’t spent a Sunday at this beer joint with the shitty bingo game, it’s about time you did. And, yes, it’s played exactly as it sounds.
Where: 2201 Barton Springs Rd.
Splish-splash at this year-round pool scene. The three acres of water are fed from an underground spring, so it’s always a chill 68 to 70 degrees. The people-watching is also pretty good here.
Where: 1503 S 1st St.
A donut salad? That’s called “balance.” Everything from burgers, to sandwiches, to “Dirty South” chicken fried steak and “Drunken Hunk” meatloaf (and those salads) gets served with the fried dough here. It’s surreal #foodporn. They also have an airstream that serves up good, old-fashioned decadent varieties of the sweet treat.
Where: 6550 Comanche Trail
Known as the Sunset Capital of Texas, this mega-sized bar, restaurant, and venue on the lake has the best views around.
Where: 1400 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Crazy cat people: Rejoice. Part coffee shop, part vegetarian eatery, this place's main calling card are the furry kitties — and you can take one home with you, too. They’re all adoptable.
Where: 1100 Congress Ave. S.
It is the State Capitol, after all. Which means, it may not be weird. But, the beautiful architecture is impossibly stately and has a nearly surreal presence downtown.
Where: 1110 E. 52nd St.
There’s literally an elephant in the room (and a carousel behind the bar) at this funky dive with a bizarre circus theme.
At only .51 miles long, Texas State Highway 165 is the shortest highway in Texas. The speed limit is 10 miles per hour, and it’s partially locked at night.
Where: 8425 Burnet Rd.
Yes, that would be a raccoon with a jar of JIF. This shop has thousands of antlers, skulls, and taxidermy novelty items along with animal hides galore.
Where: 7000 Comanche Trail
Texas’ very own nude beach, this free-spirited, tucked-away haven at Lake Travis fully upholds the skin-is-in trend. And, you better believe that many people comply. If bare bums don’t bother you, the quirky yet peaceful park takes advantage of the Hill Country’s surreal beauty, too. So, there are plenty of other, ahem, scenic views around.
Where: 3755 S. Capital of Texas Hwy.
With photogenic places like the Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls swimming holes along the way of the 13-ish miles of hiking trails, this is a walk (or swim) to remember. Zilker Park is a popular access point.
Where: 1720 1st St. S
All of the (neon) lights are found at this art gallery entirely devoted to them. Artist Todd Sanders is responsible for the cool vintage-style designs — and they are nothing short of lit.
Where: 1100 Kingsbury St.
Being in the sticks never looked so good. Artist Patrick Dougherty and a team of more than 200 Pease Park Conservancy volunteers constructed this site-specific installation using twiggy things gathered in and around Austin. The sculptural work consists of five repeated corner shapes that can be explored through maze-like passageways and multiple vantage points.
Where: 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs
This little slice of utopia will make you think you’re not in Texas anymore. The tucked-away grotto reveals a 45-foot-tall waterfall that pours into a beautiful body of water beneath. Even though it’s about 26 miles outside of Austin in Dripping Springs, that’s nothing to get to this little paradise.