We all know Austin is weird. That’s no big secret, but when wild and weird intersects with all things uniquely Austin, you get a few unusual experiences along the way. From chicken-shit bingo to howling at the moon during a nighttime swim, if you can dream it up, Austinites have probably already tried it out. Here are 14 things that have stuck around, however, and become a sort of tradition here in the Live Music Capital of the world.
Worship at the Cathedral of Junk
Although this towering structure is composed entirely out of junk, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to miss. The Cathedral of Junk stands in the backyard of a small, unassuming house owned by Vince Hannemann in South Austin. Over the decades, this pile of junk has transformed into a space with vaulted ceilings and winding passageways that are composed of discarded cables, knick-knacks and bicycle parts.Wind your way to the heart of the Cathedral, where the great chair sits in the center of the “Throne Room.”
Two-step at the Broken Spoke
Two-stepping at the Broken Spoke is like taking a step back in time. An Austin establishment for over 50 years, the Broken Spoke advertises itself as the “last of the True Texas Dancehalls and damn sure proud of it!” If you look at the surroundings, it’s not hard to believe. This little dancehall is the last bastion of Old Austin with high-rises and sleek shops surrounding it from every corner. So get a little taste of the city’s history and have some fun. Visitors can learn the two-step, Western Swing and the Cotton-Eyed Joe, with classes offered Wednesday to Saturday from 8:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Play Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn
Every Sunday at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, you can buy a beer and a $2 ticket and let the games begin. A not-so-secret secret spot to hang out for a lazy Sunday, you won’t get bored as the afternoon rolls on. The saloon’s wildly popular alternative form of bingo called “chicken-shit bingo” involves chickens and their natural processes. You win only when the number on your ticket is eliminated by the chicken. The best part is, you’ll actually win a cash prize if they do!
Eat at Mrs. P’s Electric Cock
While not entirely unique to Austin, food trucks certainly have found a home here. Many of the city’s favorite brick-and-mortar businesses – both restaurants and retail – started out in a food truck or trailer. However, one of the best is Mrs. P’s Electric Cock. Partially its name is what makes it so much fun, but it also has really, really good chicken and waffles. So try it out. You’ll get a kick out of getting to utter its name in the office when you invite your colleagues there for lunch.
Tour really, really weird homes
Now in its fourth year, The Weird Homes Tour™ showcases the wackiest, most outlandish abodes that celebrate Austin’s quirky charm. Although it says “tour,” think of this event more as a self-paced excursion through the unique homes in Austin. From north to south and east to west, you will run all over the city as you peer into the lives of those who live a little more colorfully than you. Although you have to pay, 10% of all proceeds go to local nonprofits that fight for affordable housing.
Celebrate Eeyore’s birthday
Austin’s oldest but least well-known festival (outside of the city) is a birthday party for Eeyore. In 1963, several students gathered for a spring picnic to celebrate Eeyore, complete with a maypole, beer and a donkey draped with flowers. Today, the party continues every April with a free festival that doubles as a fundraiser for non-profit groups in Austin. Eeyore’s Birthday is a celebration that encourages free spirits and lots of costumes. Even if you don’t come prepared, you can get your face painted in character or a giant henna tattoo to give yourself a little more character. There is always live music, acro yoga, hooping and, of course, a maypole.
Join the cow-tongue eating contest at Contigo
Every year, Contigo patrons can compete to earn their food. To celebrate its anniversary, this neighborhood restaurant hosts a competition carnival on its patio. One of the games is a cow-tongue eating contest where guests are challenged to consume a cooked, two-pound cow tongue as fast as they can. The winner wins free burgers from Contigo for a year. Other contests include the corn-hole tournament (the winner earns a $1,000 house account) and the beer-stein-hoisting competition where the contestant who can hold a heavy beer stein with a straight arm for the longest earns free beer for a year.
Place your bets on the wiener dog races
A few miles slightly south of Austin in Buda, there is a wiener dog race track. Every year, the track opens for a fun-filled weekend of races. Attendees come from all over the country to enjoy the qualifying Wiener Dog Races before the second-day finals. There are also separate races for purebred wieners and mixed wiener dogs (think chiwienees). All dogs are welcome, and even if they’re not racing, they can participate in a Best Dressed Dog Contest while humans enjoy a bake-off and BBQ and chili cookoffs, live music, and all variety of festival entertainment.
Read El Arroyo’s sign everyday
Established in 1975, El Arroyo is known for serving queso, tacos and dot margaritas. However, it is famous for its sign out front. This simple, manual marquee is changed daily to a message that is often hyper-local, but always entertaining for commuters.
Fly a kite with thousands of others
Austin’s Kite Festival began in 1929, making it the longest continuously running community kite festival in the United States. Originally a tournament with a mission to encourage creativity in children, the festival was started by the Exchange Club of Austin and was held for the first time in Lamar Park. The event moved to the newly opened Zilker Park in 1936, where it has taken place ever since.
Do a 5k in your underwear
In Austin, taking a run in your underwear might not be unheard of in the summer, but in the dead of winter? Live the dream of running with hundreds of others in the brisk February air every year with the one-mile Cupid’s Undie Run. Dress your best, because the whole world is going to see you come across the finish line in your skivvies.
Swim and howl at the full moon
Every month when the full moon rises into the nighttime sky, Austinites come to Barton Springs Pool for the “Full Moon Swim.” Exactly what it sounds like, when the pool becomes free at 9 p.m., swimmers, dancers and outdoor enthusiasts come and howl at the moon for an hour. Summer, winter, spring and fall, you’re guaranteed to have a good turnout, no matter the weather. Good thing the pool is a steady 68 degrees year round, so there will be no surprises when you jump in.
Swim at a nudist beach
Nowhere in Texas is it illegal for men and women to go topless in public, however, it is illegal to be completely nude. Except in designated areas. Naturally, Austin took this rule to heart and has the only public area designated for nudity. Hippie Hollow is a clothing-optional beach located on Lake Travis. Texas is a conservative state all-in-all, but Austin is pretty liberal.
Watch the largest bat colony in North America take flight
During the spring and summer when the sun goes down and the bugs come out, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats make their way out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. What begins as a slow trickle into the violet sunset becomes a plume of smoke as these nocturnal marsupials drift into the descending darkness. Make sure to get there early and get a spot with a good vantage point so you don’t miss the show.