Five Quirky Things to Do in Austin


When something is considered "quirky," it's usually something that an average person would consider odd or strange, unusual or unexpected. It's something that falls outside the range of "normal."

When you say a person is a "little quirky," it usually means there's something a little "off" about them. But in a cute, kind of charming way. Nothing creepy.

For instance, John has always slept on the floor next to his bed because he thinks it's more comfortable. Sue shows up to work every week with a new pastel streak in her hair. Eric won't eat anything on his plate that's not formed into a perfect square. And Amber won't eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without bananas, Captain Crunch, and a huge pile of sugar.

These people would probably be considered quirky. Not weird really—just quirky.

Places can be quirky too. You can visit a local fast-food restaurant, where you can walk in the door and never know for sure whether you're in Texas or Wisconsin, and have yourself a cardboard burger. Or, you can order-up what has long been considered one of Austin's best hamburgers, at Hut's Hamburgers on 6th St. Hut's, an Austin standard for more than 50 years, serves its legendary burgers in a 50s-style diner that literally defined Austin roadhouse chic with more than a half century of memorabilia lining the walls from floor to ceiling.

Hut's is different. Hut's is unexpected. Hut's is quirky. And that's what makes it fun.

It should come as no surprise then—given Austin's legendary weirdness—that Austin is saturated with quirky people, quirky places, and quirky things to do. You could spend years doing quirky things in Austin and never run out of something to do. So if you like being a partaker of the quirky, to get you started, we've compiled the following list of the top five quirky things to do in Austin.

Hippie Hollow

Some may say that Hippie Hollow—the only public park in Texas that allows nudity—is not just quirky. It's flat-out weird. That's probably debatable. But it is certainly filled with a lot of quirky people doing a lot of quirky things. Because Hippie Hollow is a "clothing-optional" beach, you don't have to take your clothes off. However, if you don't, be prepared for a lot of "oh-so-you're-too-good-to-get-naked" stares. Anyone who visits Hippie Hollow for observation purposes alone might find themselves shunned by some of the other swimmers and sun bathers who came to do more than just look. The consensus seems to be that no one is considered a gawker or a pervert if they're naked. Uh, okay.

On weekends and holidays the park, which is situated on more than 100 acres on Lake Travis, is usually packed. And it's not just packed with naked people on the beach. The water is packed too. In fact, the water is often in a constant state of motion due to the unending wakes from curious boaters who troll the waters along the shoreline trying to sneak a peek. Some of these boats, including large party boats, will drop anchor in the Hollow and stay to party with the park visitors.

It's important to note that Hippie Hollow is not a sandy stretch of beach. It's more like a rocky hill. And you will have to do some up-and-down rock climbing to get there. It is strongly recommended that you try to attempt this sober. Alcohol, nudity, and rock-climbing don't mix.

For more information about Hippie Hollow, visit hippiehollow.com.

Alamo Drafthouse

The Alamo Drafthouse takes quirky to a whole new level. It's literally quirky in 3-D. Forget dinner and a movie.The Alamo Drafthouse offers dinner with a movie! Founded in 1997 by a couple of professed "cinefiles," the Alamo Drafthouse began in a modified parking garage on Colorado Street in downtown Austin. The couple's objective at the time was to provide movie-goers with a quality viewing experience.

So they set up the theater to offer casual dining along with beer, wine, and mixed drinks. This is how it works at the Drafthouse: when you take your seat, your waiter takes your dinner/drink order before the movie starts. When the waiter returns with your order, your food and drinks are placed on a long table in front of you that extends the length of the row. Then the movie starts, and you eat and drink while you're watching the moving. If you need another drink or you're still hungry, you write down on a piece of paper what you want and place it in the note holder on the table in front of you. When your waiter spys the note, he comes and takes your order. According to the Drafthouse, its waiters move with the speed and stealth of a ninja warrior, so you never have to worry about them interrupting your movie.

But dinner and drinks with a movie is not the quirkiest thing about the Alamo Drafthouse. It's also the movies. While they started out showing only B-rated, midnight-movie types of films, they eventually expanded to Indie films and then to first-run hits. But it's more than that. They have theme nights. They have special events and programs. They have all sorts of ways for you to be quirky.

You can shout out lines from your favorite movies at the "Quote-Along" events; or watch slumber-party classics like Dirty Dancing and Clueless at the monthly Girlie Night events; or you can attend a Beyonce sing-along; or enjoy a "Master Pancake" show—Austin's own version of Mystery Science Theater—where the worst of Hollywood movies is mocked and ridiculed by some of the funniest comedians in town; on Wednesdays you can attend the "Weird Wednesday" events, where you can participate in the "vanguard of exploitation cinema exploration."

Perhaps the quirkiest event offered by the Alamo Drafthouse is the "Rolling Roadshow," where a film is shown in the same element as its storyline. The Roadshow basically consists of outdoor screenings of famous films in famous places. For example, you can attend the Quote-Along Roadshow at Republic Square Park featuring "Blazing Saddles," accompanied by beans, cap guns, beer, and more beans. Or wear your swimsuit to the widely acclaimed "Jaws on the Water" event, held at the Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels. For this event, movie-goers can float in an inner tube in the lake while watching Jaws on a giant outdoor screen. All I can say is "watch your backside." 'Nuf said.

For more information on the Alamo Drafthouse, visit drafthouse.com.

Quirky Museums

If you're into the museum experience, there's plenty of quirky-ness to be had in Austin. For example, you can see what may, or may not be, a Yeti at the Museum of the Weird on East 6th Street in downtown Austin. This museum specializes in "everything unusual, bizarre, and freaky." Here you'll find shrunken heads, freaks of nature, and even a Fiji Mermaid. For hours and admission prices, visit museumoftheweird.com.

The Museum of the Weird isn't the only quirky museum in Austin. If you visit the Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata (yes, I had to look that one up too), you will see objects as diverse as Liberace's ghostly piano keys, a pygmy kangaroo, train tokens from around the world, a lock of Elvis' hair, a fork bent by a telekineticist, and much more. The MNAE, located in the curator's home in East Austin, is one of the few remaining in-home, family-run museums in America. For more information about museum tours, visit www.mnae.org.

Austin Panic Room

As the original escape game of Texas, the objective of the Panic Room is simple: you and a group of your friends or co-workers are locked in a room where you have exactly 60 minutes to escape. The way you escape is by solving puzzles and using clues planted throughout the room. You can choose from a number of room scenarios such as breaking into a museum or escaping from a high-security prison. Some rooms feature panic-enhancers such as a moat full of crocodiles and robotic zombies. When your 60 minutes expire, you either escape...or panic. So my question is, if you are unable to escape will they just leave you there to rot? No, according to their website, they are mandated by law to let you out. Whew. For more information, visit texaspanicroom.com/Austin.

SoCo

If you drove through the South Congress neighborhood in the 1970s, it's safe to say you locked your doors. In the 70s, the night skies over South Congress were not illuminated by moonlight, but by the familiar red and blue flashes of police cruisers. It was more common in the 70s to see prostitutes strolling along the sidewalks of South Congress than it was to see shoppers. In the 70s, many of the once-vibrant businesses on South Congress had shut their doors, leaving a string of buildings boarded-up and in disrepair.

Boy, has all that changed.

Through a herculean entrepreneurial effort and a serious commitment to restoration, "SoCo" as it's now called is becoming Austin's own Rodeo Drive. But unlike Rodeo Drive, SoCo is quirky. It's unpretentious. It's hip. It's retro. It's artistic. It's, well, Austin.

These days, SoCo is lined with eclectic shops, boutiques, antique stores, galleries, restaurants, music venues, and, of course, Austin's infamous food trucks. Take a stroll down down the sidewalks of SoCo, which extends from the South Congress bridge all the way to Ben White Blvd., and you'll see a menagerie of quirky retail businesses.

If you want to do something really quirky, try spending a few hours at Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds and Electric Ladyland (that's all one name) finding new ways to go incognito. The 8,000-square-foot store is literally lined—from floor to ceiling—with every type of glittery costume and sequin-covered accessory you can possible imagine. Or not. It really is beyond imagination. If you can't find a costume here, you probably don't need one. Vist lucyindisguise.com for more information.

Another SoCo shop high on the quirky-ness scale is Uncommon Objects, which describes itself as "Raw materials for creative living." If you try to describe what's inside this very unusual shop, it might sound more like what you would find in the home of a hoarder—albeit an organized hoarder. Uncommon Objects is a little like a combination flea market/museum/novelty shop/antique store/taxidermist/et al, all rolled into one. You could frequent this shop every day for a year and still see something you had never seen before. It's a popular stop for Austinites and tourists alike, but there seems to be some consensus out there in social media that these uncommon objects are also uncommonly priced. Just look at it as entertaining window shopping even if you don't buy anything. For more information, visit uncommonobjects.com.

After spending a few hours working your way through all the SoCo shops, stop by one of the many food trucks in the square on the east side of SoCo where they're serving cupcakes at Hey, Cupcake!, all things grilled cheese at Burro-Cheese Kitchen, fried chicken at Mrs. P's Electric Cock, Navajo fry breads at Fat Cactus, Jamaican cuisine at Gemma Love, juice and smoothies at Juice Austin, pizza at Hoek's Death Metal Pizza, and crepes at Crepes Mille. Also, try to drop by SoCo on the first Thursday of every month when they're having their First Thursday event, an Austin tradition that provides local artists and small business owners the chance to showcase their wares.

Stephanie Stribling is a veteran writer/editor of more than 20 years. A native Aggie (Class of '89, WHOOP!), Stephanie has lived in and around Longhorn territory for many years. She currently resides in Round Rock.