Before I visited Austin, I knew just a few things about the Texas capital. I’d heard that it had good food, good music, and was just a little bit strange. After spending nearly a week in the live music capital of the world I can clearly say that Austin is weird in all of the best ways.
The Bat Bridge
When I casually mentioned to a colleague that I was heading to Austin, her first question was “are you going to see the bats?” Not exactly what I was expecting to hear but I’m glad I didn’t miss this major tourist attraction. Every evening from March to October, 1.5 million bats emerge from the underside of the Congress Avenue Bridge. We got to see this phenomenon for ourselves from our perch on that very bridge and marvelled at the sight of the bats rapidly migrating east, devouring ten to twenty thousand pounds of insects on their way. I can think of a few cities (ahem… Winnipeg) who could use their own bat colony.
The Cathedral of Junk
In very atypical Whitney style, I didn’t really research the Cathedral of Junk before heading to the location on my GPS. I fully expected to find a paid attraction and quickly realized that I was very wrong after walking down a residential street to find said attraction was really just in some guy’s backyard. We hadn’t made an appointment but lucked out that the owner/artist was home and willing to let us explore his backyard for a five dollar donation. What we discovered beyond the fence was a three-story structure of the most random things you can imagine, including a BC license plate (pictured below). If it wasn’t so scorching hot (summer in Texas is no joke) we could have stayed for hours, checking out all the hidden gems. I can honestly say that in all my travels, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
The Broken Spoke
It’s no secret that I’m a city girl with a cosmopolitan lifestyle. But, when in Texas, it only seems appropriate to embrace a little southern comfort. For me that meant checking out the most famous honky tonk in Texas. The Broken Spoke hasn’t changed in 50 years and remains one of the last truly authentic dance halls in the state. I had the privilege of getting a two-step lesson from the owner’s 60 year old daughter Terri, a fire-cracker of a woman. With daisy duke shorts, platinum blonde extensions, and no filter, Terri made the evening highly entertaining even for a non-country fan like me.
Austin has a great street art scene, including the famous Graffiti Park where you can leave your own mark on the city. But, the one tag that I really needed to find was the Greetings from Austin sign. The photo is as basic as it comes but I really don’t care.
Mindy and I have a history with big bus tours. We were bored one day while visiting Zagreb, Croatia and ended up spending the whole afternoon on a hop-on hop-off bus. The tour guide wasn’t very interesting and our bus was practically empty so we ended up making our own fun by waving at the locals who gave us hilarious reactions. Ever since then, we’ve had a soft spot for the overly touristy tours. So when we saw that Austin had one of those Duck Adventure tours where the bus also turns into a boat, we knew we had to give it a try. We got our very own duck whistles, which felt very Austin as we quacked our way around town. Unfortunately, the relentless humidity was also very Austin and made it nearly impossible to pay attention to anything but our sweaty bodies. Have I mentioned that Texas in the summer is not for the faint of heart?
Austin has a lot to offer and I would highly recommend it. We accomplished so much in a long weekend of sightseeing. We ate voodoo donuts, listened to live jazz, drank $1 mimosas, toured the state capital, stayed in a haunted hotel from the 1800s and ate a lot of fried food. I would definitely make a repeat visit in the future… just not in August.