“Keep Austin Weird” was a slogan created to promote small businesses in Austin in 2000, but it’s become a mantra Austinites live by. And now that we’ve had the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind city, we can see why they claim it with pride. We’ve talked about the incredible street art scene as well as the robust coffee, art and food options in Austin. But for a true taste of what makes this city stand apart, we suggest you take some time out of your visit to check these out:
Bat Watching at Congress Bridge
This is one of those things that can seem overly touristy and/or gimmicky, but it’s truly an experience not to be missed. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, which happened completely by accident thanks to the unique structure of Congress Bridge. If you visit Austin between March and November, be sure to set aside some time at dusk to see the bats. When it starts to get dark, the 1.5 million bats leave the nest and take flight in search of food. We opted to take a bat-watching cruise, which took us on a scenic trip down Lady Bird Lake before parking right by the bridge to enjoy the spectacle.
Shopping on South Congress
The South Congress neighborhood, which is affectionately referred to simply as SoCo, is a cluster of unique stores that make for a truly fun shopping experience. Some of Austin’s most famous restaurants reside there, but a visit to stores like Triple Z Threadz and Uncommon Objects will show you the quirky side of Austin. Triple Z Threadz is the novelty store on steroids where you’ll find fun and cheeky gifts (for yourself and others!). Purchase vintage shirts that have been embroidered with Prince’s likeness and Mr. T decorative pillows. Uncommon Objects is an antique and curiosities store, and is simply fun to explore. It can be somewhat of a treasure hunt, but with some patience and perseverance you might uncover some special treasures. You will definitely find a great Austin souvenir here.
Pro Tip: Street parking on South Congress is difficult to come by (and requires you to back into a diagonal space). Don’t try to park in the surrounding residential areas, there are strict parking restrictions. If you don’t luck out on the street, try the parking area for Guero’s, which allows you to validate if you make a purchase from participating vendors in the area.
Experiencing the Amurica TX photo booth
Photo booths are a great alternative to asking a stranger to take your photo or awkwardly trying to take a selfie in public. But those 2”x6” strips can lose their novelty pretty quickly. Not so with Amurica TX. It’s a spin-off from a photo booth in Memphis, Tennessee, but how it got to Texas is quite the tale. As it says on the website: “There’s a pretty great story behind how it came to be involving a high school girlfriend and a kidney donation to a stranger, but you’ll have to ask in person.” (We got the story, but we don’t want to give it away here.)
Amurica TX is usually parked in front of a popular venue, and when you pop inside you’ll discover prop heaven. But the magic doesn’t lie in the crazy props. (And trust us, they are crazy.) Its secret sauce lies with Alicia, the fair maiden who operates it. Alicia manages to put everyone completely at ease, drawing great pictures from individuals who might normally feel awkward in front of a camera. Getting your photo taken is free but buying a print starts at $10. We suspect you’ll want to buy all four for $20, though. Digital downloads are free with your purchase. To find out where the booth is going to be located each weekend, visit its Facebook page.
All good things must come to an end…
This is our final post from our time in Austin. In you’re planning a trip to Austin, check out our other Austin posts as well:
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