Keep Austin Weird. What does that even mean? Is it just a self-proclaimed slogan we slap on coffee mugs to sell at gift shops? Is Austin even that weird, or are we just a bunch of hipsters who want you to think so?
I’ve been doing a bit of exploring to get to the bottom of this. My verdict? Yep, Austin’s weird.
Before I get into some examples of said weirdness, here’s a fun fact: “Keep Austin Weird” was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance as a way to promote local, small businesses. Since being introduced, the slogan has inspired a cultural evolution, opposing commercialism and encouraging the city to instead adopt a sense of individuality. So think of it as a movement, rather than merely a slogan.
Anyway, enough with the history lesson. Let’s get to it. You want weird? Here are five can’t miss things to do in Austin that keep our weirdness alive.
Austin Panic Room
You know that smartphone game where you’re locked in a room and need to search for clues in order to escape? Austin Panic Room is pretty much that, but in real life. It’s puzzle-solving at its best, and one of the most uniquely entertaining ways to spend an hour with friends or co-workers.
Grab a group of up to 10 people, and book one of the two rooms that are available. The themes of these rooms change every six months or so, but right now they’re labeled the “Bomb” room and the “Museum” room.
Once your group is placed inside, the door will lock and you’ll be given a story and a few objectives to complete before time runs out. Talk about an adrenaline rush! Don’t worry, they do let you out eventually if you can’t figure the puzzle out for yourselves.
1205 Rio Grande Street – Website
Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow
A photo posted by Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas (@drafthouse) on
Alamo Drafthouse is awesomely weird in general. For instance, every Friday and Saturday throughout the month of July, you can attend a Master Pancake event. Essentially, they play a well known movie and have comics stand on stage and make a comedy show out if it. Hilarious.
Another rotating event hosted by the Drafthouse is their Rolling Roadshow series. They literally take the show on the road and play a movie in its own element. Imagine watching Friday the 13th in the woods, or Snowpiercer on a train.
What’s on tap in July? How about watching Jaws while floating on a tube in the water? Yes, that’s really happening. There are two showings, so grab your tickets here. Road trip!
Fifth Annual Quesoff
Mohawk is a much loved bar and music venue, but it also happens to be a great place to nacho yourself into a food coma. Every year in July they host a Quesoff, where contestants enter their best queso recipes under one of five categories: Meaty, Spicy, Veggie, Wild Card and Quac.
You can enter the contest yourself, or pay $5 for a bag of chips and queso the day away.
I put this in the category of weird for two reasons: 1) We love our queso here in Austin, and some people go crazy over this event. 2) Some of the recipes people come up with are extremely unique (and delicious). It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Just be sure to leave room for a beer or two.
July 11, 2015 – 912 Red River – Website
The Mean-Eyed Cat
The word “eclectic” gets thrown around way too much in these parts. However, I don’t think there’s a better word to describe this downtown gem. The Mean-Eyed Cat is the Johnny Cash-inspired bar you never knew you needed. Featuring a laidback vibe, relentlessly original decor, good live music and a potent array of Johhny memorabilia, this is as authentic as it gets when it comes to Austin’s weird side.
Especially considering they recently partnered with Stubb’s BBQ for their menu items, this is a perfect example of what “keeping it weird” is all about: local businesses delivering experiences you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Make sure to pay your respects to the Man in Black with the Orange Blossom cocktail. You’re welcome.
1621 W 5th Street – Website
Museum of the Weird
If you couldn’t tell from the name, Museum of the Weird fits right into the conversation when we’re talking about weird. Located in the heart of downtown, this side-show hub delivers a surprisingly robust collection of things like a two-headed sheep, the Ice Man and pretty much everything in between. Some of the exhibits can be a bit on the disturbing side depending on your taste, but it’s a cheap and entertaining way to kill 45 minutes.
The best part is the end of the tour when you’re treated to a mini show. The welcoming and appreciative performer is actually quite impressive. Prepare to be shocked (see what I did there? Hint hint.)!
412 E 6th Street – Website
Whether you’re judging queso contests or intentionally locking yourself in a panic room, the important thing to remember is that “keeping it weird” is not just an empty statement someone made up. Local businesses and the people they attract are what make Austin such a unique place. We’re weird and proud of it. Get out and see for yourself!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are other weird things to do in Austin? Let us know in the comments below!
Andrew Chase is a marketing professional and aspiring writer who recently relocated from Boston. He enjoys sports, film and travel. Follow him on Instagram @andychuckchase.