Two years ago, at the beginning of March, I joined three of my best friends for a trip to Austin, to explore the cute and quirky capital of Texas in all her glory. Our visit occurred right as SXSW was gearing up, so we were able to explore the city and check out the weird and wonderful places it had to offer before things got crazy. We ate tacos, we went inside kitschy stores, we basked in the sunshine, and yes, we even danced to Shania Twain.
After getting settled into our charming Airbnb in East Austin, we headed out on our first night for a drink, only to find the hip dive bar we had chosen was closing early due to a possible ice storm that was supposedly incoming. Visiting from Pittsburgh, we found this situation to be quite comical. It never ended up snowing, but everyone in Austin seemed terrified just the same.
The next morning, greeted with blue skies, and no ice on the ground, we headed downtown and walked around the enormous capitol building, which is very reminiscent of the US Capitol in DC, its light brown color the major component setting it apart. We tried our best to avoid interacting with any conservative Republicans at all costs, and I believe we succeeded.
We walked from downtown alongside the Colorado River for a bit, slowly making our way to South Congress where we found an abundance of curated shops and boutiques that were bursting with strange tchotchkes, colorful artworks, and vintage threads. One of my favorite spots was Uncommon Objects, which boasts rare antiques, taxidermy, golden oddities, and somewhat terrifying eccentric pieces you are unlikely to find anywhere else. The space is divided into rooms that are often organized by grouping similar colors and materials together, providing an entertaining shopping experience. I treated myself to an oversized piece of dried out coral for a souvenir.
Another day found us at Hope Outdoor Gallery, where vibrant murals, graffiti, and street art commingles together in one space, covering the remnants of a failed condo development that was never completed. Built on a hillside that offers impressive views of the downtown skyline, it's fun to walk around and put yourself in the various nooks and crannies of the complex, where interesting depictions are painted onto the concrete in a variety of contrasting combinations.
That night, we went out dancing at Barbarella for their 80s night, and I may or may not have had one too many kombucha cocktails. The next day we made our way to Zilker Park. This expansive green space lies at the edge of the Colorado River and overlooks downtown in the distance. We played with a bunch of friendly dogs and then checked out the lovely botanical gardens. While my friends decided to have a photo shoot and act like it was times for senior pictures, part two, I wandered around the many themed gardens and lost myself in the foliage.
Austin seems proud of all of its quirks and weirdness, so I thought our final day in the city should embrace this trend we'd been finding everywhere. I recommended we check out the Cathedral of Junk, a spectacular shrine of discarded materials shaped into a massive structure that has caverns, balconies, and staircases. Built in a man's backyard on the south side of Austin, the Cathedral of Junk is the kind of place you have to visit to truly understand what it's all about. Constructed from baby doll heads, crutches, cds, street signs, hubcaps, piggy banks, typewriters, bicycles, and anything else you can imagine, it's a magnificent temple of the bizarre. I was honestly perplexed we didn't have to sign a liability waiver to climb atop this castle of crap.
We said goodbye to this peculiar, abnormally beautiful construction and started to accept that it would soon be time to say goodbye to Austin altogether. Before leaving, we had brunch at Hillside Farmacy, drank a ton of mimosas, and chatted gleefully about all of the whimsical places we had discovered during our visit. Austin is an entity all its own when compared to the rest of Texas, as I've been to other cities in the state previously. This metropolitan Texan flavor was a refreshing vibe I was happy to drink up. When a city can accept its quirks, and in turn, allow itself to push the boundaries of what's acceptable, we're all bound to learn more about what kind of creations we can make.
Rose Turley currently lives in Washington, D.C. and juggles being an oncology nurse/cat mom/girlfriend/Target lady. She is perpetually in search of mountain views, floral landscapes, live music, and delicious craft beer.