7 Unusual Things to Do in Austin

When you’re thinking about things to do in Austin Texas, you’re thinking Music. The way Flagstaff fuels memories of the Grand Canyon or New York conjures images of everything else. Austin is the “live music capital of the world” or so its official motto reads. However, there are other fun things to do in Austin you might not associate with the city. A donkey birthday bash; ballet from the country’s 11th largest dance academy; five pro sports teams; the only official clothing-optional public park in Texas. Austin didn’t get to be the nation’s 11th largest city by sitting around, and places and events like these reflect that.

1. Exchange ideas at SXSW

SXSW stands for South by Southwest, a ten-day cluster of technology conferences, films, seminars, interactive media displays and, of course, music. All is geared toward turning Austin into the world’s largest think tank between March 10 and 19 this year. About 60,000 are expected at the Austin Convention Center and nearby venues.

Musicians, tech merchants, business partners, marketing specialists and just plain folk converge in a true exchange of ideas on art, hard science and the future of the city, the country and the world. The website will direct you its networking area. There you can arrange meet-ups, and look for other things to do in Austin. Check the SXSW schedule for ideas on your next great breakthrough. The convention center is located at 500 East Cesar Chavez St. downtown.

2. Discover the History of Texas Under One Roof

In 1684, Capt. Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, had set out to claim Texas for the French from the La Belle. This was one of four ships he commanded in an exploration of the Gulf of Mexico. But one false move was followed by a shipwreck that killed most of the 35 aboard as Cavalier was murdered by his own men.

The Bullock Museum is Austin’s anchor nod to Texas history. It features a reassembled La Belle alongside scores of photos, documents and special exhibits integral to the story of Texas’ evolution as the 28th state of the Union. The museum, decidedly one of the impressive things to do in Austin, is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. It is located at 1800 Congress Ave. downtown. Admissions are $9 to $13.

3. Get One More Shot At Eeyore

You know him. You love him. And every year, even with so many different things to do in Austin, you hope he loves you back. But Eeyore — the glum little stuffed donkey from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh children’s book series — is a tough nut to crack, always thinking the worst of everybody and everything, including himself. Austin, it seems, isn’t giving up.

Its 54th Eeyore’s Birthday Party is set for Saturday, April 29 at the city’s Pease District Park, 1100 Kingsbury St., from 11 a.m. until dark. Eeyore thought everybody forgot his big day one year, only to find that they were preparing him a surprise bash like this one, with its games, face painting, maypoles, kids costume contest, live nonamplified music, Texas beer and miles of food. The party raises funds for some 90 Austin nonprofit groups. Admission is free.

4. Sunbathe at the Hippie Hollow Park

Most everybody looking for things to do in Austin loves Hippie Hollow Park. It is located at 7000 Comanche Trail about a half-hour drive from downtown and rests in the basin of Lake Travis. This lake is so gorgeous you wouldn’t know it was originally built as a flood control measure. The park’s steep shorelines are ideal for taking in the lake and overlook bird habitat protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Trails are disabled-accessible.

There are also designated swimming areas (no lifeguards are on duty). This is also Texas’ only clothing-optional public park. As such is popular with sunbathers. However, park officials promise that lewd behavior is a sure ticket home. Entry to the park is prohibited for those younger than 18. Dogs, glass containers, fireworks, ground fires and public alcohol consumption are prohibited in the interest of an enjoyable visitor experience.

5. See the Mural Graffiti at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery

It looks like the vestiges of a condo project that never took hold. And that’s because that’s exactly what it is. Once the investors let it lie fallow, the artists took their turn at seeing whose graffiti and murals would last the longest. But the Baylor Street Art Wall somehow touched the community as a city attraction in its own right — and today, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery is a prime site for things to do in Austin.

From gardening classes, school field trips and live art projects to birthday parties, there is something fun to do for everybody. With the owners’ blessings, local artists leap at the chance to participate in mural projects where once a tag had blighted the Lamar Boulevard locale near 11th Street. With an ID, a completed questionnaire and a rendering of your design, you can do the same. To learn more, email murals@hopecampaign.org.

6. Life’s a Dance at Ballet Austin

Superior instruction” the prevailing wisdom at Ballet Austin reads, “makes exceptional dancers.” You might want to recall that if you attend a recital. The education at Ballet Austin Academy is absolutely first rate.  The instructors intent on instilling the self-confidence and technique vital to careers in dance for their 900 students.

The 30-member Ballet Austin dance troupe is the nation’s 11th largest. It celebrated its 60th year with a visit to China last fall. Performances at the Butler Dance Education Center, 501 West Third St., are fueled through aggressive outreach campaigns. They are a dedication to “classically innovative” democratization of arts and arts programs. In a city known far and wide for its music scene, Ballet Austin is an anchor for artistic success of a wonderfully different kind. Find more information and a schedule of upcoming performances at the company website.

7. This Is the Sporting Thing to Do

At a population of 930,000, Austin is the largest U.S. city without a major professional sports franchise. The current climate of athletic expansionism means that the city may crack the barrier sooner than later . But that doesn’t mean the visitor has to deprive himself until that red-letter day. Austin’s sports scene is as diverse as its music climate. There is everything from basketball to Roller Derby figuring in the mix. Did you know, for example, that the NBA has what it calls a D League? The local entry would be the Austin Spurs, which scored the league championship in 2012.

Austin is also home to the Texas Stars, the American Hockey Club affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Even Frisbee tossing is a staple here, with the Austin Sol competing in the American Ultimate Disc League. Charity league football, Triple-A baseball, sports of all kinds on the University of Texas campus. There may not be a New York Yankees here, but it’s clear that “Austin” and “sports” belong in the same sentence. For more sports-oriented things to do in Austin, see Austin Sports. This is a comprhensive website on all of them. Get ready to buy your ticket.

Zilker Metropolitan Park; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library; the Texas State Capitol building; more bars and restaurants than you could hope to count: Austin is one of the country’s premiere urban growth centers, with a roster of attractions that rivals the size of the state. Get ready to indulge in any and all things to do in Austin Texas. Expect a colossal hospitality factor to accompany you through every sight, taste and sound. If you plan to visit other wonderful Texas cities, you can take a look at Houston, and Dallas.

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