When I started college, I kicked off my journey towards higher education at a university in the tiny town of Abilene, Texas. It’s not the biggest town in the world, and is crammed full of college kids attending one of the three universities in the city, or military families living at Dyess Air Force Base. Like most small-ish towns in west Texas, there wasn’t a lot to do there. To play off of that sleepy reputation, a local coffee shop called Monks started selling shirts that were emblazened with the phrase “Keep Abilene Boring.” It was funny and cute, and mainly a response to the shirts you’d see many Austin-ites wearing around town that said “Keep Austin Weird”.
I had a “Keep Abilene Boring” shirt at one time–and now that I think of it, I have literally no clue what happened to it–but I was always so mystified with the Austin version. What made Austin so wonderfully weird that locals and tourists literally wore articles of clothing praising its weirdness? Well, last weekend I got to witness Austin’s wonderful weirdness first hand–at least, I got to see a portion of it.
Several of my in-laws live in Austin, so this trip was long overdue. Last weekend, we finally made the journey to the weirdest city in Texas to watch my husband’s cousin marry the girl of his dreams. The wedding was lovely, of course, and they had fun little infusions of geek and pop culture, which I loved. They used songs from both The Princess Bride and Star Wars in the ceremony, and they had this fantastic cake-topper:
But in addition to the wedding festivities, we also packed a few extra days into our trip to make sure we could really experience what the city had to offer. I had a few plans, but left most of the trip unplanned so we could sort of go wherever the Austin winds took us. I didn’t want to try to fit every single Austin sight into this one trip, and I figured if we planned out every moment we wouldn’t get to actually enjoy the trip, instead we’d be too focused on seeing ALL THE THINGS. So while we didn’t see everything Austin had to offer–and we also spent a day in San Antonio visiting family, seeing my old house and school, remembering the Alamo, and eating Mexican food on the River Walk–we did get to see some pretty great stuff. Here were some of the highlights:
Unbeknownst to us, Emerald Tavern was within a few minutes from our hotel. Because of this, we spent quite a bit of time here. The atmosphere was great (loved the section dedicated to Tabletop), the staff was friendly, and they tons of demo games you could play as you sipped your coffee. It made Emerald Tavern SUCH a rad place to lose a few hours. We also played a new card game called Gloom.
This game is ridiculous, and a ton of fun. The object is simple: make your family suffer terrible (and ridiculous) fates, until they finally experience the sweet relief of death. I know. It doesn’t sound like a fun and hilarious game, but it totally was. Pick yourself up a copy–you won’t regret it.
This place was great–and like Emerald, it wasn’t too far from our hotel. Game Over had TONS of games to browse–even Atari games–and a few demos you could play. It was tough to not buy any game that sounded interesting for our N64 and our Nintendo NES–I mean, where else can you find a store filled with games for those consoles–but we managed to resist. I did, however, walk out with a copy of Fable II for my 360. I just couldn’t help myself.
Another one very close to our hotel–which, the hotel’s proximity to so many fun places was a total accident–was Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy. This place is a comic book store, a game store, and as well as a “geek miscellany” store. Collectibles, clothes, and cosplay makeup? You name it, and these guys probably carry it. This was another one that had a cool section devoted to Tabletop decorated with tiny Wil Wheaton dolls, which almost made it feel a bit more like a Wheaton shrine than anything else. These guys also had several demo games you could try out in-store in addition to the TONS of shiny things you could look at and buy. We didn’t spend as much time here as we did Emerald (no coffee at Dragon’s Lair, so, you know…), but the store was AMAZING and made us wish we had something like it back home.
This store was AMAZING. I have never been in an antique/thrift store like this one. Not only did Uncommon Objects have your normal antique fare like china, phones, and books, it also had totally random stuff like pictures (I came thisclose to buying a creepy picture of two Victorian ladies standing on a fence that looked like they were actually levitating), medical slides (from the cellular-level stuff to gross decomposing bodies), deeds, and really anything else a person from the past would have used. There was SO MUCH to look at, and I wish I could show you some of the magic that I saw, but they had a no photography rule. While I’m sure I could have snuck a photo or two in, I decided not to rock the boat. #RuleFollower. But seriously, this store was the COOLEST, weirdest store I’ve ever been in. Loved it.
Of course, we also just walked around and enjoyed the city. We ate on Lake Austin, we explored downtown, we played at a video arcade in a shopping center ominously named The Domain, and we checked out the shops Congress Avenue.
We only saw a fraction of Austin, to be certain, but I LOVED what we got to experience. The city has so much culture and life, and it felt like every place we went had a bit of a different flavor to it. Really, the only thing that could have made the trip more exciting would have been getting a Jared Padalecki or Jensen Ackles sighting out of it (they were at VanCon that weekend). Celeb sightings or not, this city is fantastic, and it was as wonderfully weird as I hoped. You’re my new favorite, Austin. I can’t wait to go back.
Have you been to Austin? What’s your favorite thing to see there? Where have you traveled lately? Tell me about it in the comments!
All photos copyright Kendall Ashley