If you’re near the Austin area or are thinking of moving here, there’s something you should know: South Austin is funky!

Perhaps the best representation of Austin’s classic weird factor, south Austin is a multi-generational melting pot of hipsters and hippies (yes, they’re different), yuppies, nerds, and more. Driving down South Congress and Slaughter Lane, you will see unconventional house and car art, quirky shops and restaurants, and even the occasional cedar tree decked out in Christmas garland.

As Austin grows, it’s becoming more and more difficult to define where central Austin ends and south Austin begins, so we’re (unofficially) calling it. We consider south Austin to begin at U.S. 290/Hwy. 71. Sorry, south of the river: You’re cool but that’s still midtown.

There are a great many treasures littered around south Austin, but who is going to read a 500-item list of anything? So, we picked 15 weird and wonderful things to do when you’re hanging out near Austin’s southern border. All of them are worth your time.

Grab drinks and a movie at Alamo Drafthouse

A "Ninja Turtles" mural on the side of the Slaughter Lane Alamo Drafthouse. Photo: Stephen C. Webster.

A “Ninja Turtles” mural on the side of the Slaughter Lane Alamo Drafthouse. Photo: Stephen C. Webster.

When in the mood for a movie, Alamo Drafthouse is a no-brainer for many Austinites. The beers are locally brewed, the feature films range from old classics to present-day blockbusters, and the workers have mad spy skills, no lie. You might be able to get away with texting during a movie in any other theater, but at the Drafthouse, you’ll be caught and ousted before you can type the “K” that once seemed so important. Plus, check out the “Ninja Turtles” mural they put up recently at the Slaughter Lane location (pictured). That’s totally radical!

5701 W Slaughter Ln. 512-861-7060. Showtimes vary. General admission after 6 p.m. $10.50 ($13.50 for 3D), matinees $7.75 ($11.25 3D) with discounts for children 11 and under, seniors, college students, military personnel, Austin Film Society and Austin Film Festival members. Website.

Hike, bike, fish!

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A cub scout learns to fish at McKinney Falls State Park. Photo: Flickr user Roy Niswanger, creative commons licensed

The natural opportunities are plentiful south of the downtown grind. There’s McKinney Falls, a gem of a state park that features nearly 10 miles of wooded hiking trails, two amazing natural swimming holes, and a 500 year-old tree with a title. Onion Creek Metropolitan Park is a 170-acre, off-leash park with a playscape for the kiddies and a system of lovely shaded nature trails with creek access. If those options don’t strike your fancy, try exploring the Williamson Creek Greenbelt, a ribbon park that borders winding Williamson Creek, the rugged five-mile Slaughter Creek Preserve hike and bike trail, and Stephenson Nature Preserve.

McKinney Falls State Park: 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy near Smith Visitor Center. 512-243-1643. Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Adults $6, children 12 and under get in free. Website.

Onion Creek Metropolitan Park: 7001 Onion Creek Dr. or 8652 Nuckols Crossing Rd. 512-974-6700. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free. Website.  

Williamson Creek Greenbelt: 5120 S 1st St. 512-477-1566. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free. Website.

Slaughter Creek Preserve: 9901 FM 1826, trailhead through automatic gate near Trautwein homestead. 512-477-1566. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free. Website.

Stephenson Nature Preserve: 7501 Longview Rd. 512-974-6700. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free. Website.

Smell the roses at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

purple cone-flower prickly pear cactus lady bird johnson wildflower center

Coneflower and cactus at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo: Flickr user Earl McGehee, creative commons licensed

Speaking of opportunities to explore nature, drop by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to encounter and learn about flowers and plants of all types. As it turns out, the former first lady was something of a conservationist and naturalist in her day, so she and her gal pal Helen Hayes, an actress, founded the Wildflower Center as a way to protect and preserve native flora for future generations. You’ll find flowers blooming year-round!

4801 La Crosse Ave. 512-232-0100. Grounds and Gallery open Tues-Sun 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cafe and store hours vary. Adults $9, Seniors $7, Students $7, Children $3, members and children 4 and under get in free. Website.

Stuff your face at Pieous

pieous pizza pie pizzeria parlor italian

A pizza pie! Photo: Flickr user British Mum, creative commons licensed

Fat Queen. House on Fire. Brussels and Jam. These are just three of the quirky pizza flavors that you can order at Pieous, a locally owned and operated pizzeria in south Austin. The joint’s wood-fired pizzas are delicious, perhaps because they’re made with local ingredients whenever possible. Pieous serves more than pizza, however; the menu is packed full of local brews, sandwiches, desserts, and more.

12005 Hwy 290 W. 512-394-7041. Open Tue-Fri 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and sun 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. MenuWebsite.

Shop ’til you drop

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Austin shoppers stroll along South Congress. Photo: Flickr user Mads Boedker, creative commons licensed

Whether you’re looking for a traditional or thrifty shopping experience, South Austin has you covered. WestGate Shopping Center, Sunset Valley Village, and the Shops at Onion Creek are all places to find department stores, restaurants, and other classic shopping center opportunities. You’ll find half a dozen or so thrift stores along S 1st and W Stassney and a few good more just north of 290/71.

WestGate Shopping Center: 4477 South Lamar Blvd. 512-482-5567. Website.

Sunset Valley Village: 5601 Brodie Ln. 512-476-1771. Website.

The Shops at Onion Creek: 11215 S I 35 Frontage Rd. Website.Hit ‘next’ to see the rest.

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