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Best Hidden Gems in Austin

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The studio and home of artist James Edward Talbot is known as Casa Neverlandia, as everything from its exterior to the art displayed inside represents something out of this world. Once you're done exploring the house, take the plank bridge to the tree house in the back yard, then take the firefighter pole back down to ground level. The museum is open by appointment only, and is definitely worth the planning ahead. The entire house is "green", as in solar panels and the like, so it is definitely a treat for the eco-friendly! Check out his website to know more about Talbot and call to book your visit!

Located inside Austin’s Central Fire Station No. 1, this hidden gem is an interesting museum about the history of the Austin fire department. Learn about how the department used to be run by volunteers and see historic artifacts chronicling how firefighting has evolved over the years, including exhibits with old uniforms and a Hook and Ladder No. 1 lantern. Although this small museum doesn't feature flashy interactive displays, this is a fun place to bring the kids if they're interested in learning more about fire fighting and want to see part of a working fire station along with the historic exhibits.

As part of the Pedernales River and Hamilton Creek, this old-fashioned swimming hole is perfect for the nature lover in all of us. A shaded walk through the canyon opens to the limestone outcroppings that create a 50-foot waterfall landing in the pool. A picnic on the banks of the pool, a swim in the cool water or a quick hike through the canyon will wash away city-accumulated stress. The trail to the pool is fairly short (1/4 of a mile) but does include a series of rock steps. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities should call ahead to pre-arrange assistance. Parking is limited, and the pool is very popular so go early and stay late.

This non-profit organization provides a studio for artists to come and let their creative juices flow into a tangible piece of art. There is also an on-site gallery for anyone to come and see. The complex prefers e-mail for any questions; the contact form can be found on the website.

The former home and studio of German sculptress Elisabet Ney is open to the public for exploration. This home was one of the first buildings erected in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which was developed as a suburb in 1892 by Monroe Martin Shippe. Visitors flock to this museum to view nearly 50 busts and statues of Texas heroes, as well as Europeans she sculpted as a young artist. Her tools and several personal items are also on display. Admission is free.

Thrill seekers, this is the place for you! Skydive San Marcos offers skydiving opportunities for every skill level, from complete beginner to advanced jumper. Skydive San Marcos also offers ground school classes, complete training packages that will take you from novice to expert, tandem jumps, and licensing. The price for each jump or jump-package includes a personal pair of goggles, a professional skydiver logbook, an information manual, and all other gear needed for a successful jump.

Short story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, lived in this home for three years while he spent time in Austin. It was constructed in 1891 and is filled with rare books, O. Henry's writing desk, original furniture, photographs, personal belongings and the chairs that brought The Gift of the Magi to life. Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of this home and its famous occupant. The house has been moved twice since from its original location at 308 East Fourth Street. It now features a gift shop with books, videotapes and more. The museum offers writing clubs for Austin children and sponsors many local events such as the Victorian Christmas celebration and the "O. Henry Pun-Off." Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Charles Umlauf (1911-1994), one of the more famous Austin artists, was a prolific sculptor. This museum displays many of his works in a fantastic garden spot located close to Zilker Park and just minutes from downtown. His sculptures range from realism to abstraction and include families, religious figures, animals and mythological characters.

Austin art from the 1960s is on display here at the South Austin Popular Culture Center for all to come and see. Visitors can visually notice the changing times in the production art in the gallery. Appointments can also be made, call or see the website for more information.

Located in Austin's Hyde Park neighborhood, Mondo Gallery is a film buff's haven. Inside, patrons will find action figures, customized posters, stickers, and T-shirts of cult film favorites (Troll 2, anyone?). Why would you just want to peruse the artworks when you can purchase some to adorn your walls at home? The staff at Mondo also sells DVDs and VHSs of rare, obscure, cult films. You can also get a tee shirt with a poster of your favorite film printed on it.

Tucked away in the backyard of a residential neighborhood is the Cathedral of Junk, a work in progress over 20 years in the making. Created by Vince Hanneman, the Cathedral turns old and discarded items into an ever-evolving structural work of art. Using old tires, hubcaps, all manner of metal scraps, pipes and more, Hanneman works and reworks the multi-level space into a playground of sorts for adults and children alike. As far out as it is, the Cathedral of Junk is, surprisingly, invisible from the street in front of it — only upon entering the backyard are visitors met with the mass of tangled metal and functioning electric items.

Museum of the Weird is a locally-owned museum in the Sixth Street area of Austin. With its inventory of curios and classic horror charm, Museum of the Weird is worth a visit for those in the area. The walk-through museum doesn't take long but it's packed with the unexplained, freaky and supernatural wonders of the world. The museum has their own house acts with live weird and wonderful attractions that will definitely keep your attention. There's a gift shop that is free to enter.

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