Cathedral of Junk: Austin Bucket List for 2015

2015 Austin Bucket Lists

We say it all the time, but we do truly believe it: Austin is an amazing place to raise a family. With this in mind, we’re on a mission to go discover all the things which make our town special. To help get out more without getting overwhelmed, we came up with the Austin Bucket List project. Each year, we pick 10 things we’d like to do in Austin — with or without our kids. That sounds doable, doesn’t it? Then, we document our adventures here, with the idea of getting each of you inspired to do the same.

What’s an endeavor like this without a few friends along for the ride? We asked our blogger friends in Austin who’d like to join us on the Austin Bucket List project, and we were thrilled to have several takers. First up is Skye Kilean, who is embarking upon her second year of crossing off bucket list items and shares with us her experience visiting the Cathedral of Junk with her son. Here’s what she had to say:

If “Keep Austin Weird” was a religion, the Cathedral of Junk at 4422 Lareina Drive would be its premier place of worship. It’s a multi-story structure made out of all kinds of stuff, from concrete-filled tires to old CDs, street signs, glass bottles, and toys.

From the concept, I figured my seven year old son would like it, since he’s kind of a magpie. But I had very little idea what to expect. A building made out of trash in someone’s backyard? I felt a little awkward calling Vince Hannemann, the creator, to ask if we could stop by. It feels very retro in an age of email! I got over it and called (512-299-7413) on a Saturday in the late morning. He was out in the yard playing with his neighbor’s dog, so he said to come on over. Two things he’ll tell you: he asks for a $10 donation per group, and please park on St. Elmo and walk down so the neighborhood doesn’t get crowded with cars.

The Cathedral is in the backyard of a house in a regular-looking neighborhood, off South Congress just south of Ben White. Boy Detective easily guessed which house:

When we arrived, it was pretty clear that many people do NOT call ahead, and some are kind of difficult about it. So I was glad that other sites had given me the heads up on the etiquette.

We waited a few minutes at the gate until Mr. Hannemann came out to let us in, greeting us warmly. He gave a few tips on checking out the structure and then we were off.

I had thought our kiddo would get a kick out of it, but I wasn’t prepared to have my breath taken away too.

It reminded me of a post-apocalyptic urban setting in a video game or a movie, where survivors have created life anew using fragments of the old world. Extreme upcycling? Whatever the term, it’s gorgeous.

AdvertisementIt’s about the same size as his actual house, as far as I could tell. Inside the first story, there are various hallways that lead to interesting spaces.

There are several color-themed sections, and two staircases to small upper rooms.


Though the Cathedral has been inspected for safety, I only felt secure on the yellow staircase myself. The other one is extremely narrow and I didn’t much care for the small platform at the top of it.

I am SO glad we did not take Boy Detective there when he was younger! While there isn’t a “no touching” policy, a few years ago we’d have been prying his hands off every item embedded in the walls or wire-wrapped to columns.

At seven years old, he was able to respect the space, and mostly stay in our view except when he got really excited. He learned his way around quickly and spent almost an hour circulating through various places and even trying to show strangers his newfound favorites. For an artsy kid, or a collector, it’s like heaven. He’s has already started talking about what he’d do if we could have one in our backyard.

If you’re planning a trip:

  • Budget about an hour so you have time to look at everything and really take it all in. Past an hour, you may be tired of chasing your kid, or just need a break from the visual stimuli.
  • The inside of the Cathedral is shady, but on hot and sunny days, the top floors might not be as fun.
  • We weren’t able to figure out good parking on St. Elmo (it has a bike lane!), so we parked a couple of blocks away in the neighborhood. Once I saw how many people didn’t research ahead and just showed up, though, I felt bad because it does lead to a concentration of cars. So, take the extra few minutes to scope the parking situation.
  • It’s smart to buddy up with another few people, since the $10 admission fee covers a group.

It was a good choice for us that day because we didn’t need to run him ragged, but we all needed to get out of the house for a little bit for some fresh air, sunshine, and a change of pace. Check, check, and check!

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. June Summer Fun Checklist Item: Check Out the Cathedral of Junk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.