Magical Mystery Mall

Highland Mall hidden gems: Weird things you can only do at Austin's oddest mall

The weird things you can only do at Highland Mall

Highland Mall
For all your dress needs. Photo by Kelly Stocker
Highland Mall Eco ATM
Exchange your old cell phones for cold hard cash. Photo by Kelly Stocker
Highland Mall food court
WB Chicken & Waffles wasn't open, but we'll be back. Photo by Kelly Stocker
Hurricane simulator Highland Mall
Where else in Austin can you simulate a hurricane? Photo by Kelly Stocker
Highland Mall
A hidden gem: La Chaparrita dishes up delicious Peruvian dishes. Photo by Kelly Stocker
Highland Mall
Highland Mall Eco ATM
Highland Mall food court
Hurricane simulator Highland Mall
Highland Mall

When you think of Highland Mall, you may imagine a scene straight out of The Walking Dead. What you’ll find instead are businesses that are few but mighty. You can do things here that you can’t do in any other mall — and we're not just talking about in the parking lot (hey-o!). Trading cell phones at an eco-ATM for cold hard cash, experiencing a “real life” hurricane and drinking (naturally) are just a few of the secret gems hidden in the Highland.

Buy wardrobe staples
El Palacio de la Quinceañera showcases a veritable rainbow of dresses festooned with sequins, taffeta and tulle. Mall anchors Aeropostale, Claires, Journeys and Wet Seal as well as lesser known retailers like Jimmy Jazz and SenSe still have the lights on. Stop by — clerks would love a distraction from endless Facebook surfing.

Get in the ring
Boxing phenom Ann Wolfe simultaneously held world titles in four different weight classes, the only boxer — man or woman — to do so. This eight-time world boxing champ founded Ann Wolfe Boxing & Fitness, a training studio, and Get off the Ropes, a nonprofit geared towards at-risk and disadvantaged youth and adults. She has an entire boxing gym set up (ring and all) in the heart of the mall that looks pretty intimidating.

Dance like no one is watching
Recently featured in O! Magazine, Ballet Afrique has a beautiful space in the mall filled with wood floors, sleek lines and adorable kids in leotards. The company employs a synthesis of ballet, modern and African dance and hosts classes for both aspiring and professional artists.

Get married
There’s a mysterious space called the Highland Ballroom. It’s a large, open event space set up like a party is about to happen at any minute. If you can get over the fact that it’s in a mall, and can get ahold of the owner (which proved difficult), it would be a legit spot for a wedding or anniversary celebration.

Eat and drink
Sauced offers salads, pastas and pizzas with hand-rolled, house-made crust and locally sourced ingredients. The pizza joint serves beer and wine and hosts special events like Vegan Pizza Day and a game night. La Chaparrita, one of Austin's hidden gems, dishes up traditional Peruvian specialties like lomo saltado, aji de gallina, puerco de adobo and Peruvian beers Cusquena and Cristal. WB’s Chicken & Waffles had a "be back later" sign — and we will.

Kick up the caffeine
Need a jolt? Bold Street Coffee is just down the escalators. In addition to brewing traditional coffee beverages, Bold Street features specialty flavored creations like banana nut bread, salted caramel, maple cookie and cinnamon bun. Not in the mood for coffee? You can also grab a Maine Root soda, tea, bagel or a caramel praline sundae. 

See a movie
Located next to Highland Mall, Galaxy Highland 10 has completely digital sound and picture that rivals any other movie house. Kick back in D-BOX motion seats and snag $6 Tuesday movie tickets for rewards members, free refills on large drink/large popcorn and all-you-can-shake-out popcorn toppings (white cheddar, parmesan garlic or caramel cinnamon).

Go to Fantastic Magic Camp
Ensure your child’s future as an entertainer. Kids ages 5 - 13 can learn magic, juggling, puppetry, ventriloquism, clowning, balloon sculpture and more. Every day ends with a show by a professional magician or variety entertainer. 

Walk a 5K
Remember when mall walking was a thing? This mall is so empty you can easily pound out a couple miles any time of day. Save yourself the gym membership and enjoy free AC, empty hallways and turn that C&C Music Factory all the way up to 11.

Get culture-fied
Austin Playhouse puts on professional productions of classic, contemporary and musical plays. Upcoming shows for the 15th season include Time Stands Still, Sherlock Holmes & the Case of the Jersey Lily and Chicago.