With vibrant arts and culinary scenes and some of the country’s best live music, Austin has emerged as a top tourist destination in the United States. While still relatively small, Austin offers an abundance of activities, so it can be difficult to decide where to spend time. Austin is home to a wide variety of neighborhoods that are worthy exploration, including the following:
1. South Congress
Located across the river from downtown Austin, South Congress has become one of the city’s hippest areas, where tourists will find a number of charming boutiques and cafes. People visiting between March and October should definitely check out the Congress Avenue Bridge, where they can see about 1.5 million bats take part in a nightly migration. South Congress is easily accessed by public transportation. One of the newer attractions in the neighborhood is St. Elmo Public Market, a large facility that features a brewpub, eateries headed by promising young chefs, and space for community events.
While in South Congress, it is worthwhile to check out The Continental Club, which has hosted bands since 1955. Comprising a small stage in a room that is not much bigger, The Continental Club has hosted some of the most famous musical acts in the world over the decades.
2. South Lamar
Many people know Austin for its excellent outdoor attractions, including Zilker Park and Barton Springs. The area around these attractions is known as South Lamar. The neighborhood is quite small but growing quickly due to people who want to be close to popular outdoor spaces. Plus, the area is home to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, and the Hike-and-Bike Trail. In addition, South Lamar is very close to the bustling West 6th District, which is just across the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. West6th is one of the most popular destinations for nighttime fun.
During a visit to South Lamar, tourists may want to check out the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, which displays music posters from the present and examples dating back to the 1960s. The museum also displays paintings, photography, and films that highlight Austin’s rich history of live music. Currently, the museum boasts more than 3,000 objects and more than 10,000 images, photographs, and sound files. Plus, the proceeds from the museum benefit the local neighborhood.
3. East Austin
One of Austin’s most rapidly expanding neighborhoods, East Austin is home to both trendy cocktail joints and old-school dive bars. This part of the city has become a hub for art with several galleries, not to mention great examples of street art. An iconic destination in East Austin remains Whisler’s, which has exposed stone walls lit by large candles that create a medieval feel. The whole bar was redone in 2013 by Scranton Twohey, a legendary bartender, and now serves up innovative craft cocktails. The top floor of Whisler’s is actually Mezcaleria Tobala, which is modeled on a traditional Oaxacan mezcal bar.
East Austin is close to East 6th, another bustling area with great food. A perennial favorite here is Via 313, which serves Detroit-style pizza, as well as bar-style pies with a thinner crust. This area also features Holy Roller, a punk-rock restaurant with a roller derby theme, and the Whole Foods Market flagship store. Tourists should check the schedule at BookPeople, which frequently holds events with celebrated authors.
4. Red River Culture District
Red River is the heart of Austin’s live music scene. The neighborhood encompasses only three blocks, but it features a number of great clubs, exciting bars, and delicious diners. What makes Red River so unique is the fact that virtually all types of music are represented, from hillbilly rock to more extravagant cabaret. Despite the diversity represented in Red River, the neighborhood has a strong sense of community that even people who are visiting can appreciate.
Some of the top destinations in the neighborhood include Cheer Up Charlies, The Sidewinder, Empire Control Room & Garage, and Palm Door on Sixth. Red River should definitely be a destination for anyone who wants to enjoy Austin’s nightlife.
5. North Loop
Located about 10 miles north of downtown, North Loop is a relaxed neighborhood ideal for those who love vintage items. Five of Austin’s top vintage shops are located in North Loop next door to each other. These shops offer home decor, clothing, vinyl, and more. The entire neighborhood has a very bohemian vibe that can provide a break from the faster-paced parts of the city.
Something to check out in North Loop is the Austin Film Society, founded by Richard Linklater in 1985. This organization features Texas filmmakers and screens hundreds of movies annually. Tourists should also check out Workhorse Bar, a dive with a wide jukebox selection and a great menu featuring comfort food items. Also, the bar has an incredible beer selection featuring many local Austin brews.