DISTRICT IN REVIEW: SOUTH CONGRESS
It may only be one stretch of road, but South Congress stands out as a vibrant Austin neighborhood, enough so that it's earned its own nickname. "SoCo" is jam-packed with restaurants, bars, boutiques and music venues, as well as an eclectic group of food trucks and street vendors, making it a standout destination for visitors and residents to get a taste of Austin's dynamic vibe, all in one place. Here's a sample of what you'll discover on South Congress:
The smattering of retail shops and boutiques in SoCo is paradise for those who love to shop, or just to find a unique gift or souvenir. Stop by Parts & Labour for an "All Texas All the Time" keepsake made by local crafters and artists. Repurposed vintage clothes, elegant jewelry and funky accessories can all be found here. Uncommon Objects is a quirky shop selling antiques, vintage items and obscure objects galore.
Folk arts and crafts from around the world can be found at Tesoros, displaying distinct items like a recycled foil bud vase from Vietnam and Nepalese drawstring pouches. In need of the perfect vintage costume? Spend a few hours browsing Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, a huge emporium packed with adult and children's costumes, masks, wigs, props, hats – the list goes on.
For something slightly more high-end, visit the Kendra Scott flagship store and peruse the classic jewelry created by the designer and worn by some of today's biggest celebrities. Then satisfy your sweet tooth with a trip to Big Top Candy Shop for sweets and old-fashioned fountain sodas.
When in town, be sure to check out First Thursdays on South Congress, when shops stay open late and sidewalks fill with vendors and musicians. On the weekends, craft and vendor booths set up shop, providing even more only-in-Austin finds.
Refuel with a stop at South Congress Café. You can't go wrong at brunch with migas, made-from-scratch tortillas topped with eggs, black beans and chipotle hot sauce. Snack Bar is a retro, diner-style restaurant that cooks up simple dishes with locally grown ingredients and regional flare. If you love pasta, head to Botticelli's, which offers authentic and creative Italian dishes. Take a seat in the oak-canopied beer garden and enjoy some live music with your meal. Try the tacos al pastor and a hand-shaken margarita at Güero's Taco Bar, an Austin landmark for nearly two decades.
If you are in the mood for live music, make it your mission to stop by the Continental Club (pictured). A renowned Austin institution since 1957, the club showcases musical acts from famed Texas artists to up-and-comers. The Continental Club Gallery, just two doors up, offers a fusion of revolving art displays, mellow jazz and craft cocktails. Even if you're not a guest at the Hotel San Jose, you can still sip a locally inspired cocktail in the courtyard and enjoy the sounds of DJs spinning laid-back tracks.