You could spend a week in Central Austin and still find new things to do, eat and buy. From country bars to culinary feats, this area is well worth exploring. The energy of collegiate culture abounds around the University of Texas and the North Campus/Hyde Park neighborhoods, while the North Loop and Airport neighborhoods are home to dive bars, decadent dinners and vintage shops galore. Spend an entire day (or more) enjoying the area's wide range of food, drink, entertainment and shopping options.

Beer Glass at Pinthouse Pizza in austin texas
Courtesy of Pinthouse Pizza.

DINING

There’s so much food to choose from in Central Austin that it’s hard to narrow down! Carnivores crave Stiles Switch BBQ’s Texas-style ‘cue and cold craft beers. Movie fanatics should check out Top Notch burgers, featured in the film Dazed and Confused. You’ll be transported back to the ‘70s by its drive-in ordering system and retro signage. Texas French Bread nails the simplicity of a European bistro and has a great wine list, to boot. Decadent dishes and decor characterize Fonda San Miguel, an upscale Mexican restaurant known for its Sunday brunch and tasty margaritas. Take a walk on the lighter side with , serving an extensive menu of contemporary Japanese and sushi dishes in a casual atmosphere. Picnik caters to health-conscious patrons in an airy cafe that’s gluten-free, corn-free, peanut-free and soy-free. For something incredibly inventive, try the dishes at Barley Swine, the brainchild of James Beard Award finalist Bryce Gilmore.

Epicerie: A quaint, neighborhood Southern-style French cafe known for their French onion soup and salted chocolate chip cookies.

Peached Tortilla: Asian meets Southern at this hip spot on Burnet Road.

Stinson’s: Enjoy Wi-Fi while you caffeinate and snack on liege waffles. Ask for the housemade buttered coffee and chocolate mocha cake.

Enchiladas Y Mas: Brothers-in-law Robert Martinez and Roumaldo Hernandez whip up family recipes at this family Tex-Mex establishment, serving specialties including fajitas, enchiladas and migas.

Pinthouse Pizza: Choose from more than 40 craft beers and order one of their classic pies - think pepperoni and basil - or build your own. Try a beer and ice cream float for dessert.

Spider House patio bar neon sign in austin texas
Spider House. Credit Jacob Weber Photography.

NIGHTLIFE

Live music and cheap drinks are part of the charm at Hole in the Wall. This gritty campus staple hosts musicians regularly, and is a hangout for original Austinites. On the other end of the spectrum, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop offers artisanal cheeses, cured meats, bread and sundries, plus wine and craft beers. Their Cheese House next door hosts one-of-a-kind classes and events weekly. Night Owl is a solid spot for watching sports and hanging out with neighborhood folks. Catch a game and sample one of their in-house infused liquors. For an entirely different kind of game (board games!), Vigilante is the spot. At this combination game house and gastropub, you can roll solo or bring a group to take advantage of the massive game library and tasty noshes. If it’s Sunday, you’d better be at the Little Longhorn Saloon for Chicken Sh*t Bingo. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. On other days of the week, take a two-step lesson at this iconic honky-tonk and enjoy regular live music.

Cactus Cafe: Situated on the University of Texas, this longstanding venue highlights the area as one of the most noteworthy chords representing the sound of Austin.

Spider House Cafe & Ballroom: A renovated house-turned-coffeshop with a yard full of quirky antiques and year-round twinkle lights. The adjacent ballroom showcases everything from comedy acts to candlelit cabaret.

Tigress Pub: The one-room hideaway pours local draft beers and boasts a specialty cocktail menu. Try the Stone Fence: Moscow mule's winter cousin comprised of bourbon, apple cider, bitters and ginger beer on ice.

Draught House Pub & Brewery: First opened in 1969, visit this craft brewing icon for a pint. Find more than 70 curated beers on tap, along with bar snacks and regular food trucks on site.

Lala’s Little Nugget: Lala’s boasts Christmas all year ’round, with a tree, seasonal decorations and an oldies jukebox.

Modern and Contemporary Galleries at the Blanton Museum
Courtesy of the Blanton Museum.

MUSEUMS & ACTIVITIES

The University of Texas at Austin’s campus is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. Stroll around the sprawling campus, with its iconic tower and verdant knolls, and check out the many museums. Stop in at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities museum that houses artifacts such as the first photograph and a Gutenberg Bible, as well as rotating exhibitions. Take a step back in time at the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum and view exhibits that focus on the president and the major events of the 1960s, including the Vietnam War. The Blanton Museum of Art features important works by Robert Rauschenberg and Thomas Hart Benton.

Elisabet Ney MuseumThis miniature castle was the former home and studio of sculptress Elisabet Ney and features many of her works.

Neill-Cochran House Museum: Experience the everyday lives of some of Austin’s earliest residents at this antebellum house museum, built in 1855.

Guzu Gallery: Get edgy with artwork, vinyl toys, books and peculiar gifts.

Hancock Golf Course: This historic par 35, 9-hole course is a challenging layout with numerous carries up and down hills and over a beautiful creek in the heart of Austin.

AFS Cinema: For film geeks, the Austin Film Society Cinema is a two-screen art house theater (with a full bar and concessions) that shows first-run films, along with restorations, documentaries and independent premieres.

table full of books at bookwoman independent bookstore in austin texas
BookWoman. Credit Susan Post.

SHOPPING

Our thrift scene is fun and funky, and there’s no better place to start than Room Service Vintage, home to a collection of housewares, jewelry, clothing and miscellany. Just down the road, Blue Velvet has an eclectic selection of clothes and accessories that are affordable and fabulous. Monkies Vintage and Thrift is geared toward students with a more casual and contemporary-looking collection. For gifts, there’s no cuter spot than Atown, a boutique selling locally made goods and apparel. If you time it right, they also serve fresh cookies.

Bertha's: One of Austin's best kept secrets, this funky North Loop shop features designer, vintage and eclectic women's wear. 

Breakaway Records: Browse this collectors paradise with a coffee in hand from neighboring Epoch Coffee. The shop specializes in equipment as well as new and used vinyl across all genres.

BookWoman: This one-of-a-kind feminist bookstore is packed with books, T-shirts, jewelry and gifts you won't find anywhere else. They also host poetry events, book festivals and open mic nights.

Atown: Shop local at this beloved boutique, home to goods by 100+ local creatives (think wood cake toppers, apothecary items and stitched wine totes).