Austin is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the country, with a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index. But you won’t find just one “gayborhood” here. The community is integrated throughout this inclusive town, which means that LGBTQ visitors will find a warm welcome wherever they wander.
Check out our two-day itinerary that will direct you to some of the most popular shopping districts, restaurants, nightclubs and gay-owned businesses in Austin.
Radio Coffee & Beer.
Fuel up for the day with an espresso from at Radio Coffee & Beer in South Austin. Then grab a hearty breakfast from on-site patio food truck Veracuz All Natural, where authentic Mexican tacos are made with all natural and fresh ingredients. Also located here is Dee Dee, serving up authentic Northern Thai street-food for lunch and dinner.
Austin is all about the outdoors, so why not join fellow joggers on the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which winds along shimmering waters and has picturesque views of Austin’s skyline. Or, get out on the water with a stand-up paddleboard or kayak rented from a local rental company.
Also check out Zilker Park, a 360-acre dog-friendly oasis in the heart of downtown that’s the site of festivals like Austin City Limits and free performances at Zilker Hillside Theatre. Plus, it’s home to the Zilker Botanical Garden (reserve tickets online in advance), UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum (purchase of advance admission available) and Barton Springs Pool, a historic spring-fed swimming spot that’s also great for people watching.
The Contemporary Austin Jones Center. Courtesy of The Contemporary Austin.
Grab a quick lunch in East Austin at local favorites like vegan-friendly cafe Counter Culture. Or, head down the block for quality slow-smoked meats from LGBTQ-owned la Barbecue and enjoy your 'cue on the outdoor patio. Stop in to Quickie Pickie for locally roasted coffee, 24 taps and fresh, house-made meals from morning to night.
Next, make your way downtown to the Mexic-Arte Museum to view traditional and contemporary Mexican and Latin American art and in a renovated historic building. Make sure to get a snap of the nearby With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress) exhibition by Jim Hodges on the rooftop of The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center. Before leaving downtown, stop by for a picture in front of the tallest piece of public artwork in Austin, the 103-foot rainbow mural Tau Ceti by Josef Kristofoletti.
Make time to shop at some of Austin’s gay-owned stores. Pick up apparel and home accessories exclusively designed by LGBTQIA+ designers at The Little Gay Shop. Find all your fancy picnic fixins’ at Tiny Grocer, which sells locally produced specialty foods and wine. Snag a cool secondhand T-shirt or jacket from Never Knew. Buy a summer feminist read from BookWoman or discover a new author at Reverie Books. And be sure to bring home a toy for your favorite furry friend from Paws on Chicon.
Drag Queen performing in Austin.
For dinner, enjoy the stunning Town Lake views at gay-owned Arlo Grey as you savor the dishes of Top Chef winner Kristin Kish. Located in the LINE Austin hotel, Arlo Grey uses Central Texas ingredients to create dishes like the homemade bucatini tossed with pesto and Texas pecans, or the grilled Texas Wagyu bavette served with pickled local vegetables.
After dinner, get ready to hit the clubs. There are several gay bars centered in the Downtown Warehouse District. Don't miss Highland Lounge, Oilcan Harry’s (a drag queen destination for more than 25 years), the upscale Rain on 4th and The Iron Bear for a Tito's cocktail, cold beer, drag shows and dancing to live DJs.
Austin Motel. Credit Nick Simonite.
Start your day with brunch on the colorful patio at Joann's Fine Foods. Begin with the Michoacán Michelada, paired with the Bodega Sando, an English muffin with smoked turkey, fried egg, cheese, bacon, sprouts, avocado and veggie black beans. Or, enjoy the classic huevos rancheros with refried black beans, hash browns and fresh flour tortillas. Be sure to stop in the hotel shop and snap a pic with the ever-changing, love-focused neon sign at the historic Austin Motel before you go!
Then take a shopping stroll along South Congress Avenue, known for its funky stores and chic boutiques. Check out the leather-lined shelves at Allens Boots, one-of-a-kind gifts and clothing by local artisans at Parts & Labour, moto-inspired gear at Revival Cycles, unique titles and antique books at South Congress Books, modern menswear at Stag and colorful costumes at Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds.
Keep caffeinated with an iced Turbo from the see-and-be-seen Jo's Coffee and snap a souvenir selfie in front of the I love you so much mural painted on the coffee bar’s wall. For a mid-day treat, stop in to the gay-owned Hotel San José and enjoy a refreshing frosé or michelada in the leafy courtyard lounge.
Courtesy of Patika.
Art lovers will want to explore the colorful South Austin neighborhood galleries, with contemporary prints at ART on 5th, local artisans on display at Art for the People Gallery and Mexican and Latin American folk art at Mi Casa Gallery. Or stop by BLK Vinyl and flip through the impressive record collection that includes pop and psychedelic gems from the '60s and '70s. Treat yourself to a blueberry-basil scone or kimchi cheddar biscuit paired with an herbal iced tea on the back patio of gay-owned Patika. Cool off with a cone from the gay-owned Lick Honest Ice Creams, known for their seasonal confections (with flavors like sweet cream and strawberry) made with locally sourced ingredients.
Continue your shopping spree in the trendy West Sixth District, where you can wander the bookshelves at BookPeople, spend hours with the rare vinyl at Waterloo Records and stop in for a healthy snack or glass of wine at the Whole Foods Market flagship store.
Cheer Up Charlies. Credit Nick Simonite.
In the evening, head to the Red River Cultural District for a live show or a themed dance party at Cheer Up Charlies, a lesbian-owned bar and music venue that showcases a diverse range of acts. Kick back in the charming backyard sheltered by a pink parachute canopy and sip a Kombucha served on tap. If it's Tuesday, don't miss Tuezgayz, a local LGBTQ tradition at Barbarella featuring dance tunes that takes place every week.
After the show, head back to East Austin for theater, live music, dives, mezcal bars and plenty of late night eats. See an experimental play at The VORTEX and have a drink at the adjacent, beautiful Butterfly Bar. Dress it up for dinner at the sultry Justine's Brasserie or enjoy upscale ranch-to-table fare at gay-owned Jacoby's. Then hop down the road for drinks on the patios of Lustre Pearl East, Violet Crown Social Club and The Grackle. Or sip a locally brewed beer on the patio at Zilker Brewing Company.