Get to Know Austin's Entertainment Districts
You're headed to Austin and want to experience the amazing nightlife scene that you've heard so much about. But where do you begin? Whether you're looking for a dance party at a club, want to jam to local bands, or prefer to check out the artisan craft brew scene, our dynamic city has options for every preference. Check out this guide to Austin's entertainment districts and find your niche for a night on the town.
East Austin is a growing favorite for the young and hip who are looking for a more alternative vibe. Walk this area east of Highway 35 on Sixth Street to experience food trucks and a variety of casual and quirky bars, graffiti-style murals and alternatives for dancing, dining and coffee.
Top Picks: Stay Gold - Come for the cocktails, stay for the music; they'll take you back in time with their lounge vibes, live tunes and a sprawling patio, to boot. Other neighborhood favorites include Whisler's, The Liberty, The Hightower (try to make it in time for the unbeatable happy hour) and The White Horse (don't forget your dancing shoes!).
This unique entertainment district is lined with historic houses converted into bars with as much personality as the city itself. Here you'll find local brews, great food trucks and rousing games of backyard corn hole. Rainey Street is perfect for a laid-back night of socializing with co-workers, attendees or new friends over live music, and is located just east of the Convention Center, near Highway 35.
Top Picks: Banger's - Yes, there is a tattoo on their menu. And yes, it's free. Walk the block to check out these other spots on Rainey: Half Step, The Blackheart, Lustre Pearl and Container Bar. Make it a Sunday Funday and begin the morning with a French bistro brunch at L’Estelle House, mimosa specials at any of the Rainey Street bars, and a stop at Icenhauer’s to dance during Super Soul Sundays with a live band.
Looking to go out with a younger crowd? Sixth Street is the place to be, and is arguably one of the most famous nightlife districts in town. Complete with inexpensive drinks, dancing, music and Greek life, this stretch of road rests between Congress Avenue and Highway 35 and kicks off around sunset through 2 a.m. This crowd definitely likes to celebrate, and street traffic is closed for pedestrians Thursday-Saturday nights.
Top Picks: Maggie Mae's - Dance on the rooftop and enjoy people-watching below as you listen to live bands. Other favorites include Firehouse Lounge for a fresh take on classic cocktails (hint: the bar is hidden behind a bookcase), Midnight Cowboy (an underground cocktail speakeasy; reservations required), or Parish and Flamingo Cantina for live music. Snack on a fresh-baked pretzel and local craft beer at Easy Tiger, a combination bake shop and brewery.
As the name suggests, many of these bars and restaurants have been renovated from former warehouses in the heart of downtown. More mature crowds hang here, and live entertainment and good food make for dynamic nightlife scenes and gorgeous rooftop views.
Top Picks: Cedar Street Courtyard - Live outdoor music seven nights per week. Enough said. Also check out skyline views from Speakeasy, cocktails at '70s styled Sellers Underground, or get your dance on along Rainbow Row at Rain or Oilcan Harry’s.
From South Congress or "SoCo," to a variety of music venues and restaurants off of South Lamar and South First Street, this district below the river gets its funky flair from its locally-oriented shopping, live music and cuisine, and boasts some of the most photographed and famous street art in the city.
Top Picks: Continental Club - Be sure to hit up this iconic Austin live music venue on South Congress for local staples of the rock and blues scenes, as well as national touring artists. Other South Austin faves include Winebelly for vino and tapas in a cozy setting, The Golden Goose for craft cocktails in a retro-inspired space or Backbeat, where you can sip to your heart's content while taking in sleek city views. Get a two-step lesson at Broken Spoke or listen to live tunes seven nights a week at Saxon Pub.
For the ultimate music fan, this district is your scene. From big-name acts to local newbies, this street blares with the sounds of live bands at a variety of bars and clubs along the block. Here, the Live Music Capital of the World® successfully showcases its refreshing appreciation for diversity through sound. This crowd is a toss-up of people there to listen to artists, and is located northeast of the Sixth Street district.
Top Picks: Stubb's BBQ - Local live music legacy dates back to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash singing for their supper at the original location. Also be on the lookout for raw acts popping up at Cheer Up Charlies, Barracuda, The Sidewinder (run by musicians), Mohawk (a cornerstone of the Red River music scene) and Empire Control Room.
2ND Street boasts large selections of locally owned shops, restaurants and entertainment venues on the south side of downtown. The nightlife scene here is trendy and chic, luxurious and sophisticated; perfect for the cocktail-sipping, upscale crowd.
Top Picks: ACL Live at the Moody Theater - The longest-running music television series in U.S. history is filmed at this 2,750-capacity concert hall. For a low-key evening, check out ACL Live's smaller sister venue 3TEN. Head to Second Bar + Kitchen for New American cuisine and people watching on the patio, or Violet Crown Cinema, before heading out for the evening.
Often referred to as the "Market District," this district is Sixth Street fun with the more mature crowd. Twenty and 30-somethings can be found here with a variety of bars for dancing, dining and open-porch bars.
Top Picks: Brew Exchange - Buy low and take risks at this stock market-style beer bar. Other popular stops on this street include Irene's and Rattle Inn! Raise a beer to the man in black at Mean Eyed Cat, a Johnny Cash-themed bar, or two-step at Donn’s Depot, built in an old train car.
Spend some time at Domain NORTHSIDE, where you can do a little shopping at Golden Bones and Frye or Free People, then have dinner at Flower Child. Explore the hoppin’ Rock Rose nightlife district with a pint at Jack & Ginger’s, a rooftop beverage at 77 Degrees or a glass of wine at St. Genevieve.
The park-like Arboretum features a collection of stores that include Pottery Barn and Orvis. But it’s also worth checking out for the nearby dining and nightlife options. Enjoy some tapas at Baretto or a drink on the overlook at the Renaissance Hotel's Knotty Deck + Bar.
Last but not least, be sure to get a safe ride home! More details on local ride share companies, buses, cabs and more can be found here!