100 Years of Advancing Destinations

Top Things to Do, Places to Eat and Music to Listen to in Austin

Author: Guest Katie Cook, Director of Digital Marketing, Austin CVB
Posted: June 03, 2015
Blog Topics Covered:

We're only forty days away from welcoming you to Austin, Texas for DMAI's 101st Annual Convention -- but really, who's counting? (Me.) I know you're probably looking to explore Austin during your downtime. So, whether you want to experience the independent spirit of the businesses on South Congress Avenue, watch the bustle of Sixth Street or take in the galleries and cafes in blossoming East Austin, we have you covered.

Here are some of the Austin CVB's own favorites from different districts and neighborhoods you can't miss while you're here.

Downtown

As hoppin’ during the week as it is during the weekends, this bustling area of commerce, cuisine, cocktails and the Capitol is a melting pot of finance and fun. In addition to opportunities for retail therapy, the arts scene is alive and well, thanks to touchstones like the Mexic-Arte Museum and The Contemporary Museum of Art.

  • 2nd Street Shopping: Officially spanning the length of 2nd Street between Congress Avenue and San Antonio streets, this area is home to local and national brands, ranging from beauty, body and abode, to electronics, restaurants and overnight respites. Don your favorite reusable tote and wear shoes meant for strolling. 2ndstreetdistrict.com
  • Jo’s Coffee and Caffé Medici: Get a local bite and jolt with a double-header breakfast outing to Caffé Medici for java and Jo’s Coffee for sustenance. Try Jo’s build-your-own breakfast taco. 512-827-2770, caffemedici.com; 512-469-9003, joscoffee.com
  • Swift’s Attic: If you’re the type who likes to swap forks during fare, pull up a chair at this restaurant nestled atop the Elephant Room, arguably the most beloved jazz lounge in the city. Creative shareable plates like braised goat shoulder and Texas-friendly quail dishes set the tone. 512-482-8200, swiftsattic.com

Sixth Street

Sixth Street is distinctly Austin. With its colorful and bustling array of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, it’s a sure bet for experiencing local characters and the vibrancy of the city.

  • Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden: Browse the vast beer menu and nosh on homemade sausages at this bakery on the first floor and a German bar and eatery below. 512-614-4972, easytigeraustin.com
  • The Driskill Bar: Located within the opulent nineteenth-century Driskill Hotel, the Driskell Bar is perfect for pairing a glass of wine with soothing sounds of live local jazz. 512-439-1234, driskillhotel.com

Red River

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of live music coming from some of the hottest stages in Austin, all spanning a three-block radius. Nightclub heavy, droves of concert-seekers mill the streets, dipping into watering holes for Lone Star beers while waiting for the lights to dim and shows to begin.

Stop by the new Visitor Center at 602 E. 4th St. for Austin and Texas merchandise, a free Wi-Fi lounge and daily tours. The Visitor Center also showcases live music and special local art exhibitions. Hours: 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Monday–Saturday; 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday

  • Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill: Downhome cooking and weekly staples like the green chile macaroni and patio cocktails like the “Moonshine Jug” make this relaxed restaurant a must. 512-236-9599, moonshinegrill.com
  • Mohawk: Come here for live music and multi-level views of the stage, stay for the stiff drinks and to be properly weirded out by events like the annual Quesoff where locals compete with their queso concoctions. 512-666-0877, mohawkaustin.com

Rainey Street

Renovated houses turned into bungalow bars reign supreme on this increasingly popular tucked-away street. Day or night, you’ll find relaxed bar-goers strolling from bar to food trailer to bar again, often with their dogs in tow – many of these spots are pup-friendly – looking for a kicked back sip and a bite. 

  • Banger’s Sausage & Beer Garden: This laid-back beer garden is a place to hoist one with the new friends you’re bound to make when sharing a picnic table in the outdoor space. A popular place for ‘braut and vegan sausages, you’ll be tantalized with regular tapping sessions of trial beers (they’ve got more than 100 on tap.) 512-386-1656, bangersaustin.com 
  • G’Raj Mahal Cafe: What started out as a simple food truck complete with billowy tents is now a brick and mortar with an inviting patio space and stellar Indian food. 512-480-2255, grajmahalaustin.com
  • The Blackheart: This bar is all about whiskey. The selection is more scroll than menu, and is best served neat on the perfect-for-people-watching front patio or out back with a side of live music. 512-391-1566, blackheartbar.com

Market District

Beloved Austin stores and eateries mingle with the shiny and new hotspots popping up all along this area of Lamar Boulevard and West Sixth.

  • BookPeople: From celebrated writers like David Sedaris to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, this local literary institution packs the place with a stellar and varied book selection that brings in legions of loyal fans. 512-472-5050, bookpeople.com
  • Waterloo Records: Take a spin around an independently owned shop that keeps the newest records on shelves and the hottest bands on deck for in-store performances. Don’t miss vinyl happy hour every Tuesday. 512-474-2500, waterloorecords.com
  • Clark’s Oyster Bar: Oysters on the half-shell get full mast exposure at this chic and inspired seafood haven. 512-297-2525, clarksoysterbar.com

South Congress

This vibrant neighborhood south of Lady Bird Lake is a must-stroll for visitors and a popular hangout for locals. South Congress oozes homespun character and boasts the story of Austin’s yesteryear in its boutiques and eateries.

Hang out on the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk to catch millions of bats emerging in search of food (April to October). batcon.org

  • Parts + Labour: Shopping is a crucial SoCo experience. Parts + Labour offers locally made, Austin-centric clothing for every member of the family. 512-326-1648, partsandlabourstore.myshopify.com
  • C-Boys Heart and Soul: The owner of Austin’s treasured Continental Club has opened a new bar in the former spot of Trophy’s. Displaying the same cool and charm as the Continental, C-Boys Heart and Soul features live soul music on weekends in homage to the old blues clubs of the South. 512-215-0023, facebook.com/CBoysHeartNSoul

East Austin

Arguably the fastest growing neighborhood in Austin, the eclectic eastside is where old meets new and fresh eateries and boutiques are popping up like wildflowers. Dig a little deeper and discover rich history and culture everywhere you look.

  • Hoover’s Cooking: An East Austin staple for over a decade and favorite amongst locals, this Southern spot is a sweet source for soul food with a healthy twist (sip on their beet margarita for a refreshing zing). 512-479-5006, hooverscooking.com
  • Taco-Mex: Austin is the unofficial breakfast taco capital of the world. High on the list of best places is the Taco- Mex window on Manor. With 1990s prices and hefty portions, this is a must for curious eaters. 512-524-0860, yelp.com/biz/taco-mex-austin
  • The White Horse: If two-steppin’ and whiskey on tap is your scene, look no further than this honky-tonk that hosts patrons young and old dancing to Texas blues. 512-553-6756, thewhitehorseaustin.com

Looking for more ideas of things to do and see? Request or download the Austin Insider Guide. We also welcome questions on Twitter, @VisitAustinTX. Use #TrueAustin in your posts to ask our local experts!