The “Live Music Capital of the World” has almost too many options when it come to entertainment. If you’ve set aside time during your visit for activities other than meetings and breakfast at the hotel restaurant, here’s a guide to the Austin Entertainment Districts – Eating, drinking, shopping, sight seeing by district.
Likely Texas’ best known street, the seven block’s of 6th Street between Congress and IH 35 are certainly Austin’s entertainment center. With a little help from it’s many like-minded sister streets, 6th Street is the heart of Austin’s live entertainment scene and the capital of third coast music.
Sixth Street (formerly known as Pecan Street) is lined with many historical houses and commercial buildings dating from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The storied old buildings now house numerous bars, a host of live entertainment venues, tattoo parlors, art galleries, casual cafes, upscale restaurants, and the elegant Driskill Hotel. Live music of every genre abounds. From jazz, blues, and country to rock, hip-hop, beat, progressive, metal, punk and derivations of these, there’s something to whet everyone’s musical pallete. Great food is a staple on Sixth Street, featuring such regional staples as chili, ribs, and Tex-Mex plus steak, seafood, cajun-cooking, and deli.
Sixth Street draws an eclectic bunch including endless streams of mostly single UT students, the YUP’s, the burb’s, some interesting street folk, and lot’s of out of town visitors. It’s not uncommon to spy some celebrity type taking in the sights on 6th. From film folk to politicians, to music men and women, Sixth Street rubs elbows well. Dress code, yeah right. You’ll see cowboys and punks, hipsters and bikers, surfers and suits. On Halloween anything goes, and during Mardi Gras, everything goes !
Going West from the classic (between Congress and I35) entertainment area, West Sixth Street offers another surprise with antique stores, art galleries, hair salons, restaurants, upscale clubbing and lot’s of eclectic shops.
East of I35, 6th Street has developed it’s own vibrant, growing bohemian community of upscale stores, award winning food truck courts, great bars and live music venues and some of the best new restaurants in Austin.
Sixth Street is Austin’s entertainment showpiece, and deservedly so. 13 miles of Austin’s best entertainment. Great events like the Austin Mardi Gras celebration, SXSW, The Republic of Texas Bikers Rally, the Pecan Street Festival, New Year’s Ball Drop and Sixth’s Street infamous Halloween celebration all make for great times with great people.
Rainey Street in downtown Austin, Texas was once a quiet residential road that stretched almost to the banks of Lady Bird Lake. Because of its proximity to downtown and its quintessential Austin-ness, the sleepy street was eventually classified as a Historic District and soon after morphed into a bustling hub of bars, lounges and food trailers happily servicing locals and downtown tourists alike.
If Austin is the worlds live music capital, then the Red River District is it’s senate chambers. An eclectic three blocks of the best, and most, live music in Austin. You can see more than twenty bands in a three block stumble on any weekend night. From Austin’s best and worst home grown indie’s to lot’s of almost famous road shows, Red River is a music lovers panacea.
Born from the rubble of Austin’s crack row and homeless hideaway, Red River still brandishes it’s seedy, tough exterior. But it’s “Sunset Strip” aura lends even more to it’s raw, real, live vibe.
SOCO (South Congress)
South Congress Avenue and South Lamar Boulevard deliver offbeat shopping and dining and legendary live music haunts including the Broken Spoke, the last of the true Texas dance halls, the legendary Continental Club and the Saxon Pub. First Thursdays on South Congress offer a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere that brings the musicians to the street and shopping late into the evening where funky galleries, vintage shops, clothing and furniture stores, jewelry shops and salons stay open until 10:00pm (or later). South congress is Austin’s SoHo, eclectic and fun.
On South Congress Avenue, two to three blocks are filled with a diverse selection of quirky shops featuring everything from ’50s-style furniture to folk art. Boot shops, galleries, antiques and other curiosities fill quaint boutiques. In between the shops, visitors will find a wide variety of culinary delights.
Guadalupe Street “The Drag”
The busy section of Guadalupe St. that runs along the western edge of the University of Texas campus is “the drag.” Although more mainstream than earlier years it is traditionally home to underground bookstores, tattoo parlors, and other eclectic shops. Early on, The Drag was the main shopping, dining and entertainment area for University of Texas students because it bordered the campus.
“The Drag,” between 21st and 25th streets on Guadalupe on the UT campus, is considered a hip shopping enclave of clothing, furniture and gift shops, and a great “good eats” zone. Here you can explore clothing shops featuring funky to high-fashion items, trendy furniture stores and shops featuring everything from gifts to cookware. The Drag has always been home to many eclectic, storied, Austin home-grown stores and that tradition continues today.
The Warehouse District, just west of the central business district, is the upscale cousin to 6th street. A bit trendier and certainly more pricey, it caters to a slightly older crowd than the other downtown entertainment areas. True to its name, the restaurants and clubs in this district have been renovated from former warehouses into trendy restaurants, top-notch concert halls, and distinctive bars. Live music is everywhere in the Warehouse District and great restaurants are easy to find.