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Best neighborhoods to stay in Austin and still be close to the action

Are you planning on relocating to the Austin Texas area? If so, you’re in good company because the Austin area continues to be one the top relocation destinations in the United States that attracts people from all over the world.

In this article, we will provide you with more information about Austin Texas neighborhoods so that you can get a good idea of which one will be right for you.


Downtown is the hardworking hub of the city. Here you’ll find the sprawling state capitol complex and a cluster of museums and hotels catering to politicians, business travelers and convention-goers. But downtown plays hard too. The neighborhood is chock-full of entertainment options, including the wild shot bars of 6th Street, the more low-key bars (only slightly) of Rainey Street like Craft Pride, and music venues in Red River and the upscale Warehouse District.

For the center of the action, head downtown. Start your exploring at the famous sunset-red granite state capitol, built in 1888. This state capitol is the largest in the US, backing up the ubiquitous claim that everything is bigger in Texas. If nothing else, take a peek at the lovely rotunda – be sure to look up at the dome – and try out the whispering gallery created by its curved ceiling.

Next, walk to the museums and restaurants along Congress Ave and 6th St. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is no dusty vault. Big and glitzy, it shows off the Lone Star State’s history, from when it used to be part of Mexico up to the present, with high-tech interactive exhibits and fun theatrics.

Congress Avenue Bridge bats in Austin during sunset © Kushal Bose / Shutterstock

Before you turn to the nightlife of 6th St, head to the Congress Ave Bridge to witness one of Austin’s best-beloved sites – a funnel cloud of up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that swarms nightly from late March to early November, looking very much like a special effect from a B movie. Turns out, Austin isn’t just the live-music capital of the world; it’s also home to the largest urban bat population in North America. There’s lots of standing room around parking lots and on the bridge itself, but if you want a more leisurely bat-watching experience, try Lone Star Riverboats and Capital Cruises for bat-watching tours.

After, raise a glass on Dirty 6th – the wild, bar-lined section of one of Austin’s major thoroughfares, stretching from Congress Ave east to I-35. Popular live music venues cluster in the Red River District, too. You’ll also find comedy troupes, cinemas, live, performance halls and a range of music clubs dotting Congress Ave and its off-shoots.

Cinephiles flock to Alamo Drafthouse for food, beer and a great movie-going experience. Think comfy seats and absolutely no tolerance for talking or cell phone use. An Austin original, Alamo Drafthouses are now scattered across the state and venturing into non-Texas territory. Check the online calendar (the Ritz location) for dance parties, Girlie Night (watch The Notebook!) and Terror Tuesday flicks.

Food trucks are one of the best ways to experience Austin’s lively culinary scene © Shutterstock / stock_photo_world

East Austin

East Austin is on the rise – just look at the construction cranes and new buildings along East 6th Street, which is rapidly gentrifying. This is where the cool kids hang, although the neighborhood retains a down-to-earth feel. Head to East 6th and its off-shoots for dinner and dive-bar hopping, plus two-stepping at the neighborhood honky-tonk. The nighttime food truck scene is excellent.

With fantastic craft cocktails, skilled service and flattering lighting, it would be easy to call it a night – a good night – after spending an hour at the bar in Whisler’s, or checking out a band on the adjacent and festive patio – but also visit the small backyard. That’s where you’ll find some of the best Thai food in the city – delicious and spicy noodles and curries all served up from the colorful Thai-Kun food truck.

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Ciscos on historic East 6th Street is Austin’s oldest Tex-Mex restaurant, founded in the 1950s © Dave Crea Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The bartenders shine at tiny Licha’s Cantina, a Mexican restaurant spilling out of an old bungalow. It’s an upbeat place to fuel up on margaritas, chips and guacamole before heading out. It’s also a favorite hole-in-the-wall for locals, so don’t tell anyone we told ya about it. Margaritas are $5 from 4pm to 6pm Tuesday to Friday.

As for White Horse, of course, there’s a honky-tonk next to a glossy apartment complex. And since this is Austin, it just seems to work. An easy-going bar and mini-dance hall just off 6th St, this dive is a good place to learn to two-step – it offers lessons before the band starts. There are craft beers aplenty plus whiskey on tap. Patio and food truck too. For live music, see who’s playing at Hotel Vegas or step into the dark confines of the Liberty Bar if you want to hide out while sipping your well-crafted Texas Mule.

People spray graffiti at the Castle Hill in North Austin, a popular place for community expression © Shutterstock / stock_photo_world

Market District, Clarksville and North Austin

Just west of the downtown core, the Market District is busy with pedestrians and cars headed to the large natural foods market here and several iconic stores. An eye-catching graffiti wall shares the colorful visions of spray paint artists. Farther west, but east of MoPac Expressway, is Clarksville, a compact historic district and one of the city’s older neighborhoods. North Austin is largely residential but a few fantastic restaurants and watering holes add some dazzle. Hyde Park, sitting just north of the University of Texas at Austin campus, was Austin’s first suburb.

Stylish Uchiko is lauded by locals for its fresh and exquisitely flavored sushi and seafood dishes. But prices are steep, reflecting the high quality of the fare. On a budget? Don’t despair, just eat early. To sample the food at wallet- and purse-friendly prices, visit during the Sake Social happy hour, held nightly (5pm to 6:30pm). Several rolls are $6, while a half-dozen small bites under $7 offer a broad sampling of the menu. Sake, beer and wine selections range from $3 to $7.

American Express At Austin City Limits Music Festival 2019 In Austin, TX
The popular Waterloo Records store hosts a pop-up event at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2019 © Rick Kern / Getty Images for American Express

Across West 6th St is beloved Waterloo Records, which opened in 1982. The store is spacious and well-stocked. Come here to buy or sell new and used vinyl, CDs and DVDs. Texas artists are well represented in the inventory. Look for in-store performances. The best part may be the helpful and welcoming service – no old-school record-store snobs here.

If you’re into books, Book People feels like an old friend. As you wander the stacks, you’ll notice detailed staff recommendations beneath the packed-tight shelves. There’s a strong travel section in back. The store holds more than 300 book signings per year, so there’s likely somebody of interest in-house on any given week. If you’ve got younger kids, stop by for storytime at 11:30am on Saturdays. Take a break at the cafe, which serves coffee, sandwiches and desserts.

You can see a mesmerizing hotspot for wall art if you’re willing to walk a bit. Covering multi-level concrete ruins just off of North Lamar Boulevard, Graffiti Hill is a showcase for local street artists, who have spray-painted the walls here with an impressive array of styles and designs. The non-profit Hope Outdoor Gallery manages the site, and artists must secure a permit. Proceeds from gallery events support education.

interior of lucy in disguise thrift vintage store austin
Interior of Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds vintage thrift/costume store in Austin © simon leigh / Alamy Stock Photo

South Austin

South Austin is an offbeat and oh-so-Austin neighborhood that was pretty marginal just 25 or so years ago. Today this quirky but festive area – especially along South Congress Ave – is the city’s soul. Tourism types nicknamed it SoCo, which has somewhat stuck, but the locals mostly still call it South Congress. The road is the main thoroughfare through the neighborhood and the epicenter of the action; most of the rest is residential.

If you tire of the crowds, take a walk or drive to nearby South 1st St. This burgeoning strip is filling up quickly with coffee shops and indie-owned eateries that rival their better-known neighbors in quality and style. For coffee, give scrappy Bouldin Creek Coffee House a try. Elizabeth Street Cafe is a great stop for French pastries or tasty banh mi.

Visitors enjoy the natural water of Barton Springs pool in Austin © stock_photo_world / Shutterstock

If you’re sweating the Texas heat, never fear. Even when the temperature hits 100, you’ll be shivering in a jiff after you jump into the icy-cold Barton Springs. The pool is fed by the Edwards Aquifer, which flows to the springs through limestone channels. The Moderne-style bathhouse was built in 1947. Draped with century-old pecan trees, the area around the pool is a social scene in itself, and the place gets packed on hot summer days. You’ll even see folks swimming laps – with a lifeguard on duty – in February!

Conversely, if the weather’s just too perfect to be inside a climate-controlled building, stroll the open-air UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, located in the southern end of Zilker Park. Within the sculpture garden and the indoor museum, there are more than 130 works by 20th-century American sculptor Charles Umlauf, who was an art professor at UT for 40 years.

Anyone with an interest in Texas’ flora and fauna should make the 20-minute drive to the wonderful gardens of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, southwest of downtown Austin. The center, founded in 1982 with the assistance of Texas’ beloved former first lady, has a display garden featuring every type of wildflower and plant that grows in Texas, separated by geographical region, with an emphasis on Hill Country flora.

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