Austin’s 5 Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife

Explore Austin’s diverse nightlife scene in these eclectic neighborhoods.

By Mandy Ellis, ContributorAug. 30, 2017
By Mandy Ellis, ContributorAug. 30, 2017, at 12:50 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Austin’s 5 Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife

Rainey Street in Texas

Rainey Street is a hip area with whiskey bars, beer gardens, live music and ethnic restaurants. (Courtesy of Geoff Duncan of Visit Austin)

From upscale wine bars to rowdy beer digs, the nightlife scene in Austin, Texas, has a drink and a dive for every crowd. Although many visitors may have only heard of the famous Sixth Street, there are many more scenes to experience in the city that keeps it weird. To help you get a taste of the nightlife culture, U.S. News asked local experts for the top areas worth stopping in for a spirit.

Rainey Street

Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden(Tyler Malone)

"It's a strip of old houses that have been flipped into bars and restaurants," says Angela Ashley, former assistant front office manager at the South Congress Hotel. "For bar-hopping and cocktails, that's my favorite place to go."

Experts agree that the Rainey Street area, adjacent to Lady Bird Lake, is the hip place to be right now. Whiskey bars sit next to beer gardens, and ethnic restaurants next to classic American cuisine. Food trucks, live music on patios and football games on huge screens are what attract both visitors and locals.

Kimi Nakato, director of front office at the Hotel Granduca Austin, says, "I recommend people stop at Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden. It's one of those unique 'I'm in Texas' places, and they have great food, beer and live music. I love G'Raj Mahal Cafe & Lounge also. Their food is always good, and they have a nice outdoor area." Craft Pride, another Rainey Street favorite, has more than 50 Texas craft beers on tap. It also serves Texas wines and hosts lots of fun, lively events.

East Austin

Whisler's(Brian Flannery with White Blaze Media)

"The east side is where a lot of locals go," says Amber Weir, concierge at the JW Marriott Austin. "They have that old-school Austin feel, with hole-in-the-wall bars that have been around forever and are well-established."

Up-and-coming East Austin continually has restaurants, bars and breweries popping up on the streets. And popular music venues like the Hotel Vegas, Stay Gold and The North Door rock out to great tunes at night.

Nakato says, "The Yellow Jacket Social Club is a neat place for cocktails, and Whisler's, which I love, has a great mezcal menu." Highly touted restaurants Micklethwait Craft Meats, Bufalina and La Barbecue call East Austin home, as do bars like Craftsman, Violet Crown Social Club, EastSide Tavern and Weather Up.

East Austin is sandwiched between Highway 35 and Airport Boulevard. Visitors will also want to explore south into East Austin's Holly neighborhood, and north to East Sixth Street, East Seventh Street, East 11th Street and Rosewood Avenue.

South Congress Avenue

South Congress Avenue(Denise Chambers)

Nestled in the Travis Heights neighborhood, the South Congress Avenue area is simple to get to: Turn off either East Oltorf Street or East Riverside Drive, and you're there. From cozy wine and beer bars like Hotel San José Lounge to vibrant music venues like The Continental Club to exceptional eateries like Little Barrel and Brown, the entertainment on South Congress Avenue is all within walking distance.

"I personally love this area. There are so many places to eat," says Nakato, pointing in particular to Perla's, Home Slice Pizza and Amy's Ice Creams. "I find it's a really good area to walk around, eat and shop, and have a couple cocktails."

The Domain

The Domain(Courtesy of Simon)

Starting to draw some traffic away from downtown is The Domain shopping center in North Burnet, which is easy to reach via Highway Loop 1 (MoPac Expressway). It has drinks and bites in addition to shopping and a movie theater – without the packed-in feeling of downtown Austin.

"The Domain is a great spot, and if you go north, it's a good place to get drinks," Weir says. "It's an outside mall plus a bar scene."

Crú Food & Wine Bar offers more than 300 wines to pair with oven-fired pizzas, while The Brass Tap features 84 beers on tap, cocktails, wine, cigars and American cuisine. For those looking for high-class dining, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar serves aged prime beef and award-winning wine. Casual meals can be found at North Italia and Shake Shack.

South First Street

Bouldin Creek Cafe(Lisa Goodell)

"The South First area around [West] Annie Street, which has the iconic Austin sign – that area is up-and-coming," says Steven Leigh, chief concierge at the Archer Hotel Austin. "You've got interesting locally owned stores and restaurants like Bouldin Creek Cafe, The Soup Peddler, and I love Lenoir."

Grab a drink at craft beer bars like Porter Ale House & Gastropub or specialty wine and cocktail spots like Winebelly Tapas & Vino, or indulge in a treat at Gourdough's Big. Fat. Donuts. The South First Street neighborhood is near Bouldin Creek. A turn off Barton Springs Road or West Oltorf Street will get you to all the nightlife this spot has to offer.

To experience more of what Austin has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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Mandy Ellis, Contributor

Mandy Ellis is an Austin-based freelance writer who has contributed to the real estate, travel ...  Read more

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