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

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.

[Read: The Best Hotels in Austin.]

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 in Austin, Texas

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.

[Read: 5 Austin Breweries to Visit.]

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

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 in Austin, Texas

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.

[Read: 5 Great Austin Shopping Spots.]

"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

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.

6 Top Up-and-Coming Small Towns Across America


Plenty of charming small towns throughout the country are well worth a visit.

Astoria, Oregon, United States of America

(Getty Images)

Let's face it: Nobody likes contending with heavy crowds in popular tourist destinations. And while metropolises offer big-city allures, from versatile dining options to beautiful architecture to world-class art and cultural scenes, there are many of places across America brimming with small-town charm and underrated draws, from lesser-visited outdoor attractions to storied historical landmarks to budget-friendly lodging choices. So, if you're looking to discover emerging small towns before they're officially on every globetrotter's map, head to these rising destinations this year.

Durango, Colorado

Durango, Colorado

The San Juan National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering over 1,878,846 acres (2,935.7 sq. mi, or 7,603.42 km square) in western Colorado. The forest occupies land in Archuleta, Conejos, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mineral, Montezuma, Rio Grande, San Miguel and San Juan Counties. It borders the Uncompahgre National Forest to the north and the Rio Grande National Forest to the east. The forest covers most of the southern portion of the San Juan Mountains west of the Continental Divide. The forest contains two alpine wilderness areas, the Weminuche and South San Juan, as well as the Piedra Area.

(Getty Images)

This lovely Colorado town along the Rocky's San Juan Mountains appeals to outdoorsy types, beer lovers and ski enthusiasts alike. In Durango, you can enjoy kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and cycling. Plus, ski bunnies will love Durango's proximity to five big ski resorts and areas, and the town itself is great for snow sports and downhill skiing. If you're a craft beer fan, you'll also find a variety of microbrewries in town. Another top draw is Durango's annual Snowdown celebration in February, a festive event that features a parade, contests and a unique theme each year.

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska

The city of Sitka, Alaska at dawn.

(Getty Images)

Located in southeast Alaska, this picturesque destination along the Inside Passage boasts a population of less than 10,000 residents and draws visitors with its beautiful scenery, isolated location and pristine natural landscapes. Another draw: Sitka boasts an illustrious Alaska Native and Russian history and heritage. Best of all, it's easy to check out top natural attractions, including Sitka National Historical Park. The area is easily walkable, with can't-miss areas and attractions, such as Castle Hill and the Sheldon Jackson Museum, reachable on foot.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

(Getty Images)

St. Augustine's main draw is its rich Spanish Colonial history. You'll find plenty of storied historical sights and areas, including graceful cathedrals, the Colonial Quarter and even the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park. After visiting the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. – the Castillo – you can enjoy lounging along serene sands in Anastasia State Park or grab a memorable meal at Barnacle Bill's, a seafood institution for over 35 years. And to round out the area's historic charm and small-town vibes, you won't find chain restaurants or hotels here.

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria, Oregon

Beautiful morning on the shore of Columbia River - in Astoria, Oregon.

(Getty Images)

Astoria, located along the south banks of the Columbia River, is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. Many couples come to Astoria for a romantic escape, complete with captivating mountain scenery, enchanting sunset beach walks and even a taste of history at the 4.1-mile-long Astoria-Megler Bridge. Another top enticement for foodies: Astoria's collection of small bakeries and coffee shops, along with breweries and delicatessens. Check out Astoria Coffee House & Bistro for seasonal salads and music on the weekends, and Astoria Brewing Company, which boasts a crowd-pleasing shepard's pie. As for accommodations, consider staying at the Cannery Pier Hotel, a boutique hotel located above the Columbia River, for unrivaled views.

Cleveland, Mississippi

Cleveland, Mississippi

A car drives past Dockery farms in Cleveland, Mississippi on June 9, 2017.
Dockery Plantation was a 10,000-acre cotton plantation and sawmill, and it is widely regarded as the place where Delta blues music was born


Mississippi has a Cleveland, too, and it's known as a trendy little town in the Mississippi Delta. The town is home to the Grammy Museum Mississippi and is near the Dockery Plantation, said to be the birthplace of blues, where famous Delta blues musician Charley Patton got his start. Cleveland also has a rich civil rights history, where Amzie Moore founded a grocery store, beauty shop and gas station on U.S. Highway 61, while spearheading a civil rights headquarters. Moore's house is now a historical landmark. Cleveland is also home to Delta State University, and offers a college town feel, with urban entertainment and eateries, like Hey Joe's, a popular place for live music.

Baraboo, Wisconsin

Baraboo, Wisconsin

"(Original Caption) Baraboo, Wisconsin: A unique blend of history plus live performances greet visitors to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Baraboo was winter headquarters for the famed Ringling Brothers Circus from 1884 until 1948. John M. Kelly of Baraboo, for 33 years legal counsel for the Ringling Brothers, founded the Circus World Museum in 1954. Dedicated in 1959, the Circus World Museum has the worlds largest collection of oldtime circus parade wagons, restored to their original classic beauty. Owned by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the Circus World Museum exists for the sole purpose of collecting, preserving, displaying, and disseminating circus history. During the summer there is a live performance under the big top every day, wagon and elephant rides for kids of all ages, and a daily circus parade."

(Getty Images)

Baraboo boasts a small but vibrant community with less than 13,000 residents. Every year, Baraboo hosts an annual Big Top Parade and Circus Celebration, where volunteers, students and other participants dress up like members of the circus and raise money for charity. Baraboo has a big love for performance and the circus, as it's home to the Circus World Museum and its renovated 1915 theater. Come for the charm of the historic downtown and stay for the picturesque natural surroundings at Devil's Lake State Park.

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Tags: Austin, vacations, travel, food and drink

Mandy Ellis is an Austin-based freelance writer who has contributed to the real estate, travel and loans sections of U.S. News since 2016. She has lent her expertise to publications including AFAR, The Costco Connection, Realtor Magazine Online, FSR, QSR, Restaurant Business, Restaurant Hospitality, Pizza Today, Tasting Table, Yahoo Finance and CultureMap Austin and for the brands eBay, LendingHome, Brit + Co, SolarStory and Hey Cupcake.

Ellis graduated cum laude with a bachelor's in English from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Texas Freelance Association, Freelance Austin, and Women Communicators of Austin. You can find her on LinkedIn and her website, or email her at mandy@mandyellis.com.

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