Home of the offbeat, the hip and the eclectic, Austin, Texas, is more than just the host city of big-name events like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. It’s a year-round cultural melting pot where there’s no such thing as cookie cutter. Here are some of the best things and places happening in Austin right now.
Austin is a veritable mecca of the moveable feast—food trucks are everywhere, all the time. If you’re looking for some tasty grub, this’ll be your best bet no matter where you are in the city. South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery is home to three of the area’s finest carts: Torchy’s Tacos, a local favorite; Holy Cacao, a purveyor of divinely decadent milkshakes and desserts; and the third, Conscious Cravings, rounds out the park with offerings for our vegetarian friends. Other standouts include Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts for fresh, gooey donuts; East Side King for eclectic Asian fusion; and Ms. P’s Electric Cock’s for amazingly moist and crispy fried chicken.
East Austin is a working-class area about two miles from downtown that’s rapidly becoming the city’s most fashionable and eclectic enclave. With a strong emphasis on local goods and people, almost everything you come across while exploring the neighborhood is unique to Austin. One of the coolest spots to check out here is Farewell Books, a new- and used-book store and art gallery that also includes a clothing boutique, a tailor and a coffee shop.
When the sun goes down, Austin’s nightlife is just as vibrant and varied as you might expect. Large crowds pack the area around Sixth Street and Congress most nights, but dodge the tourists and head to downtown’s Warehouse District for a more sophisticated take on trendy nightspots. Fans of avoiding the glitzy bar scene altogether should head to East Austin for laid-back dive bars, or to up-and-coming Rainey Street to sip on craft beers and booze in old houses turned bars and lounges (we like Banger’s for beer and Clive Bar for cocktails).
Catching some live music is one of the best ways to spend any evening in Austin, and there’s no shortage of venues and bars that cater to this very need. Check out the multi-level Mowhawk, popular with the indie rock crowd; the underground Elephant Room for its speakeasy vibe and live jazz seven nights a week; Cheer Up Charlie’s for its amazing outdoor area and vegan-friendly eats (plus Kombucha on tap!); or the Continental Club, a legendary venue that draws top-notch local artists as well as touring national acts. Local bands to watch are The Ghost Wolves, Lord Buffalo, Holiday Mountain and Mayeux & Broussard.
Jennifer Sanchez is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.