If you are planning a road trip to Texas, then Austin should definitely be on your list. Not only is Austin known for its amazing foodie scene, it has also been dubbed the live-music capital of the US! Austin is rich in culture and entertainment, as well as a wide variety of adventures to be had in their great outdoors. Their nightlife is memorable, and we’ve put together some of our top suggestions for you to consider exploring during your stay.
- 1 1. Live Music, Dancing, and Karaoke
- 2 2. Mini-Golf, Gaming, and Bowling
- 3 3. Speakeasy Bars and Lounges, Oh My!
- 4 4. Food, Glorious Food!
- 5 5. Ahh, The Great Outdoors!
- 6 Wrapping Up The Best Austin Nightlife Attractions
1. Live Music, Dancing, and Karaoke
Austin’s nightlife is multi-faceted, and always has engaging and enthralling experiences lined up. Live music is the soul of the city, with more than 200 live music venues spanning all genres. Here is a list of Austin’s most memorable:
Elephant Room: 315 Congress Ave (In the Swift Building) – If you love Jazz, this is a must! Considered to be the epicenter of the Austin jazz scene, they offer up both local and national talent. Open till 2 am on most nights and shows usually begin at 9pm.
Stubb’s: 801 Red River Street – This indoor/outdoor venue offers great BBQ, live music, and attracts big-name acts all year through. The ambiance is iconic, with cool band posters and hand signed photos displayed throughout. And make some room in our tummy because they are known for their fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious brisket. Check their website for performance listings and dates. Insider Tip: They also offer their famed “Gospel Brunch” on Sunday mornings, which includes a BBQ family-style meal and live Gospel music! If you are looking for a down home experience, this is the spot!
Maggie Mae’s: 323 E 6th St – Established in 1978, Maggie Mae’s is considered the matriarch of the city, and is usually packed with people dancing, eating, and talking the night away. This large venue, offering both public and private seating, has 7 bars, 3 stages, multiple floors with a max capacity of 1,000 guests. Location is steps from the convention center and prominent downtown hotels.
The Parish: 214 E 6th St – Located in the heart of Austin’s downtown historic district, this loft-style spot features up-and-comers as well as local favorites. Their sound system is so top-notch that they have hosted the CMA Songwriters series, an assortment of PBS Showcases, various live podcast tapings, as well as Tom Petty and the likes. You will find Jazz and the newest indie rock bands featured here. Their Night Mass, a nocturnal dance party, begins at midnight and goes until 4am. Doors are hidden, however if you travel up the staircase you’ll find 6th Street’s little secret. Seek and you shall find!
The White Horse: 500 Comal St – If you are looking for a real Texas honkytonk, the White Horse is a must! Take a spin around the dance floor or sit back and enjoy the band while munching on various small bites and a cold drink. They usually have two different bands per night. Insider Tip: The White Horse provides 2-steppin lessons several times a week, so get on the dance floor, y’all!
If you love live music, performing, and maybe getting a bit silly, an evening of Karaoke might just be what the doctor ordered! Here are some of our top recommendations:
Ego’s: 510 S Congress Ave – One of the city’s most iconic and treasured karaoke dive bars, tucked away in an office building parking garage, and offering up a great friendly atmosphere. In between singing the night away, you can enjoy their pinball, video games, pool tables, and 3 big screens. They are open daily from 1pm-2am.
The Common Interest: 8440 Burnet Road – On the list of best Karaoke spots in Austin, this place is fun, clean, and has a great sound system and delish food. Insider Tip: They also have well priced private rooms if you want to tuck away with your own posse and sing your heart out without being exposed to the public eye. Private rooms come with a server.
The Highball: 1120 S Lamar Blvd – This popular establishment offers up a selection of 7 creatively themed private karaoke rooms for both big and small groups to enjoy (server included), with live country and Motown bands that frequent their stage, as well as fun interactive events scheduled throughout the month. Great bar selections and yummy small bites.
2. Mini-Golf, Gaming, and Bowling
Peter Pan Mini Golf: 1207 Barton Springs Road – Round of golf anyone? Head on over to enjoy their two 18-hole courses, featuring very cool and creative themed holes!You can start as early as 10 am and they close at 11 pm. BYOB (no glass)
After Mini-Golf, how about Cosmic bowling for the win! This is where you will find glow-in-the-dark lanes, laser and disco lights, and heart-pounding music while you bowl and laugh the night away. Here are two to consider:
Westgate Lanes: 2701 W William Cannon Drive – Friday & Saturday from 10:30pm-midnight
Highlight Lanes: 8909 Burnet Road – Friday & Saturday from 11pm-1am. Insider Tip: Both of these venues house the famous Lebowski’s Grill, featuring their award-winning burgers and grub.
Pinballz:8940 Research Blvd – If you love retro gaming, then you will love this place! Although they have several locations, head to the original arcade on Research Blvd for an authentic experience. You will find close to 300 pinball machines and an expansive selection of modern and retro arcade games. Great food, too. 10am-midnight
Cidercade: 600 E Riverside Drive – 150 plus games featuring both new and retro. And, you can kick back with family and friends at their lakeside patio, while enjoying some of their artisan pizzas cooked in a stone hearth oven! Family friendly during the day, and 21+ begins at 8pm. Insider Tip: They are cashless so bring plastic.
3. Speakeasy Bars and Lounges, Oh My!
AUSTIN’S SPEAKEASY SECRET BARS
During the Prohibition era, which lasted from around 1920 through 1933, it was illegal to manufacture and sell alcohol in the United States. While many bars and taverns closed down, illegal and hidden drinking establishments known as “speakeasies” cropped up all across the country. The term speakeasy is thought to have come from patrons having to whisper (or, speak “easy”) when attempting to enter a hidden bar.
Today modern speakeasies have popped up across the country, also hidden behind false fronts such as barbershops, appliance stores, and other misleading storefronts, with the goal of creating the same prohibition atmosphere from days gone by. They are usually tucked away behind secretive and elusive entrances, and when you step inside you are typically transported into a 1920s-inspired establishment.
Our clever sleuths have come up with a list of the most popular and secretive speakeasies for you to explore while in Austin:
Milonga Room: 1201 E 6th Street – Hidden underneath the Buenos Aires Café, this candle-lit intimate bar offers live music and a variety of tapas. You will need a reservation and a password for entry will be provided. HOW TO GET IN: Located in the back of Buenos Aires Café, knock on the blue door.
Here Nor There: 612 Brazos Street – Adorned with velvet curtains and a taxidermy bear, this chic cocktail bar even has branded ice cubes, and an invitation only membership. Guests, however, are welcomed. HOW TO GET IN: Download the Here Nor There app and tap “Request New Reservation.” A confirmation email will be sent to you the day of your reservation with the door code for that specific night (it changes daily). The entrance looks like a gated alleyway, and you will use the code you were sent for keypad entry. The easiest way for first timers to find the entrance is to go to the Driskill Hotel and walk north on Brazos until you see a gate with an electric keypad.
Midnight Cowboy: 313 E. 6th Street – High quality cocktails in a relaxing environment. A bar cart is rolled in front of your booth where they make the elaborate cocktail of your choice while educating you through every pour and stir. Their mocktail list is just as impressive (and delicious) as the hard stuff. Please note, they do not serve food – this is a unique cocktail only experience. HOW TO GET IN: Make an online reservation in advance, and ring the buzzer marked Harry Craddock.
Watertrade: 1603 S. Congress Ave – An intimate Japanese-style cocktail bar found tucked away at the South Congress Hotel. Avant-garde ambiance with very dark lighting provided by vintage desk lamps and a backlight bar. They say you can tell the bartender what kind of flavors you prefer and leave it in their hands to serve you something inventive. HOW TO GET IN: Walk up the stairs in the South Congress Hotel courtyard, open the door, and go left.
Garage: 503 Colorado Street – Hidden within a parking garage, this bar keeps the lights low and vibes chill. HOW TO GET IN: Walk into the parking garage on Colorado between Fifth and Sixth, pass the “Enter and Exit” parking signs, and keep following the path upward until you stumble upon the entrance of the bar identified by a “Cocktails” sign. Insider Tip: Entrance previously used as a valet office.
Small Victory: 108 E. 7th Street – The location of this all white subtle but not totally hidden building is also attached to a small parking garage. There is an S.V. on the front glass door and a winding staircase which faces the street. Lovely ambiance and delish small bites. HOW TO GET IN: You must know where you’re going, or you’ll miss it. Look for the spiral staircase attached to a large parking garage. Follow the stairs up until you’re in what looks like a corridor with warm lighting. Congratulations, you’ve made it to Small Victory!
Firehouse Lounge & Hostel: 605 Brazos Street – Well hidden in the heart of downtown Austin, this crafted cocktail lounge and international hostel (offers some of the most affordable rooms in all of Austin), is located in the city’s oldest standing fire station which was built in 1885. Enjoy the speakeasy old world charm hidden behind a bookcase in the hostel lobby. Don’t let the ill-kept outside look and feel fool you, as it is but a camouflage of what you will find behind the bookcase. Enjoy their live music which features some of Austin’s best jazz, blues, and good ol’ rock and roll musicians. HOW TO GET IN: You may be asked if you are checking in when you enter, and simply give the person behind the counter a nod and a “no” and make a beeline for the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. Slide it from left to right and enter. Insider Tip: If considering a stay in this hostel, take note that while this location is a stone’s-throw away from all the down-town action, it does get a bit noisy.
Redheaded Stepchild: 119 E 5th Street – Found inside the “Floppy Disk Repair Co”, which is the misleading store front for entrance into the most secretive quirky cocktail lounge in Austin. You will thoroughly enjoy this very hip establishment, which offers up some of the best creative drinks in Austin, if you can figure your way in! HOW TO GET IN: This place does not disappoint, however if you want to find your way in you will need a special passcode. While the hunt for the code won’t be easy, the challenge can be lot’s of fun! If you’re lucky enough to get it, it’s definitely worth the trip. Some say the establishment next door might give it to you, others have said the bellman at their hotel told them the code (which changes weekly), and still others have waited for guests to leave through the back door and have obtained the code by asking those patrons. Insider Tip: Get there early to snag a swing at the bar! That’s right, not a typo, they have swing seating at the bar!
And if these scavenger hunt speakeasy venues still leave you wanting for more adventure, try Geeks Who Drink: This is a fun trivia-packed evening designed to challenge and entertain all you trivia buffs! How it works: The event consists of 7 rounds of 8 questions, with players forming teams of up to 6 people. A quiz master orchestrates the night by reading questions outload and interacting with the crowd. Each team is competing to win a prize. Check out their website to “find quiz” locations and select the bar of choice offering a Geeks Who Drink event, and head out for a fun unique evening!
4. Food, Glorious Food!
Austin offerssome of the best flavors from around the world! Known for their huge foodie scene, you will never be at a loss for great places to go to grab a bite. In fact, you will find yourself saying, “SO much to choose from, yet SO little time”! From world-renowned chefs to taco joints and food trucks, Austin is a foodie adventurer’s paradise. We have highlighted some of what we consider to be the most note-worthy restaurants to hit, and if you are in town for a long stay, explore beyond our list to discover your own favorite foodie finds
Oseyo: 1628 E Cesar Chavez St – Fine-dining authentic Korean BBQ with a twist. With impeccable service, this trendy spot has a lovely outdoor patio, and the interior looks like an art gallery. Fantastic cocktails, amazing food, and are gluten-free accommodating! Insider Tip: Start with ddukbokki and then mix it up with their Bulgogi Wood Grill offerings.
Loro: 2115 S Lamar Blvd – An Asian smokehouse, with unique fusion of smoky flavors. Great food and vibe! Indoor and outdoor seating.
Dipdipdip Tatsu-Ya: 301 Burnet Rd Ste 101 – Unique Shabu-Shabu dining experience in an intimate setting. Food is displayed on custom carts presented tableside and you choose your adventure from a curated selection of proteins, vegetables, broths, and dipping sauces. Meats are thinly sliced, served raw, and cooked in personal pots of broth at your table.
Seouljuatx: 9515 N Lamar Blvd Suite 230 – Fried dumplings, kimchi pancakes and other traditional Korean eats in a casual setting. Delish!
Franklin Barbecue: 900 E 11th Street – Said to be the holy grail of BBQ and best brisket in town, their eats are offered up by Chef Aaron Franklin, a James Beard Award winner and BBQ genius. Please note that their hours of operation are 11- sold out. Insider Tip: If you want to order meat to go, you will need to order 42 days ahead!
La Barbecue: 2401 E Cesar Chavez St – James Beard Award winner, thought to be the best Texas BBQ in Austin. Please note They close at 6pm, so grab an early dinner and then head out for more evening adventures.
Lutie’s Garden: 4100 Red River Street – Located on the beautiful Commodore Perry Estate, membership is not required to dine at Lutie’s. A contemporary enchanted garden retreat overlooking lush estate grounds. Creative farm-to-table menu offered up by awarding-winning chef. Absolutely scrumptious!
G’Raj Mahal: 73 Rainey St – thought to be the best authentic Indian food in Austin. Beautiful tented outdoor eating space. Fantastic food, great prices, and is a hidden gem!
Aba: 1011 S Congress Ave – This beautiful, enchanting multi-level garden patio, adorned with glass and metal lanterns from Moracco and the Middle East, is a must if you love Mediterranean food! Their cuisine draws inspiration from Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. You will feel as if you have truly been transported to another country. Insider Tip: Reservations are usually a month out.
Suerte: 1800 E 6th St – So many Mexican restaurants to choose from, but word on the street is this is among the best elevated tex-mex you will find. Chef uses heirloom corn and the finest ingredients for this modern spin on Mexican cuisine.
ATX Cocina: 110 San Antonio St #170 – Great food, and it is all gluten free! Considered to be a Latin Fusion offering, they take traditional Mexican food and elevate it with modern techniques and the finest ingredients, providing a healthy and yummy dining experience.
Foreign & Domestic: 306 E 53rd St – Chef owned and operated with award-winning gourmet comfort food. It is Texas farm meets French bistro. Fun fact: Tyler Florence featured them in his Food Network show “Bite Club”.
Casino El Camino: 517 E 6th St – Featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and dives, this burger joint has a great goth dive-bar feel with the bomb burgers!
The Buzz Mill: 1505 Town Creek Drive – This 24-hour coffeehouse, bar, and cider house (Yep, it’s open all night long!), is perfect for kicking back with friends, while you munch on eats from the 4-5 food trucks housed there. They even have vegan options!
Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar: 1400 S Congress Ave – This trendy and beach vibe eatery offers fresh fish and oysters flown in daily from both coasts, with an emphasis on sourcing from the Gulf of Mexico.
Clark’s Oyster Bar: 1200 W 6th Street – Thought to have the best oysters and pan-seared burgers in town! Insider tip: The burger + fries are 1/2 off from Monday to Friday from 3 – 6pm, and 1/2 off bottles of wine on the weekends from 3 – 6pm.
AUSTIN’S HOT FOOD-TRUCK SCENE FOR A QUICK BITE:
Food truck parks offer a creative take on a variety of cuisines in an open-air community setting. Great for grabbing a quick bite on the run or hanging with family and friends while sampling an assortment of yummy options. Extra bonus, take in the decked-out art show you will find on every truck! Here is a list of the most notable Austin food truck parks:
The Picnic: 1720 Barton Springs Road – Housing around 14 trucks, which includes a dog treat truck for man’s best friends. This is a BYOB food truck park.
Rainey Street Food Truck Lot: 82 Rainey Street – Great ambiance and vibe, with over 30 trucks to choose from.
Pangea Lounge: 1211 E 6th Street – You’ll often find live music and swinging hammocks for those wanting a quick rest.
5000 Burnet, 5000 Burnet Road – Dog friendly with a fenced-in playscape for the kids.
Big Top Candy Shop: 1706 S Congress Ave – This is the most fantastical candy shop one could possibly imagine! It just might put your Willy Wonka fantasies to shame! Decked out with antique circus memorabilia, along with a fully functioning old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream case, specialty chocolates and fudge, and over 400 bulk candies, and 2000 wrapped candies from nostalgic favorites to new creations sourced from across the globe. Need we say more? It’s a MUST, so be sure to plan accordingly, as they close at 6pm during the week and 8pm on the weekends.
5. Ahh, The Great Outdoors!
Austin offers a plethora of things to do in their great outdoors, and we thought we would highlight a few evening adventures for you to explore:
Hey batter, batter, batter, and we don’t mean baseball bats, we are talking Mexican Free-Tailed bats! That’s right, Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony, and these fascinating creatures put on quite the spectacular nightly show as they head out for their evening feeding. When the sun goes down in Austin, the city’s nocturnal residents take flight! It is such a notable event that there are a variety of tours offered up to help take it all in, such as sunset kayak bat watching tours, bike tours, and walking tours. And if an organized tour is not your thing, just head on over to the Congress Avenue Bridge before sunset and find a spot amongst the crowd. So, if you are looking for something unique and memorable, this might just be the adventure for you. Insider Tip: These bats are most active from May through late September, and typically migrate out of the area during winter months.
Austin Aquarium:13530 US-183 #101 – Not just sea creatures, but animals too! And, don’t let the strip-mall location throw you off – there is much to see and experience! Includes plenty of hands-on animal encounters such as Lemurs, stingrays, sharks, iguanas, tortoises, and more. Great for adults and kids. Open until 8pm.
Sunset Bike Tours: “Your Biker Gang” provides many e-bike tour options, one of which is their 2-hour sunset tour. Austin comes alive at night, and you will enjoy the city lights, Austin’s fascinating history and pop-culture, and get the lay of the land while on this 2-hour tour. Departs at 7:30pm every Friday night, and you will make a quick stop to catch Austin’s famous Mexican Free-Tailed Bats May – August. Insider Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, tie a light-weight jacket around your waist to accommodate changing temps when sun goes down, and bring your phone for photo opportunities.
Sail Austin’s Sunset Cruz: Offering both private and shared sunset sails, this is a unique opportunity to enjoy Austin’s beautiful sunset while cruising on a luxury double-decker boat. Captain Tim is a fantastic host and chalk-full of interesting stories. Guests are completely free to bring their own food and beverages (No red drinks, as they stain.) Excursion lasts about 2 ½ hours. Insider Tip: If the weather is good, the captain will stop for you to enjoy a quick swim, so bring your swimsuit and towel just in case!
Wrapping Up The Best Austin Nightlife Attractions
Home to a fascinating blend of eclectic cultures and funky vibes, Austin is an amazing destination for one and all. Despite being the capital of Texas, Austin has managed to maintain a small-town feel. Austin is a fun mix of hipsters, honky-tonkers, hippies, techies, and filmmakers, yet this melting pot somehow works! You will find people are truly warm, friendly, and welcoming here!
We hope our carefully curated guide for the best nightlife in Austin will help you plan a fun-filled memorable trip. As you can see, Austin’s nightlife has something for everyone! Be it the best live music venues, great food spots to satisfy your inner foodie, exploring Austin’s hidden speakeasies, or even glow-in-the-dark bowling, Austin welcomes everyone with open arms. So, what are you waiting for – it’s time to hit the road and head to Austin!
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Happy safe travels!