It’s the heart of the city and for good reason. Central Austin is home to not only the “sunset-red” capitol building, the downtown tech startups, and out-of-this world dining, but world-renowned museums like Harry Ransom Center and the Blanton Museum of Art, and, of course, the Longhorns’ own University of Texas campus. This stretch of town—from Lady Bird Lake to MLK on the north, and 35 and N Lamar to the east and west—is chock full of big ideas and forward thinkers. And it’s also filled with a laid-back Southern charm and old-school Austin authenticity. You’ll see it in spots like the historic Driskill Hotel, longtime local favorite Hut’s Hamburgers, and movie-famous Texas Chili Parlor.
Of course, you can’t mention this part of the Live Music Capitol of the World without celebrating the famous stretch of asphalt that earned this music city its nickname—Sixth Street. It’s where the air vibrates with an electric energy as music thumps and lively conversation rings out from every bar, club, and live music venue until the early morning hours. It’s where the intersections, lined with food trucks, are blocked off each weekend, becoming a party in the streets for everyone from UT students to dreadlocked buskers to the high-heeled dancers. Here, the suits and the mohawks and the cowboy hats all mix. Whether you’re riding the mechanical bull at Trophy Club, drinking the night away at a house-turned bar on Rainey Street, enjoying a magic and comedy show at the colorful Esther’s Follies, or catching a flick at cinephile favorite Alamo Drafthouse, you’ll definitely be keeping it weird here.
If you like your weekend nights more quiet, walk ten minutes west for specialty craft beers and a round of darts at low-key favorite the Ginger Man, or even slightly further west for longtime Austin indie favorites, BookPeople and Waterloo Record Store—followed by a tour of the flagship Whole Foods or a late night meal at 24 Diner. For a lesson in good ol’ Texas history, pay a visit to the capitol or hit up one of Congress’s many annual street festivals. Just a few minutes north, spend a day of fun and shopping on the university Drag, and—during football season—you can bleed burnt orange in a towering stadium of other Longhorns die-hards.
Despite being in the liveliest part of all the fanfare Austin has to offer, you can still escape for some peace and quiet in green space. Pease Park, central Austin’s urban park, is just a stone’s throw away from downtown, running alongside Shoal Creek, and it’s the perfect place for jogging with your dog, picnicking, and playing volleyball. It’s also the site of the annual Eeyore’s Birthday party, a long-running hippie celebration with painted bodies, drum circles, and unforgettable people watching. There’s no better place that embodies “Keep Austin Weird.”
If you’re making your new home in one of the ultra-modern condos or apartment buildings dotting downtown and westward to S Lamar, you’re in walking distance of all the nightlife and convenience you could want—this area is best for night owls who are okay with late-night thumping bass, since you’ll never be far from live music. For some relief from the chaos—but still the convenience of being close to it—the charming neighborhoods of Clarksville, Hancock, Rosedale, and Hyde Park are all just a short drive or bus away from downtown, and yet have their own walkable micro-communities, with trendy dining, artsy shopping, and funky bars and coffeeshops.