How to do a night in Austin like a local

Whether you’re visiting for work or for play, it’s easy to see why Austin, TX, is fast becoming a destination not to be missed. Austin is now the 11th-largest city in the U.S., and according to various internet reports, over 150 people move to Austin each day. Austin was also named one of the fittest cities in America by Shape magazine, which might have something to do with the city’s 220 parks and numerous lakes, running paths and biking trails.

And let’s not forget Austin’s claim to the “Live Music Capital of the World” title, a product of the 1,900+ bands and performing artists and nearly 200 live music venues inside city limits. To top it all off, Men’s Health rated Austin as one of the drunkest cities in America. With almost 550 bars within the city limits, it’s no wonder Austin was given this last title.

With all that Austin has to offer, figuring out where to go once the sun goes down can be overwhelming. Below are two great Austin nights full of spots that locals like myself love: one for anyone after an old-school Texas feel, and one for those looking for the hip, worldly, ever-changing Austin. Pick one—and then take two Advil and don’t call me in the morning! Because I, like most Austinites, will be sleeping in after having an incredible night out in Austin.

Night #1: Old school/true Texas feel

Start your night out at the Garage, a swanky little bar hidden inside a parking garage in the heart of downtown Austin. Known for its mixologists and retro-inspired interior, the Garage is a place to get whatever drink your heart desires in a funky laid-back atmosphere.

Tip: Go early to the Garage to avoid the line to get in.

Second stop: the Driskill Bar. This bar is inside one of the oldest operating hotels in Austin. You walk up a grand staircase in the Driskill Hotel lobby and are greeted with old wood paneling and rustic leather couches. Here, you’ll receive a turn-of-the-century Texas experience with daily live music.

Continue on to the Elephant Room. This underground (literally under the street level) jazz club makes you feel like you just walked into a speakeasy during Prohibition. With daily live music, the club offers over 20 craft beers and wines by the glass.

Next, make your way to the Continental Club, which first opened in 1955 and is one of Austin’s oldest clubs. The dark red interior and daily live music take you back to a bygone era and make this a must-see spot in Austin’s SoCo district.

Finish the night out at the famous Broken Spoke. Considered one of the last true Texas dance halls, the Broken Spoke is famous for its honky-tonk style and country music. Many local bands and famous artists have played here, including Willie Nelson and George Straight. Don’t forget your cowboy boots!

Night #2: New school/hip and trendy

Start your night at Icenhauer’s in the very popular Rainey Street district. Rainey Street is famously known for its charming bungalows that were all converted into bars with different motifs. Icenhauer’s modern and sleek interior is quite different from its modest bungalow exterior and is known for amazing cocktails and infused liquors.

Second stop: Clive Bar. Head there for a great time on the back patio and don’t miss the tiny mezcal bar in the back of the property. This little stone structure makes you feel like you briefly stepped across the border into old-world Mexico for a drink.

Continue on to Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden, because even the Austin hipsters need to eat a little sausage and listen to some country music. In a true German beer garden atmosphere, only the music (and the weather) will remind you that you’re still in Texas.

Next, make your way to Whisler’s on the east side. This area of Austin has seen the most change over the last five years, with a mix of revitalization and new construction everywhere you turn. The exposed stone walls and sleek bar at Whisler’s make you feel like you stumbled upon a secret hideaway.

Finish your night out at the Volstead Lounge for a classic New Orleans-style lounge crossed with a dive bar. The Volstead Lounge offers everything from cocktails to craft beer to old world wines.

Gretchen Henne
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