Austin, Texas has long been known as one of America’s most prominent centers of music, film, food and culture. It has a longstanding reputation for it’s quirky, off-beat leanings that are epitomized in the popular bumper sticker slogan “Keep Austin Weird.” It is also home to the flagship location of the University of Texas, making it a big-time college town. We all know that college towns usually double as party towns, and this makes for a great nightlife.
Austin did not earn the slogan “The Live Music Capital Of The World” for no reason, so you really can’t discuss the Austin nightlife without putting an emphasis on the thriving live music scene. Austin boasts the annual South By Southwest festival, which is quite possibly the most prestigious and influential music festival in the country. Not only do some of the most popular established musical artists in the world perform at the festival each year, but SXSW also attracts a plethora of the hottest up-and-coming acts. If live music is your thing and you want to experience Austin as a music city in all its glory, you might want to plan your Austin vacation around the SXSW music festival.
If your time in the city does not coincide with South By Southwest, there many live music venues to choose from featuring both local and national acts performing nightly. Stubb’s Barbeque is one of the most famous concert venues in the city where mid-to-big name touring acts perform when making their rounds through Austin. Not only can you catch some of your favorite bands at Stubb’s, but you won’t leave hungry, as they are known for great BBQ as well as great music. Emo’s, located right down the street from Stubb’s on Red River St. is another locals favorite focusing on indie, alternative, and other modern rock fare. You certainly can’t talk about Austin live music without covering Antone’s, a mainly blues-oriented venue where some of the biggest legends in blues history have performed. Any true blues-lover will revere Antoine’s as a tabernacle of the art-form. The Continental Club on South Congress Ave., Lucky Lounge on 5th St., and Momo’s on 6th St. are just a few of the other spots you might want to take notice of when perusing the Austin Chronicle’s live music calendar. You could honestly just walk around the downtown entertainment district and you would more than likely stumble (possibly quite literally, depending on your alcohol intake) into a wide variety of live music options.
If you want to revel in Austin’s rich club scene, hit up Plush or Mohawk on Red River St. in downtown Austin. We would also suggest the Hangar Lounge, located in the trendy and upscale warehouse district of downtown. This area caters to a slightly older and more professional crowd, so if that sounds like you, the warehouse district might be your preferred hangout. Elysium, also on Red River St. (Red River St. is home to many of Austin’s best venues) might suit you well if you are looking for a more alternative dance club specializing in goth, industrial, and related musical styles.
Austin is full of dive bars so if you are looking for a gritty locals hang-out with cheap drinks and ample character there are plenty to choose from. One of the really interesting things about Austin dive bars is that a good number of them are BYOL bars, meaning you can bring your own liquor into the bar. This is kind of unprecedented and is permitted by Texas law. So if you really want to get twisted while in Austin, these bars make it easy to do on a budget. Ginny’s Longhorn Saloon, C-Hunt’s Icehouse (make sure you bring cash, and liquor, as this is a cash-only BYOL bar) are two of the city’s dive bar staples. If you want to hear some down and dirty soulful funk and blues hit up the east side of Austin and check out TC’s Lounge, or head down to the south side and check out Giddy-Ups if you want to take in a real Texas roughneck honky-tonk dive.
As you might expect from a progressive and counterculture city, there are plenty of gay bars and clubs in Austin. If you are looking for a swankier club you might check out Rain on 4th which boasts itself to be “Austin’s upscale gay lounge.” Oilcan Harry’s is a popular gay dance club a few doors down from Rain on 4th featuring an outdoor deck and three full-service bars. Lipstick24 is a great gay-friendly hang out mainly for the ladies, and Rusty’s Austin is notable for being a mostly gay-focused Country and Western bar.
For strip clubs in Austin, Rick’s Cabaret in North Austin, Sugar’s Uptown Cabaret, the Landing Strip, and the Palazio are all sure-fire options. Be sure to check out Chicas Bonitas if a strip club with a decidedly Latin flavor strikes your fancy, or for a posh and upscale gentlemen’s club experience hit up Expose Men’s Club.
No city is complete without some good comedy clubs, and Austin has got those too; Cap City Comedy on Research Blvd is an Austin staple which has been up and running for nearly 30 years, and the Velveeta Room is another longstanding establishment which first opened its doors in 1988. You might also want to check out Esther’s Follies, a unique magic and comedy troupe and also the name of the venue where they perform, located on Austin’s bustling 6th street in the entertainment district.
With Austin’s party culture and famous live music scene, if there is one thing the city is known for more than anything, it would have to be it’s nightlife. Austin is truly a playground for live music lovers, bar-crawlers, counterculture types, and anyone who simply loves to have a good time. If any of this sounds like you, we suggest you consider Austin for your next party getaway destination.