Austin City Guide:
Neighborhoods & Things to Do


Austin, Texas has seen explosive growth in the past 10 years, in no small part to its thriving technology industry. Known collectively as “Silicon Hills,” Austin’s high-tech companies encompass everything from startups and dot-com companies such as PayPal to stalwarts such as Apple, Amazon, AT&T, and Dell (headquartered in the suburb of Round Rock). Austin’s unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” which holds creative tension with the rampant business growth. Also known as the “Live Musical Capital of the World,” Austin boasts a thriving music scene. This sterling city still offers plenty of quirkiness to maintain its reputation as a hip and happening place for young professionals, while being a relatively safe and inviting city for families.

Austin city highlights

Austin is in many ways a perfect size for a city. It’s big enough that’s there’s lots to do, yet still small enough that it’s not too overwhelming. No Austin city guide would be complete without mentioning these places to go and things to do:

  • Zilker Park: Zilker Park is Austin’s oldest metropolitan park and the largest at 350 acres. You can hike, you can bike, you can swim, and more. Zilker Park sits right across from Downtown Austin and is home to the Zilker Botanical Garden, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and more.
  • Austin City Limits Music Festival: Held in Zilker Park, the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) is one of the best music festivals on the planet, complete with 8 stages and more than 100 performances.
  • The Bats: Austin is not only famous for its live music. It’s famous for its bats. Yes, bats, as in Dracula and vampires. Take a boat ride, ideally during spring migration, to watch the thousands of bats that congregate under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The Brazilian free-tailed bat colony has a population ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million.
  • Downtown 6th Street: This walkable section of downtown is where you’ll find all the happening bars and clubs, along with Austin’s famous music scene. Be sure to check out the Driskill Hotel, an historic way-stop that is said to be haunted.
  • The Domain: Most of the Austin scene was centered around downtown and South Congress until the Domain was launched. The Domain is an artificial mini-downtown of sorts in North Austin. Sure, it’s planned and not historic in the least. But it’s a great place to go shopping, get some drinks and enjoy fine cuisine, without having to deal with Mopac if you live up north.

Austin city guide to the best neighborhoods for renters

Looking for a great place to live in Austin? Our Austin city guide will help you identify some of the top neighborhoods in Austin. Each neighborhood has its own personality, and many will offer not just apartments but also condos and homes for rent in Austin.

Downtown

If you really want the urban experience, Downtown Austin has it all, from shops and restaurants to historic theaters and sites. You can enjoy life in a high-rise condo and appreciate an amazing view that encompasses the Colorado River and Hill Country out to the west. You’ll also enjoy the mix of old and new architecture, including the iconic Frost Bank Tower, called the “Old Building” because it looks a lot like a big glass owl.

Central Austin

Central Austin encompasses the main part of Austin north of the Colorado River, west of I-35, and south of 183. Notable neighborhoods include the posh Tarrytown and Old West Austin with its historic homes. Be sure to check out the view at Mount Bonnell.

East Austin

East Austin is a diverse, historic area of the city that is struggling with the issues of gentrification. In the early 1900s, blacks were segregated to East Austin due to official city policy. Now, the area attracts all races and is a mix of modest, older homes and modern condos next to more upscale restaurants. In short, you’ll find everything in East Austin, including a lot of vibrant culture.

Riverside

Riverside offers low-cost housing and thus is popular with students and has its own thriving nightclub scene you can also check out. Being close to Town Lake/Lady Bird Lake, it’s a popular area for dog walkers.

South Austin

South Austin can refer to the greater part of the south of Austin, pretty much everything south of the Colorado River, or below 71/Route 290 if you want to get more particular about it. It’s also a specific residential neighborhood bordered by 290 to the north, South First Street to the east, Willian Cannon Drive to the south, and Brodie Lane to the west. Within are several sub neighborhoods, including Westgate and South Manchaca (pronounced “Manshack”). Be sure to check out the trails at the Sunset Valley Nature Area.

South Congress

South Congress or SoCo is a trendy area south of downtown that has lots of boutique shops, nightlife, live music, street performers, and popular restaurants. It’s known for its eclectic mix of residents from artists to young professionals. The area is also famous for its murals, including one of everyone’s favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers.

Hyde Park

Filled with beautiful historic homes, many of which are still being restored, Hyde Park is an amazing place to live just north of North University. In Hyde Park, you’ll want to visit the Elisabet Ney Museum, honoring the life of the sculptor Elisabet Ney. The museum is housed in her former studio, which looks like a small castle.

South Lamar

South Lamar (which turns into North Lamar) is a main thoroughfare through Austin. It also has the distinction of being the birthplace of Austin’s trendy food truck scene. It started with family-owned traveling taco trucks setting up shop in the early 1990s to target construction workers. South Lamar neighborhood gives you quick access to downtown Austin, and, of course, Austin’s famous food trucks.

Clarksville

Clarksville is located on the north side of the Colorado River across from Zilker Park. It’s a great urban area to live and explore, with access to all the amenities of the water. It includes the Clarksville Historic District and the Old West Historic District. It’s also nestled right up against the flagship store for Whole Foods, which was founded in Austin back in 1980.

Crestview

Located in the northern part of Austin next to the Allandale neighborhood, Crestview is conveniently located between Burnet and North Lamar, south of Anderson Lane. This area has a lot of single-family homes, some for rent. Anderson Lane gives you access to stores, yoga studios, and old-school local coffee shops like Genuine Joe House.

Mueller

Formerly the location of Mueller Airport, the Mueller neighborhood is a planned, sustainable neighborhood situated east of I-35, a little northeast of downtown. The new homes built in Mueller are designed using green building concepts, from recycled materials to resource-efficient designs. This forward-thinking neighborhood also has its own “groundbreaking” on-site power plant designed for energy efficiency.

North Loop

Don’t confuse North Loop with North Austin – North Loop is only “north” in that it is at the northern end of the central core of Austin. This is a small, neighborly community where people get to know their neighbors. You also have access to groceries, restaurants, and cafes. Originally called “Northfield,” North Loop used to be mostly an empty field next to a local airport owned by “Doc” Haile back in the 1940s.

North University

North University, aka North Campus, is located at the north end of the University of Texas. With easy walkable access to campus as well as bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, North University is a great place to live if you are a student. Despite being a college neighborhood, it is quiet and generally attracts older students, professors, and families. Check out the Sparky Pocket Park, a mini-park that is designed with childlike whimsical art where an old electrical substation used to sit.

Westgate

The Westgate area is in South Austin and provides easy freeway access to 360 and 290. It’s also home of the Westgate Shopping Center, an open-air mall that also boasts a movie theater and Central Market, Austin’s upscale competitor to Whole Foods. Other than the freeway access, this area is somewhat residential and quiet.

Zilker

The Zilker neighborhood of Austin gives you easy access to both Zilker Park and downtown. Enjoy a run around Town Lake (aka Lady Bird Lake) or get your SUP board ready for some fun stand-up paddleboarding. It’s also home to Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed pool that was used for sacred rituals by the Native American Tonkawa tribe.


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