South Austin can refer to any part of Austin, Texas south of Lady Bird Lake and the downtown area, although many people use it to specifically refer to the south-central area directly south of downtown in the 78704 zip code. 78704 is bordered by Lady Bird Lake to the north, I-35 to the east, Ben White Blvd (Hwy 290/71) to the south, and Mopac (Loop 1) to the west. The area is a very popular neighborhood for young people and used to be the center of Austin's counterculture, although it has become gentrified. The area contains several attractions for visitors.
Get in Edit
South Austin is easily accessible. From Downtown, head south either by foot, bike, or car and cross Lady Bird Lake over the Congress, 1st, or Lamar bridges.
You will need motorized transport from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Bus or taxi are available. If traveling by car from the airport, take Ben White Blvd (71) West, then turn right on Riverside Dr. Take Riverside to S. Congress.
- Riverside. The first street on the south side, parallel to the Colorado River (not to be mistaken with 1st Avenue that runs north-south on the south side) one block west of Congress. As you travel east past IH 35, you will get into Austin's version of Mexican night life. During the day you can eat in a wide variety of Mexican and Chinese restaurants, some very good and inexpensive, shop in a variety of Latino-oriented stores, visit the Mexican Flea Market one block north of the Riverside and Pleasant Valley intersection (weekends only), or visit the Riverside Austin Community Campus. At night from 11PM to 2AM, East Riverside becomes the Latin party alternative to the famous 6th street in downtown.
- 1 The Cathedral of Junk, 4422 Lareina Dr, ☏ . An art installation in Austin resident Vince Hannemann's backyard built over 20 years from scrap metal and other junk, now standing at three stories high. A very interesting sculpture and probably something you find in the guidebook. Free entry but donations are welcomed. Call ahead to check if he's open. Parking is a sensitive issue with his neighbors — do not park illegally, or on private property without permission.
- 2 The Museum of Ephemerata, 1808 Singleton Ave, ☏ . A museum that is open occasionally in the front room of someone's house. It is usually only open on Saturdays and it's best to call ahead.
- 3 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave, ☏ . Daily 9AM-5PM. Showcases flowers and plant life of the area. The center is a bit southwest of downtown and worth the drive, especially during spring. Adults $12, youth (5-17) $6, students and seniors (65+) $10.
- 4 Austin bats (Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge). Yes, that's right, bats. Austin's Congress Avenue bridge is home to about 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. This is the largest urban bat colony in the world and one of the largest Mexican free-tailed bat colonies in North America. The bats are generally active at dusk every evening between March and November. In years when there has been a drought, the bats leave early (when there is still light), and can be a quite impressive sight. In years when there has been plenty of rain, they leave so late it is difficult to see much. Best place to see them is near the Austin American Statesman's parking lot, or you can pay for boat tours to see them from underneath the bridge. Towards the end of bat season, when the colony's young are flying for the first time, pedestrian crowds can become rather dense. Try to arrive at least an hour before dark if you want to have a good, unobstructed view.
- 5 Larry Monroe Forever Bridge, 1506 E. Side Drive (from S. Congress & E. Monroe head east .3 miles, turn left onto E. Side Dr go another .1 miles to the bridge). 24/7. Bridge decorated with hundreds of mosaic tiles to honor the legacy of beloved Austin radio dj. Designed by artist Stefanie Distefano, the tiles were made to look like radios, cassette tapes, ceramic portraits, and dozens of other representations of Monroe’s life and career, including replicas of his signature ‘’Segway’’ license plate and a replica of the logo featured on his website, designed by artist Sam Hurt. The bridge features tiles depicting vinyl records with names of artists and songs that represent the range of music that Monroe enjoyed as well as tiles containing lyrics by a few of the musicians whose music he played, including a 22-foot musical score from the Townes Van Zandt song "To Live is to Fly". Friends of Larry and guest musicians meet at the bridge annually, near the end of August, the anniversary of Larry's birth, to perform and celebrate his life. Free.
In addition, there are pretty views of the Downtown skyline from South Congress Avenue and streets on the hill in Travis Heights such as Newning Avenue.
- First Thursday, South Congress Ave.. Every first Thursday of any month, lots of shops have deals and there is a festival atmosphere around South Congress.
- 1 Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd (1/2 mi W of South Lamar), ☏ . Austin's city park, near downtown, it is the home of Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Garden, Zilker Hillside Theatre, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, and soccer fields which, in October, host the annual Austin City Limits (ACL) festival. Undoubtedly Austin's favorite park. Amazing location on the banks of Town Lake with several miles of hiking and biking trails. The park is free, but parking is $3 during peak usage.
- 2 Barton Springs Pool, 2101 Barton Springs Rd (enter through the main area of Zilker Park, NW of Barton Creek), ☏ . 5AM-10PM; closed Th 9AM-7PM. Nothing beats the heat on a hot afternoon like a dip in Barton Springs Pool. This natural spring pool is fed from an underground aquifer, keeping the water between 68°F and 72°F (20°C-22°C) year-round. It is one of Austin's most unique attractions: a beautiful spring-fed pool over 3 times longer than a football field, nestled in the heart of the city at Zilker Park. $3 entrance fee for the whole day. If you are short of cash or have a dog, head downstream just on the other side of the fence and find more clear beautiful water. Entrance fee varies from free to $3.
- 3 Kayak on Lady Bird Lake, 2101 Andrew Zilker Road (In Zilker Park). Rent a kayak. Zilker Park Boat Rentals is along the Barton Springs Creek. Just paddle down to Lady Bird Lake and see great views of Downtown Austin. Turtles are common in the lake and creek. Paddle over to the southern part of the Congress Ave. Bridge and hear the squeaking noises of the bridge's 1.5 million resident bats (don't hang out under the bridge-- bat guano is a problem).
- 4 Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. formerly known as the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the 1.1-mile trail creates a complete circuit around Lady Bird Lake. It is one of the oldest urban Texas hike and bike paths. The trail is the longest trail designed for non-motorized traffic maintained by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and watched after by a local non-profit named The Trail Foundation.
- 5 The Veloway, 4900 La Crosse Ave. A 3.1 miles long, paved asphalt bicycling and rollerblading trail.
- 6 McKinney Falls State Park. A 744 acres (301 hectares) state park in southeast Austin that is rich in local history.
- 7 Mabel Davis Skate Park, 3427 Parker Ln, ☏ . It is Austin's first public concrete skate park.
- South Congress Avenue (SoCo). Main drag in South Austin that features upscale boutiques and condos alongside more traditionally "hippie" places.
- 1 Barton Creek Square (southwest of town).
- 2 Barton Creek Farmers Market, 2901 S Capital of Texas Hwy, ☏ . meets 9AM-1PM every Saturday. Austin's largest and most acclaimed farmers market in the Barton Creek Mall parking lot
- 3 Flashback, 1805 South 1st St, ☏ . Vintage clothing.
- 4 Blackmail, 1202 S. Congress, ☏ . All-black clothing and various accessories.
- 5 Parts & Labor, 1704 S. Congress, ☏ . Lots of unique items (clothes, earrings, purses, etc.) made by local artists.
- 6 Lucy in Disguise, 1506 South Congress, ☏ . Eclectic clothing and costumery for children and adults.
- 7 End of an Ear, 4304 Clawson Rd, ☏ . Experimental music, jazz, other "left of the dial" music. Regular in-store performances, usually on weekends.
- 5 Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, 1501 S 1st St. Great coffeehouse and restaurant with an all-vegetarian menu and friendly service. A real neighborhood hangout with a pleasant outdoor area that's well heated in the winter. Try their savory or sweet cornbread and their "Big Azz" salads. Nice cocktails, too, including the Rainbow Dash which, unusually for a cocktail, is deliberately left unmixed so as to resemble a rainbow. It's delicious and refreshing, and benefits Out Youth Austin.
- 6 Casa de Luz, 1701 Toomey Rd. Austin's only completely vegan restaurant. A meal includes a drink and it's all you can eat. They have several different types of specialty meals each week such as Guatemalan or Caribbean night. The atmosphere is fantastic as it's located right by Barton Creek surrounded by lush vegetation.
- 7 Casa Garcia's, 1901 W William Cannon Dr, ☏ . M-Th 7AM-9PM, F 7AM-10PM, Sa 7AM-9:30PM, Su 7AM-8PM. Tasty Mexican fare with friendly staff. $8-16.
- 8 Catfish Parlour, 4705 E Ben White Blvd, ☏ . Daily 11AM-10PM. All-you-can-eat catfish with hushpuppies on the side is a true Southern experience. $15-20. * 9 Crêpe Crazy, 3103 S. Lamar Blvd, ☏ . M-Sa 9AM–9PM, Su 9AM–9PM. Sweet and savory crépes. You can order online for both take-out and dining at the restaurant, and several local delivery services will bring this to you. Some staff can use American Sign Language (ASL). $10.
- 10 Curra's Grill, 614 E Oltorf St, ☏ . Su-Th 7AM-10PM, F Sa 7AM-11PM. A much larger, more diverse menu than most tex-mex restaurants, and it's all fantastic. The avocado margaritas are extremely popular. Be forewarned, it's a small restaurant and it's almost always packed. An Austin original, this restaurant brings outstanding traditional interior Mexican food. Some of the best pork recipes around and you will not find better Mexican style seafood dishes anywhere in the city.
- 11 Enoteca Vespiao, 1610 S Congress Ave. For a taste of Italy nowhere in Austin is better. Extensive wine list and beyond excellent food.
- Green Mesquite BBQ & More. The original location on Barton Springs is in a funky building with a good biergarten in back with entertainment. BBQ is decent and the sides are good. All-you-can-eat BBQ $14.
- 14 Guero's Taco Bar, 1412 S Congress Ave, ☏ . M-F 11AM-11PM, Sa Su 8AM-11PM. High-class, sit-down Tex-Mex in the middle of the South Congress maelstrom. Always busy, always Austin. Lots of musicians frequent the place when they're in town. Many famous Austinites, and wanna-be Austinites have visited, including President Clinton, (then-)Governor Bush, and the rest of the Bush clan. Live music. Great atmosphere (You saw it in Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse flick "Deathproof")! And some pretty tasty tacos too! Dinners $9-14.
- 15 Hai Ky, 1931 E Oltorf St B. Consistent fresh, high quality Vietnamese food with great bowls of pho, delicious stir fries and noodle dishes, bubble tea and friendly service. At 1931 E. Oltorf about 3/4 mile east of I-35 in a strip shopping center on your right just past the Whataburger. Locals in the know and Asian students yearning for a genuine taste of home frequent this small restaurant. Great electronic music adds to the casual ambience. Best Vietnamese food in Austin. Very affordable and now serves imported beers. Great staff w/ mellow ambiance. Two thumbs up.
- 16 Hopdoddy Burger Bar, 1400 South Congress, ☏ . Absolutely amazing burgers, an excellent bar, and great milkshakes (be sure to try the Caramel & Sea Salt)! Be prepared for a wait.
- Kerbey Lane Cafe. 24 hours.
- Little Brother Coffee and Kolaches, 1512 South Congress Ave (Inside Maufrais (a hat shop) between West Monroe and Elizabeth Sts), email@example.com. M — Th: 8AM — 3PM; F: 8AM - 5PM Sa — Su: 8AM — 6PM. A small storefront with a counter and a small outdoor eating area that produces a few sweet and a few savory kolaches every day plus coffee and tea. Delicious and a good value.
- 19 Little Mexico Restaurant, 2304 S 1st St, ☏ . This restaurant has some of the finest enchiladas of a Tex-Mex style. Nothing at all bad on the menu either. It's one of those places mostly only the locals go to so keep it quiet. Also a good place to spot hungover Austin luminary musicians easing that Sunday morning pain. Little green and red building on the West side of S 1st, just a bit north of Oltorf. Good margaritas, Negro Modelo and XX are available. Good homestyle interior Mexican dishes as well as Tex-Mex. If you want to be trendy go to Guero's, if you want to eat, check it out and you won't be disappointed. Live music on Thursday nights.
- 20 Magnolia Cafe, 1920 South Congress Ave, ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM. Great place to get a short stack for breakfast. The dinner specials are pretty tasty and fairly inexpensive.
- 21 Mandola's Italian Kitchen, 4301 West William Cannon Drive DR E-1 (Arbor Trail), ☏ . Referred to by some as the best Italian food in Austin. Everything on the menu is affordable and delicious. Try the bruschetta alla checca, the trenette al pesto, or any pizza. They also have fabulous coffee, dessert, and gelato selections. From 3-6PM on weekdays they have a great happy hour.
- 22 Maria's Taco Xpress, 2529 South Lamar Blvd, ☏ . M 7AM-3PM, Tu-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-2PM. Local Mexican food. Live music on a regular basis and great fajitas. Maria's features some of the best breakfast tacos in town. On weekend mornings there is usually a line from the counter out the door, so if you don't want to wait call in your order. They only take cash, so be prepared. Live musicians featured on Sunday mornings and weekday evenings out on the patio.
- 23 Matt's El Rancho, 2613 S Lamar Blvd (1/2 blk N of Manchaca), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Su M W Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM; closed Tuesdays. The quintessential Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, you won't find anything non-traditional or creative here. It has been around for over 50 years and for good reason. The first thing to order is the first thing on the menu: the "Bob Armstrong Dip." Watch out for the strong margaritas! Complete dinners $12-18.
- 24 Perla's Seafood and Oyster Bar, 1400 S Congress Ave, ☏ . Excellent for lunch or dinner, but particularly wonderful for weekend brunch on their patio. Have a few cocktails and some oysters before ordering your entrée.
- Pho Tai Son. Good fresh Vietnamese standbys, pho, bun, stir-fry and bubble drinks. No beer but maybe you can bring your own?
- 27 Polvo's Mexican Restaurant, 2004 S 1st St, ☏ . All-around excellent tex-mex, very popular with the local crowd. Some of the best margaritas to be found anywhere, and a trip to Austin is not complete without their Rellenos al Nogal.
- 28 Sandy's Hamburgers, 603 Barton Springs Rd. Great burgers, milkshakes. Better than the Whataburger next door. Great people watching. Their soft-serve ice cream is worth the lines.
- 29 Shady Grove, 1624 Barton Springs Rd. Indoor & outdoor dining with a fun and eclectic atmosphere. Home-style foods such as frito pie & chili can be made vegan (even the Worcestershire is vegan).
- 30 South Congress Cafe, 1600 South Congress Ave, ☏ . M-F 10AM-4PM and 5-10PM, Sa Su 9AM-4PM & 5-10PM. In the heart of South Congress Avenue, this cafe serves up spectacular and inventive fare. The tomato soup with stilton cheese is tasty to start, and the blackened tuna tacos are downright phenomenal. Mains $10-25.
- Torchy's Tacos. M-Th 7AM-10PM, F 7AM-11PM, Sa 8AM-11PM, Su 8AM-10PM.
- 31 4301 W William Cannon Dr, ☏ .
- 32 Trudy's South Star, 901 Little Texas Ln, ☏ . M-Th 4PM-2AM (bar 2PM-2AM), F 11AM-2AM, Sa 9AM-2AM, Su 9AM-2AM (bar 10AM-2AM) Happy Hour M-F until 7PM. Regarded by some as the favorite for Tex-Mex food in town, but this also means they are generally incredibly crowded and loud. Excellent margaritas with specials each night of the week. They're known more for their Mexican martinis than for their food.
- 33 Uchi, 801 S Lamar Blvd (0.2 mi N of Barton Springs Blvd), ☏ . Su-Th 5-10PM, F Sa 5-11PM. High end authentic Japanese dining and sushi. Always slammed full of people. Creative seafood and Japanese cuisine, including sushi/sashimi. A good place to see and to be seen, dress is nighttime-casual to formal but, like almost anyplace in Austin, jeans are acceptable. Reservations are strongly recommended. Entrees $10-30.
- 1 Emo's East, 2015 E. Riverside Dr. Standing on the site of the old Back Room, this venue has good sound quality, and draws big acts.
- 2 Jo's Coffee, 1300 S Congress Ave, ☏ . Hip coffee spot right on South Congress, all outdoors. You can often find bands playing on the patio right off the street.
- 3 Trianon the Coffee Place, 3654 Bee Cave Rd, ☏ .
Almost all of the restaurants listed above have a full bar available and are suitable for grabbing a few drinks without having to order food. If you're looking to hop from bar to bar, listen to loud recorded music, and don't care about food, heading into Downtown Austin might be a better option.
- 4 Joann's Fine Foods, 1224 S Congress Ave, ☏ . Su-Th 5-9PM, F 5-10PM, Sa 6-10PM. Next to the iconic Austin Motel in SoCo. Organic & local as possible, yet affordable, global cuisine for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Tight wine list & local brews on tap, plus kick ass coffee & tea, with a fabulous patio for people watching. Dogs always welcome!
- 5 Pinthouse Pizza, 4236 S. Lamar Blvd, ☏ . Grab some award-winning beers and great pizza at this local favorite.
Live music Edit
Austin calls itself the live music capital of the world, and South Austin has its fair share of live music venues. Many of the restaurants and coffee shops in South Austin have live music. Some venues of note include The Continental Club, Threadgills, and Gueros Taco Bar.
If you want to be right on a main drag, there are several hotels and motels on South Congress Ave. On the other hand, if you'd rather stay on a quiet street that feels a lot like a small town with little traffic after 9:30 PM but is five minutes' walk from South Congress and 10 to 15 minutes' walk from 1st St., consider looking for a place in Travis Heights, where you will hear Carolina wrens' beautiful calls every morning and see other birds like downy woodpeckers and possibly black-headed vultures.
- 1 Motel 6 Austin South - Airport, 2707 Interregional Highway South, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- 2 Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs, ☏ , Regency.Austin@Hyatt.com. A beautiful hotel on the south shore of Austin's Town Lake close to downtown.
- 3 Hilton Austin Airport, 9515 Hotel Dr, ☏ . The Airport hotel. This cylinder-shaped hotel is on the grounds of Austin-Bergstrom International airport.
- 4 Hotel San Jose, 1316 S. Congress Ave., ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , email@example.com. Boutique Hotel in the heart of SoCo. A very trendy place, but more expensive than many other options in the area. It's also a popular spot to hang out for locals to have a drink or two in the evening around the beautifully landscaped pool.
- 5 Austin Motel, 1220 S. Congress Ave., ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A motel right on South Congress which really captures the classic Austin experience.
- 6 HI - Austin, 2200 South Lakeshore Blvd, ☏ .
- 7 McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, ☏ . The McKinney Falls State Park offers camping just outside the city. Reservations can be made online.
- 8 Best Western Plus, 2200 IH-35 South, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- 9 Courtyard Austin Airport, 7809 E. Ben White Blvd., ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Airport hotel with breakfast buffet, free airport shuttle and free internet.
Free Wi-Fi is available at many of the local restaurants and coffee shops.