In a city where keeping it weird isn’t just a way of life, but literally a mantra throughout its residents, you can expect that Austin features some amazing places to visit that are unlike anywhere else. Although there are many places that you can go to get a sense of the city, a day spent at South Congress Avenue is a uniquely Austin experience that every visitor should have. From shopping and restaurants to live music and entertaining people watching, South Congress Avenue has it all.
One of the first things you will notice about South Congress Avenue is that it extends all the way to the Texas State Capital and offers stunning views of the building. This creates a wonderful backdrop to your time spent here and gives you a very strong sense of place. South Congress Avenue, called “SoCo” by the hip locals, has a history that dates back to the 1930’s when many of the South Congress icons first opened their doors. The 70’s and 80’s brought artists and drifters to SoCo, but by the 90’s, the area was revitalized and became the local hotspot that it is today.
Arguably the best time to hit up South Congress Avenue is during the First Thursdays event. On the first Thursday of every month, the street is lined with pop up shops, street vendors, and food trucks, in addition to the many shops and restaurants that make their permanent home on the avenue. The atmosphere turns into a type of block party for the city, with live music playing around every corner. This is the time to truly get a sense of the uniqueness of Austin!
There are so many restaurants to choose from along South Congress Avenue that it is hard to make just one recommendation! However, the South Congress Hotel is home to three different restaurants that all offer amazing options. For breakfast, Cafe No Se offers French-pressed coffee and fresh pastries and bagels that make an early trip to SoCo even better. Central Standard is the main interior restaurant with a wide variety of menu options, from oysters on the half shell to impeccably prepared steak. For those that like a more exclusive experience, their 12-seat Japanese restaurant Otoko features a multi-course omakase menu.
The shops here are an eclectic mix of second-hand vintage shops, high end boutiques, and true Texas vibes. For the vintage shopper, check out St. Vincent de Paul and South Congress Books. Like something higher end? Pop into Kendra Scott or Uncommon Objects. Lastly, for a truly Texan souvenir, head to Allen’s Boots to find the perfect pair of—you guessed it—cowboy boots. Enjoy the art and culture in Austin, TX!