Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin will certainly exceed all your expectations for nightlife and dining. To start off the evening, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Boots or bats?” If the answer is boots, head to South Congress Street, or SoCo, as locals call it, and visit Allens Boots, one of the most authentic purveyors of cowboy boots and Western wear in America, open daily to 8 p.m. The smell of premium leather hits you as soon as you walk in. Bat lovers should wander over to South Congress Bridge, home to nearly 1.5 million free-tailed bats, comprising the largest urban bat colony in the world. After sunset every evening, late March through September, crowds congregate atop the bridge to watch the bats pour out for their nightly feasting. You’ll quickly understand Austin’s slogan, seen plastered around the city: “Keep Austin Weird.”
If you’re looking to unwind before dinner, head to the relatively new Austin Proper Hotel and snag one of the coveted velvet chairs at its bar, Goldie’s. Opt for the classic Brown Derby, made with Weller Reserve Bourbon, or Jamaican Doctor, which should restore your health thanks to Appleton 8 Rum and fresh pineapple.
For tender, meat-falling-off-the-bone barbecue, it’s hard to top Franklin Barbecue, but be prepared to grab a beer and wait in a long line. Also try another local barbecue institution, Iron Works. The former iron factory now churns out some of the tastiest ribs, sausage and sliced beef you’ve ever had. Best to get the sampler plate and try all three. For fine dining, indulge in the tasting menu at Barley Swine, where Chef Bryce Gilmore takes Southern cooking to new heights, thanks to his use of locally sourced produce, fish and meats. Start with the poached rainbow trout and move on to the Muscovy duck from Belle Vie Farms in Thrall, Texas, or the 30-day, dry-aged Akaushi ribeye.
Make Rainey Street’s historic strip of bungalows, now large outdoor bars, your first stop after dinner. It’s rare not to find a live bluegrass or country music band playing while you down one of the many craft brews at Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden. Keep the party going at Cheer Up Charlies, a live music venue in the Red River District that’s played a major role in the Austin LGBTQ+ scene since it opened in 2010. End the night where it all started so many hours prior, at South Congress Street, to catch a set on the small stage of The Continental Club. Since it opened in 1955, it’s been the premier venue in Austin, attracting such performers as Robert Plant and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. The next superstar could be playing that night.
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