Nightlife in Austin: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Reflection Of Illuminated Buildings In City At Night
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On any given night in Austin, you could be sipping martinis at a downtown speakeasy, two-stepping with regulars at a rollicking honky-tonk, schmoozing with loud tech bros at a beer garden, or (actually) keepin’ it weird with locals in a pleasantly grimy, stripped-down dive. And wherever you are, live music is almost always part of the deal.

 Bars

There’s certainly no shortage of top-notch cocktail bars in Austin, but these are some of our all-time favorites:

  • The Butterfly Bar: This bar, affiliated with experimental theater venue The VORTEX, has it all here: a colorfully lit yard, extremely friendly vibes, and an on-site food truck serving homemade pasta.
  • The Cloak Room: The Cloak Room is located right next to the Capitol building but it’s easily one of the most covert bars in the city, thanks to its nondescript location: the pitch-dark basement of the 120-year-old Goodman Building. Rumor has it that several shady politicos have made under-the-table deals here over the years.  
  • Kitty Cohen’s: A Palm Springs-esque oasis in the middle of East Austin, Kitty Cohen’s is where the cool people go on sweltering summer days to sip frosé and dip their toes in the wading pool. 
  • Small Victory: This downtown cocktail bar is tough to find, which is all part of the fun. There’s no signage; instead, look for a spiral staircase that’s attached to a parking garage (there will be an S.V. on the window). Reward yourself for your efforts with a martini or a Manhattan—Small Victory specializes in classic cocktails.   
  • Whisler’s: This hip East Side cocktail bar has a “secret” Oaxacan-style mezcal bar upstairs; both are well worth your time.
  • Deep Eddy Cabaret: In a city of imitation dive bars, Deep Eddy Cabaret is the real deal. No frills, plenty of regulars, a grimy jukebox blaring old country tunes, and as many cheap pitchers of Lone Stars as you can stomach. For a true old-school Austin day, take a dip in next-door Deep Eddy Pool beforehand—it’s the oldest swimming pool in Texas.  

 Wine Bars & Breweries

Austin may be better known for its craft brew obsession than its wine bars, but there are several noteworthy spots in town to grab a great glass of wine and plenty of breweries to pick from. Here’s just a smattering of places to get you started: 

  • House Wine: For great wines that won’t break the bank, in a cozy, homey setting, House Wine fits the bill nicely. Sink into a plush armchair, order some charcuterie, and enjoy a glass or two.
  • LoLo: Austin’s first natural wine bar, LoLo is equal parts hip wine shop, bar, and organic wine education hub. To round out the excellent vino selection, there are plenty of gourmet snacks to enjoy, like a crusty baguette with Spanish olive oil, a variety of tinned fish, and a delectable flourless chocolate torte. 
  • Austin Beerworks: In North Burnet, Austin Beerworks is a local favorite, beloved for its highly popular core brews, sizable outdoor space, and unpretentious vibes.
  • Austin Beer Garden Brewery Co.: A friendly, spacious venue with long wooden tables, delicious pizza, and award-winning beer—what more could you need?

Live Music Venues

The rumors are true; you’ll hear live music practically everywhere you go in Austin, from glitzy downtown cocktail dens to your friendly neighborhood dive and, of course, at theaters and concert halls around town. Here’s where to go to groove to some tunes.

  • The Far Out Lounge: Put simply, the Far Out Lounge is for everyone—kids, teens, parents, non-parents, pets, you name it. This South Austin bar/outdoor music venue has a spacious patio and yard area, plus the requisite food trucks.
  • Skylark Lounge: Skylark has seen some big changes over the 30-plus years that it’s been around, but one thing remains the same—the live country, blues, and soul bands that occupy the stage every week are reliably excellent.  
  • Elephant Room: This downtown underground jazz club boasts live music seven nights a week, in the form of swing, blues, and smooth New York- and Kansas City-style jazz.
  • Donn’s Depot: In an old train car, underneath sparkling lights, live country tunes fill the room nearly every night at Donn’s Depot. Owner Donn Adelman himself is often at the piano, and the dance floor is always full of two-stepping, boots-wearing regulars. 
  • The Moody Theater: Best known for serving as the permanent home for the taping of the hit PBS series "Austin City Limits," the Moody hosts around 100 acts per year (in addition to tapings), from nationally-known touring bands to hometown favorites like Willie Nelson and Gary Clark, Jr. 
  • Mohawk: The lineup at Mohawk (the beating heart of the Red River district music scene) is always chock-full of exciting indie, punk, and alt-rock performers.  
  • Stubb’s Bar-B-Q: In addition to serving up smoked meats, Stubb’s hosts regular shows at their sizable outdoor amphitheater stage.   
  • Continental Club: The legendary Continental Club opened its doors in 1957, and while pretty much everything about the neighborhood has changed since then, this venue still brings the goods—expect to come here and witness some seriously great live music.

Dance Clubs

Austin isn’t known for its club scene, but what the city lacks in glossy nightclubs, it makes up for in eclectic late-night dance spots and honky-tonks.  

  • Cheer Up CharliesWelcoming and vibrant, Cheer Up Charlies caters to a hip crowd, with kombucha-based cocktails and funky live shows.
  • The White Horse: This popular East Side honky-tonk has awesome live music and free dance lessons throughout the week, and there are always multiple white-haired cowboys ready to take you for a spin.
  • Barbarella: As every Austinite knows, "Barb's" is where you go to dance until your feet ache—there are fun themed nights like Tuezgayz on Tuesdays and '80s Night on Fridays.
  • Hotel Vegas and The Volstead Lounge: These sister bars on East Sixth offer ample opportunities for dancing, whether it's a live punk show or DJ set.

Late-Night Eateries

These places will never steer you wrong when the nighttime munchies set in.

  • East Side King @ The Liberty: Here, Japanese street food meets Asian fusion cuisine at one of the oldest bars on East Sixth.  
  • Las Cazuelas: Chow down on tacos until 2 a.m. at this East Cesar Chavez joint.  
  • Gourdough’s Public House: Known for it's doughnuts and doughnut burgers, Gordough's is open to at least midnight.
  • Arlo’s @ Spiderhouse: This beloved food truck serves hearty, plant-based comfort food that always hits the spot, and the Spiderhouse location is open until midnight, every night. 
  • Via 313 on Rainey Street: Tuck into Detroit-style pizza until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at this wildly popular truck in the middle of the fray on Rainey.

Tips for Going Out in Austin

  • Most bars in Austin stay open until 2 a.m., and Last Call is usually at around 1:45 a.m.
  • CapMetro (the city’s public transit system) has a Late Night Service that runs until 2:30 a.m. from Thursday through Sunday, but most late-night bar-hoppers opt to call an Uber, Lyft, or RideAustin car.
  • Expect to get carded at all bars and clubs. Most (if not all) music venues sell alcohol so you’ll likely have to show your ID and wear a wristband if you’re partaking during a show.
  • Carry some cash on your person at all times when you’re out and about. A cash-only cover charge is to be expected at popular bars with music and clubs like Barbarella, Volstead, etc. 
  • When going out, tipping works much like it does anywhere else in major U.S. cities—a good rule of thumb is to tip your bartender at least $1 to $2 per drink.
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