Whether you’re looking for vintage-store treasures or Gucci handbags, Austin’s shopping scene delivers retail therapy in many forms. During the blistering heat of Austin summers, many shoppers still flock to air-conditioned malls, but many of the newer developments are mixed-use with both residential and retail sections, lending them more of a neighborhood vibe. For those in search of the weird old Austin of yesteryear, there are still a few shops on South Congress Avenue and in pockets throughout the city that defy easy categorization.
Home to Austin institutions such as The Continental Club and the Monkey See Monkey Do novelty store, South Congress is a fun place to while away an afternoon or evening. If you’d like to reward (or appease) your kids, stop in at the Big Top Candy Shop, which sells candies you might remember from childhood as well as treats from around the world. Parts & Labour is another long-term resident of the avenue, offering locally made clothing and gifts. If you’re in the market for cowboy boots, Allens Boots has a massive selection of both designer and reasonably priced boots. Around Halloween, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds is always packed with shoppers looking to assemble the perfect costume.
Austin's city center holds more than commercial high-rises and government offices — urban lofts, sidewalk eateries and local boutiques abound, particularly in the Second Street District. The three-block area provides an alternative shopping experience to the standard indoor mall. Trendy clothing, home decor and one-of-a-kind jewelry stores are interspersed among health food cafes, coffee shops, wine bars such as Cru, and gourmet restaurants like Three Forks. Many of the shops and some of the restaurants are locally owned and operated. City officials and local businesspeople invested heavily in Second Street as a way of encouraging people to live, play and work downtown. Austin's City Hall complex adds a funky element to the Second Street District (the rust-colored building has an armadillo tail that protrudes over the street). The Austin City Hall also has a large parking garage with reasonable rates.
A part of the growing Mueller development in northeast Austin, the shopping center includes old favorites such as Best Buy, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lane Bryant, Marshall’s, Old Navy and Chipotle. There are also a few specialty stores, such as The Children’s Place, rue21 (teen and young adult fashions) and Mosaic Market (gourmet groceries). On Wednesdays and Sundays, there’s also a lively farmers market at Lake Park in the center of the neighborhood.
Anchored by Neiman Marcus, the Domain is one of the most unabashedly high-end shopping centers in Austin. In addition to Ralph Lauren and Macy’s, there are also several mid-priced stores, including Banana Republic and Dillard’s. Designed as a shopping destination, the center boasts three on-site hotels: Aloft Austin, Westin Austin at The Domain, and Lone Star Court. Even the restaurants are upscale, including Fleming’s Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, and Cru Food and Wine Bar. The newest addition to the Domain, the Rock Rose district, brings many old favorites from central Austin to the northern borderlands. The transplants include Lavaca Street Bar, The Dogwood, Salvation Pizza, East Side King, Kung Fu Saloon and 24 Diner.
If the rest of Austin just seems too corporate for your tastes, this strip of vintage stores and record shops along North Loop Boulevard will seem like a breath of fresh air. Room Service Vintage is tidy and well organized, unlike many vintage stores. The shop carefully selects a few items to feature, and the offerings change frequently. You’ll find everything from boots to glassware to furniture — all in excellent condition. Blue Velvet is another must-visit boutique for serious vintage clothing shoppers. Breakaway Records sells vinyl records, tapes and the vintage equipment required to play them.
Featuring many stores you can park directly in front of, the Arboretum is a well-designed shopping center with tree-lined parking lots. The center is home to well-known stores such as Pottery Barn, Gap and Chico’s. Z Gallerie is one of the most popular home furnishing stores in central Texas, featuring furniture, art, lighting, dinnerware and rugs by top designers and manufacturers. Also, there’s a small park near Amy’s Ice Creams where kids can climb on life-size cows. Other places to eat include Five Guys, Z'Tejas, The Cheesecake Factory and Brio Tuscan Grille.
Located just northwest of Austin in Cedar Park, Lakeline Mall is the go-to shopping destination for those living in Austin’s northern suburbs. With more than 150 stores, the mall has a wide range of upscale and budget-friendly shopping experiences. The major department stores are Macy’s, Dillard’s and Sears. Gadget lovers appreciate the Brookstone store and GameStop, while kids love the Disney Store and Gymboree. Sweet treats can be gobbled up at Great American Cookies and Paradise Smoothies and Yogurt.
Perched atop a large hill in southwest Austin, Barton Creek Square is anchored by Nordstrom. The youngsters flock to the Apple Store, Lego Store, Pottery Barn Kids and the 14-screen IMAX theater. It’s the best place to shop in air-conditioned comfort during Austin’s brutal summer heat. Grab a bite to eat at California Pizza Kitchen, Pinkberry or Marble Slab Creamery. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Barton Creek hosts one of the largest farmers markets in town in its sprawling parking lot.
Located in deep south Austin, Southpark Meadows is one of Austin’s newest shopping centers. Boasting abundant parking and well-manicured landscaping, the center has more than 90 stores. An outdoor stage hosts live music daily against a backdrop of beautiful old oak trees. Benefit shows for organizations such as the Special Olympics are also held at the outdoor stage. A play area complete with slides and swings is also nestled among the trees. The biggest stores are the Super Target, WalMart Supercenter and JCPenney. Restaurants include the Texas Roadhouse, Chipotle, Serrano’s and Green Mesquite Barbecue.