Austin has long been considered the coolest city in Texas. While that well-deserved reputation has existed for some time, Austin has experienced historic population growth in the past few years. Austin was the fourth fastest growing US city in 2021, as reported by Culture Map.
Central Austin is often considered the cultural hub of the city. With its close proximity to the University of Texas, it's no surprise that the central area is where all the action is. If you're new to central Austin real estate and looking for fun things to do in Central Texas, this guide is for you.
Central Austin Restaurants
Fonda San Miguel
Photo courtesy of Fonda San Miguel
New arrivals in Texas will be delighted with all the amazing Tex Mex restaurants. The outstanding Fonda San Miguel is run by co-chefs Blanca Zesati and Carlos Monroy. Since its opening in 1975, the restaurant has drawn a lot of inspiration from the Mexican culinary hub of Oaxaca. While patrons are sure to find plenty of Mexican classics on their menu, you'll also see a dedicated section for vegan options. Fonda San Miguel also features a changing weekly menu that is sourced from local farms and ranches.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
While Austin is known for its Tex Mex options, its excellence in BBQ is also worth noting. Stiles Switch BBQ is helmed by Texas native Shane Stiles, who built up decades of BBQ experience before opening his own restaurant. The goal is to incorporate all of the best BBQ techniques found throughout Texas. You will find all the Texas BBQ classics on their menu, from Jalapeno sausage to smoked brisket. True to their name, they focus on more than just high-quality BBQ dishes. They also have an excellent selection of beers from local microbreweries.
Top Notch Hamburgers
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If you're looking for a retro aesthetic, Top Notch Hamburgers is the place to be. This burger joint opened in 1971, and few changes have been made to its appearance over the years. The burgers are cooked over a charcoal grill for extra flavor. The restaurant's culinary claim to fame is the famous fried chicken, a closely guarded family secret. All chicken is locally sourced and battered and fried to order. If Top Notch looks familiar, that is not a coincidence. The restaurant was a set location for the cult classic film “Dazed and Confused.”
Photo courtesy of Picnik
Picnik successfully blends healthy eating with Texas flavor in a new cuisine type they call "better-for-you comfort food." All the beef on the menu is derived from grass-fed cattle. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced, meaning the menu will change with the seasons. Patrons at Picnik can eat guilt-free, as none of the menu items contain refined sugar. The restaurant prides itself on being able to accommodate all major diets and allergy restrictions. Menu items can easily accommodate paleo, gluten-free, Mediterranean diets, and just about any other dietary restrictions your party may have.
Central Austin Bars and Nightlife
Hole in the Wall
True to its name, Hole in the Wall is the place to be for a gritty atmosphere and cheap drinks. But don't mistake this watering hole for just another dive bar. Hole in the Wall is one of Austin's legendary venues for up-and-coming music acts. Being just across the street from the University of Texas, you're sure to find cutting-edge music trends here. After all, Hole in the Wall used to be the filming location for Austin City Limits. The bar served as a launching pad for local acts to achieve national fame, such as Spoon, Gary Clark Jr., and The Gourds. If you visit Hole in the Wall when it's slow, the staff is likely to share some legendary stories about the place, like when Stevie Ray Vaughan did an impromptu set until 3 in the morning.
Antonelli's Cheese Shop
Photo courtesy of Antonelli's Cheese Shop
If you are looking for something a bit more refined and luxurious, Antonelli's Cheese Shop has you covered. This may be the best place in all of Texas to sip fine wine specifically paired with artisanal cheeses. The acclaimed cheese shop has been praised by “Travel+Leisure,” “Wine Spectator,” and “The Wall Street Journal.” Antonelli's is located in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood and offers wine pairings with cured meats, honey, preserves, and chocolates. For the true cheese and wine fans, Antonelli's offers specialized classes several times a week.
The Little Longhorn Saloon
Photo courtesy of The Little Longhorn Saloon
No Texas nightlife recommendations list would be complete without at least one honky tonk option. For central Austin, we're giving that honor to The Little Longhorn Saloon. The draft beers are cheap, and the music is local. Over 600 bands play at this saloon per year, so you're sure to have a new experience every time you visit. The Saloon has one event that may be the most Austin thing you'll encounter: a bingo game where a chicken wanders around in a cage with a bingo placard at the bottom of the enclosure.
While Austin is well-regarded as one of the best places to see live music, musicians aren't the only live performers in town. In addition to live music, The Ballroom hosts comedy, cabaret, and poetry. The Ballroom is a popular small venue spot, so most shows require purchasing a ticket in advance. When there are no scheduled events, The Ballroom is a great place to enjoy happy hour with the local artists of Austin. The Ballroom doesn't serve any food, but on event nights, there will be plenty of food trucks to choose from. Several neighboring restaurants even offer curbside delivery.
Weekend trips outside of Austin: Places to see in Central Texas
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The city of Georgetown is only about a 30-minute drive north of Texas, making it great for a spontaneous day trip. Its big claim to fame is having one of the most beautiful city squares in all of Texas. The square offers plenty of opportunities for shopping at boutiques or dining at locally-sourced restaurants. First Fridays are the ideal time to visit, as the square turns into a block party.
But Georgetown has more to offer than its square. The city is home to the Inner Space Cavern, offering a great spelunking opportunity for beginners. Even in the middle of July, the Inner Space Cavern stays at a comfortable 72 degrees, making it a great spot to escape the heat. Blue Hole Park is another popular attraction to beat the heat.
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Located about two hours west of Austin is Fredericksburg. The city was founded by German immigrants, and many of the buildings resemble Prussian-style architecture. In addition to the beautiful buildings, Fredericksburg could be described as the Napa Valley of Texas. There are over 50 wineries and tasting rooms in the area, making it a popular spot for wine aficionados. Much like Napa Valley, you will be able to find plenty of world-class restaurants in Fredericksburg. Unlike Napa Valley, Fredericksburg is home to numerous German and BBQ eateries.
In between wining and dining, you're sure to find plenty of outdoor activities in the area. Perhaps the most popular natural attraction is Enchanted Rock. The amazing rock formation and the surrounding park offer 8.4 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, exhibits, and camping. Bicycle rentals are easy to come by should you want to explore the park at a faster pace.
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Perhaps the best part of living in central Texas is the closeness of world-class cities. San Antonio is only about a 90-minute drive from Austin and has one of the most beautiful river walks in the world. With a population of about 2.5 million, you'll have a difficult time running out of things to do in Alamo City.
First-time visitors will quickly notice that San Antonio is a fusion of American and Mexican cultures. Popular historical and cultural attractions include The Alamo, Mission San Jose, and the Mission Trail. While most people visit the city for a cultural experience, San Antonio also has an impressive cave attraction in the Natural Bridge Cavern. The Japanese Tea Gardens are also worth a visit.
If you're looking to move to the Austin area, team up with a reliable real estate company that knows the area inside and out. That's where the Marye Company comes in. Founded by Drew Marye, the Marye Company team quickly grew to include real estate experts across the region. They are the team you can count on for anything and everything Austin.
*Header photo courtesy of Unsplash