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REX Neighborhood Guide: Austin

by Kimberly Fischer
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Whether you’re coming for the live music, seriously good food, or your tech job, Austin is sure to win your heart. The city is home to many things, including UT Austin, South by Southwest Music Festival, Lake Austin, and REX’s headquarters. But it hasn’t always been booming. 

Austin started as a settlement named Waterloo that was renamed and became the state capital in 1839. Up until a couple decades ago, modern Austin remained a sleepy town of slackers. Now, it’s a bustling city with home sales off the charts and tech plants moving in record numbers. The Austin metro is the fifth in the nation for a population increase in the past decade, adding more than 510,000 people between 2010 to 2019, according to the Austin Business Journal.

Check out our top dining, shopping, and insta-worthy recs to understand the hype around this Texas city.

Downtown

Home to the Capitol building, never-ending construction of skyscrapers, and Lady Bird Lake, downtown always has something interesting going on. According to Austin Relocation Guide, downtown promotes an upscale urban lifestyle with a sophisticated, yet laid back, feel. Residents can choose from luxury towers to garden-style or loft condos.

Head to the historic Rainey Street for a lively scene of restaurants and bars set in 1930’s Craftsman-style homes. Try out Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden for brunch and Emmer & Rye for dinner, dubbed by Bon Appetit as one of the best restaurants in the country.

The Red River Cultural District is the place to go for live music, whether that’s at Mohawk Rock and Roll Playhouse or Empire Control Room.

If you’re looking for nightlife fun, check out Esther Follies comedy club and Midnight Cowboy, a speakeasy with creative cocktails, on Sixth Street.

Central

The central part of the city is home to UT Austin, one of the largest universities in the nation. Although the area is overwhelmingly made up of students and faculty, Do512 assures us there are plenty of cool spots that aren’t too stereotypically college. 

Make sure to stop by the LBJ Presidential Library on campus to learn about the president who hailed from the Lone Star State. On the Drag, UT Austin’s west bordering street, hit Spider House Cafe & Ballroom for a variety of food trailers, a unique outdoor patio, and even a tattoo and piercing parlor.

If you desire an escape from the bustling city streets, Hyde Park provides you just that. With strict rules to protect the community from any drastic changes, it has a small town feel with turn of the century homes and tree-lined streets. The Elisabet Ney Museum is housed in what was once the German-born sculptress’ studio and displays the largest collection of her work in the world.

North Loop is Hyde Park’s cool, up and coming neighbor. Spend an afternoon browsing the abundance of vintage shops, like Room Service Vintage, for retro clothing, home decor, and mid-century modern furniture. 

East

According to Visit Austin, east of I-35 was a historically segregated part of town. While waves of gentrification have transformed the area into a hipster hotbed, there are still mom and pop shops and long-standing establishments. 

East Ceasar Chavez, a historically Latino neighborhood, is home to the must-eat Juan in a Million. If you’re daring, attempt the Don Juan Taco Challenge, featuring what Business Insider included in the Top 50 Breakfast Tacos in the U.S. 

Looking to change it up? Check out Ramen Tatsu-Ya on East 6th St. for an unexpectedly good bowl of ramen in the middle of Texas. For an after-dinner treat, go to Lick Honest Ice Creams, located in Mueller’s Town Center District. 

South

Often thought of as the embodiment of the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan, South Austin is definitely an area you won’t want to miss. It is laid back and a great mix of old and new. If you’re looking to settle down here, Habitat Hunters says you can expect small ranch homes and uniquely modern ones.

Start at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Ave for a dose of caffeine and a photoshoot at their “I love you so much” mural. It wouldn’t be a true Texas experience if you didn’t stop to pick up a pair of cowboy boots at Allens Boots.

The next street over, South First St, contains the iconic “Greetings from Austin” mural. It also has Fresca’s, a unique take on fast food, known for its tacos and sides – think: crispy brussels sprouts and Mexican street corn.

A little further south, you’ll find the South Lamar neighborhood. Entertainment Magazine named Broken Spoke the best country dance hall in the nation. You’ll want to arrive early for free dance lessons and stay late for live local performances.

West

For a completely different view of Austin, head west. Full of lakes, hills, and elegant resorts, you’re in for an adventurous day. According to Visit Austin, it is perfect for visitors looking for a true “local” experience.

Old West Austin is a historical neighborhood with a collection of architecture that ranges from the 1800s to the 1950s. It is a sought after neighborhood to live in because of its cycling paths, hiking trails, and parks. Here, you get the best of both worlds being in close proximity to both downtown and Lake Austin.

Venture to the other side of the expressway to the Tarrytown neighborhood. Eat and drink at The Beer Plant, Austin’s first vegan gastropub. Then, shop at the curated Estilo Boutique for high-end clothing. 

Whether you spent your day swimming at Deep Eddy Pool or boating on Lake Austin, you’ll appreciate ending it with a sit-down meal at The Oasis. Grab a margarita and a Tex-Mex meal to enjoy panoramic views of the sunset and Lake Travis.

Article by Megan Kong, REX Homes

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