Downtown Austin is best known for its entertainment districts -- Sixth Street, the Warehouse District and the clubs and restaurants around Red River near the convention center -- and they ensure that downtown Austin is alive into the early morning hours. But downtown Austin's famous nightlife scene is just one aspect of what is a vibrant city center 24 hours a day.
Downtown Living...uniquely Austin
The entertainment districts are just far enough away from most of the downtown apartments and lofts to serve as a temptation, rather than a noisy nuisance. Downtown Austin also has its quiet places and times, plus galleries and shops that offer a sophisticated lifestyle in 78701.
Athletes from the Austin Rowing Club cut through the early morning mists on Town Lake, while joggers wend their way along the hike and bike trail. Early birds enjoy migas and breakfast tacos at the legendary Las Manitas Cafe on Congress Avenue. By mid-morning the sidewalk coffee shops and bakeries are filling up. Lunchtime brings classical music to an urban plaza, and brown baggers to the Capitol grounds. Downtown Austin stays alive on weekends with film festivals and gallery shows, and a Saturday morning farmer's market takes over downtown Republic Square. Or you can take a short hike across the Congress Avenue Bridge and visit the hip SoCo neighborhood just up the hill.
After work, friends gather on the outdoor deck of a favorite watering hole, perhaps the Cedar Door on Brazos Street, the Freddy Krueger of Austin bars which has been towed to four locations in its 26 year history. Others meet at one of Austin's growing number of trendy "neighborhood" bars for a sophisticated cocktail, perhaps at Molotov on Sixth Street, or go work out at the YMCA on Cesar Chavez Street, a popular, economical downtown gym. The day can end with a pre-dawn pastrami on rye at Katz's, the 24-hour deli on Sixth Street, or with an early evening free delivery of udon from Noodle-ism on Fifth.
Austin's downtown is an evolving expression of New Urbanism, the creation of pedestrian-friendly communities where residents can enjoy easy access to recreation, shops, cafes, galleries and nightlife. The Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association holds an annual downtown living tour, usually in May, and hosts "The Urban Core", a monthly social gathering for downtown residents, plus DANA maintains an extensive calendar of downtown events on its webpage.
Residents can find almost everything they need for daily urban living within the boundaries of downtown Austin -- Martin Luther King Boulevard in the North, Town Lake in the South, IH-35 in the East and Lamar Boulevard in the West. There are dry cleaners, drug stores and gas stations; however, there are no department stores or big discount chains downtown. Plans to put a small footprint Target discount store downtown foundered a couple of years ago. But small boutiques selling clothes, home furnishings and artwork have proliferated and some, like Tesoro's on Congress which imports from Latin America, India, Africa and Asia, are unique downtown highlights. The Central Design District around the Sixth Street/Lamar Boulevard hub is home to several popular home decor stores, including Zanzibar and the Whit Hanks Antique shop.
The intersection also is home to homegrown bookstore Bookpeople and the Whole Food Stores "landmark" building which serves as a corporate headquarters, grocery store, cafe and take-out heaven for the downtown neighborhood resident. (Other grocery store options lie a little further away with H-E-B at Oltorf and South Congress about two miles South of downtown. One mile West of downtown is Fresh Plus, a neighborhood grocery store on West Lynn in Clarksville, the West End neighborhood.)
Urban living downtown in Austin Texas is, of course, ideal for anyone working downtown, but given easy access to major North-South freeways MoPac (Loop 1) to the West and IH-35 on the Eastern edge of the "neighborhood" commuting from downtown is viable. There is little free parking in downtown Austin, but getting around is made easier by the free "Dillo" buses that serve the area and the city provides many sidewalk bicycle racks on major downtown streets. This is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and most streets are safe at all hours, although caution is advised as in any urban living area late at night. A group of bicycle-riding uniformed volunteers called the Austin Downtown Rangers patrol Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are not armed, but do carry two-way radios to communicate with police. The three entertainment districts are patrolled by Austin police, on foot, on bicycles and sometimes on horseback. They advise caution in walking through some downtown alleyways late at night.