The Austin nightlife is infamous across the world for its wild, Texas-styled debauchery. When visiting however, it can be difficult to know exactly where to go to get the full experience. To help you find the perfect place to go out in Austin, we’ve produced a comprehensive local guide which lists the 8 major nightlife districts in our home city. After reading this, you’ll know exactly where to go out in Austin, Texas to match your unique vibe.
The Definitive Guide to Experiencing Austin Nightlife:
We’ve all heard of Austin’s infamous 6th Street in Austin, Texas, but did you know there’s actually 3 distinct sections? These three areas are all technically on 6th Street, but deliver very different vibes. Here’s the breakdown:
Dirty 6th (clubby, tourist attraction) – $
If you’re not from Austin, this is probably the part of 6th Street you’ve heard about. This area is colloquially referred to as “Dirty” 6th Street (or just “Dirty” for short) because of the rowdy debauchery that occurs here on a weekly basis. Some even compare it to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. This six-block section of the road is blocked off every weekend purely for drunken enjoyment. Dirty 6th Street is pure chaos- it’s essentially a carnival for drunk people. The bar Aquarium has a slide in it, Wild Greg’s Saloon has a mechanical bull, and there’s often a man carrying a giant yellow python snake taking photos with people.
If you’re visiting Austin for a long weekend, I’d suggest dedicating a night to bar hopping on Dirty 6th Street. It’s truly a must-see for anyone visiting Austin, but truth be told, I rarely attend as a local.
Going out with a group? Skip the lines with this VIP 6th Street Pub Crawl (shots included!)
West 6th (Clubs, Bottle Service) – $$$
West 6th Street is probably the most popular spot to go for people who are actually from Austin. West 6th has hints of the chaotic energy of Dirty 6th, but the clubs are more upscale. The crowd here is a bit more preppy and mainly in their early to mid twenties. It is popular amongst UT students. If you’re looking for bottle service, West is the area to go. There are several clubs that offer bottle service, including: Green Light Social, Mayfair, Devil May Care, and Concrete Cowboy. Concrete Cowboy stands out amongst the rest, in my eyes.
Some West 6th Street Favorites:
- Concrete Cowboy is a nightclub with tables, dance floor, and an outdoor patio rooftop.
- Mayfair is a nightclub with a DJ, bottle service, and stripper poles. Due to the layout, this club is best experienced with bottle service.
- The Cat’s Pajamas is a rooftop bar with swings and there are two jet ski photo props.
- Cocktail bars, The Beez Kneez and Wiggle Room have fun themes.
The Beez Kneez has a cool, grandma’s-living-room feel to it. There are vintage sofas beside fireplaces and there are 1960s refrigerators behind the bar. When a customer asks for the bill at Beez Kneez, they’re handed a paper-back erotica book with the receipt sticking out. Wiggle Room is right beside Beez Kneez. Wiggle Room has a very swanky interior design. There’s a disco ball and taxidermied peacocks watch over the small booths that line the room. The entire place quickly turns into a dance floor. Before you walk into Wiggle Room, there’s a patio with outdoor furniture.
East 6th (Casual Cocktails) – $$
East 6th Street is the place I go to most these days. Even though East 6th is only a few hundred yards from Dirty 6th- the two are entirely different. This stretch of Austin bars has an artsy vibe; it is more laid back than West 6th or Dirty 6th. There’s a mix of dive bars, newer cocktail bars, a natural wine bar, and music venues. The establishments feel less big-box and more authentic. Recently, this area has become much more crowded than it used to be. I suspect that bars on East Sixth have become crowded with the nightlife refugees from Rainey Street– an area that I talk about below.
My favorite venues on East 6th are the following:
- Hotel Vegas/Volstead Lounge: With nightly live music, a giant outdoor patio and a secondary space with a dance floor– you literally cannot go wrong here. You’ll find me here several times a month. There are two main stages, a DJ booth, and four bars. The inside area with the live music generally has a $5-$10 cover but access to the rest of the venue is free.
- Lolo’s Wine Bar: Next door to Hotel Vegas, there’s a natural wine bar called Lolo’s. There’s an indoor bar and an outside area in the back. It’s a bit pricey, but they sell wine both by the glass and by the bottle. They also have charcuterie boards.
- Whistler’s: This bar has excellent cocktails, and a special mezcal bar upstairs. One of Whistler’s cocktails made it on our best mezcal cocktails list.
- Shang-ri-la: this spot is a great little dive bar with moderately priced drinks and pool tables. They also have a speakeasy hidden in the back… if you can find it.
- White Horse: This honkey tonk bar is a classic spot in Austin for country music, two-stepping, and pool. There’s a cash-only $10-$20 cover to enter but once you’re inside, the drinks are very reasonably priced.
- Latchkey: Welcome to college spring break. Latchkey was basically a dive bar but lately, they’ve been letting in A TON more people and blasting pop hits. It’s definitely fratty in there, but if you’re young and single– it’s a great spot to check out.
Rainey Street (SUNDAY FUNDAY) – $$$
Rainey Street is a unique bar district that consists mainly of old houses that have been converted into trendy bars. It appeals to a bit more upscale crowd and in many places here you will have a hard time finding even a cheap beer under $8. Where Rainey street REALLY shines is on Sunday afternoons, where it’s often as full as during weekend nights! This is by far the best place to go for Sunday day-drinking, so definitely take advantage (I don’t enough).
I’m not going to sugarcoat it though– Rainey Street as we used to know it is dying. Unfortunately, the street’s house-bars are slowly being bought out and turned into luxury condos. The process isn’t entirely completed however, so there is still time to enjoy Rainey’s unique charms!
4th Street (The Gay Bar District) – $
The gay bar district is a very fun and distinct part of Austin nightlife. The clubs in this area are probably some of the coolest and most unique in Austin. From the rooftops and mirror room of Coconut Club and Neon Grotto to the underground raves at Club Eternal, you’re sure to have an interesting night here. This is also the top after-hours location, as several clubs in this area stay open to 3 a.m. or later on weekend nights. Many of these venues do have covers at the door, however.
Red River (“Alt” Scene, Live Music) – $
Red River Street, adjacent to Dirty 6th, is where you’ll find the alt-kids. You know the alt-kids– the ones who wear thrift-store finds and complain about all the gentrification in Austin. Red River has many dive bars, including Valhalla, Better Days, and The Side Bar. Cheer Up Charlie’s is also on Red River and was voted as the Best LGBTQ Club in Austin by the Austin Chronicle. They frequently have drag shows, concerts, and DJ sets.
The the crown jewel of the Red River District, however, is the “dive-club” called Barbarella’s (Barb’s). Barb’s markets itself as: “A dance club for people who don’t like dance clubs.” The club has weekly theme nights like “Tuesgayz” (every Tuesday), Emo Night (on some Wednesdays), and 80’s Night (every Friday). I highly suggest going to Emo Night when they have it. It is also connected to an alt-music venue called Swan Dive.
The Domain (Flashy, Bottle Service) – $$$
The Clubs at the Domain don’t exactly feel like the rest of Austin nightlife. In fact, the Domain as a whole feels a bit like an entirely separate mini utopian city. Make sure to dress nicely because there is a dress code. I usually like to go to at 77 Degrees and Rose Room. Rose Room is a flashy club with bottle service, exotic dancers, and aerial silk performers. It is connected to 77 Degrees, which is a multi-level rooftop lounge with hookahs.
Wonderbar is also a fun spot with its secret rooms and zany decorations. There is also a giant wheel of fortune on the wall, and an unlucky spin could result in you getting kicked out of the bar. Wonderbar’s menu features a Red Bull based cocktail that is served inside of a hand-held disco ball along with many other fun (yet expensive) drinks.
E 12th & Chicon (The Emerging Scene) – $
The intersection of East 12th Street and Chicon is an up-and-coming area for Austin nightlife. If you’re looking for skee ball, you’ll want to check out Full Circle. It features an entire wall of skee ball machines. If you’re wanting to play pool and drink cocktails, King Bee a great spot with cocktails and a divey yet spacious atmosphere and a food truck in the back patio.
If you want to dance and let loose, Outer Heaven is a great club to go to. In no other club in Austin have I seen people truly dance like no one’s watching the way they do here. The vibe at Outer Heaven is similar to Barbarella’s, it’s just smaller. The front of the building is covered with mirrored tiles, which gives the club a disco-ball appearance from the street. The enterance is actually not on the front however. Instead you enter through the alleyway on the back side of the lot onto the patio area. There’s usually a $10 cover, and they take card and cash.
Outer Heaven asks that you join their cult upon entering. “All we ask is that you join our crew of misfits, desperately trying to keep the real Austin alive as it gets hacked away by the fake fucks that think money can buy a soul,” their website reads.