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One of the most high-energy, youthful parts of the city is Central Austin, a diverse collection of neighborhoods and districts home to young professionals as well as college and graduate students, with the main campus of the University of Texas at Austin located here. For decades, students from across the globe have helped attract the types of businesses and institutions that twenty- and thirtysomethings crave, from vintage stores and affordable apartments to cheap eats, lively bars, and cultural attractions.

The boundaries for Central Austin consist roughly of East 45th Street to the north, Interstate 35 to the east, West Martin Luther King Boulevard to the south, and North Lamar Boulevard to the west. The area is just north of the University of Texas at Austin campus and the many attractions and amenities of Downtown, including both Sixth Street and Congress Avenue entertainment districts. It’s also close to outdoor activities along the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake and the Texas State Capitol, making it easy for Central Austin residents to divide their time between their own neighborhood and nearby hotspots without necessarily having to pay the higher prices of living Downtown.

Apartments in Central Austin run the gamut, from older buildings with fewer units and low-cost student apartments near the UT campus to high-rises with balcony views of the city and sprawling apartment communities bursting with amenities, such as resort-style pools, dog parks, high-tech fitness centers with spin studios, entertaining lounges, and outdoor kitchens. Nestled in between are a variety of homes, mainly century-old Victorian bungalows and mansions, mid-century modern homes, and contemporary buildings that work together to create a tapestry of unique styles.

Among the neighborhoods that comprise Central Austin are Hyde Park, Anderson, North Loop, Brentwood, Allandale, North University, West Campus, and the 437-acre University of Texas at Austin main campus itself.

Getting Around

Like every major Texas city, Austin is a car city. And while it helps to have a car in Central Austin, this area of the city has several smaller neighborhoods and districts within it that are much more walkable, including the University of Texas at Austin campus, North University, West Campus, and even parts of Hyde Park. Bike lanes are readily available in much of Central Austin, and on-demand bike and scooter rentals provide easy access to cycling for all. Capital Metro offers numerous bus routes and stops within Central Austin. Meanwhile, the newer MetroRapid and MetroRail services have broken ground to connect East Austin residents with Downtown Austin and other parts of the city. The nation’s two major rideshare companies have a large presence here. Plus, Austin residents and visitors can also choose from several alternatives, including one rideshare company that utilizes only electric-powered vehicles. The increased popularity of electric cars, due in no small part to Tesla’s Austin-based factory in Austin, means finding a charging station can be easier than in most American cities.

The entire Austin region is served by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, with approximately 350 daily flights offering nonstop service to more than 70 destinations, both domestic and international. Vonlane (a luxury, small-occupancy bus service with only first-class seating and amenities that include Wi-Fi, on-demand entertainment, a large restroom, and food/beverage service from a dedicated bus attendant) has a pickup/drop-off point nearby in Downtown Austin that gets people safely between Austin and San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas.

Food & Drink

A definitive culinary destination, Austin restaurants are known and loved by foodies and everyday diners alike. But the magic of the Central Austin food scene is its proximity to the University of Texas. Because of the large student population and recent graduates, you’ll find a wide range of affordable dining and drinking options sprinkled throughout the area. Sure, you’ll still find the requisite $20 cocktails, but by and large, cheaper food and beverages can be acquired easily, especially in the immediate vicinity of campus. Case in point: Dollar Slice Club. This pizza joint charges a small monthly membership in exchange for $1 slices, beverages, and other low-priced meal items. Grab a seat on the patio at Foodheads for $1.50 breakfast tacos and more-bang-for-the-buck sandwiches at lunch. Little Deli and Pizzeria is BYOB, so you can save a ton of cash on booze. And for excellent drive-in burgers, make sure to check out the options at Top Notch (and their visiting hot rod clubs).

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, feast on your favorite cuisines at spots where no matter the cost, you’re getting top quality while supporting local. For Tex-Mex, add Eldorado and El Patio Mexican Food to your list, along with based-in-Austin fast-casual chain Torchy’s Tacos. Black’s Barbecue is one of Austin’s most famous BBQ spots and a Central Austin favorite. Home Slice serves up incredible pizzas by the piece or an entire pie. Foreign and Domestic specializes in whole-animal preparations for seasonally inspired American and European-style dishes, while Mongers showcases the freshest raw and cooked seafood. And Kerbey Lane Café, another Austin favorite with multiple locations, is always a go-to spot for breakfast and late-night dining on Friday and Saturday until midnight.

As for bars in Central Austin, as is the case in most Austin drinking establishments, you’re bound to find live music most nights of the week. Be sure to check out Honey Moon Spirit Lounge for inventive cocktails and a spacious patio. Hole in the Wall, as the name suggests, is a true dive bar near UT Austin with cheap drinks and a tiny stage. For year-round Christmas décor without the nonstop carols, try Lala’s Little Nugget for a drink. Or, head to the Little Longhorn Saloon for an ice-cold beer and a Sunday afternoon bingo tradition involving a chicken and its poop to help you win prizes. Meanwhile, Dive Bar Austin lives up to its name, plus it’s got a great happy hour. Breweries in Central Austin include Draught House Pub & Brewery and the Brewtorium Brewery & Kitchen. For the daily caffeine fix, Lucky Lab Coffee Co., Trippy Buck Coffee Company, Square Peg Coffee Company, and Civil Goat Coffee each have plenty of devoted customers lining up for their favorite espresso drinks and a place to hang out and work.

Shopping

There’s no shortage of vintage and thrift shopping in Central Austin—it’s truly a thrifter’s haven. Pavement Modern & Recycled Fashion, Buffalo Exchange, Blue Velvet, Room Service Vintage, and Flamingos Vintage (a pay-by-the-pound option!) lure people in from all over the city. Quirky rules at Guzu Gallery, a pop culture art gallery and toy store, while Antone’s Records specializes in vintage vinyl, CDs, and new albums, too. Over at University Co-Op, shoppers can procure just about anything emblazoned with the University of Texas at Austin logo. Grocery stores are also abundant in Central Austin, with big chains like H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, and Central Market popular options alongside smaller operations, including Wheatsville Food Co-Op and Hyde Park Produce Market.

Things to Do

Even if you’re not enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin or another university in town, Central Austin and the nearby vicinity offer plenty of educational experiences. The Harry Ransom Center is a humanities museum (home to the first photograph—and 5 million more) that also gives visitors and researchers access to a million books and 100,000 works of art. The LBJ Presidential Library & Museum offers a glimpse into the career of the 36th Commander in Chief. The Neill-Cochran House Museum transports guests back to 19th-century Texas. The Bullock Texas State History Museum takes a deep dive into the Lone Star State’s tall (and true) tales. The Blanton Museum of Art is one of the largest university museums in the nation. And though not educational in the traditional sense, Spider House Ballroom is a top spot for live acts and a glimpse of why music plays such an important part in Austin culture.

Outdoor adventures are popular all over this part of the Texas Hilly Country, and Central Austin has its own offerings for locals who don’t want to travel far for fresh air and Texas sunshine. Austin’s own Central Park is located at the edge of this neighborhood, though it’s far smaller than the more famous one in New York. The Shoal Creek Greenbelt offers several miles of paths for walking, running, and cycling. Opened in 1899, Hancock Golf Course is a 9-hole public course that’s a favorite for a quick round with friends, along with two other city-owned 18-hole courses only a 10-minute drive away: the 18-hole Morris Williams Golf Course and Lions Municipal Course (The Muny). The Caswell Tennis Center, Hancock Recreation Center, Hyde Park Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and several other boutique skill- and class-specific fitness centers keep the adrenaline pumping and cardio going strong.

Colleges & Universities

Though it’s not even in the top 10 United States college campuses by land size, the University of Texas at Austin still has a large footprint in the city at 437 acres. By comparison, Downtown Austin is only 283 acres. With more than 50,000 students and 3,000 faculty and staff members, it has a considerable population compared with other parts of town, too. The university is divided into 13 different colleges and schools, with the College of Liberal Arts consistently attracting the most students. Nearby colleges and universities include St. Edwards University, Texas State University in San Marcos, and Southwestern University in Georgetown, though the latter two are typically too far away to make Central Austin a viable area to live for students attending those schools. Art institutes, trade schools, the Austin Community College District, and several smaller universities round out the higher-education opportunities in the region.

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