If asked to pick a single neighborhood that epitomizes the quintessential Austin experience, it would be difficult to come up with a district more iconic than South Congress—referred to colloquially as SoCo by locals and others in the know. Bordered by Lady Bird Lake to the north, Interstate 35 to the east, South 1st Street in the west, and East William Cannon Drive in the south, the main South Congress Avenue drag (and namesake of the neighborhood) cuts through the center and attracts a mixture of locals and tourists. The draw? Quirky boutiques, funky restaurants, lively music venues, hole-in-the-wall bars, popular food trucks, and former motor lodges and motels turned into hip modern accommodations with destination eateries and watering holes that appeal equally to hotel guests and neighborhood residents. The neighborhood is bustling from mid-morning to well after midnight, making it a fun place to explore and get caught up in the festive spirit that spills out from almost every business's front door.
South Congress also features one of the most picturesque vantage points for viewing the Texas State Capitol. If you walk across South Congress Avenue and look north, you’ll see the historic building smack dab in the middle of the horizon. Walk toward Downtown Austin and the Capitol and make a pitstop at the Congress Avenue Bridge for another truly Austin experience—thousands of bats taking flight at dusk each night, especially prevalent during the summer.
Apartments in South Congress run the gamut from small buildings with a couple dozen units or fewer to newer, mid-rise and high-rise residences that offer tenants a bevy of amenities and perks, plus proximity to one of the most livable-yet-offbeat neighborhoods in the city.
Travel around SoCo and other parts of South Austin is primarily done by car, truck, or motorcycle—pretty much anything with an engine—due to the spread-out nature of the city. Although less convenient, Austin public transportation makes getting around the immediate South Congress neighborhood, nearby Downtown, and other parts of South Austin simple enough if you don’t have access to a vehicle. Parking can be a challenge at many places, so some locals prefer to jump on a bus or grab a rideshare service (such as the usual nationally known ones or Earth Rides, a company featuring an all-electric Tesla fleet.
Capital Metro offers several bus routes, including some MetroRapid lines, as well as limited MetroRail services that can be accessed nearby in Downtown. The light rail service has a route that’s 32 miles long, but currently only has nine stops along the single line. Cycling in Austin is very popular, and many parts of South Austin are simple to navigate on a bike, whether your own or rented by the hour from numerous bikeshare stations throughout the region. Austin also has charging stations all over town due to a large concentration of BEVs and EVs.
Austin is home to more than 1,200 food trucks, trailers, and other mobile or pop-up eateries, and a great number of them can be found throughout the SoCo neighborhood and all along South Congress Avenue. South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery features several dining options, as does nearby South First Food Court—both with plenty of outdoor tables for supping on a variety of foods in the great outdoors. Popular restaurants in South Congress in the area include Guero’s Taco Bar for Tex-Mex (and live music in their Oak Garden outside space next door); Two Hands, Jo’s Coffee, The Meteor, and Joann’s Fine Foods for great breakfasts; Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar for fish dishes; Hopdoddy Burger Bar for gourmet variations; Home Slice Pizza for quick Italian fare; and both Jeni’s Ice Cream and Amy’s Ice Cream for fulfilling any sugar fix.
For day drinking and nightlife alike, South Congress offers tipplers a large variety of bars, from tiny spots to spacious venues, most with the unifying characteristic of offering live music on weekends and sometimes daily. Crow Bar, White Tiger, The Continental Club, The 04 Lounge, Ego’s, C-Boy’s Heart and Soul, Little Drinks Lounge, and the bar at Hotel San José are some of the most popular hangouts. Meanwhile, The Yard in the Saint Elmo area of SoCo feels like a boozy version of a food hall with local beverage crafters doing their thing at St. Elmo Brewing Co., The Austin Winery, Still Austin Whiskey Co., Texas Saké Company, Austin Cocktails, and Blue Norther Hard Seltzer.
For a buzz from coffee and tea, check out Simona’s Coffee & Cocktails, Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, Spokesman Coffee, Plaza Columbian Coffee, Little Brother Coffee & Kolaches, and Magnolia Café.
Shopping in SoCo is always an adventure with so many fun places to find unusual goods, from apparel to home goods and everything in between, as well as big-name national retailers so you can purchase anything you need for daily living. Get your hands on the perfect costume for Halloween or your next theme party at Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds. Outfit yourself in western footwear at Allens Boots. Find some true conversation pieces at Monkey See, Monkey Do. Find a variety of Texas-themed merch at Parts and Labour. And uncover treasures from around the world at the quirky Tesoros Trading Post.
For groceries, stop into smaller shops such as Tiny Grocer or head to one of the area’s massive supermarkets, including H-E-B, Fiesta, and Sprouts Farmers Market. For stocking your home bar, options include Twin Liquors, Tejas Liquor, and Cork & Brew Market.
Live music is huge in Austin and quite the big draw to the South Congress area. In addition to the bars mentioned above, Saxon Pub, Do512 Lounge, and Sagebrush are popular spots to catch a few sets from local bands. Watch the world’s largest urban bat colony take to the skies at sunset from approximately March through November from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. You can view the spectacle from atop the bridge, or in a canoe, kayak, or aboard the Lone Star Riverboat on the waters of Lady Bird Lake for an even more exciting vantage point. Murals can be found throughout the district on practically every building for colorful photo ops, and other forms of public art are prevalent in the area.
Outdoor options include Blunn Creek Nature Preserve and the Williamson Creek Greenbelt. And at the far north end of South Congress Avenue, the street leads directly to Lady Bird Lake and an abundance of hiking, biking, and on-water activities. A handful of movie theaters can be found in SoCo, as well as numerous gyms and fitness studios when you need a break from the summer heat in air-conditioned spaces.
In the heart of SoCo, St. Edwards University serves a population of just under 5,000 students. But the neighborhood’s proximity to Downtown and the main University of Texas at Austin campus makes it a popular place to live for students, faculty, and staff of that university, as well. Other nearby higher-ed institutions include Austin Community College: South Austin Campus, US American College of Business and Healthcare, and the Ann Richards School for Young Business Leaders.
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