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It’s not exactly the Wild, Wild West, but the broadly defined territory of West Austin can be a very free-spirited part of the region, especially the farther you drive from Lamar Boulevard. About 30-45 minutes from the city center, two of the seven Highland Lakes that call the Texas Hill Country home (Lake Travis and Lake Austin) have become a new frontier for colossal apartment communities. The more urban parts of West Austin can be found closer to Downtown, including West Sixth Street, an area that begins at the edge of the central business district and continues westward. The West Sixth Street area exists in both Downtown and West Austin, but tends to be much quieter on the West side of Lamar Boulevard. The further west you go, in fact, the more rural and scenic things get, and if you’re looking for a truly picturesque vista day after day, many townhomes and apartments in West Austin boast views of the lakes and their rocky bluffs. Types of rental properties tend to be more large apartment communities and mid-rise buildings, though you’ll find older, smaller apartment buildings scattered throughout the area. But what you’ll find most here are large-scale, luxury homes, spacious estates, gated communities, and vacation homes. More than almost any part of Austin, this western region attracts plenty of people who want to spend as much time outside as possible, thanks in no small part to the abundance of natural beauty in the rolling hills. Swimming, fishing, boating, biking, and hiking are among the top leisure activities. Popular West Austin neighborhoods include Old West Austin, West Sixth Street, Tarrytown, Barton Creek, Lake Travis, Lake Austin, West Lake, Bee Cave, and Lakeway.

Getting Around

Due to the vast amount of land that comprises West Austin, vehicular transportation is your best bet. While you’ll find smaller neighborhoods and districts within West Austin that are slightly more walkable, even these areas are still quite spread out compared to more urban parts of the city. Bike lanes are sprinkled throughout, as are on-demand bike and scooter rentals, but they’re also fewer and farther between than they are in Downtown Austin and other parts of the main metro area. Capital Metro offers bus routes and stops within West Austin, but once again, not to the same degree as in the higher populated business districts and neighborhoods. You can hail a number of rideshares in West Austin, but the closer to the lakes you get, the longer you might have to wait for a car to show up.

When you’re ready to get away from West Austin for a while, you can easily hop a flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where you can choose from an average of 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 in Downtown Austin that gets people safely between Austin and San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas without the bother of driving the long distances in traffic or dealing with airport stress.

Food & Drink

Along West Sixth Street, you’ll find plenty of delicious places to eat. Start the day with baked goods from Swedish Hill. Nearby, the Original Hoffbrau Steakhouse is a great place for Texas beef, while both Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum and Wu Chow’s are both excellent choices for Chinese variations. Nightcap is a fun, dimly lit spot for dinner or drinks. And Verbena is the spot for oysters or weekend brunch. Other than West Sixth, it isn’t really until you get as far west as you can go before hitting Lake Austin and Lake Travis that you’ll find the most notable restaurants in West Austin, catering to weekend and seasonal visitors and locals alike. Popular West Austin dining establishments include Littlefield’s Tacos + Coffee, Veracruz All Natural, and Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant for prime examples of Tex-Mex cooking. The Beer Plant is one of the more unique offerings featuring an entire vegan gastropub menu and 40 craft beers on tap. Steiner Ranch Steakhouse and Canyon Grille both offer more upscale experiences for entertaining out-of-town visitors or for special occasions. But to truly enjoy the jewels of West Austin (its lakes), check out Hula Hut for Polynesian-Meets-Texan food and drinks, The County Line on the Lake for BBQ, Abel’s on the Lake, The Oasis on Lake Travis, and Pool Burger (which has a pool view rather than a lake vista). Mozart Coffee Roasters and Lola Savannah are cozy spots for coffee. Or go for something stronger at Lola’s sister establishment and wine bar, the Grove. For incredible Indian and Nepalese in an unexpected place, visit Saffron, a no-frills strip-center eatery (and it’s BYOB, too). Or let someone else bring the booze right to you (in the form of beer). A trio of local breweries can be found around the lakes, including Infamous Brewing Company, Oasis Brewing Company, and Frontyard Brewing. Like many of the other business types in West Austin, grocery stores are a little more spread out, but plentiful as a whole. H-E-B, Randalls, and Trader Joe’s can all be found in the area, along with smaller convenience stores that are a little more well-stocked than average, especially near the lakes. Meanwhile, back at West Sixth Street, Little Woodrow’s is a sports bar with a dog-friendly patio and turtle races, dive bar Mean Eyed Cat plays almost-nonstop Johnny Cash music, and Rustic Tap offers nearly two dozen Austin brews on draft.

Shopping

Waterloo Records in the West Sixth Street area is a fantastic place to procure music on vinyl or CD. If you’re ready to enhance your art collection (or get started), there are several galleries in the neighborhood featuring both local and international artists (definitely visit the Wally Workman Gallery). And cyclists love ZuGo Bike for their pedaling passions. Shopping in West Austin can be rather scarce for long stretches other than clusters of outdoor retail complexes, where you’ll find all the necessities at big-box retailers with several local boutiques and shops mixed in. Of course, if your shopping list includes bait and tackle for fishing, your options increase exponentially the closer you get to the lakes.

Things to Do

It’s all about the outdoors in West Austin. Top attractions include Lake Austin and Lake Travis, as you already know, and you can find a variety of businesses that’ll rent you a watercraft or take you out on a sail for the afternoon. Also, within the lake areas, Hippie Hollow is a popular destination that attracts naturalists and nudists to a section of Lake Travis legally designated as clothing-optional. Deep Eddy is a historic manmade pool on the lake if you prefer to swim in something chlorine-controlled. Red Bud Isle is a 13-acre off-leash dog park that attracts plenty of four-legged friends. And the Bee Cave Sculpture Park offers seven acres of outdoor sculptures and other art installations that rotate throughout the year. The 18-hole Lions Municipal Golf Course is also a frequently visited destination by locals.

Get your live music fix in the West Sixth Street district at a variety of venues, many with dive-bar vibes that ooze the kind of funky charm Austin is known for.

Belly up to the wooden bar at Dirty Bill’s, a spot with fantastic Bloody Marys and a penchant for traveling gnomes, or two-step at Donn’s Depot, built in an old train car. Recently renovated dive bar Mean Eyed Cat is still outfitted with Johnny Cash décor, but now has meat-by-the-pound from Do-Rite Bar-B-Q and booze on the menu. Everyone from sports fans to celebs hangs at Star Bar, with its strong drinks and multiple TVs. If you’re a craft brew fan, grab a cold one at Rustic Tap; they have more than 20 Austin beers on draft. Dedicated to heroes in sports, grab a seat shaped like a leather baseball glove at Parlor & Yard or challenge your group with outdoor games like cornhole and ping pong.

Colleges & Universities

The closest universities to the neighborhoods that lie at the eastern edge of West Austin would be The University of Texas at Austin and St. Edwards University, students of which often seek rental properties a little farther from campus to potentially save money or get away from the hustle and bustle at the center of the action. The neighborhoods at the farthest reaches of West Austin, including Lake Travis and Lakeway, would be too far for most UT and St. Edwards students to commute to campus, but Concordia University Texas in the Northwestern section of the region brings a lot of students, faculty, and staff to these parts of West Austin.

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