National travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler recently released its “50 States, 50 Trips: America’s Greatest Hits” list highlighting the top destination to visit in each state. In Texas, the spotlight shined down upon Austin’s South Congress neighborhood, a district known for its eclectic collection of shops, restaurants, food trucks and music venues. Capturing the “Keep Austin Weird” personality of Texas’s capital, the chance to explore South Congress Avenue is a must-visit location for anyone lucky enough to spend a day or two in Austin. Here are a few of our favorite SoCo hangouts:
Whatever you’re looking for, no matter how random it may be, there’s a very good chance you’ll find it in one of the many small retailers lining South Congress. Searching for a signed first-edition copy of a particular Margaret Atwood novel? You’ll find it at South Congress Books. Need a cowboy-vampire costume for a Halloween party? Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds has you covered. Do you collect black-and-white, slightly creepy photographs of people from the 1800s? Stop by Uncommon Objects — they’ve got a whole stack for you to choose from.
During your visit to Austin, plan to eat at least one meal along your stop as you explore South Congress. Whether you choose to split a huge pizza with friends at Austin’s best pizza joint, Home Slice, or pair a craft beer with a one-of-a-kind-burger at Hopdoddy, you won’t regret the calories. It’s that good. If you’re an early bird, try the “Tokyo Brunch” at Lucky Robot (you’ll wish you had outfits as cool as the waitresses’). To top of your day with a little sweetness, experiment with one of Amy’s Ice Creams‘ unique flavors, such Amaretto Cheesecake or American as Apple Pie, or pick up a heavenly little cupcake from the Hey Cupcake truck next to Home Slice. They’re too cute to resist.
People-watching (Jo’s Coffee Shop)
One of the best parts about Austin is the people who live there, and SoCo is the perfect place park yourself outside with a drink and people-watch. You’ll see any number of fashions in clothing and hairstyles, and you’ll overhear some pretty interesting conversations, too (come on, we’re all nosy people at heart). Jo’s Coffee, a local favorite, has a nice patio with fans and Wi-Fi where you can sit and watch the locals wander by. Don’t forget to fulfill your tourist duty and snap a pic by the famous “I love you so much” wall next to Jo’s.
If you happen to be in Austin around the first Thursday of the month, plan to explore South Congress that day. First Thursday is basically a large block party on South Congress where the stores, which normally close around 5 p.m., stay open until at least 10 p.m. The shops usually hold special sales, and the restaurants and bars have great drink specials. You’ll even find free drinks at some places! Many local artists will show up on First Thursday to sell their wares, so it’s a good chance to pick up some unique gifts. Just stroll around and take in the energy and live music — it’s one of the best ways to get the feel of Austin.