They say that the heart of a place lies in the music it produces and if that’s the case, then Austin’s got a rough-and-tumble, honky-tonk, country rock of a good heart. From the raucous music festivals in Zilker Metropolitan Park to the funky clubs on 6th Street, these are some of the best spots for live tunes.
Sixth Street & Downtown
The Historic 6th Street District comprises roughly eight blocks of downtown Austin—such a hotbed of great nightclubs and music joints that the very act of walking through these streets will lead you to some world-class live music establishments, like Stubb’s Barbecue. This neighborhood plays host to much of the live music action during the annual SXSW Festival at venues like Mohawk, Beerland, and the Elephant Room.
While Zilker Park doesn’t always have live music, it’s notable as the home of Austin’s biggest music festival, Austin City Limits. For two consecutive weekends each October, the park hosts more than 125 performances across eight stages. Past headliners have included Metallica, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, and Kendrick Lamar.
South Congress Avenue, or SoCo, is a hip neighborhood that’s home to antique shops, costume stores, and a handful of excellent live music venues. On the top of the list is the Continental Club, an institution since the 1950s that often features swing, country, and rockabilly performances. Fans of blues and soul should check out C-Boy’s Heart & Soul.
The Moody Theater
The iconic Austin City Limits films at the Moody Theater, a 2,700-seat venue that hosts a range of big name performers like ZZ Top or Belle & Sebastian throughout the year. Visitors can also enter drawings to attend a taping of ACL live at the theater.
Music lovers looking to treat their ears to some old-time country music should make their way to the classic honky tonks of South Lamar. The most notable venue in this bohemian neighborhood is the Broken Spoke, known equally for its boot-scootin’ music, Texas two-steppin’ and hearty chicken-fried steak. The Saxon Pub hosts popular happy hour shows on most weekdays.