Central Austin: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

If you’re heading to the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ make your way to the vibrant neighborhood of Central Austin. Bordering the University of Texas at Austin, Central Austin has a bustling youthful vibe and many attractions, activities, and hidden treasures to explore.

Delve into Central Austin’s thriving arts scene at its numerous galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions. Catch a live performance by talented local artists or wander through the vibrant street art adorning the district’s walls. Discover legendary venues that have shaped the city’s renowned music scene, where you can catch live performances by up-and-coming bands or established artists.

Escape from the city’s hustle and bustle in Central Austin’s verdant oases. Explore picturesque parks, meandering trails, and tranquil gardens that invite you to reconnect with nature. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll along the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail or a game of golf at the Hancock Golf Course, these outdoor spaces provide a serene sanctuary amidst the urban landscape.

When it’s time to start planning your adventure to the state capital of Texas, check out this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Central Austin.

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What to see & do in Central Austin

Neill-Cochran House Museum

Step back in time and explore the rich history of Austin at the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Built in 1855 as a suburban estate by Abner Cook, the historic home in West Campus tells the story of Austin from the city’s birth in 1839 to 1930.

Designed in Greek Revival style, the Neill-Cochran House Museum has beautifully furnished rooms with period pieces and rotating art and history exhibitions. Take a guided tour through the various rooms where knowledgeable docents provide insights into the house’s history, architecture, and significance.

Marvel at the extensive collection of historic artifacts throughout the house. Each item offers a glimpse into the past, from furniture and decorative arts to documents and photographs.

After you’re done inside, take a stroll through the beautifully maintained gardens surrounding the Neill-Cochran House. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and appreciate the architectural beauty of the house from different angles.

Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail

Escape the madness of the city for a while and spend a few hours in the tranquil surroundings of the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail. This urban oasis offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle, with various activities, from hiking and biking to bird-watching.

Lace up your shoes and hike or ride through lush vegetation and towering trees alongside the peaceful waters of Shoal Creek. As you explore, admire the public art installations and landmarks that dot the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail, and keep your eyes peeled for birds and wildlife that call the Greenbelt home.

Grab a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy the gentle waters of Shoal Creek. Find a shaded spot along the trail and set up a picnic to enjoy a peaceful outdoor meal.

The Ballroom @ Spiderhouse

If you want a fantastic evening out, head to The Ballroom @ Spiderhouse. Tucked inside the Spiderhouse Café, this legendary hotspot offers live music, comedy, poetry, and cabaret shows and promises an evening like no other!

Dive into the vibrant arts and music scene with a live performance at The Ballroom. There’s a show for every taste, from local bands and musicians to stand-up comedians and poetry slams. Put on your dancing shoes and bop the night away at swing dancing, salsa nights, or themed parties.

Test your knowledge and join the friendly competition during The Ballroom’s trivia nights or pub quizzes. Gather your friends, form a team, and put your brains to the test as you answer questions on a range of topics.

If you prefer something quieter, explore the rotating art exhibitions that adorn the walls of The Ballroom. The venue showcases works by local artists, providing a platform for emerging artists and local talent.

Hancock Golf Course

Sharpen your golf skills on your Austin trip itinerary with a game at the Hancock Golf Course. Surrounded by beautifully manicured landscapes, well-maintained fairways, and pristine greens, this historic nine-hole golf course is challenging for beginners and experienced golfers.

Improve your swing and fine-tune your golfing abilities at the practice facilities. Hit the driving range, putting green, and chipping area to hone your skills before hitting the course. If you’re a beginner looking to learn the fundamentals or an experienced player seeking to refine your technique, book a few lessons with one of the professional instructors.

Head to the Pro Shop at Hancock Golf Course after your game and browse a selection of golf equipment, accessories, apparel, and souvenirs.

LBJ Presidential Library

Delve into the life and legacy of one of America’s most influential leaders, President Lyndon B. Johnson, at the LBJ Presidential Library. Based at the University of Texas at Austin, this remarkable institution offers a comprehensive look into President Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency and the era he served.

Explore thoughtfully curated exhibits and galleries highlighting pivotal moments of the civil rights movement and the Great Society initiatives. Engage with informative and engaging audiovisual presentations that bring history to life at this top Austin tourist attraction.

LBJ Presidential Library

Watch documentaries, listen to recordings of President Johnson’s speeches, and witness the significant events of his presidency through immersive multimedia experiences. Gain insights into the challenges and triumphs of President Johnson’s time in office.

When you’re all historied-out, stroll through the picturesque grounds surrounding the library. Enjoy the lush gardens, fountains, and outdoor spaces that offer a serene atmosphere for contemplation and relaxation. Take in the panoramic views of the Downtown Austin skyline and Lady Bird Lake.

Pease District Park

Head outdoors and enjoy a sunny afternoon at Austin’s beloved Pease District Park. Located on Kingsbury Street in the heart of Central Austin, this beautiful park offers loads, from top-notch recreational facilities to tranquil green spaces for picnicking.

Meander or jog along Pease District Park’s winding pathways and soak up the lush scenery. If you’re visiting with children, head to the park’s playground area, where kids can climb, swing, and slide to their heart’s content.

Pease District Park features various sports facilities for your enjoyment. Challenge friends to a game of tennis on the tennis courts or engage in a friendly match of basketball or volleyball on the available courts.

Find a shady spot under the trees and set up a picnic amidst the tranquil ambiance of Pease District Park. Take the time to unwind, soak in the peaceful atmosphere, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Where to eat & drink

Central Austin’s culinary scene is vibrant, diverse, and renowned for its fusion of flavors, farm-to-table ethos, and innovative culinary concepts. Whether you’re seeking traditional Texan flavors, international cuisine, or cutting-edge culinary experiences, you’re sure to find them here!

There’s no better spot for tasty burgers in town than Dirty Martin’s Place. This Austin mainstay has been serving classic American fare in an old-school space for 95 years—and is still going strong. (Think corn nuggets, fried pickle slices, towering burgers, and cold beer.) Order the Habanero Burger if you like things hot!

Take a culinary trip to the Mediterranean at Phoenician Resto Café, where you can feast on mouthwatering dishes from Greece and Turkey. Start with small plates of dolmades, hummus, and baba ghanouj, followed by falafel, gyros, and shawarmas packed with beef or chicken.

Craving street-style tacos? Head to Vaquero Taquero (North University), where a brother-and-sister team serves out-of-this-world Mexican dishes. Order the signature taco al pastor—flame-seared pork wrapped in a warm homemade tortilla and topped with cilantro and fresh avocado crema.

Posse East is your go-to if you’re looking for a casual, laid-back spot to enjoy a drink with friends. Based at the edge of Hyde Park, this small corner bar packs a crowd who tuck into classic pub grub, like burgers and tacos, cold ales, crisp lagers, and easy-drinking wine.

Another great spot with a lively student vibe, great food, and plenty of beer is Austin’s Crown & Anchor Pub on San Jacinto Boulevard. You’ll find over 30 draft beers, including rotating taps, and an excellent selection of ciders and wine.

Love a classic cocktail? Head to the Honey Moon Spirit Lounge. This vintage-chic speakeasy has a beautiful fairy-light-lit courtyard for alfresco wining and dining and a cozy dining room for a quiet meal. The craft cocktail list impresses, as well as an extensive and diverse wine list with varietals from around the world and taps of local craft brews.

Where to stay

As Central Austin sits just north of downtown, it’s one of the top choices for where to stay in Austin. There’s a handful of good accommodation options here, with everything from hotels to vacation rentals on offer.

If you run out of choices in Central Austin, extend your lodgings search south into Downtown Austin or further afield or South Congress (SoCo). These areas are home to most of the city’s top-rated hotels for travelers.

Moxy Austin - University

Moxy Austin – University

A short walk from the University of Texas at Austin in the lively West Campus neighborhood, Moxy Austin – University offers comfortable, Western-inspired rooms with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. Stay fit in a fully equipped exercise room and unwind over drinks on the terrace.

AT&T Hotel & Conference Center

AT&T Hotel & Conference Center

Expect casual rooms with granite-and-marble bathrooms and modern amenities at the AT&T Hotel & Conference Center hotel. Upgrade your room for extra space and a wet bar, and enjoy top-notch facilities like an outdoor heated pool, a 24/7 fitness center, and a fine dining restaurant. Rent a bike to explore the area.

The Otis Hotel, Autograph Collection

The Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection

Nestled in the heart of Downtown Austin, the Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection offers stylish rooms with flat-screen TVs, record players, and coffee machines. Upgrade to a suite for city views and enjoy tapas and drinks by the swimming pool on the rooftop terrace.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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