Nowhere in Austin is the juxtaposition of hip cool and conservative politico more apparent than North Congress and South Congress. The top end of North Congress holds the state capitol, and the streets leading up to it are filled with trendy bistros, law firms and business services. South Congress, on the other hand, is full of the reason Austin’s unofficial slogan is “keep it weird.” You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the somewhat phallic Austin Motel sign that says “So close but so far out.” Yep, that about sums it up.
Here are some of the things you can do and see on South Congress Street:
- Shop local. From boutiques to art festivals, this is the place to buy unique gifts for yourself and the folks back home. You could spend hours just in Uncommon Objects, with its quirky nooks and crannies of vintage antiques and obscure paraphernalia. Parts & Labour is a great place to buy a souvenir made by local artists. Tesoros Trading Company offers folk art from more than 20 countries. Stock up on candy by the pound at Big Top Candy Shop or check out the antiques at Off The Wall. SoCo also has art markets tucked away on random street corners where you can find everything from
handmade clothing to sculptures to jewelry.
- Eat your heart out. It wouldn’t be Austin without food, and South Congress serves up some great choices. South Congress Café is a popular weekend brunch spot. If you’re too hungry to wait, head a few blocks up to Little Barrow & Brown for their $3 mimosas and gastric sensations like duck prosciutto hash. You can also find some of Austin’s most popular food trucks on SoCo, like Home Slice and Torchy’s Tacos.
- Listen to the music. On any given weekend, you’re guaranteed to run into a half dozen or more street musicians. From guitars to banjos to horns and woodwinds, you’ll get an earful on almost every block. For something more formal, stop in at local institution Continental Club or take in some tunes while you sip on a drink in the garden at Hotel San Jose.
- Check out wall art. SoCo boasts a handful of wall murals that make popular photo spots. The most popular is the “I Love You So Much” wall at Jo’s coffee shop (1300 S. Congress). Also popular is SMILE (corner of S. Congress and Elizabeth). You can find also see Horse (1700 S. Congress), Books (1680 S. Congress), Our Lady (1500 S. Congress), Floating Cupcakes (1602 S. Congress) and GIVE (1401 S. Congress).
- Give back. Stop by TOMS Roasting Company for a cuppa joe. Keeping true to the TOMS “one for one” promise, for every bag of coffee purchased, the company will provide one week of clean water to a person in need. They accomplish this in partnership with Water For People, which helps communities implement and maintain long-term water systems and services.Besides being a good deed, TOMS is also a really cool place to hang out and relax.
What’s your favorite SoCo hangout? Comment below!