The Coolest Things to Do in ATX After Dark
Life is good in Austin, which is probably why everyone wants to move here -- we’ve got some of the country's most celebrated restaurants, and the swankiest cocktail dens slinging complex and photogenic drinks. That's not all there is to the city, though. Don’t get us wrong: crossing hotspots off your ATX bucket list is great, but there's something to be said for digging into Austin’s more unexpected offerings once the sun goes down. If you want to mix it up and explore the city’s nightlife in a new way -- one that avoids the pitfalls of Rainey and 6th street altogether -- we’ve got you covered, from out-there film screenings and punk rock karaoke to retro gaming and holiday themed pop-ups.
Cozy up with a hot adult beverage
It’s getting chilly in Austin and cocktail koozies aren’t a thing (inexplicably), so keep yourself and your digits from freezing with some hot boozy delights. Try the Black Magic at Holy Roller: a Jägermeister, almond milk, and chai tea riff on the classic Irish coffee, topped with whipped cream. For a spiced, aromatic fix, check out Sixth & Waller’s rum masala toddy made with 12-year aged rum, chai masala honey, lemon, and orange peel. For a play on the PB&J, go for the Jelly Roll Blues from Lefty’s Brick Bar, made with malt whisky, macadamia nut, blackberry, orgeat, and lemon. If you’d rather go classy, do The Roosevelt Room’s Blue Blazer: your choice of spirit lit aflame with ginger snap syrup, hot water, Abbott's Bitters, citric acid, lemon peel, and grated nutmeg served in a teacup. Pinkies out!
Flex your smarts at bar trivia
Head to your local watering hole for the chance to show how much you know about history, film… and The Spice Girls. Geeks Who Drink has the largest presence in the Austin trivia community with quizzes all over the city, every night of the week. If you’re a TV junkie or a recovering latchkey kid, don’t sleep on Get It Gals trivia -- the pop-culture-focused quizzes feature singular topics like The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, and How I Met Your Mother.
The North Door hosts a bevy of cool events each month, including a few that cater to the geekier demographic. Nerd Nite Austin celebrates all things nerdy in an in-depth, entertaining manner, with a new topic and presenters every month touching on topics ranging from the philosophy of superheroes to the mathematics of dating. Juegos Rancheros is a community of independent game developers and fans who host monthly meet-ups to showcase the best in indie gaming. And, don’t miss nationally celebrated Mortified, where grown-ups share their most embarrassing -- and hilarious -- adolescent writings and memories onstage. Protip: you can (and should) get an excellent burrito from Pueblo Viejo afterward.
This BYOB Austin institution's been around since 1948, and while you could visit during the daytime, Peter Pan stays open until 11pm during the week (and till midnight on Friday and Saturday) -- which means you can also get some post-sunset putting done among the colorfully creepy sculptures. Bring a wad of cash, a group of friends, and a cooler of beverages in non-glass containers, and spend an evening working your way through both 18-hole courses.
Train your palate at a spirit tasting class
The days of shooting Fireball are in your past (hopefully), so you deserve to elevate your palate to match your grown-up drink preferences. Downtown whiskey bar Seven Grand and agave-focused sister bar Las Perlas, just next door, both offer educational talks and tastings for $25 per person. At both Whiskey Society and Mezcal Collective events, you’ll get a deep dive into the history, the makers, production process, and most importantly, the flavors of the two spirits. Mezcal 101 and Mezcal 201 are fun, educational mezcal tasting events held in East Austin with spirits podcast host/distiller Mike Groener and mezcal expert/bartender Leslie Urbina-Cobos. You’ll explore the mystical Mexican spirit through tastings from different regions with two mezcal-obsessed industry cool kids. As a bonus, everyone gets to take home a veladora, which is a special glass for sipping mezcales.
Expand your film horizons with some specialty screenings
While the topical nature of Jojo Rabbit may evoke some serious, timely conversations, you owe it to yourself to dig deeper into the weird, wonderful world of film. Film buffs will feel right at home at the Austin Film Society’s AFS Cinema; founded by filmmaker Richard Linklater, the intimate theater regularly screens a brilliantly curated selection of foreign, classic, and arthouse films, and also features an excellent full bar. And there’s the beloved Alamo Drafthouse, whose locations all over town feature programming that goes beyond new releases into the fun and funky realm of b-movies, campy horror, and even dance parties.
Hang out with Austin’s favorite drag queen
Louisianna Purchase is a busy queen these days. Voted Best Drag Performer in Austin for the last three years by the Austin Chronicle, Louisianna spreads her gothy gospel all around town. Join her for drag queen bingo at both Jo’s Downtown on 2nd Street and St Elmo Brewing in South Austin. You can also hang with co-hosts Zane Zena and Louisianna as they host two spooky and kooky events -- every 3rd Thursday, Die Felicia presents a full drag show party at Red River dive Elysium with costume contest, prizes and drag performances. Then, on the last Sunday of the month, Die Felicia presents Horror Classics: a free show at Barrel O’ Fun inside the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller location, where Louisianna and Zane choose a campy horror film to screen accompanied with trivia and performances from the horror hostesses.
Sing till you lose your voice at karaoke
Depending on what side of town you’re on, there are a few great options for folks looking to bust out some vocals. Northsiders should check out Hi Tunes Karaoke on North Lamar -- it has clean rooms, it's BYOB and BYO-food, and is open almost all night! South Lamar’s The Highball has TV- and film-themed private rooms upstairs that are a blast, and are free to rent from 4:30-7pm all week. Exhibitionists will love the grimy charm of Ego’s on South Congress -- for decades the windowless dive has been the go-to for stage karaoke.
Bowl some strikes at a retro bowling alley
If you're in the mood to show your competitive side while wearing a pair of goofy shoes, take a spin through one of Austin’s bowling institutions. Visit the classic Brentwood bowling alley Dart Bowl, where you'll also find a Mission Impossible-style laser maze, and UT students get a free game with a student ID on Friday and Saturday evenings. For a charmingly stuck-in-time vibe off North Burnet, try Highland Lanes -- not only are the prices great, but it’s also home to Lebowski’s Grill, home to one of Austin’s best gut-busting burgers.
This monthly dance party was started in 2010 by DJ Chorizo Funk and the husband/wife duo known as Riders Against the Storm. Body Rock was initially inspired as a throwback to the block-party vibe of hip hop’s origins: a DJ on two turntables weaving soundscapes, and MCs on a microphone leading call and response. Usually held at Sahara Lounge in East Austin, this is one of the few parties in Austin where you’ll find people of all ages, all colors, and from all walks of life coming together to groove and have fun.
Pinballz is famous for its vast collection of classic pinball machines and arcade games, and there are now two new locations in addition to the original spot in the Wooten area. Pinballz Lake Creek is literally the size of a Walmart, and currently offers over 300 pinball machines and arcade games. You’ve likely seen Pinballz Kingdom while driving through Buda, as well -- the stone castle with dragon entrance is just off the highway. Pinballz Kingdom boasts not only lazer tag and bumper cars in addition to hundreds of games, but also a restaurant, German-style biergarten, lots of craft beer on tap, and a full bar. Win game tickets and hook your date (or yourself) up with something nice from the prize shop. A kazoo? A handful of Tootsie Rolls? The sky’s the limit. Protip: The North Austin OG location allows you to BYOB one drink at a time.
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