The Ultimate Guide to Austin Nightlife

From spirit-laden mezcalerías to legendary dance halls and dives, the Lone Star capital has everything you need to cut loose.

Cheer Up Charlies, Austin nightlife
Cheer Up Charlies | Photo by Cassandra Klepac for Thrillist
Cheer Up Charlies | Photo by Cassandra Klepac for Thrillist

The stars at night shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, and the nightlife is just as stellar. In fact, Austin is nothing short of a ghost town on weekend mornings due to the vast variety of entertainment and spirits served up late into the night at the city’s bars and clubs. From mezcalerias with dizzying lineups of spirits to legendary dance halls and dives, the Lone Star capital has everything you need to cut loose. You may feel like the walking dead the next day, but these spots will have your party animal alive and well.

Cheer Up Charlies
Cheer Up Charlies | Photo by Cassandra Klepac for Thrillist

Clubs in Austin

Financial District
Should you require some dance floor therapy, enter the embrace of this Downtown disco dance club and shake away the sadness. One of Austin’s premier LGBTQ+ hangs, Cheer Ups can make raging all night seem like self care. For example, you can boost your gut health with cocktails made with on-tap kombucha; and the colorful lights bouncing off the disco ball must boost serotonin. With drag shows, queer celebrations, and nights with music-based themes (such as female rap royalty or 90s pop country) the love here radiates as bright as the outdoor stage’s trademark neon sign.

The Domain
Kendrick Lamar was probably referring to North Austin’s The Domain when he rapped that “you can live at the mall.” This upgraded, high-class version of where you spent your time in high school has stores, apartment spaces, office buildings, bars, restaurants, and, of course, a stand-out nightclub. Slink out on the dance floor at the Rose Room or mingle with fellow young professionals over bottle service on multiple floors while the beat drops at this classic, Vegas-style, smoke-machine- and EDM-blasting club. When the Tiesto becomes too much, head to a chiller area in the back to smoke hookah and get to know each other without the bass echoing in your ears.

Don’t let this spot’s beachy name fool you into expecting peaceful, serene resort vibes. Coconut Club is more like Margaritaville’s black sheep cousin, the one who takes acid and goes to full moon raves in Thailand. Downstairs, the interior space is a trip all its own—projecting Miami Vice vibes with palms, pink, and plenty of neon lights. Meanwhile, the rooftop dance floor blasts some of the best beats in town. Between DJ sets, hydrate with a Gatorade-based cocktail while taking in the hip crowd’s threads.

Central East Austin
To put it concisely, Outer Heaven is a club for people who normally hate clubs. You won’t find firework-laden bottle service, EDM remixes, or Tesla-driving finance bros here. Instead, it’s just a celebratory dance floor party where you can lose your inhibitions and drop it to some phenomenal music. Karaoke nights (held Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) replace the tired “Sweet Caroline'' sing-alongs with tracks from The Stooges and New Order. Should you lack the confidence to grab the mic, find liquid courage in the form of a Yallhoo cocktail, a mixture of rum and Yoo-hoo. It’ll have you commanding the crowd like Iggy Pop in no time.

Onion Bluff
The Concourse Project isn’t the type of place you go for a casual night out; it’s one where you plan for a night that sends you home at sunrise. A regular lineup of world class DJs makes it the best place in the city for serious house and techno music, while seven acres of space filled with a powerful sound system, overhead laser lights, and the spectacular LEDs will keep you bopping until McDonald’s opens for breakfast. Make plans to attend The Concourse Project’s annual Seismic Dance Event (November 10 through November 12), a three-day mini-festival featuring heavy-hitters like Deadmau5 and Kaskade.

Warehouse District
Follow the mural of a space-age Jane Fonda to Barbarella, the Downtown Austin nightclub named for the famous sci-fi adventurer she played in 1968. Entering Barb’s feels like blasting off to another universe, one where life’s sole purpose is to leave it all on the dance floor. In other words, get ready to sweat to the bass thumping from the outdoor stage, and then head inside where the music keeps pounding way past bedtime. Recurring workweek blow-out bashes, such as Tuesday’s Tuezgayz and Wednesday’s Jimmy Eat Wednesday, provide ample opportunity for you to spin into the orbit of a DJ on almost any given night.

Cocktail Lounges in Austin

The beginning—and bitter end—of every wild night out usually involves a shot of tequila. Downtown cocktail bar Las Perlas serves up such bad decisions in spades. The menu spotlights tequila and mezcal, with over 400 varieties of agave-based alcohol available for when you’re ordering that skinny, spicy margarita. The bartenders’ attention to their craft makes Las Perlas the greater Red River area’s most grown-up spot, and a 2 am closing time encourages a slow unwind from the work week. Like a Taijin rim, the large patio in the back of the bar, complete with a taco stand, adds some extra flavor to this cocktail bar.

Market District
Bar hop through the centuries at The Roosevelt Room where the menu lists cocktails by era. Sip a Clover Club, a favorite drink during Prohibition (made with gin, raspberries, and lychees) in an art deco environment with deep mood lighting and dark velvet, cushioned booths—making the experience feel very Gatsby-esque to begin with. This is where to bring the serious cocktail nerd in your life for a celebratory night, as the delicate bottles of atomizers and bitters that line the top of the marble bar will certainly captivate them (and you) from the get-go.

Broken Spoke
Broken Spoke | Photo by Cassandra Klepac for Thrillist

Bars in Austin

South Lamar
You don’t need a last name like Nelson or Parton to reach honky-tonk heaven—just an Uber ride to South Lamar’s legendary dance hall Broken Spoke, where country fans and icons alike have been strutting their spurs since 1964. Go early to buy a Lone Star beer from the cash-only bar, down a chicken-fried steak, and browse through the music memorabilia in the Tourist Trap room (with bandanas from Willie, records from Dolly, and more signed George Strait posters than you can shake a cowpoke at). It’ll hype you up for the Broken Spoke’s main attraction: the dance hall, where you can easily spend the rest of the night two-stepping to live tunes and surveying the throngs of decked-out, old-time rodeo riders who frequent the floor.

East Austin
While you may regret a night in the actual Sin City, you’ll never lament a Saturday spent at Hotel Vegas. East Austin’s go-to spot built its stellar reputation on exceptional acts and an energetic atmosphere. The live music venue’s jam-packed, genre-spanning performance schedule makes it seem as if the party never stops—and that perception would be right on point. Open seven nights a week, Hotel Vegas always serves up a magical experience: You may catch a drag show, a dance lesson, or even couples getting married by an Elvis impersonator. Regardless of what you find, you’ll likely leave feeling buzzed from the amps as well as the drinks.

Parkridge Gardens
If you’ve never been to this spot located on the outskirts of Austin, it’s easy to think that the name refers to its proximity to the city. However, Far Out is so utterly cool that “far out” is more in line with the phrase used to mean “groovy” (the way Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused would say it). With one of the largest outdoor music spaces in all of the city and a stacked lineup every night of the week, The Far Out is more than just “all right, all right, all right” though. It hosts all the live music your nightlife heart can handle, including tribute shows, album releases, and the Levitation festival. If music isn’t your jam, you’re bound to find markets, comedy shows, and film screenings there as well. Should you want to continue the party into the next day, Far Out’s boozy brunches have you covered for the dusk to dawn transition.

Blackshear-Prospect Hill
Just as Austin is both part of Texas and unlike the rest of the state, East Austin’s White Horse stands out against other honky-tonks. Here you’ll spot Stetson-sporting cowboys and pink-haired hipsters two-stepping in harmony. Top-notch bluegrass, country, and Americana bands grace White Horse’s stage every night, playing twangy tunes and drawing you in to get down. Whooping it up at White Horse will also appeal to dive bar fanatics who can chalk up at dimly-lit pool tables located inside the space and also outside on the patio. Before the evening ends, solidify new friendships made on the dance floor by hopping in the photo booth for a group shot.

A familiar spot for anyone who frequents Austin’s East side, Whisler’s atmosphere is guaranteed to hit the sweet spot no matter what kind of night you’re looking for. The bar itself comes straight from a Southern Gothic novel, filled with smoky mirrors, old-school taxidermy, and wrought iron chairs. Whisler’s cocktails always achieve the delicate balance between sugary, bitter, strong, and refreshing. Nothing on the menu will disappoint, but the Tiger’s Tears (vodka, strawberry, basil, and a striking touch of pepper) serves as a key example of this flavor wizardry at work. The Mezcalería Tobalá, the upstairs mezcal bar, takes cues from the traditional spots found in Oaxaca.

Rainey Street
Lustre Pearl is the OG of all the house bars that line Rainey Street, and you can see why it has stood the test of time while so many others have faltered. In addition to challenging your crew to a game of cornhole, you can sip on an Asher Skye (a margarita with serrano-infused tequila) and watch Austinites fake a sense of sobriety as they strut by. Whether you need a spot for a happy hour pre-game, a reliable stop for last call, or something in between, Lustre Pearl delivers.

South Congress
Considering how authentically Austin Sagebrush feels, it’s somewhat ironic that this bar and entertainment venue only opened in 2020. However, it’s not age, but ambience, that makes a place good—and Sagebrush aces that Texas-grown, welcoming, and charmingly “weird” vibe that characterizes the city as a whole. Its quality is only matched by its quantity. Inside, the oldest oak dance floor in the Lone Star state girdles a stage featuring live music from bands like je’Texas or Theo Lawerence. Out back, an acre of land also hosts live music, craft markets, and food trucks. The acts tend to lean towards country, Americana, and blues, and—after a few rounds of cheap, cold beer—your Tecovas are sure to be tapping along.

Due to its association with sloppy nights and vomiting coeds, 6th Street in Austin carries the unfortunate moniker of “Dirty Sixth.” When you find yourself sucked into a late night crawl on the Dirty, the best way to retain a shred of dignity is to head to the slightly more respectable choice on the street, Jackalope Downtown. There’s a higher-quality crowd here than your normal 6th street bramble, and a lot less talk of Lemon Drop shots. Revive yourself with a jolt from a sake bomb, and then pump yourself up to ride the statue of the half-rabbit, half-antelope that stands at the front of the bar. While the Jackalope now has a second location in the South Shore neighborhood, the Downtown spot is the original, flagship pour palace.

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Molly Moltzen is a writer living in Austin, TX. You can find her on Instagram at @molsquared.