Gay Austin Guide: Where To Eat, Play, And Stay

Austin isn’t just liberal by Texas standards – it’s one of the nation’s most progressive cities, as well as a luminary in live music venues, cutting-edge restaurants and bars, indie retail, and outdoor recreation. It’s routinely cited as one of the coolest and most livable cities in the country, and it’s steadily developed into a highly popular gay and lesbian destination, especially during key arts and cultural events, like South by Southwest in mid-March, Gay Pride in early September, Austin City Limits Music Festival in early October, and the Austin Film Festival in late October. The city makes for a great visit year-round, though, as even during the hot summer months, you’ll find plenty of great ways to cool off, from swimming at Barton Springs to boating and sunbathing at clothing-optional Hippie Hollow park, on Lake Travis.

The Lone Star State’s capital city, Austin continues to soar in population – it’s grown from about 470,000 to 820,000 since 1990, to become the nation’s 13th largest city. There’s a sizable and very visible gay scene, and many businesses around town are LGBT-owned, although the community is very well-integrated within Austin’s as a whole – there’s no specific gay neighborhood, and at many of the city’s top nightspots and restaurants you’ll encounter a decidedly mixed crowd. Austin may also have more lesbian-owned accommodations than any city in the country, including hip, design-driven boutique properties like the Hotel San Jose and the Kimber Modern. 
Here’s a look at some of Austin’s favorite LGBT hot spots for eating, drinking, and accommodations.

The locavore food movement thrives in Austin. Many leading farm-to-table restaurants are in the trendy South Congress (SoCo) and South Lamar neighborhoods, a short drive across the river from downtown, and just across I-35 from downtown in steadily gentrifying East Austin – these areas also abound with cool food trucks. In South Lamar, you’ll find the stellar gastropub Barley Swine (, a bustling if cramped space serving first-rate food and hard-to-find beers and wines. Recent dishes have included a chicken-fried chicken egg, and duck foie gras with carrot, lavender, farro, and hibiscus. If there’s a wait for a table, step next door to Henri’s (, a dapper little spot serving artisan cheeses, charcuterie, and wine.

South Congress Café ( has been one of SoCo’s hot spots for years, turning out delicious contemporary Texan cuisine, like mesquite-grilled pork chops and – at brunch – carrot cake French toast with cream cheese-pecan syrup. Owned by talented gay restaurateur Lou Lambert, the Elizabeth Street Café ( serves creative Vietnamese food, including hearty noodle bowls and Texas-inspired kaffir-lime fried chicken bahn mi sandwiches.  Owned by the same team is Lambert’s (, a sleek downtown space that describes its fare as “fancy” barbecue (think cold-smoked quail and oak-grilled Colorado lamb T-bones). For more authentic Texas barbecue, prepare to stand in line for a seat at Franklin Barbecue (, which is justly famous for its tender brisket and smoked sausage.

Across from two gay bars in the Warehouse District, Peche ( is a romantic, cozy place with exposed-brick walls and high ceiling, serving pre-Prohibition-style cocktails and fine American and Continental fare. Nearby, Frank ( is a good bet for cold beer and hot sausages, with the “Jackalope” (antelope, rabbit, and pork sausage with cranberry compote, sriracha aioli, and cheddar) a signature specialty. A few blocks away, head to stylish and contemporary La Condesa ( for artfully plated food inspired by Mexican street vendors, including ceviche, carnitas taquitos, and carne asada. Return to South Lamar to campy Maria’s Taco Xpress ( for cheap and tasty Tex-Mex fare, from al pastor tacos to gorditas.

You might want to break up your exploring with a stop for sweets – a longtime favorite for its rich, creatively flavored ice creams (bacon-jalapeno popper, banana pudding, Mexican vanilla) is Amy’s (, which has locations in several fun neighborhoods, including South Congress, downtown’s Old West, and the UT district. Newer in town and receiving lots of attention for its superb artisan ice cream, gay-owned Lick ( serves such delightfully daring flavors as roasted-beets-and-fresh-mint, and goat cheese-thyme-honey.

Coffeehouses also have a major presence in Austin. The cafe inside the famous and LGBT-popular Book People ( bookstore is always a good bet. South Austin’s Bouldin Creek Café ( has delicious fair-trade coffee and chocolates, plus excellent breakfasts (try the migas) and veggie tacos. And in East Austin, Texas Coffee Traders ( is one of the city’s most respected artisan roasters.

In downtown Austin, the Warehouse District has long been a favorite hub of gay nightlife – it’s home to long-running Oilcan Harry’s, an always-packed stand-and-model bar that attracts a hot collegiate crowd and has a spacious back patio. Next door, Rain on 4th ( has a lovely deck out back, a cozy billiards bar up front, and a mid-size dance bar in the middle, and a couple of doors down, newcomer Posh ( restaurant and bar is rapidly become a popular option in the neighborhood. For a somewhat mellower scene, head across the street to stylish Halcyon (, a gay-friendly hangout serving everything from espresso drinks to cocktails, plus tasty food. 
On the east side of downtown, Rusty’s ( is an inviting, mixed guys/lesbians venue with live music, often of the country-western bent – there’s also a fun Latin party on Sunday evenings. Nearby Lipstick 24 ( is the city’s top lesbian venue, although everybody is quite welcome here – head for the attractive deck on warm evenings, and enjoy the live entertainment, which ranges from local bands to poetry readings to belly dancing. A few miles north of downtown, ‘Bout Time II ( is a welcoming neighborhood bar in a relatively new and roomy space that has karaoke, dancing, and great drink specials.
On the west side of downtown, the Iron Bear ( is – you guessed it – a hot spot for bears, otters, and the like – it’s an attractive space with cool bartenders and a no-attitude vibe. Also popular with the leather-bear set is Chain Drive, a rough-and-tumble bar that’s been thriving on the edge of a sleepy downtown-adjacent neighborhood for years. This area, particularly its main drag Rainey Street, has suddenly become a hot destination for drinking and dining, with a passel of cool, hipster lounges and restaurants set inside converted Arts and Crafts bungalows. Favorites include Javelina Bar ( for delicious bar food (green-chile pork fries, miga burgers), and Blackheart Bar ( for live music and a great selection of bourbon and whiskey.
Some downtown clubs have gay nights, including Barbarella (, which hosts a very fun TuezGayz party each week, and the Warehouse District’s Republic Live (, which often has gay parties and events. And then there’s the slew of noteworthy mixed hangouts, including (to name a few) Gibson ( on South Lamar, the sleekly decorated Hangar Lounge ( in downtown gay-popular Warehouse District, quirky Cheer Up Charlies ( in East Austin, and Spider House (, a funky bar and coffee lounge near UT campus.

In the heart of downtown, the wonderfully glamorous, significantly historic, and allegedly haunted Driskill Hotel ( is where dignitaries and celebrities often stay when in town. This gorgeously restored 1886 building with fine artwork lining the hallways has warmly furnished rooms, the acclaimed Driskill Grill restaurant, and an inviting bar that serves great cocktails and tasty snacks like truffled popcorn and house-baked soft-pretzel sticks. Other great options downtown include the swish W Austin (, with its striking, contemporary rooms and see-and-be-seen bar and restaurant; and the 31-story Hilton Austin (, a great option for convenience to 6th Street music clubs and Rainey Street lounges and restaurants.

Across the river, you’ll find another excellent lodging base in retro-trendy SoCo, home to the bargain-priced Austin Motel ( – rooms at this quirky slice of ’50s-style Americana have simple but comfortable furniture, and some have kitchenettes. A few blocks away, and owned by the trendsetting, lesbian designer Liz Lambert (sister of gay restaurateur Lou Lambert), the Hotel San Jose ( is another vintage motor court, but it’s been given a swanky postmodern, minimalist makeover – the spacious courtyard suites are especially posh. Lambert also owns the stylish Hotel Saint Cecilia (, which is nearby but on a quieter residential street. In the same area, partners Kimber Cavendish and Vicki Faust run the Kimber Modern (, a dramatic boutique hotel whose high-tech, minimalist rooms have such notable features as plush platform beds and sleek yet warm furnishings.

Austin has a handful of lesbian-owned B&Bs, each with its own charm. In SoCo, the Park Lane Guest House ( is a peaceful, eco-minded hideaway comprising three spacious cottages as well as a more affordable room in the main house. Not far from here, Gateway Guesthouse ( is a striking 1918 beauty with six smartly furnished rooms or cottages; co-owner Bess Giannakakris – a talented chef – prepares delicious breakfasts and teaches cooking classes at the inn. And in leafy Old West Austin, the Brava House ( is an elegant 1880s Victorian within walking distance of downtown and a number of great restaurants.

For a relaxing yet potentially invigorating experience out by Lake Travis (near Hippie Hollow’s popular gay beach), book a weekend at Travaasa Austin (, an “experiential resort” where you can go on hikes or horseback adventures, take archery or yoga classes, enjoy a massage in the serene spa, take cooking or mixology lessons, or simply chill out for a few days in this rural setting that’s just 20 miles northwest of downtown. The property comprises several clusters of buildings with upscale rooms, plus a terrific restaurant – Jean’s Kitchen – that focuses on locally sourced cuisine as well as craft beers, wines, and spirits from the Austin and Hill Country region.

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Gay Austin Guide: Fun Things to Do in Austin Without Alcohol

Go out, get drunk, and wake up with a hangover. Feel like your weekend routine doesn’t change and you’re going to the same places in Austin?
Check out our list of 50+ non-drinking things to do in, and around, Austin!
Just as a quick note – Always call ahead to make sure these places are still open, have availability, and confirm times. Things are always changing in our ever growing city.
1. Get a dessert at your favorite restaurant – Eating out doesn’t have to be expensive. For last then $10-$12, Swift’s Attic, Halcyon, Uchi, Uchiko, Mozart’s, Gourdough’s (just to name a few) offer amazing desserts you can share.  You can still enjoy the atmosphere, and surround yourself with people, without having to spending a lot at your favorite restaurants. You must tryPopcorn and a Movie at Swift’s Attic or any of the desserts at Uchiko.
2. Go bowling – Speakeasy on Congress Ave. and The Goodnight on Anderson Lane are two spaces that offer non-traditional bowling lanes in a more urban environment.
3. Go miniature golfing – Peter Pan Mini Golf is always a fun experience, and close enough to downtown, to still enjoy a night of walking to other spots around town.
4. Play a few games of Shuffle Board or Pool – There are more than enough pool halls and shuffle board tables in Austin. Buffalo Billiards is one of my favorite pool/shuffle board halls. Find the straightest bar with a juke box and play the gayest songs! You’ll probably find a few other gays in the bar throw their hands up as Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera starts blaring through the speakers.
5. Ride a Mechanical Bull – While most of these are located within a bar, it doesn’t hurt to add this into the evening’s events as you walk around downtown. Most people haven’t been on a Mechanical Bull before, so hop on and see how long you can last. Rebels Honky Tonk is one of my favorite atmospheres to hear country music and watch visitors take a stab at taming the beast!
6. Walk for 5 Minutes and stop where you’re at – There’s nothing better than adding a little spontaneity into your evening and seeing what shows up. Walking around town allows you to explore new place. Set your timer for five minutes, start walking, and just see where you end up. Maybe you’ll find yourself talking with a group of people, playing a game of skee ball, or even listening to a new band you’ll actually enjoy.
7. Take a Stab at Karaoke – Whether that’s at a gay bar, in a restaurant, or in a karaoke room with a group of friends, it’s not too difficult to find a group of people singing in Austin. Rain on 4th St.Chinatown on 5th St.KTV Silhouette Lounge on Congress Ave., and Austin Karaoke on North Lamar are all fun places to pretend you’re a star on American Idol.
8. Try different teas – Halcyon Lounge and Cenote are just a few places that offer a happening night scene and good vibe to feel like you’re being social while not having to be at a bar. They offer a great selection of teas and maybe a little caffeine will give you the same buzz as drinking…but without the hangover.
9. Stop a stranger on the street and ask them their favorite place to go  (that doesn’t involve drinking)- Who knows! You’ll be surprised what you find out when you ask other people!
10. Have a conversation around the fireplace at the W Hotel – Especially on cold nights, all you need is a cozy fireplace and a friend to strike up a good conversation with. If you don’t have a fireplace, stop over to the Living Room at the W Hotel and gather around with a few friends. Grab a cup of water or tea, and start chatting with a few friends around you.

11. Jump on a pedicab and have them drop you off at their favorite place – With pedicab drivers, they’re are constantly exploring time. Jump on, ask them their favorite nighttime activity that doesn’t involve drinking, and let them take you there! Other than cab drivers, who aren’t always the coolest, who would know the city better?!
12. Play a Game of Jenga or Connect Four – Just because you’re in a bar, doesn’t mean you have to drink. Bars like Icenhauer’sBar 96, and Kung Fu Saloon are just a few bars around town that have games to play while hanging out.
13. Listen to Live Music – After all, you are in the Live Music Capital of the World. You can pretty much walk anywhere in the Central Core and find a band playing. Whether you’re looking at larger venues like Moody Theatre at the W HotelStubb’s Amphitheater,  or smaller venues like Lucky LoungeContinental Club on South CongressSpeakeasy on Congress Ave.Cedar Street CourtyardElephant Lounge for JazzEddie V’s LoungeGloria’s for Salsa, or Club de Ville, there’s always the chance to hear great music. 
14. Walk the Capitol Grounds at Night – I’m sure you’ve visited the Texas Capitol during the day, but have you visited at night? Grab a tea or coffee at The Coffee House at the Hideout Theatre and walk up Congress Ave. to the Texas State Capitol. Walk the grounds, get some cute photos, and then find a bench to hang out on and talk. Surprisingly you’ll find plenty of other visitors and runners there at night.
15. Go to a Comedy Show – With plenty of small theaters in Austin, why not take in a comedy or improv show. Some of my favorite are The New MovementCold Town TheatreCap City Comedy ClubEsther’s Follies (have to see at least once!), and the Velv Comedy Lounge.
16. Catch a Movie…in Style – Alamo Drafthouse perfected the movie theatre that is actually fun and plenty followed. You can get your own recliner at Violet Crown Theatre or try the luxury movie dining and theatre experience at iPic Theaters near The Domain .
17. Hit Golf Balls 3 Stories Up – If golfing ranges are your style, reconsider my friend. Top Golf, the premier golf entertainment complex, recently opened up near The Domain in Austin and it’s a three story golfing range. I’ve heard it is amazing from many and worth every dollar. Grab a small bucket of balls, step into the lights, and hit balls from 30 feet up! 
18. Go for a night swin at Barton Springs – What’s more cold than a swim at Barton Springs? A night swim at Barton Springs! JUST KIDDING! Especially in the dead heat of summer, this is one of the most relaxing things to do. With the water staying a constant temperature, enjoy live music and bright lights while everyone comes out for a swim.
19. Check out third thursday at Blanton Art Museum – Nighttime, art, culture, and you’re not drinking. Why not! The Blanton Museum is a great space if you like art and they may even offer yoga in the art galleries.
20. Walk South Congress Ave. during first Thursday – With all the restaurants and boutique stores staying open late, First Thursday on SoCo is a great way to fit in dinner, shopping, and socializing into one evening.

21. Enjoy a relaxing night at the Austin Symphony – Ok, I know the Austin Symphony may not be for everyone. But MAYBE, just maybe, you’ll find yourself enjoying the symphony. If not the symphony, check out the Austin Lyric Opera. Not a fan of the opera? How about Ballet Austin? One of these will have to offer you a different experience other than the gay bars!
22. See the views from Mount Bonnell – Is this even legal at night? I’m pretty sure not, but I know people do. The highest point in Austin, you’ll get a great view of the city. Love birds and visitors often make the trek to Mount Bonnell at night for a little romance or just to take in the views.
23. Get a group together for a Skee Ball Tournament – Several bars around town have Skee Ball lanes where you, and a few friends, can snatch up two and have a good ol’ fasioned skee ball tournament. Kung Fu SaloonScoot InnLavaca Street Bar. If you don’t want to compete for the lanes *with people drinking*, you can always nab a few lanes at Dave & Buster’s or Chuck-E-Cheese! If you find yourself enjoying this, Austin even has a Skee Ball League you can join and make more friends that way.
24. BINGO! – The possibility of winning cash during a game of bingo is always exciting! Although I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy since someone always calls BINGO! right before I win. There are several amazing places near downtown if you’re looking to play bingo. B-12 Bingo,American Bingo, and Shitty Kitty Big Ball Bingo at Rain on 4th are some of my favorite spots. You can even play for free if you tell them it’s your first time there at American Bingo.
25. Kickstart the evening by watching the Bats on Congress Ave. Bridge – While this takes all but 30 minutes, watching the bats fly out from under the bridge could be a great way to kickstart an evening where you don’t plan to drink. If you wanted to make more of a night, you can always take one of the cruises to get a little more up close and personal with the bats.
26. Go to Whole Foods – The flagship store for Whole Foods, or Whole Paychecks or Whole Dudes as we call it, is a great way to get some food, hang out, people watch, get dessert, and have a nice conversation outside on the terrace. This Whole Foods isn’t JUST a grocery store, it’s definitely an experience. Oh, and did I mention the hot guys?
27. Do a progressive dinner at different restaurants or food trailers – Why sit at one restaurant when you can make a whole night out of trying different foods at restaurants or food trailers in Austin? Choose your favorite part of town and restaurant as your work your way through a night of eating appetizers, soup, salad, split two entrees, dessert, and you can even ask them to make a non-alcoholic version of your favorite drink. This just sounds fun! You can even get six neighbors and do a progressive dinner with them. 
28. Sign up for Supper Club dinner – Whether alone or with a friend, there are several Supper Clubs around Austin. If you’re not familiar with Supper Clubs, they’re group dinners at various locations around Austin with four to six course meals. They can be anywhere, from a garden to a person’s home. A few to check out are: Dai Due Supper ClubBread and Circus Supper Club,Supper FriendsSecret DiningSapphire Room Supper ClubDinner Lab
29. Go Rollerskating – Yes, I said rollerskating. When the last time you did that? Exactly! Checkout Playland Skate Center in North Austin or Austin Roller Rink in South Austin.
30. Get a group together for Blazer Tag – A little elementary, I agree. But once you’re suited up and entering the dark room, you’ll find yourself running for the dark corners, caught up in the moment, and enjoying Blazer Tag. While you are an adult, remember you will more than likely be playing younger kids. Don’t go all Will Ferrell on the kids!

31. Take a cooking class with a friend – If you’re like me, you tend to find yourself cooking the same five things over and over. Why not make a fun night, while learning to cook a new dish, and one of Whole Foods or Central Market cooking classes?
32. Take a ride on the Austin Steam Train– With themed events for Halloween, Christmas, and even a few dinners through the Hill Country, a ride on the Austin Steam Train will definitely show you a new side of Austin!
33. Jumpoline Park – Haven’t heard of it? Check it out! Why should kids get to have all the fun in with this Jumpoline Center that is covered with giant trampolines!
34. Go skydiving indoors – Scared of diving from 20,000 feet? I don’t blame you! iFly Austin has a wind tunnel that allows you to “sky dive”, with their last dive at 10:30 p.m. Reservations are required, so check out their website to check availability.
35. Drive to a small historical town nearby – With Gruene, TX just 45-minutes away from Austin, why not take an excursion for an evening and try a restaurant, check out the shops, and hear a country band play at Gruene Hall. Especially during Christmas, Gruene is on magical place.
36. Volunteer and be an usher for a show – I don’t know exactly how this works, but become an usher and volunteer at one of the major performing arts theaters. The Long CenterBass Concert HallParamount Theatre and State Theatre may have opportunities to volunteer and, in return, see a free show.
37. Pretend you’re in the circus and learn Trapeze – Offering classes from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights, why not take a break from reality and pretend you’re in the circus atTrapeze Austin. Get hooked in, and go flying through the air on a trapeze, as you learn tricks just like carnies!
38. Take a late night yoga class– While Austin is one of the epicenters of yoga in the country, escape from your daily routine and enjoy yoga before calling it a night. With three locations, places like Black Swan Yoga, offers classes that go until 11:30 p.m. While it doesn’t go as late,Wanderlust Yoga offers a more non-traditional yoga environment combining music and yoga.
39. Join s Social Sports Group – Whether you like volleyball, basketball, kickball, dodgeball, skee ball, softball, there’s a sports and social club in Austin for you. While most play during the day, Austin Sports and Social Club and WAKA Kick Ball do play at night. It’s a great way to be social outside of the bars.
40. Take a nighttime cruise– Capital Cruises and Lone Star Riverboat offers nighttime cruises along Lady Bird Lake/Town Lake. Take in the skyline from a completely different view!

41. Satisfy your need for speed and race cars- Home to Formula1, there’s plenty of tracks around town if you need to satisfy your need for speed. K1 speedCentral Texas Speedway,Driveway Austin, and Austin’s Park n’ Pizza are all great options.
42. Check out a Texas Roller Derby – If you’ve never been to a Texas Roller Derby Match before, this should rank high on your list of places to go see. Filled with characters, tough chicks, and live music, some of the games are at night. Check the schedule to see if they’re in season.
43. Go to a Quote-a-long or a Sing-a-long – The Alamo Drafthouse has a series of Quote-A-Longs, Sign-A-Longs, and Master Pancake Theatre where comedians rip a show apart while it’s playing. Whether you consider yourself a nerd, diva, or pop-princess, you will more than likely find a fun event for you and your friends. Most of the Quote-A-Longs and Sign-A-Longs are on the weekends, so double check the schedules.
44. Join a meet-up that interests you – You’re new, know nobody, but want to find a group you connect with…check out this website to see what meetups may be of interest to you.
45. Go to Dell Diamond for a Round Rock Express Baseball Game- I don’t always enjoy sports, but when I do, I prefer live sports. The energy of the fans screaming never cease to make me appreciate a sport. Get out of Austin and head up to a Round Rock Express Baseball Game.
46. Go to the Horse Races – Well this isn’t in Austin, it’s just a short drive away. With a tank of gas, and a few bucks to bet on horses, you can spend Friday or Saturday nights at 7:15 p.m. getting caught up in the excitement of horse racing at Retama Park.
47. Join a Social Bike Ride – With several social bike groups in Austin, there is a Wednesday Night Austin Queer Ride with 10-20 people and a Thursday Night Social Bike Ride with several hundred people. If you have a bike, join them and make one of the weekly pilgrimages that Austinites love to make on their bikes.
48. Go on a Date? – The best part of being single is playing the field. As long as you play safe and don’t play with people’s emotions, who would it hurt to have a little fun, go on a date, or maybe fit in a little nooky. After all, you now have 49 other ideas of what to do on this date!
49. Play a game of social dice and see where you end up – Not sure what to do and where to start? Check out this game I created!
50. Candle Light Board Game Night in a Park– Pack a blanket, a few bottles of sparkling apple cider, eight candles, and head to park or picnic area which is well lit and you can play a board game. I would suggest the Lamar Street Pedestrian bridge if you have a card table, the picnic table on the north shore by Seaholm Power Plant, the hill to the west of the Palmer Event Center, or Republic Square Park.
51. Go Camping- Who says you need to be in town on the weekends? Get out of town and go camping at one of the many sites outside Austin. Here is a page that lists all the campgrounds in Austin or the top five campgrounds around Austin.  If you’re more visual, click this map to see campgrounds around Austin.
And if all else fails! Maybe a good night of sleep or a AA meeting is exactly what you need. #JustSaying — We’ll continue to add ideas as we come up with them.

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Gay Austin: Must Try Austin Restaurants

Although we didn’t start this site to become restaurant critics, we do like sharing our favorite restaurants to check out if you’re visiting Austin. If a restaurant has made this list, it either offers a really cool experience or will offer you some of the best food in Austin. I encourage you to visit Yelp and read other’s reviews for these restaurants. From gourmet food trailers to nationally renowned chefs, Austin definitely has one of the best food scenes in the country. So choose a few restaurants for your trip and check them out!

BBQ:Franklin BBQ – Try their brisket and pulled pork! Try to get there before 11:45, if not earlier.
Stubb’s – Awesome gospel brunch! Make your reservations early.
County Line on the Lake – Nice ride through the Hill Country and restaurant sits on river.
Salt Lick – Long drive, but they spend a lot of time cooking their meats. No real side dishes.

Interior Mexican:Fonda San Miguel



Clay Pit

Authentic Italian:VespaioEnoteca

French:Justine’s Brasserie 
East Side Showroom – Awesome atmosphere, love their drink selection, good for after dinner beverage.

Steaks:Eddie V’s on 5th St.  – Sit in the Lounge and listen to the jazz trio! Full dining experience.

Hamburger:HopDoddy – Expect a wait!
Hut’s Hamburgers

Hot Dogs:Frank

Late Night:24 DinerMagnolia CafeKerbey Lane South Lamar – always an experience!

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Gay Austin Scene ― Your Essential Guide to Everything

You don’t have to look for rainbow flags or limit yourself to one small part of Austin if you’re interested in experiencing everything that the city’s large and diverse LGBT community has to offer. Unlike many places, which have only one or two areas known as ‘gay districts,’ Austin’s LGBT residents are truly everywhere. And proud of it!

LGBT Austin residents have also helped build, renew and revitalize many of the city’s most popular, vibrant neighborhoods. So, come along on a quick tour (you can drive, walk, bike or hop on the bus) for some of the best offerings.

Prior to the opening of the gay-owned San Jose Hotel (have a glass of bubbly and people watch by the pool), the streets around South Congress Avenue were not known for very much. Now the area is beloved by locals and visitors alike-with a wide range of restaurants, shops and people dotting South Congress Avenue. Grab a cup of Jo’s Coffee, peruse the shelves at South Congress Books, check out the antiques and funky finds at Uncommon Objects and when you’re tired from all that walking, head over to the green hills of Butler Park to relax and take in Austin’s ever-expanding skyline.

While you’re still in 78704, grab a sweet treat at Lick Ice Creams, a gay-owned artisanal ice cream shop that boasts flavors like roasted beets and mint. Check out the city’s magnificent Greenbelt: over 800 acres of winding trails, hiking and wildflowers await you. Head north into Downtown Austin-grab a cocktail during the superb happy hour from Joyce Garrison, resident mixologist at the W Hotel. Then, catch an indie or documentary film at the city’s newest, best-kept-secret theater, Violet Crown Cinema. Tucked away above the noise of the city with a balcony overlooking the streetscape, the theater boasts four screens, a restaurant and the option to bring that food and drinks into the theater-how cool is that?

Speaking of cool, East Austin is arguably the city’s hottest neighborhood. This historic area, brimming with art galleries and unique local businesses, has a wide range of funky shops and restaurants. Best of all: it’s totally walkable. One spot that epitomizes the quirky nature of the ‘hood is Cheer Up Charlies, a cute, lesbian-owned bar and music venue with an adorable backyard that’s serviced by two food trailers. Cheer Up Charlies showcases a diverse range of acts and themed dance parties, billing itself as welcoming the LGBTQ (and straight!) community. If you want Austin’s take on the club scene, Oil Can Harry’s, Rain on 4th and the Iron Bear are your best bets.

This city is also full of fit, athletic types and sports fanatics. That extends to its LGBT residents. Choose from a multitude of gay or lesbian sports leagues and teams, whether it’s soccer, softball, tennis, basketball, rugby, volleyball or bowling. There are two options for Pride parades and celebrations, with distinct vibes, in June and September.

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Gay Austin: Sports Teams and Networking Groups

Joining a gay sports league is one of the easiest ways to meet people and build a group of friends in Austin, TX. No matter your athletic ability, there’s a group that will be a match and welcome you to play with their team. If you already know a few people in town, it’s always possible to get a group together and register your own team. Depending on the sport, these groups typically offer a spring, summer, fall, and winter league. Half of the groups below are 100% gay and the other half are co-ed…but you’ll probably bump into a gay or two in the co-ed leagues. If you’re not sure about joining a gay sports team your first year in Austin, most of the teams have a good following of people that will go to hang out and cheer them on. Find the team you connect with the most (bears, jocks, ect.), go to a few of the games, and next thing you’ll know you’ll be downtown after the games drinking at Score at Oilcan Harry’s or Rain on 4th.

Soccer Teams
Austin Gold Stars – The Austin Gold Stars are the primary gay team in Austin and play straight teams around town. There are two different levels for the Austin Gold Stars. If you are interested in joining, you can reach out to them on their Facebook page.

Softball Teams
Softball Austin  – Softball Austin has over 25 teams that play in four different divisions. Softball Austin is the largest organization when it comes to gay sport and social clubs in Austin. If you don’t have a team in mind that you’d like to join, you can submit your information online and it will send it to the membership coordinator.

Tennis Club
Austin Tennis Club – Austin Tennis Club (ATC) is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting tennis and social activities among the Austin-area glbt community. Membership is open to any adult who endorses ATC’s basic purposes, and we do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or tennis ability. All tennis players and supporters, from beginners to experts, are welcome.

Kickball League
Austin Sports and Social Club Co-Ed Kickball Teams – Austin Sports and Social Club is the largest organization for co-ed sports. You can register your own team or join a team by visiting their website. This is one of the most well organized and social kick ball leagues in Austin.

Running Group
Austin Front Runners – The Austin Front Runner is a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered running group open to all fitness levels from walkers, to runners that are just starting out to experienced marathoners. The focus of the club is to bring GLBT runners together to support one another and network within our community. They have a great camaraderie and welcome all to their group.  They also participate in local running events and may pick one race a month to focus their training on. Other than that there is very little competition in the group; they mostly offer one another friendly support.

Gay Volleyball Teams
Austin Sports and Social Club Co-Ed Sand Volleyball Teams – Austin Sports and Social Club is the largest organization for co-ed sports. You can register your own team or join a team by visiting their website.

Gay Basketball Teams
Austin Gay Basketball League – The AGBL was created to provide a welcoming environment to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are interested in playing basketball, building friendships, and giving back to Austin’s community. AGBL promotes an athletic environment free of discrimination. LGBT-friendly basketball players are encouraged to come out and join us as well. Beginners are always welcome.

Austin Skee Ball League
A quickly growing social sport in Austin is Skee Ball. Although this is not necessarily a gay league, there are several gay teams within the leagues. Some of the popular leagues in Austin include Austin Brewskee Ball at Kung Fu Saloon, and Skee Ball at Scoot Inn.

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Dating Guide: Best Gay-friendly Restaurants in Austin

Although Austin is a fairly gay-friendly city, there are some restaurants where you’ll probably feel a little more comfortable going on a date with a guy. Since Austin is such a foodie city, most tend to seek out a restaurant that has amazing food. But if you’re looking for a place where you can go and just be you, here’s our list of the best gay-friendly restaurants to go on a date in Austin.

1. Z’Tejas – $$ / Tex Mex
2. East Side Showroom – $$ / French
3. Uchi or Uchiko – $$$ / Japanese
4. Galaxy Cafe – $ / America
5. Zocalo Cafe – $ / Mexican
6. South Congress Cafe – $$ / America
7. Asti Italian Food – $$ / Italia
8. Fonda San Miguel – $$$ / Interior Mexican
9. Justine’s – $$ / French
10. Vespaio or Enoteca – $$/$$$ / Italian
11. Blue Dhalia Bistro – $ / America
12. Vivo – $$ / Tex Mex
13. Wink – $$$ / American
14. Paggi House – $$/$$$ / New American
15. Ranch616 – $$ / Southwest / Tex Mex

Have you found the right one, or are you still searching?

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