Although spending a day exploring Austin is the best way to soak up the sun, the Texas capital doesn’t truly come alive until the sun goes down.
Sure, when you come to Austin, one of your first thoughts is that you should hit the legendary bar scene and check out 6th Street at night. However, there are many other exciting (and less expensive) options for going out in the evening, and some of them are far more fun than getting your shoes sticky in a bar. Here are seven great things to do at night in Austin.
This great drive-in shows both old and new movies, including indie films, arthouse, childhood favorites, and pop culture hits. You can even purchase a s’more kit and roast s’mores over a fire pit. Popular screenings include The Breakfast Club, Rent, Clueless, Ghostbusters, and Star Trek (50th anniversary addition). It is a small establishment and space is limited, so booking ahead of time is essential.
Show off your putting game at an old Austin original. The giant Peter Pan and T-Rex at Peter Pan Mini Golf have stood guard over the intersection of Barton Springs and South Lamar since 1948—longer than most native Austinites can remember. The company is family-owned and perfectly captures the city’s laid-back attitude. Several new fixtures were added in the last few years, and the whole course was recently renovated with bright, new colors. For adults, Peter Pan is BYOB friendly, so expect to see a few coolers being dragged along with golf clubs as groups play their 9 holes.
Deep Eddy Pool takes outdoor movie night to a new level. Here, guests can watch new blockbusters and flashback favorites while swimming in the historic Depp Eddy Pool, originally built during the Great Depression.
Frequently featured in Texas films, Austinites everywhere recognized Barton Springs as the backdrop of a dramatic scene in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011), a nostalgic ode to childhood in Texas. Located on the grounds of Zilker Park, the site is a recreational outdoor swimming pool filled entirely with water from nearby natural springs. The pool itself measures three acres in size, and the underground springs help it maintain an average temperature of 68ºF–70ºF (20ºC–21ºC), ideal for swimming in Austin’s searing summer heat. Even better is Barton Springs at night. If it’s a full moon, you can hop into this natural pool and howl at the moon until your lungs give out with your fellow Austinites. Since this event only takes place once a month, there is an entry fee and space is limited to avoid overcrowding, so plan ahead and get there early!
Just off 6th street, Austin’s liveliest stretch of nightlife, is the very affordable Firehouse Hostel. Once a firehouse built in 1885, it now serves as an updated hostel and lounge. The best part here, however, is not the hostel but the lounge. Hidden behind a bookcase, complete with a secret latch, is a speakeasy with deep colors, loud music, and craft drinks. If you make it in, be ready to sit back and relax in a completely different decade.
This wonderfully odd museum is open until 12am for your viewing pleasure or puzzlement. Featuring a small collection, which includes the supposed body of a yeti, it’s the wild and wacky stories you hear from the employees that are half the fun of going here. Another fun fact: the apartment adjacent to the museum used to be the home of none other than Johnny Depp. If you love the weird and wonderful, you’ll enjoy our guides to the most unique experiences in Austin and our tour of Austins weirdest homes.
Calling Austin home for over 35 years, Esther’s Follies began in 1977 when Michael Shelton leased a small bar on 6th Street, which quickly turned into a performance space for improvisational dance, comedy, and song. A stage was built with the back facing 6th Street, which gives the club its unique feature of interaction between the performers and the people passing by on the street outside. Today, Esther’s Follies performs political satire and parody from Washington, D.C. to Austin. With the music, comedy, and the 6th Street interactions and distractions, Esther’s Follies is a one-of-a-kind comedy experience. If you love live music, be sure to check out our guide to the best live music venues in Austin.