I love South Congress. But when I say I love South Congress, I mean I REALLY love South Congress. So. Much.
And to be honest, I would have a difficult time truly explaining why, but I always just get such a happy feeling when I’m on the street. There will be days (like today) that I head over to South Congress, just to walk around. I don’t need new trinkets. I’m not hungry or in need of a coffee. And I certainly don’t need new clothes. I just enjoy being on the street – strolling up and down the legendary Avenue with other Austinites, peering in store windows imagining what things I will definitely (maybe) one day buy, walk in and out the make-shift art set-ups picturing each piece in my future home. It’s wonderful. If you live in Austin, and have never just strolled down South Congress, I highly recommend it. Plus, there’s something so amazing about looking down the street and getting a wonderful view of the downtown skyline and state capitol building. Am I right?
From what my parents and grandparents tell me, this portion of South Congress used to be the seedy part of town, where “interesting characters” used to frequent. While it is a little less “seedy” these days, not much has changed, although those “interesting characters” are now appreciated and celebrated. No, South Congress (or SoCo as many locals like to call it) is far from the seedy sketchville that it once was. Now, it truly encompasses a little bit of everything Austin in about a one-mile stretch.
Looking for some of Austin’s legendary foodie favorites? SoCo is home to Perla’s, South Congress Cafe, Güero’s, Hopdoddy’s, and Home Slice Pizza just to name a few. And don’t even get me started on the dozens of food trailers that grace the street. There you can find everything from Thai to Veggie to dessert. Perhaps you want to spend the evening listening to some harmonious tunes – why not stop over at the famous Continental Club, known as the premiere club for live music in Austin since 1957! During the day, you may even find up-and-coming musicians playing on the street. It’s music of all sorts, and on South Congress, you never know what you’ll find (like the guy below – despite his unkempt appearance, he was actually pretty good!)
Or if it’s some shopping you desire, South Congress has it all – from clothing to jewelry to antiques and trinkets, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t find somewhere on South Congress. Some of my favorite SoCo stores: Parts & Labour, Leighelena, Service Menswear, and of course, Kendra Scott Jewelry. Local artisans and vendors line the street daily, also selling their hand crafted creations (and on the 1st Thursday of every month, a huge street fair aptly named “First Thursday” showcases all those creations).
Even if you’re an out-of-towner, there’s a place for you on South Congress. Two local hotspots, The Austin Motel and Hotel San Jose, are available for visitors to stay. Now, I’ve never had the opportunity to stay in either hotel, but it’s something that’s on my Austin to-do list. Every time I walk by, I can’t help but stare longingly into the secluded hotel grounds of each, wondering what a night in one would be like. I see a local staycation sometime in my future.
As unique and varied as the residents that walk the street, South Congress is something to be treasured here in Austin, and I for one know that I’ll love this street long after I leave this city (which I don’t plan on doing anytime soon). Unless of course, it returns to it’s former seediness…although, I imagine it will probably still hold a special place in my heart anyway. Armed with this new knowledge, I hope next time you take a stroll down South Congress, you see it in a whole new light. And South Congress newbies, I dare you to go and tell me you don’t like it – seriously, you can’t. It’s impossible.