When you hear people talking about Sixth Street as the Austin equivalent of New Orleans’s Bourbon Street, the area they’re usually referring to is the downtown stretch of Sixth that’s east of Congress Avenue and west of Interstate 35. On “Dirty Sixth,” as it’s known locally, it’s all about good times, with an array of bars beckoning revelers. You’ll have no trouble finding drink specials and lively ambiances. Keep in mind, though, that “lively” can veer into “downright wild” as the hour gets later—and it’s up to you to decide whether that’s a positive or a negative. Enjoy strolling between the party bars, but don’t forget to check out some of Sixth Street’s other offerings, highlighted here. Still not your scene? West of Congress, Sixth Street is still festive but a little more grown-up; go east of I-35 and the mood turns distinctly more hipster. Here are five great spots along the Sixth Street spectrum:
Alamo Drafthouse – The Ritz
Now a national chain, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema—known for its food, quirky events and strict rules against talking and texting during movies—was born in Austin in 1997. Among the Austin locations, the Sixth Street branch feels most like the original (now closed) Alamo, which was a few blocks south and east.
The folks behind the Alamo Drafthouse opened this modern speakeasy in 2012. The location is a former—ahem—house of ill repute. Today it’s a serious cocktail bar that’s the antithesis of the rest of raucous Sixth Street. Read the house rules and make a reservation online before you go.
Casino El Camino
Picture the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, if it were designed by the Ramones. Casino El Camino has a dark interior, a punk-rock spirit, a renowned jukebox and quite possibly the best burgers in the world (order at the window in back, and know that there might be a wait).
While this stretch of Sixth Street is one of the best-known areas of Austin, it’s not really a hotbed of live music. Parish is an exception. You can catch both touring acts and Austin favorites, like Alpha Rev and Band of Heathens, in this 450-capacity, second-floor room with windows overlooking Sixth.
Esther’s has been a mainstay in Austin since 1977, and these sketch-comedy players never run out of things to poke fun at in Austin life or Texas and national politics. If you’re more of a standup fan, comics take the stage at Esther's sister venue, The Velveeta Room, also on Sixth Street.