Rainey Street is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Austin, and it’s easy to see why. This historic district is part of the soul of Austin, a true gem in the heart of the hill country. Known primarily for its nightlife, Rainey Street is so much more than that. Come with me, as we explore some of the best things to do in Rainey Street.

Quick Answer Guide: 12 Best Things to Do in Rainey Street

‌Top Things to Do in Rainey Street‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in Rainey Street‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in Rainey Street‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Rainey Street‌

‌Free Things to Do in Rainey Street‌

Top Things to Do in Rainey Street

Rainey Street is a true Austin district, with everything that entails. While it’s known for bars like Lucille and the Lustre Pearl, Rainey Street is also a thriving music and cultural district. Rainey is one of the places that truly makes Austin the Live Music Capital of America.

With that in mind, let’s explore some of the most popular places to visit in Rainey Street Historic District.

1. Hotel Van Zandt

The Hotel Van Zandt is the perfect spot from which to take in the culture of Rainey Street. It's something of a microcosm of the district itself. The hotel is a wonderful option for anyone looking for a place to stay, but it's much more than just that.

The Hotel Van Zandt is home to Geraldine's, an upscale bar and restaurant on the roof of the hotel. The view of the city is breathtaking and the food is to die for. They are particularly famous for their brunch. The hotel also has live music every Thursday, so I would suggest getting into town a bit before the weekend if you can manage it.

2. Teatro Vivo

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Teatro Vivo is a fascinating project dedicated to the art of bilingual theater. They provide a space that makes Latino culture accessible to all, and facilitate the creation of new works of bilingual theater. Be sure to check their upcoming shows when you plan your visit, it's an experience that you won't want to miss.

3. The Stay Put

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The Stay Put is a charming brewery and draft house that perfectly captures the ATX vibe. It has a relaxed feel to it, but it certainly isn't lacking in the drinks department, with a selection of brews that shows some true Austin craft pride. They're open all afternoon and late into the night, and all ages are welcome before 6pm.

The Stay Put is the perfect place to kick back and hang out, whether you’ve had a long day of sight-seeing already or are just getting started on your night out.

Best Things to Do During the Day in Rainey Street

Did you know that it’s actually possible to spend time on Rainey Street during the day? I kid, but the city’s reputation for nightlife causes many to miss out on some of the best things to do in Rainey Street just because they’re daytime activities.

But not to worry, friends, I will be your guide and show you what to do in Rainey Street if you have some time to kill during the day.

4. Frida Friday

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Frida Friday is a monthly pop-up market on Rainey Street that showcases WoC artisans. They have a wonderful selection of vendors selling everything from art, to clothing, to jewelry.

If you're looking to shop and want to know that your money is going to a good place, then look no further. The organizers support various charities and organizations to help uplift marginalized communities and create a more egalitarian society.

5. Rainey Street Food Trucks

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If you're looking for a quick bite to eat during your Rainey Street adventure, the Rainey Street Food Trucks have you covered. There are tons of options to choose from, including Bummer Burrito, Taco Baby, Tommy Want Wingy, and Mr. Sandwich. Austin is famous for its food trucks, and the assortment here will make it clear why that is. There's even outdoor seating so you can take a break from walking around the district.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in Rainey Street

Need a breath of fresh air? Not to worry, there are plenty of places to visit in Rainey Street that are out in the open air. There’s always outdoor bars and beer gardens, but that’s not all that this neighborhood has to offer.

It’s called a historic district for a reason, and wandering the great outdoors might just give you an idea of why.

6. Tejano Trails

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  • Perfect For:‌ Hikers who love history
  • Website:http://www.tejanotrails.com/
  • If You Go:‌ You can download the tour guide from their website.

A series of historical tours of Mexican-American history, the Tejano Trails organization offers a free walking tour on every third Saturday of every month. The tour guide on their website offers directions and historical background for several areas of interest, as well as routes suitable for cycling or renting an electric scooter.

The trail starts in Rainey Street, and takes you on a grand tour of the historic neighborhoods in East Austin. If you love both walking and history, this is one of the things you simply must do in Rainey Street.

7. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and Boardwalk

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The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake is a 10-mile trail along the shore of Lady Bird Lake, offering pedestrian and bicycle transportation through Austin to visitors and citizens, with a long, scenic stretch of boardwalk passing over the lake. Several rest areas lie along the trail where fishing is allowed.

Construction on the boardwalk finished in 2014, so it's practically a brand new addition to the scenery of Downtown Austin. It features over 300 piers and 13,000 LED lights, as well as seven viewing areas and an ADA-accessible pier. The boardwalk is decorated by "Belting It Out," an art piece that consists of 36 bronze belts on the railings of the boardwalk. Each belt is inscribed with song lyrics from famous Texan musicians.

Best Things to Do at Night in Rainey Street

Everyone knows that when you go to Rainey Street, you’re mainly going for the nightlife. The bars are famous all across America for their southern charm and craft cocktails, but it’s not quite as well known that many of them are also music venues.

Whichever strikes your fancy, the nighttime scene is sure to take you to some of the best things to do in Rainey Street.

8. Emmer & Rye

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  • Perfect For:‌ Sophisticated diners
  • Website:https://emmerandrye.com
  • If You Go:‌ Check the menu beforehand, it changes every week.

Emmer & Rye is one of the best restaurants on Rainey Street. They offer luxurious American fusion cuisine blending continental, Mexican, and Italian cooking styles. They pride themselves on their local ingredients, handmade bread and pasta, and an extensive selection of wines and cocktails. The changing menu means a visit is always an adventure, but you're sure to have a good experience no matter what.

9. The Half Step

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  • Perfect For:‌ Cocktail connoisseurs
  • Website:https://www.halfstepbar.com/
  • If You Go:‌ Be sure to check out the bands that are playing.

The Half Step is an elegant and classy cocktail bar with sophisticated vibes and live music. Their world-class drink menu mixes classic cocktails with unique specialties like the Oaxaca-Melon. My recommendation is the Half Step Ginger Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit, ginger, lime, and Jarritos Toronja. The ambience and music make this bar one of the best things to do in Rainey Street.

Free Things to Do in Rainey Street

For the traveler on a budget, it may seem like Rainey Street doesn’t have much to do. Au contraire, dear reader, nothing could be further from the truth.

While your search for an adventure that’s both fun and free may take you away from the confines of Rainey Street proper, it’s a wonderful place to start your journey.

10. Waller Beach

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Waller Beach Metro Park is a 26-acre walking path and nature preserve, as well as a playground. In addition to the famous South Congress bats, waterbirds, turtles, dragonflies, and other wildlife can be seen in abundance in the park. Waller Beach is an oasis of nature right in the middle of Austin's party district, and for that reason I find it to be one of the best activities in Rainey Street.

11. Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

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Programs of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) are held around the area and throughout Austin. Information about MACC and its events, art installations, classes, and more can presently be found on their website — and trust me there are plenty of things you won't want to miss.

One of my personal favorites is the yearly Viva Mexico event. It features dance performances by Ballet Folklorico de Austin and Danza Azteca Guadalupana, live music by Mariachi Corazon de Texas, youth performances from high schools all across the city, and lots a free activities for kids. It's one of the best events of the year and I highly recommend going if you're in town for it.

12. South Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

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  • Perfect For:‌ Animal lovers
  • Website:https://www.batsinaustin.com
  • If You Go:‌ Don't touch any downed bats you see, it's dangerous for them and you!

Just across Ladybird Lake, nestled on the shore under South Congress Avenue Bridge, lies one of Austin's most famous tourist attractions: the South Congress Avenue Bridge Bats. A small nature preserve for a population of a species known as Mexican free-tailed bats, the bat preserve draws evening crowds to the bridge and the lake shore to watch the creatures emerge and begin flying. Whenever I have a friend who's visiting town, I always take them to see the bats. It is a truly unique Austin experience that I cannot recommend enough.

Now my friends, we have reached the end of our journey. Rainey Street is a wonderful and fascinating area of Austin that most certainly deserves its popularity. Next time you’re in town, be it for business, vacation, or even SXSW, I hope that you will take the opportunity to explore this wonderful piece of the history of our great city. Au revoir, mes amis!