Ladies and Gentlemen – Start Your Shoppers’ Engines!
[ Sidenote from Joe: One of our recent Instagram followers in Australia asked us for our shopping recommendations for her upcoming trip to Austin. We realized we hadn’t yet shared a list of our local favorite shopping spots so here are our local retailers who we think are doing their best to make Austin a great place to shop. ]
First Thing’s First – Austin Bags Bags
As of March 1, 2013, The City of Austin implemented a flyaway plastic bag ordinance designed to help the city be more Earth friendly and reach its goal of becoming a “Zero Waste” city by the year 2040. So what this means for local shoppers is that many retailers who offer single use or plastic bags do so no longer, so let the buyer beware – bring your reusable shopping totes or get ready to carry smaller purchases sans bags. Here’s a fun video about the “Bring It Austin” movement:
The 50,000 Foot Shopper’s View
Austin shopping features many locally owned small businesses that are scattered about town. You really have to explore city neighborhoods on foot, pedicab or your own 2- or 4-wheeled favorite form of transportation to find many of them, which is what really makes Austin unique.
Really love to shop? Better wear your comfy shoes as you’ll likely be making a full day or more of shopping when in Austin. My word of caution: There are a lot more hidden gems to be found in Austin, but below are some of our top picks. We threw in some restaurants too, because what’s a great shopping trip without cocktails and food?!
South Congress – or “SoCo” as the locals refer to it – is the best place to be able to park, walk, shop and eat. In addition to some vintage and thrift stores, there is also a large antique store called Uncommon Objects filled with unique finds. There are also some other cool stores like Tesoros Trading Company and Ten Thousand Villages where you can find interesting folk arts and crafts from around the world. Lucy in Disguise is a fun and funky costume store packed with every disguise imaginable. A must do is Allen’s Boots where the smell of leather makes you feel like an instant cowboy. Several clothing stores and boutiques are also located in this area such as American Apparel and Austin’s home grown favorite By George which was named one of the country’s Top 10 Boutiques by Lucky Magazine [ listen to this heavenly choir sound effect of what receiving this award must have felt like! ].
Eating Soco: There are many dining options from food trucks to sit down restaurants. dog-friendly Italian restaurant Botticelli’s, South Congress Cafe, Guero’s Taco Bar, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and HomeSlice Pizza are local favorites. Be prepared to wait in line during peak feeding times! There’s no need to get dessert at anywhere other than Big Top Candy Shop which has been satisfying sweet tooth of kids of all ages since 2007. The folks at Big Top have over 2,000 kinds (not pieces) of candies and an old-fashioned soda fountain and shaved ice bar. A must-see-do-enjoy!
Centered around the flagship Whole Foods Market World Headquarters at Lamar and 5th and 6th streets in downtown Austin, there are lots of shopping choices including West Elm, Anthropologie, Free People, Paper Source, and others. Nadeau, The Khazana and Jaya Furniture are globally inspired, artisan and eco-friendly furniture stores in the downtown area. Just up Lamar is Whole Earth Provision Company, an Austin original since 1970 with earthy goods and unique gifts – a place Home Style Austin Brand Director Patrick says he can’t walk into without leaving with some fun purchases.
All this shop talk has made us hungry. If you’re in this area try 24 Diner – as it’s name implies it’s open 24 hours daily (except 1 am-6 am on Wednesdays) and it has some of the greatest food we’ve eaten in Austin. A great place for conversation! Better wash down your 24 Diner treat with one of Austin’s favorite ice cream shops – at Amy’s. There are Amy’s scattered around the city (see a list here) and if you haven’t tried their Mexican Vanilla ice cream yet, your life is one maraca shy of a full set.
The 2nd Street Shopping District is also a great place to walk, shop and eat (here’s the official site). Urban Outfitters, Francesca’s and Swatch along with several local boutiques and design shops such as Girl Next Door, Hemline, Prize Interiors and more make for a nice couple hours of shopping. Go to Austin Rocks to score all of your Austin souvenirs and say hi from us to the folks at Serve Gourmet – they introduced the Home Style Austin Team to The Casserole Queens as well as Austin’s finest foodie finds.
The Clarksville neighborhood around Lynn and 12th Street is a nice place to take a stroll. Although there isn’t too much shopping, there are a couple unique stores like Nau’s Enfield Drug, an old fashioned soda fountain, Fresh Plus Hometown Grocer and Sledd Nursery.
If thrift shopping and vintage clothing and furniture are your thing, you’ll want this local guide to many of the stores in the area with the Vintage Around Town Guide. Aside from Downtown and South Congress there really isn’t one walkable area where you can see a lot of independent stores at once outside of a mall or strip-mall format. Burnet Road in North Austin has a higher concentration of these types of stores, but not exactly “walkable.”
The North Lamar Central Market location is a must stop if you are in the North Austin area (there is also another location on South Lamar with a Whole Earth Provision and a Cavender’s Boot City next door). Central Market is the most amazing grocery store born in Austin and you could spend hours shopping, drooling, resting and repeating! Delight your inner foodie and have lunch at the Central Market Cafe and sit out on the big deck to enjoy your feast. On weekends you can catch live music. Also in this shopping center there is a neat Hardware Store/Gift Store combo shop unique to Austin called Zinger and a nice pottery and gift store called Clarksville Pottery. You’ll also find a Gap, an Origins and our latest obsession ~ Paper Place Austin, which will surely delight your inner artist with cards, stationery, pens, colorful papers and a wide assortment of unique objects … we left with an armful.
East Austin is in a state of change where old multi-cultural neighborhoods are being gentrified with hip urban lofts and trendy nightlife. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of culture, history and an urban vibe yielding a source of local controversy.
The East 6th Street District is a great place to walk and check out a few unique spots. More known for bars and food trucks, there are a few interesting shops to see. Clayworks Studios sells stoneware items made onsite. Green & White Grocery sells a super funky mix of herbals, spiritual paraphernalia and Latin American religious items. The owner is a true ol’ Austinite. If you like gardening, East Austin Succulents is a peaceful place for a stroll among nature’s art for the eyes. There’s a coffee truck on site, too!
One very cool shopping experience that is a bit of a drive on the West side of Austin off Highway 71 in Bee Cave named Revival. Revival is a fun architectural salvage and vintage furniture store with a lot of repurposed items and unique home decor items. “Hamlet the Pig” and a few chickens also wander about the outdoor areas of the store so you’ll truly feel like you were in an authentic shopper’s paradise. Also in the area is a retail shopping area called Hill Country Galleria with a Whole Foods, Dillard’s and other major chain stores along with a few boutique shops and restaurants, including another Amy’s Ice Cream Shop!
If you were to keep heading into far west Austin (ok, let’s call it day-tripping from Austin), you’d land in the amazing Texas Hill Country. Beautiful views will treat your senses to a different form of “shopping,” while one of my favorite cities – Fredericksburg – offers some of the best shopping in all of Texas. Wine country? Texas has it and you’re right in the middle of over 35 area wineries scattered throughout the Central Texas hills. More information is here regarding the Texas Hill Country Wineries. A visit to Austin without a visit to this part of the state requires a return adventure! Think we’re bragging? Maybe a little – this year the Texas Hill Country was a Top 10 wine travel destination in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
The Domain is the newest of Austin’s large shopping malls. In fact, a Phase 3 was recently announced and will be anchored by Nordstrom. The Domain is an outdoor urban mall with all of the major upscale retailers and nice dining options like Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, and North Italian Restaurant. There is also a new Whole Foods that just opened here with tons of seating for having a bite to eat with a side of live music, too, so check our their events schedule.
Barton Creek Square is a Texas-sized shopper’s paradise with all of the major retailers including Nordstrom and more than 170 speciality shops. No true shopper leaves Barton Creek Square empty handed!
We could go on and on about what to specifically check out or eat at these Austin favorites but if you’re still reading this you can only imagine how much my fingers ache from a blog post this long!
In between power shopping sprints, if you’re looking for places where you can eat and hangout with your four-legged friend, check out our post for Austin’s Dog Friendly Hangouts. It’s packed with our favorite places throughout the greater Austin area.
Please email us with any specific questions – we’re glad to help a shopper out!
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