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What to do in Holly, Austin's coolest neighborhood

Hip Holly holds some of the best restaurants, bars, and things to do in Austin. Here’s our insider’s guide

Written by
Jonathan Thompson

What's the deal with Holly? 

Tucked away in central east Austin, Holly sits in a perfect pocket between teeming East 7th Street to the north, residential Govalle to the east, and serene Lady Bird Lake to the south. To the west, the bright lights of downtown (particularly ‘Dirty Sixth’ and Rainey streets) are an easy walk or bike ride away, but those in the know don’t bother now – because Holly has some of the best nightlife in Austin.

Most of Holly’s streets are wide, treelined and adorned with single-story wooden houses, but don’t let that fool you: this is the coolest spot in Austin right now, with young professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs flocking here to buy homes, as well as let their hair down on a nightly basis. There has been disquiet at the speed with which Holly has gone from being a part of town that many would avoid to Austin’s new hotspot. But if Holly is striding towards a more upscale future, it’s doing it in dirty jeans and battered cowboy boots.

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If you only do one thing...

 Lady Bird Lake Photograph: Forrest Preece

Stroll down to Lady Bird Lake on the Colorado River to soak up the sun and admire the view, while hordes of Austinites stream past you on bikes, skateboards and paddleboards.

Soak up the sun

The best spot for people-watching is the leafy Edward Rendon Sr. Park on the riverfront, where you’ll also find public BBQ grills for cooking out as well as basketball courts and an open-air swimming pool. From the park, you can pick up the popular hike and bike trail along the river and downtown.

Go off the beaten track

Dive into the legendary Treasure City Thrift – a hip, socially conscious gem of a charity shop where you’re likely to unearth serious westernwear bargains.

Eat here 

Head to Launderette, a beautifully converted laundromat serving contemporary Mediterranean cuisine (and one of the best burgers in all of Austin).

La Barbecue is one of the finest BBQ joints in Texas (we're serious). A relative newcomer to Austin’s meat-smoking scene, La Barbecue’s melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork with chipotle 'slaw has people driving more than 50 miles for lunch reservations. A growing army of celebrity fans include Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Beyonce.

If it’s earlier in the day and you fancy a quick snack, look no further than the traditional tacos and sunny outdoor patio at long-serving Tex-Mex staple, Juan In A Million.

Drink here 

Lustre Pearl East, Austin Lustre Pearl East. Photograph: Eric Pawlak

Whisler’s, which looks like a crumbling hacienda, serves regal handcrafted cocktails, particularly at the funky mezcal bar upstairs.

Near the river, Lustre Pearl East is located in a converted wooden home with a popular picnic-table-peppered back yard and a hopping trivia night on Tuesdays.

Blue Owl Brewing is a bona fide treat for beer lovers (particularly if you like sours), with a welcoming onsite tasting room, while nearby Counter Culture serves beer, wine and vegan snacks on a pretty patio, and is particularly lively toward the end of its daily happy hour (from 3-6pm on weekdays).   

How to get to Holly

Austin is a driving city: if you don’t have a rental car, Uber and Lyft will be your best friends. Alternatively, you can rent a JUMP bike or scooter and zip around for $0.15 a minute. 

What else is nearby?

Govalle to the east is more residential but boasts a number of excellent Mexican restaurants. To the west of Holly, East Caesar Chavez is alive with bars, food trucks and live music spots, including a number of SXSW venues.    

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