Sixth Street is a legendary street and entertainment district in downtown Austin, Texas, located within the city’s urban core. Let’s get to know more about one of the most famous main streets in Texas. Sixth Street was previously known as Pecan Street under Austin’s previous naming convention, which named east-west streets after trees and north-south streets after Texas rivers.
The Sixth Street Historic District is a nine-block area of East Sixth Street roughly between Lavaca Street to the west and Interstate 35 to the east. It was mentioned in the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1975. Developed as one of Austin’s economic and commercial districts in the late 1800s, the predominant building style is two- or three-story masonry Victorian commercial architecture. The majority of the structures in the area had already been constructed by the 1880s, with a few notable exceptions including the Driskill Hotel (1886), the Scarbrough Building (1910), and the Littlefield Building.
Sixth Street is one of Austin’s most recognizable streets, whether you like it or dislike it. It is the epicenter of what has made Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. Sixth Street in Austin is divided into three sections: West, East, and Dirty. West Sixth is the stretch of Sixth Street west of Congress Avenue. The nightlife scene mostly ends at North Lamar Boulevard. East Sixth Street technically begins at Congress Avenue and runs east, but that is not what you will hear from locals. Dirty Sixth refers to the stretch of Sixth Street between Congress Avenue and I-35. Then there’s East Sixth, which is anything east of I-35. Don’t be alarmed by the street signs; you’ll be speaking like a native in no time.
Every weekend, Dirty 6th is packed with partygoers—crowds are common. Dirty 6th, or the portion of East 6th that is west of I-35, has been a Friday night benchmark since Austin was just a sleepy college town and is frequently compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Aside from alternate activities to do in Los Angeles, Sixth Street in Austin has a lot to offer. The street has earned the moniker “dirty” due to an increase in violent crimes in recent years, most recently a shooting that killed a tourist and injured 14 others. Since 2016, the strip has averaged 1,234 crime reports per year, with the two most common reports—assault with bodily injury and theft—shared with the nearby Red River District.
Sixth Street (6th Street) in downtown Austin, Texas, was originally known as Pecan Street. Although it is cliche to say so, no visit to Austin is complete without at least a cursory stroll down this famous street.
When it was Pecan Street in 1800s, Sixth Street was known for its bars and music. Armstrong Custer and his soldiers were stationed in the Texas capitol following the American Civil War. They found entertainment in the bars lining the street. By the 1880s, German immigrants on Pecan Street had established beer gardens and music halls.
The neighborhood has seen its ups and downs over the years. Originally, it saw a lot of commercial development, including the well-known Driskill Hotel. The majority of the architecture is in the Victorian commercial style. The area around East Sixth Street became a nightlife hotspot in the 1970s, with a slew of live music clubs and bars. Antone’s Nightclub was the first club to open on the revitalized street in 1975. Many notable performers, including Stevie Ray Vaughn, have had their careers launched by Antone’s. The nine blocks of East Sixth Street between Lavaca Street and Interstate 35 were designated as the Sixth Street Historic District in 1975 and were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Famous Things to Do in Dirty 6th Street in Austin, Texas
1. Dining in Dirty 6th Street
Sixth Street may be a party district, but it takes its food seriously. Casino El Camino, a rocker dive bar, serves up big, juicy burgers until late at night and has one of the best jukeboxes in town. Take a seat at Iron Cactus for some Tex-Mex and one of their 100+ tequilas mixed in a refreshing margarita. If you want to relax and eat something, stop by Central District Brewing for a pint of Kolsch and an empanada. Parkside serves fancier fare such as raw oysters and rich butter-roasted chicken, as well as an exceptional cocktail menu. The Backspace, a Neapolitan pizza joint with an old-fashioned wood-fired oven, is located in the back. With only a few pizzas on the menu, each one emphasizes high-quality ingredients and that perfect thin crust.
2. Nightlife in Dirty 6th Street
Sixth Street has its own distinct personality. Closed to through traffic Thursday through Saturday nights, expect this area to fill up with people looking for live music and cheap drinks. The Driskill Bar is located inside The Driskill, a luxurious hotel built-in 1886. Order a whiskey and sink into a leather armchair, imagining yourself as a pioneer Texas cattle baron. Maggie Mae’s is the place to go for more recent Texas history. Within the walls of this 1978 party palace are seven bars and three stages. Visit the legendary music venue Antone’s for live blues on a stage where B.B. King has performed. Gary Clark Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Martin Luther King Jr. Cielo Nightclub have an international club vibe and salsa to Latin and reggaeton beats on a technicolor dance floor. Sixth Street is home to two hidden speakeasies. Ring the right doorbell at Midnight Cowboy to enter a cozy cocktail bar that truly feels hidden. Because this restaurant is small, reservations are recommended. You’ll have to slide a very special bookcase aside to reveal the hip vibe and excellent cocktails inside Firehouse Lounge & Hostel.
3. Entertainment in Dirty 6th Street
Austin would be incomplete without music! Flamingo Cantina’s eclectic space features Latin, reggae, and world beats. The atmosphere is friendly, and the music is excellent. And see Esther’s Follies, a 45-year Austin institution that combines comedy, magic, music, and more. Make a reservation at The Hideout Theatre to see local improv and comedy acts. Grab a Gorilla Mocha specialty coffee from the inside java bar before the show. Looking for a bizarre attraction? Visit the Museum of the Weird, which exhibits the unusual, bizarre, and freaky, and admission includes a live sideshow performance. Insider tip: Every spring and fall, Sixth Street is transformed into the Pecan Street Festival, a funky art fair, and market.