It may be hard for visitors to Austin’s vibrant, creative and hip neighborhood known as SoCo to believe, but just a few years ago South Congress Avenue was a little seedy, a place where businesses had slumped and a couple of motels rented rooms by the hour. The days of headlines about naughty state legislators out on the town caught up in police sweeps are long gone. Now those restored South Congress motels are likely to be renting rooms to high tech execs and movie stars. The South Congress Avenue neighborhood has a new image and a hip name to match. South Congress continues to march south beyond Oltorf, the official southern boundary, and new South Congress apartments and businesses are being built all the way to St. Edward’s University.

The view of downtown Austin from atop the rising wide sweep of South Congress Avenue is a grabber with the State Capitol providing an exclamation point on the horizon. And literally walking distance from this same point is the beautiful Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail. The broad avenue is lined with apartments, condos, lofts, plus boutiques, funky “junque” stores, restaurants, neighborhood bars and coffee shops. Thankfully a few longtime businesses have survived the slump and blossomed in the boom, including the venerable Magnolia Cafe, where the affordable menu reflects Austin’s hippie roots 24 hours a day.