On the first Thursday of each month, the trendy strip of South Congress Avenue turns into one big block party, where local merchants host a unique, one-of-a-kind Austin celebration for the capital city’s residents, and tourists from all around the globe.
Part craft show and part festival, First Thursday takes place along SoCo from Barton Springs Road to Elizabeth Street. The party starts at 6 PM and winds down around 10 PM, when many South Congress vendors close up shop for the night. Each month, local merchants offer special promotions, live music performances — and a few free drinks.
First Thursday features some of the city’s most talented and crafty folks as the famous street comes alive with local artists, designers, performers, musicians and vendors. Retro boots and belt buckles, gleaming glass jewelry, tie dye tank tops and T-shirts, organic soaps, crocheted hats and scarves, handmade candles, leatherwear and plenty of funky art and photography can be found by perusing the tents and boutiques along SoCo. First Thursday is an eclectic shopper’s paradise and its soundtrack is the street performer on the corner playing his harmonica for tips.
Make sure to come hungry (and thirsty) because you’ll likely be enticed by the freshly baked cupcakes at Hey Cupcake! and the Llano Poblano burger at Hopdoddy Burger Bar, or the pizza pies at Home Slice and the sweet smell of freshly popped kettle corn from a street vendor — not to mention the icy Mexican margaritas at nearly every restaurant and bar on SoCo.
Vintage Boots, Pearl Snap Shirts and the Best People Watching in Austin
Austinites Tracy Owens and her husband Brett Chasteen, are regular vendors at First Thursday. Having first met her husband 10 years ago while hanging out at Jo’s Coffee, located in the heart of the SoCo district, they’ve always been drawn to the area. Owens and Chasteen own a pop-up shop called Pearl Snaps.
“Pearl Snaps is based out of a 1969 Airstream trailer. We roll into the market on South Congress with hundreds of pairs of vintage western boots, pearl snap shirts, cowboy belts, and old ranch wear for the whole family,” says Owens. “With everything coming out of our trailer, we’re able to take our business anywhere, but South Congress Avenue is our favorite spot.”
If shopping isn’t your thing, you may enjoy First Thursday’s people watching. The capital city’s slogan “Keep Austin Weird” is reflected in the artistic expression in many of the folks walking the streets of SoCo. You may even see a famous face or two — countless celebrities have been sighted shopping at First Thursday through the years.
“A few weeks ago, Academy Award winner Ryan Bingham was walking his dog and stopped by to buy a pair of vintage boots,” said Owens. “You just never know who you’re going to meet on South Congress. Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino recently bought boots and accessories for a show she’s filming in Austin.”
From Customer Appreciation to a Vivacious World-Recognized Affair
The First Thursday event started as a customer appreciation night that originally hosted two thousand people, but has since grown into a much more vivacious and world-recognized affair.
“It’s popular because it offers a real sense of Austin within a few blocks of the city,” says Owens. “From all of the food trailers, to the local artisans showcasing their work, or the vintage shops full of our favorite styles from the past, you can get it all within a beautiful five- or six-block stroll. You’re likely to run into your friends or neighbors, tourists, and maybe even a celebrity. You just never know!”