Austinites refer to the shopping and entertainment area of South Congress Avenue as the SOCO area, and many world class restaurants can be found in SOCO, as well as numerous clothing stores, antique and retro shops, and also street vendors, selling a variety of reasonably inexpensive goods to pedestrians and other passersby. Once a month, the merchants of the SOCO district hold a street fair of sorts along the sidewalks outside the restaurants and shops called First Thursday, on the first Thursday of the month. Frequently there is live music and most of reception halls in chennai the stores display their wares on the sidewalk, along with the street vendors, who show up in full force. Many reasonably inexpensive new housing developments are being built in this area as well, mostly condos which have a great view of the lake and the SOCO district. Many famous landmarks are in the SOCO area, including the Hotel San José, with adjacent Jo's coffee shop, both favorites among locals and tourists. Across the street from the San José, in the heart of SOCO, is one of the most well-known blues and rock-oriented nightclubs in the Austin area, called the Continental Club. The city's daily newspaper, the Austin American Statesman, also calls northern SOCO its home, and is just south of the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself has a pedestrian walkway on each side, both of which give pedestrians a beautiful view of Lady Bird Lake. The neighborhood of Travis Heights surrounds SoCo an is a collection of ecletic 1940's and 1950's homes.
One of the most unusual events in Austin is the nightly flight of the bats from under the bridge, where they nest, to the Austin skies right after sunset, a beautiful and very dramatic sight. The bats are the most numerous in March and April, and are actually Mexican free tailed bats on their yearly journey to and from Mexico. Tourists and many others flock to the area to watch the bats make their nightly pilgrimage to the stars and clouds above Lady Bird Lake. The bat colony is the largest urban bat colony in North America, and during their peak season they number over a million bats. The free Austin Orange Dillo bus runs every ten minutes on First Thursday from convenient free parking at One Texas Center on Barton Springs, so visitors don't have to worry about parking on Congress itself.