Guest Rooms In Austin. Where To Stay?
The Fairmont Austin
This bustling 37-story glass tower, opened in 2018, is the definition of a convention hotel: It’s attached to the Austin Convention Center through a sky bridge, has enough meeting space to fill a football stadium, and can hold 1,800 conventioneers on its outdoor deck. It can hold even more in its rooms, too—this is the largest hotel in Austin, with 1,048 units, including those in Gold, a separate luxury hotel-within-a-hotel on the top floors. Bright and attractive standard accommodations have all the perks business travelers would want, including nice-size desks and lots of outlets with USB ports; views of Lady Bird Lake and/or the city skyline are a bonus.
The five on-site restaurants include the upscale Garrison steakhouse and the internationally flavored Review, as well as a coffee shop, lobby bar, and cocktail lounge. A full-service spa and exercise facility rank among the top in downtown. The location, near the Red River entertainment district and Lady Bird Lake, can’t be beat. In short, the hotel has everything you might need or want—except local character. Tip: Right across the street, the shack-like Iron Works BBQ is both a great place to eat and a reminder of the old Austin that’s literally losing ground. 101 Red River St. www.fairmont.com/austin. 1,048 units. $200–$350 double; $280 and up suite; $450 and up Gold suite. Valet parking $45. Pets 25 lb. or under accepted, $150 fee. Amenities: 5 restaurants; coffee shop; 2 bars; concierge; health club; business center; room service; Wi-Fi ($14)
Four Seasons Austin
Having completed the third phase of a $10-million renovation in 2018, this link in the luxe Four Seasons chain can now compete with all the new kids in the neighborhood—and then some. It’s got the formula down for a perfect stay, whether for work or play: understated elegance, superb service, plus a whole lot of fun. Take the rooms, for example. They have windows that open, a white noise machine, pillow-top mattresses that can be changed depending on how firm or soft you want your bed—and a button on your phone specially dedicated to summoning a margarita cart (from 3–6pm). And, this being Austin, there’s a guitar concierge on staff who will provide you with a Taylor guitar to play while you’re on the property (it’s available for purchase of course, but the Four Seasons logo pick is free).
The hotel also makes the most of its location, with the hike-and-bike trail and Lady Bird Lake abutting its lush backyard; it’s the perfect spot for guests to play lawn games, gather around a BBQ grill and listen to live music, or stroll down to the nearby dock to rent a kayak. Adding to the kick-back experience: An outdoor saltwater pool (environmentally friendly, since it relies on few chemicals); a state-of-the-art spa with a Himalayan sea-salt wall; and the Ciclo restaurant, serving Texas fare with Latin influences in all indoor and outdoor dining areas and bars. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. (at Cesar Chavez St.). www.fourseasons.com/austin. 291 units. $450–$800 double; $699 and up suite. Valet parking $45. Pets 60 lb. or under accepted, $100 fee. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; babysitting; bikes; concierge; exercise room; outdoor pool; 24-hr. room service; spa; Wi-Fi (free).
JW Marriott Austin
At 1,002 rooms, this is North America’s largest member of Marriot’s luxury JW brand. What with all the people hustling off to meetings or schmoozing on the lower-level floors, it’s not exactly serene. Nevertheless, the hotel doesn’t feel sterile—partly because the staff prides itself on catering to individual needs (even with so many individuals to cater to), and partly because of its organic design aesthetic. Subtle allusions to Texas’ natural history are sprinkled throughout, and the earth-toned decor is enlivened with plants and other touches of color in the downstairs public areas. In the rooms, headboards resemble tufted leather and bathrooms have distinctive shell light fixtures. The hotel doesn’t just pay lip service to nature: This is one of the most eco-friendly properties in town.
There’s an excellent full-service spa and well-equipped exercise room, but this JW really outdid itself with the Edge rooftop pool, which has the shape of Texas outlined on the bottom; it’s flanked by curtained cabanas, cushioned banquettes surrounding fire pits, and, of course, a fully-stocked bar. Of the many top-notch food concessions, standouts are the indoor/outdoor Corner restaurant, drawing locals to its farm-to-table Texas fare and people-watching patio overlooking Congress Avenue; and the Burger Bar, which adds shakes, breakfast tacos, fries, and other comfort food to its array of gourmet patties. 110 E. 2nd St. www.marriott.com/austin. 1002 units. $199–$450 double; $600 and up suite. Self-parking $32; valet parking $45. Amenities: 4 restaurants; 2 bars; coffee shop; outdoor pool; fitness room; spa; concierge; business center; 24-hr. room service; Wi-Fi ($15).
Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt
If you’re a fan of Kimpton hotels, known for highlighting the distinctive character of their host cities, you won’t be disappointed in this locally owned link, which pays tribute to Austin’s live music scene. It’s named for late singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who lived in Austin (mostly; the Van Zandt family is generally influential in Texas). Artwork in the lobby includes a chandelier made from trombones and a collage of birds fashioned from vinyl 45s. There’s even a director of music, who curates playlists for each public space (there’s an underwater one for the rooftop pool), and books the live bands featured daily at Geraldine’s, home to “elevated Austin grub.”
The 16-story hotel stands a stone’s throw from the Rainey Street music district (for better and worse—ask for a room on the highest floor farthest from Rainey Street, or you may be kept up on Fri–Sat nights). Spacious modern guest rooms feature plush bedding, soft carpeting, and draperies tangled up in blue. Some suites offer deep oversize bathtubs with big-window views of nearby Lady Bird Lake. 605 Davis St. (near Rainey St.). www.hotelvanzandt.com. 319 units. $199–$439 double; $399 and up suite. Valet parking $40 per night. Pets stay free. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; cafe; fitness center; outdoor rooftop pool; 24-hr. room service; concierge; Wi-Fi ($13).
It’s amazing what a few coats of white paint—and a $75-million revamp—can do. Returning Austin visitors might recognize the arched windows and boxy shape of the 1960s Radisson Hotel, but it’s now the chic LINE, with siblings in Los Angeles and D.C. The lobby has become light and airy, with a Zen-meets-the-Hill-Country vibe. Furnishings are sleek and minimalist, while floor-to-ceiling windows drink in views of the foliage-fringed shores of Lady Bird Lake. All concessions have been carefully chosen for the world stage: The main restaurant, Arlo Grey, is the first dining venture of Kristen Kish, who won season 10 of Top Chef, while Alfred’s Coffee, with its gourmet sips, baked goods, and grab-and-go selections (Scotch eggs, anyone?), has branches only in Tokyo and LA. If all this sounds a bit too cool for school, evoking a side of Austin that’s overly status conscious, it’s balanced by genuinely friendly Texas hospitality.
Also, a no-fee-or-size-restriction pet policy ensures there are usually lots of dogs around to keep folks from taking themselves too seriously. Only one tower of rooms was open for business at the end of 2018 and the rooftop fine-dining restaurant wasn’t yet finished, but it’s clear that this is destined to be a downtown gathering spot for locals as well as guests; they already attend al fresco yoga and kickboxing classes here. 111 E. Cesar Chavez St. www.thelinehotel.com. 428 units. $179–$335 double; $269 and up suite. Valet parking $39. Pets stay free. Amenities: 3 restaurants; 2 bars; coffee shop; outdoor infinity pool; 24-hr. concierge; business center; free bike rentals; Wi-Fi (free).
One the first (2010) of a flurry of downtown hotels catering to the young, hip, and affluent, the W has something the others don’t: A perch right next to the Moody Theater and near Second Street’s glitzy nightspots and boutiques. But you don’t have to leave the premises to chill out at night: The lobby-level Living Room splits into three clubby elements: the Tequila Bar; the intimate Secret Bar, featuring an amplifier system from the 1970s; and the Records Room, with more than 8,000 vinyl disks.
On weekends, brunch in the indoor/door Trace restaurant might feature a Puppy Bowl contest or Britney Spears drag show. Wherever you go in the hotel, you’ll see red: It’s the accent color in all public spaces (except the Secret Bat, where red runs wild) and in the guest rooms, otherwise done in muted blues and whites. Detox (or socialize) at the spa, workout room, or pool. This is a fun place to bunk, with excellent service and amenities—just be aware you’re paying extra for the brand name.
Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin
Built in 1924 to compete with the nearby Driskill , the Stephen F. Austin was another favorite spot for state legislators, as well as celebrities like Babe Ruth and Frank Sinatra. Unlike the Driskill, it stood abandoned for a while before being gutted and reopened as an InterContinental property. The public areas aren’t as grand as those of the Driskill—the lobby is rather dark—but the guest rooms are elegant, with touches of red giving them a regal air (stars on the rugs symbolize Texas).
They also have nice tech touches, including USB ports on the bedside phones and a bedside unit that lets you remotely turn off lights in other parts of the room. Two other assets: Stephen F’s Bar and Terrace, with sweeping views of Congress Avenue and the capitol, and the Roaring Fork restaurant, known for its “bigass burgers” and Southwest flair.
701 Congress Ave. (at E. 7th St.). www.austin.intercontinental.com. 800/424-6835 or 512/457-8800. 189 units. $159–$329 double; $339 and up suite. Valet parking $42 ($46 SUVs and larger vehicles). Amenities: 2 restaurants; bar; club-level rooms; concierge; exercise room; Jacuzzi; indoor pool; room service; sauna. Wi-Fi ($10).
Aloft & Element Austin Downtown
The trend for co-branded lodgings is manifest in this dual personality hotel where the happening Aloft, often described as a budget W offshoot, shares a high-rise with the more serene Element, an extended-stay Westin line (both now come under the Marriott aegis). When you walk in the front door—which is also the entryway to the bustling coffee bar/casual-chic restaurant Caroline/Coffeehouse at Caroline—a sign directs you to separate lobbies for the hotels on different floors. If all this sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it is. It doesn’t get much clearer when you reach the Aloft check-in on the second floor, because this is also home to Upstairs at Caroline, where you can play lawn games, drink tiki cocktails, and eat food that can be held in your hand (because you’re pitching cornhole with the other hand, naturally). There’s an array of Allens cowboy boots to the other side of the reception desk, which you can borrow should the urge to bootscoot hit you.
When you finally get to your room, you’ll find it to be small and fairly basic—bed, shallow desk, table, ergonomic chair—the premise being that you probably won’t spend much time in it.
In contrast, stepping into the reception area of Element is like entering a yoga studio. There are no games, and the only drinks are organic kombucha and the like in a cold case; here, you can borrow bicycles rather than boots. The guest rooms, intended to be homes-away-from home, are large, with Heavenly Beds (there’s that Westin brand), comfy couches, and lots of light wood. All have kitchenettes with full-size refrigerators, microwaves, and stovetops, the better to prepare the gourmet meals available through the Blue Apron “chef yourself” program. An upscale continental breakfast—think granola and a Chobani yogurt bar—is included in the room rate.
Most, though not all, of the Aloft and Element rooms are on separate floors, but hard partiers and early-to-bedders may mingle in the elevators, the 24-hour fitness room, and the various Carolines.