Downtown Austin hotels
Austin’s status as the festival capital of the world has sprung up an array of boutique lodgings, but the Driskill was around long before the boom of badgeholders. Built in 1886, the influence of the developer (a cattle baron, naturally) still exists in the form of hide-upholstered couches and longhorn busts hanging in the bar. The rooms exude old-school Texas elegance: think vintage crown molding, calming desert gold and tan linens, and pearly white accents. The Pampered Pet program makes this one of the most dog-friendly hotels in town, unless your canine is particularly in touch with the spirit world—legend has it that the halls are haunted by two ghostly brides who took their lives on their wedding nights 20 years apart, but in the same room.
Occupying perhaps the most expensive strip of real estate in downtown Austin, the Four Seasons is nestled up against the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trails, which makes it a perfect gateway to one of the city’s most iconic natural amenities. Evening in-house car service and twice-daily housekeeping are the type of practical amenities that make the case for choosing one of the 291 rooms instead of a more boutique option, not to mention the heated saltwater pool, lawn hammocks and chimineas with complementary S’mores kits. Despite the national brand-name, the restaurant TRIO is all local, from produce direct from East Austin's Springdale Farm and pork from Richardson Farms in Rockdale, Texas.
Located adjacent to the Moody Theater (home of ACL Live), the W serves as a cornerstone of the posh Second Street District. The Living Room bar is one of the best places in town to make very bad decisions and the summer rooftop pool parties are the stuff of legend, but the rock-star atmosphere doesn’t stop at poolside DJ sets. Twiggy floor lamps, suede sofas and ultra high-end McIntosh McAire sound systems mean the “Extreme Wow Suites” live up to their name. Thankfully all the revelrous vibes are tempered with a full-service spa, and one of the city’s most notable farm-to-table dining experiences at TRACE.
The Fairmont Austin has been a long time in the making, but it finally made its debut in March 2017 and currently stands as the largest hotel in Austin—both in height and capacity. With 1,048 rooms and suites and stunning views of Lady Bird Lake, the hotel is a meeting point during the city's largest conferences (hello, SXSW) and festivals. Visitors can enjoy five restaurants and bars (be sure to check out Rules and Regs, the 7th floor bar with a stunning view of downtown), a spa and a pool among other amenities.
One of the city’s newer boutique options, Kimpton’s Hotel Van Zandt is located in the heart of Rainey Street, formerly a strip of sleep bungalows that has morphed into the city’s premiere bar-hopping district. With one of the most impressive lobbies in town (the light fixtures made from trombone bells are truly stunning), a restaurant with views of Lady Bird Lake and live music seven nights a week, it’s an undeniably hip place to be seen, but an even hipper place to stay. Its 319 rooms means there’ll likely be availability, dark woods and patinated bronze fixtures add intrigue, and soaker tubs overlooking the cityscape make your stay that much more special.
Longtime Austinites are still getting used to the 34 story, 1,012 room JW Marriot that was recently erected in the heart of downtown, but given the city’s floods of conference attendees and festival-goers, the massive footprint is well-warranted. The JW is Austin’s most business-friendly hotel, with entire floors of meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art AV capabilities (and an all-important Starbucks in the lobby), but still plenty of amenities for unwinding, like a rooftop pool adorned with an outline of Texas on the bottom. While you’re taking a dip, don’t miss one of the poolside bar’s signature frozen cocktails or the poblano hummus.
Visiting Austin on the cheap these days is a challenge, but one way to significantly decrease the damage of a weekend trip is to score one of the few rooms at the Firehouse Hostel. It isn’t the Four Seasons, but the oldest-standing fire station in Austin has been transformed into a cozy respite for budget travelers just feet from the fray of Dirty 6th Street. Standard and deluxe dorm offerings are great for large groups, but for those who’ve outgrown the charms of sleeping in the bunk beds they also offer a pair of more conventional suites with private baths. Bonus points for a cocktail lounge that you enter through a secret sliding false bookshelf.
Located smack dab in the middle of Congress Ave in downtown Austin, the InterContinental offers centrally-located digs if you want to be close to most of the action during your stay. Built in 1924, the hotel has a rich history with modern amenities, including a health club, lap pool, spa and business facilities. It also offers a killer patio experience, with a terrace where diners can enjoy cocktails and burgers while overlooking Austin's main thoroughfare. The hotel's on-site restaurant, The Roaring Fork, is the perfect place to treat yourself to a wood-fired steak and a martini.
A newcomer in the downtown hotel scene, Element's 144 rooms offer guests luxurious accommodations in the heart of Austin. Breakfast is included here, though you'll want to take advantage of the hotel's restaurant, Caroline, which operates as a coffeehouse in the morning, serving pastries and Little City coffee. Studio and one-bedroom suites are available, as is a gym and business center.
If you're in town for an event at the Convention Center, Hilton Austin will likely serve as your homebase. The massive lobby houses a Starbucks, restaurant (Cannon & Belle) and lounge area that serves as a meeting spot for business conferences and family gatherings. Take advantage of the in-house spa (hello, mani-pedi), the health center and the outdoor pool and hot tub. But don't get too comfortable—there's plenty to do around the Hilton's immediate area, as it's situated within walking distance of Rainey Street, East 6th Street and the rest of downtown Austin.
With stunning views of the city from its rooftop pool, the downtown Omni Austin hotel is a solid option for when you want to feel like a baller without shelling out too much. Accommodations range from comfortable deluxe rooms to the luxurious penthouse suite, and you can take your pick of dining options with the hotel's multiple restaurants and bars: Ancho's, Morsel's and the Atrium Lounge.