Hotels in the “New Austin”

Austin is a city unlike any other in Texas. With it’s west coast vibe, music scene and hipster culture, there’s a lot of different travel choices you won’t find in Houston or Dallas. Gentrification is the buzzword the locals use for the new spaces popping up as older properties are repurposed, remodeled, or rebranded to fit with the city’s growth. I had an opportunity to check out three great hotels this week while I was in town. They were all unique and offered completely different experiences catering to the unique Austin visitor.

My first stop was the Four Seasons Hotel. The Four Seasons Hotel is not for the budget traveler, but is perfect for those who demand superb hotel service, travel for business or would just like to celebrate a special occasion in style. It’s hard to find a higher standard. The hotel has an amazing location along the Colorado River right in the heart of downtown. You can walk along the water and rent a kayak or paddleboard. There’s also a guitar concierge in the hotel. You know you’re in Austin when you can have a guitar sent to your room.

I rarely play mine at home, but the thought of someone bringing me a loaner guitar to strum as I sat on my balcony watching the river rats kayaking was too tempting to pass up. However, the rock star treatment doesn’t end there. Feel like a margarita but too lazy to go downstairs to the bar? For a few hours each day, you can have a bartender roll his cart to your room and prepare fresh margaritas for you.

The Amazing Parker House Rolls at Ciclo Restaurant Photo: Jennie Timar

To cater to the locals and those who wish to sample a little Four Season’s hospitality, the newly re-branded Ciclo restaurant has an extremely popular happy hour with free valet parking and discounted drinks. It’s one of the coolest places in town to listen to live music and have a great cocktail. They also have ceviche-making lessons on Saturday for guests.

Sorbet Bon Bons Served on a Bar of Chocolate over Dry Ice, Ciclo Restaurant- Photo: Jennie Timar

There’s a very creative dinner menu as well. The Parker House rolls are better than the original ones invented in Boston: buttery delicious baked pieces of perfection served with honey and a generous slab of butter. The Texas bon bon dessert was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Served over a bowl of smoking dry ice, these bon bons literally exploded into my mouth with each bite. What was in them was a mysterious blend of sorbets and chocolate, but even more amazing was that the bridge they were served on was a surprise chocolate treat. I would make a trip to Austin just to have that dessert again.

The Hotel ZaZa Austin location is opening at the beginning of September. Photo: Jennie Timar

My next stop was the Hotel ZaZa. Their 4th hotel was about 2 months from being finished, but I met up with a couple of the brand’s ambassadors to do a hard hat tour and check out what we can look forward to. It was a new construction, but had been built to fit in with the older structures surrounding it. Rather than a river location, the hotel had chosen to be next to Republic park and lots of little bars and restaurants. If you’re not a guest of the Zaza, you’re still welcome to hang with the locals at the impressive 7th floor bar appropriately named Group Therapy or rub elbows on the first floor with the Perfect Strangers bar. The hotel has a unique quirky style of furnishings and fits in perfect with the Austin population. It’s probably an even better match there than it’s Houston and Dallas locations.

The East Austin Hotel. Coolness in the Gentrifying East Austin Area Photo: Bill Wiatrak

Finally, I stayed a night at the East Austin Hotel. The new hotel had been recently constructed on a previously vacant lot who’s main claim to fame had been headquarters for a hot dog truck. The area of East Austin definitely has personality and is having the most obvious transformation of any of the other areas of the city. The hotel has a Mid-century modern theme and relaxed vibe that is a little urban mixed with vintage motel. There’s lots of cool spots around like the Opium den themed Ah Sing Den and the retro Shangri-La. The East Austin hotel turned out to have more going for it than one might notice at first. It’s restaurant 6th and Waller dishes up some great Chicken fried chicken and Turkish Kebab. There was a cute pool bar too, but the real action was at the bar on the second floor.

Scrumptious Turkish Kebab from 6th and Waller- Photo: Jennie Timar

It was a Monday night and The Upside was rocking. It was a local crowd mostly and there was a great chill vibe going on. The wrap around patio on the second floor is a great vantage point to watch people and watch the sun go down. As I drank my Austin stout, I thought about how the hotels I visited were all different from each other but still had something in common. They embraced the uniqueness of Austin and adapted their brands to fit in with the local scene. That’s what “Keep Austin Weird” is all about.

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