If You Hang with the Hip Crowd
The 40-room property, originally built as a motel in 1939, incorporates a stylish, minimalist design and sits at the center of Austin's SoCo neighborhood, a trendy area known for great music. The hotel reflects its hipster surroundings by offering lots of cool stuff on loan: an excellent music library (both CDs and pre-filled iPods), a video collection, Polaroid cameras, bicycles, and even a Remington typewriter. There's a small swimming pool, an outdoor lounge serving drinks and snacks, and the locally famous Jo's Coffee next door. Urban-chic rooms have modern wooden platform beds, polished concrete floors, paisley bedspreads and flat-screen TVs.
If You Can Afford the Trendiest Digs
Stylish Hotel St. Cecilia, with just 14 rooms, is a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word. It features a sexy lounge (complete with patio seating), lovely grounds, and uber chic rooms that meld with Austin's weird vibe and cool music scene via distinct decorative touches and amenities. The centerpiece is an historic Victorian home fronting spacious, leafy grounds and holding four of the hotel's beautiful suites. The long, narrow pool offers a classy place to beat the Austin heat. But its biggest perk is likely the ideal location in one of Austin's coolest neighborhoods, close to downtown shopping, historic sites, and entertainment.
If You’re on a Budget
Although located in a slightly sketchy neighborhood, opposite a shopping mall whose glory days are long-gone, this property's spacious, bright rooms are far more sophisticated than you might expect from a Holiday Inn. Plus, there's a well-stocked sundry store in the lobby for late-night partiers, and a pool where festival-goers can recharge their batteries before heading to the festival grounds.
If You'll Need to Detox after the Festival
The 312-room Barton Creek Resort is sprawled across lovely grounds centered within three golf courses in the hills west of downtown Austin. You'll find plenty to do on-site, including golf, tennis, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, large fitness center, and great shopping, plus the festival grounds are just a 19-minute drive away. Rooms are spacious and thoughtfully decorated with at-home touches, and each one comes complete with fabulous views of the surrounding areas, as well as large flat-screen TVs equipped with satellite cable channels and a gaming system.
If You Want to Party in Style
The W Austin, opened in December 2010, is one of the city's newest luxury hotels. Featuring a minimalist design that incorporates elements of southwestern decor, its 251 rooms are housed on the first 16 floors of a mixed hotel-and-condo tower. It's well located in the heart of Austin's newly emerged 2nd Street District close to sights, shopping, and entertainment. The rooms are average in size, comfortably stylish, and feature modern amenities. The W is the haunt of mostly young, affluent travelers, and so is staffed and outfitted accordingly. The Living Room bar is a popular gathering spot for Austinites, and the young and hip congregate at the W's WET Pool on weekends. Trace, its signature restaurant, is one of the city's culinary hot spots.
If You're Bringing Your Significant Other
The 189-room Driskill Hotel sets a new standard for historic hotels. The hotel was built in 1886 and beautifully restored, and the gleaming marble floors, towering columns, and stained-glass ceilings evoke a bygone era. Tasteful, elegant rooms follow suit with designer furnishings, towering ceilings with crown moldings, brocade carpeting, and pretty bathrooms with black marble floors. There's no pool or other on-site amenities besides a nice fitness center and small massage room, but the location in the heart of Austin's famous Sixth Street entertainment district is prime.
If All You Need is a Place to Crash
The mid-range Holiday Inn is a safe, if unexciting, bet for travelers on a budget. Rooms are chain-like, with microwaves and mini-fridges, the fitness room is bright and modern, and the outdoor pool is decent, with lake -- and freeway -- views. The location is pretty good for a hotel in this price category -- next to Town Lake, and a short drive from the action in downtown Austin and the festival grounds.
If You Want a Zen Retreat
The Casulo offers chic boutique style at an affordable price, with contemporary, zen-like decor, and rooms all featuring big soaking tubs (most next to peek-a-boo glass windows). It's a 12-minute drive southeast of the festival grounds, so no popular tourist sights are within walking distance. But you'll probably spend most of the time dancing to the music at the festival, so this is not a huge problem.
More Austin Hotels to Consider
Four Seasons Hotel Austin Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Four Seasons Austin is one of the city's most beloved and well-known luxury properties, enjoying a prime downtown location and phenomenal lake views. The service and amenities are top-notch, as you'd expect from the Four Seasons. The rooms, however, do not deliver the level of luxury you'd expect from the brand; they're comfortable enough, and feature up-to-date technology, but the decor feels generic and a little dated.
Lake Austin Spa Resort Rating: 4.5 Pearls
This lakeside retreat along the shores of Lake Austin is more than a spa resort -- with kayaking, canyon hikes, yoga and "discovery programs," Lake Austin Spa Resort is a true wellness destination. Its log-cabin-like exterior is enhanced by its natural surroundings, while the French-inspired interior is bright and elegant. The 40 rooms continue this look, with classic but stylish furnishings, and feature modern technology (iPod docks and flat-screen TVs). Gorgeous lake views can be seen throughout -- from the sun-soaked dining room, cheerful lobby, upstairs living room, and even the modern fitness center. There are three pools, one of which is housed in a barn, and outdoor massage facilities are surrounded by trees. The cooking class kitchen is cute and homey, just like the rest of the resort.
The Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This upper-middle-range chain is popular with business travelers and families, and is located in Southpark, a 5-minute drive south of downtown. The property is a bit dated, and not much is within walking distance, but rooms are clean, with comfortable beds, there's easy highway access, and the big indoor/outdoor pool and Jacuzzi are pluses.
Hotel Ella Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The upscale, 48-room Mansion at Judges' Hill oozes atmosphere and history. Built in 1900, the white, neoclassical building is located in the University of Texas area, a 5-minute drive from downtown. Rooms are quaint (some might say dowdy), the American fine dining restaurant is elegant, and the sprawling veranda is a great place to sip cold drinks in the warm weather. But the Mansion lacks the features of a larger hotel, including a pool and on-site fitness center.
Omni Austin Hotel Downtown Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Omni is an upscale chain geared toward business travelers, with a prime downtown location within walking distance of the Sixth Street entertainment district. The soaring atrium lobby is bright and gleaming, the warm rooms have Texas-inspired decor and flat-screen TVs, and the chic rooftop pool with excellent city views is a notable draw. But most rooms have windows facing the atrium rather than the outside, which means that views are obstructed and privacy can be an issue.
InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The InterContinental Stephen F. Austin occupies an historic building in a great location in the heart of downtown Austin. Last renovated in 2000, its 189 rooms are comfortable though small, and its amenities (basement fitness center and pool) pale in comparison to those of nearby competitors. If a large rooftop pool and bright, open-feeling fitness center are important to you, you're better off staying at the Omni just down the street. If staying somewhere historic is a priority, The Driskill (also down the street) is a better bet. The InterContinental's prices are often a bit lower than nearby competitors', though, so a good deal may just make it worth your while if you don't mind some compromises.
Travaasa Austin Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Travaasa Austin is set on its own nature preserve on a hilltop amid forested canyons, 20 miles west of downtown Austin. Its 72 rooms are housed in seven buildings built on three different levels, with correspondingly different views from their balconies. Hiking trails, an infinity-edge pool enclosed by a wooden deck, a luxurious spa, and a restaurant with panoramic views are just some of the amenities providing inspiration and relaxation for visitors. It's far from the city's downtown core, but that's probably why most guests are looking to stay here.
Doubletree by Hilton Austin - University Area Rating: 3.5 Pearls
This mid-range chain is convenient if you're looking to stay near to the University of Texas, or have business in the area -- and don't mind staying by a busy interstate highway, with few other attractions nearby. The rooms are comfortable and modern, with big flat-screens, standard Wi-Fi is free, and there's a solid outdoor pool.
Kimber Modern Rating: 3.5 Pearls
This stylish boutique hotel in South Austin has only five guest rooms, and caters to guests looking for a truly private and relaxing hideaway. An outdoor courtyard is shaded by tall trees and features a sleek water feature and hammocks. Just off the courtyard is the hotel's common area, where guests will find cool mid-century modern seating, a trendy Apple iMac computer and printer, and a full kitchen. The bright and airy rooms all have platform beds with comfy bedding, iPod docks, LCD TVs, and white decor. Suites have spacious bathrooms with freestanding tubs, and each room has a mini-fridge. But it's worth comparing rates with the nearby (and just as hip) Hotel San Jose.
Hotel Allandale Rating: 3.0 Pearls
The Allandale is located next to an apartment complex, and feels like it could be an extension of it. Its worn multi-room suites come with full kitchens, living rooms, old tube TVs, and dated furniture. It's about a 15-minute drive from Downtown Austin, but it's within walking distance of the Norris Conference Centers, and the free hot breakfast is a cut above standard continental fare.
Hilton Garden Inn Austin North Rating: 3.0 Pearls
This Hilton Garden Inn is a perfectly comfortable, reasonably priced option for travelers looking to stay in North Austin. You get what you'd expect from a run-of-the-mill chain: generic rooms, a cloudy outdoor pool, a small fitness room.
Banner image credit: Flickr/dos ojos