Austin is a hot scene for new hotels. With plenty of convention traffic and no end in sight to the visitors and business travelers being pumped in to the capital of the Lone Star State, there is plenty of demand for overnight lodging. And not just overnight lodging: overnight lodging befitting the sea of aesthetes and young urban creatives that frequent the city with increasingly higher tides. The Westin Austin Downtown adds some 366 rooms and suites to the high demand Austin lodging market.
Westin brand fans will find all their brand expectations met. Westin’s Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower (standup showers mercifully replace the dreaded bath/shower combo in standard rooms, although accessible rooms and suites have bathtubs) are standard, there’s Gear Lending and a large workout facility for athletic go-getters, and guest rooms are designed to be ready for SPG Keyless once it’s rolled out to the Westin brand on a larger scale. There are, however, some ultra-local touches that remind guests that although they’re in a chain hotel, they’re still very much in a most memorable destination. The hotel’s design pays homage to Austin’s musical heritage, with function spaces named for Austin musicians and venues, and design elements in the lobby are inspired by the cutout pattern of a Dobro guitar. The hotel’s restaurant Stella San Jac continues the guitar theme (Stella is another maker of the stringed instruments). There will be more on Stella San Jac in some upcoming coverage.
With lodging space at a premium in Austin, one might wonder why the operators of the new-build hotel didn’t plan on a larger scale; the recently opened JW Marriott Austin is a 1200 room behemoth. General Manager Kristofer Carlson explained to examiner.com that “we wanted to maintain that boutique hotel feel that would help our guests checkout feeling refreshed and renewed”, and it’s a spot-on description: there’s little fuss apparent anywhere in the hotel. The stylish lobby is intimate and inviting, and there are no long walks through endless public spaces or down winding corridors to reach guest rooms; on whole the entire hotel could be described as unimposing and conveniently accessible.
The unquestioned crown jewel of the property has to be the rooftop pool on the 20th floor, which also houses the pool bar Azul. The pool itself is a rather shallow three feet, so not the best for swimming laps, it’s nevertheless refreshing for a hot Texas afternoon. There are semi-shaded cabanas with electric overhead fans available on a first-come first-served basis, although one cabana is kept empty should a guest wish to reserve it for exclusive use. In the evenings there’s a fire pit and plenty of lounge seating near the bar in addition to the pool lounge chairs. Beverages are priced virtually at parity with most street bars, which is a refreshing find in a hotel, especially at a pool bar with a commanding view of the downtown skyline. Nonsmokers can take respite from secondhand smoke as well; the entire property is nonsmoking and pool bar staff were quick to confirm this to guests who asked for a light, although one or two smokers were observed on the pool deck during one crowded Saturday afternoon. Perhaps the no smoking rules could have benefited from better signage in the pool area.
Much has conspired to make the Westin Austin Downtown a new favorite for lodging in Austin: utterly convenient location, charming locally-inspired design, fresh, modern guest rooms and amenities, and an unbeatable signature restaurant. Whatever the reason for a visit to Texas’s capital city, this hotel makes for a memorable stay, for all the right reasons. Room rates start at $299 although special rates can be had pending availability and season.
Many thanks to the staff at the Westin Austin Downtown for their hospitality. Accommodations were furnished by the hotel in preparation for this story. Stay tuned for additional in depth coverage about the hotel’s restaurant Stella San Jac.