by Sarah J.F. Braley | May 01, 2014
Why Here?

The home of the South by Southwest gathering (above) is getting a huge influx of guest rooms. Two convention properties are in the works: the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin and the 1,000-room Fairmont Austin. Meanwhile, the Hilton Austin at the convention center is wrapping up a renovation.

Sound Advice
It would be a shame to come to the "Live Music Capital of the World" without checking out the nightlife. A favorite is The Parish (and its smaller sibling, Parish Underground), where listeners dig everything from urban rap to Celtic rock. Both welcome private events.

Free Fall

Need to entertain an adventurous group of up to 100 people? IFly Austin's indoor skydiving simulator gives adventurers the feel of parachuting without the plane.

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Local Update

• March 2015 will witness the opening of the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin. With 112,000 square feet of its own meeting and event space, the property will be two blocks from the Austin Convention Center. The new hotel is aiming for LEED Silver certification, and two eateries are planned: a regional Italian restaurant and one featuring local cuisine. A fitness center, an outdoor pool with an event deck, and a spa also are in the works.

• Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will manage a new city-center hotel. The 1,000-room Fairmont Austin, just east of the Austin Convention Center, will have 70,000 square feet of meeting space. Green building practices are being incorporated into the construction; when finished, the hotel will seek LEED certification. The project is expected to take 32 months from the groundbreaking, which should take place this year.

• A $21 million room renovation at the 800-room Hilton Austin, across from the Austin Convention Center, will be done by this summer's end. In 2013, the hotel upgraded the eighth-floor pool deck by adding cabanas and opening the Skyline Pool Bar. The property has 80,000 square feet of meeting space.

British Airways began flying 787 Dreamliners nonstop from Austin to London Heathrow on March 3. The flight operates five times per week until May, when it becomes a daily offering.

• The 123-room Lone Star Court, the first in a retro-inspired chain from Houston's Valencia Group, opened in January. The property's design pays homage to the vintage American motor court and features outdoor fire pits, a pool designed like a swimming hole and free bicycle rentals. For groups, the hotel has about 2,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, a 1,600-square-foot pavilion and an adjacent 1,800-square-foot event lawn.

• Set to debut in 2015 is the 326-room Westin Austin Downtown. A block and a half from the Austin Convention Center, the hotel will have a full-service restaurant, a fitness center and 13,500 square feet of meeting space.

• Last month marked the groundbreaking for the 194-room luxury Hotel Granduca Austin, by developer Giorgio Borlenghi. The Italian-styled boutique property will include a ballroom that can accommodate up to 220 people. Completion is scheduled for late 2015.

• The White Lodging Services Corp., which is building the new JW Marriott and the new Westin, has signed on to construct a 23-story tower in Austin that will house 410 guest rooms in Aloft and Element hotels from Starwood.

• Last summer, Omni Hotels & Resorts purchased the Barton Creek Resort & Spa and added Omni to its name. Amenities at the 309-room resort include four championship golf courses and the Three Springs Spa, offering unique treatments such as the Sports Specific Muscle and Joint Massage. For meetings, 43,000 square feet of space is divided among 27 dedicated rooms, conference suites, and other indoor and outdoor areas.

• Outside of town, the 224-room Sheraton Georgetown, Texas, Hotel and Conference Center is being built in the nearby suburb's Summit at Rivery Park development. The property, opening in 2016, will have 30,000 square feet of meeting space and will feature a signature restaurant, a destination bar, an outdoor pool and a fitness facility featuring the brand's Sheraton Fitness by Core Performance program.

Meeting Hotels: Among the many downtown properties in the city proper are the 800-room Hilton Austin, 492-room Renaissance Austin Hotel and 448-room Hyatt Regency Austin Downtown.

Nearby resorts include the 318-room Omni Barton Creek and 491-room Hyatt Regency Lost Pines.
To find and compare hotels and send RFPs, go to

Convention Center:
 Austin Convention Center; total exhibit space, 246,052 square feet; total number of meeting rooms, 54; (512) 404-4000;

Airport Transit: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, about eight miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $20; by shuttle, $18; by bus, $1; by Super Shuttle, $21

Taxes: Room tax, 9%; sales tax, 8.25%; total tax on rooms, 15%

Group Venue: Host a great event and help veterans at the same time? It's the right kind of win-win, and that's the deal at the Charles Johnson House, a beautiful Civil War-era mansion run by American Legion Post 76. Two miles from downtown, across from Ladybird Lake, the facility's ballroom holds up to 150 people for dinner. The rolling lawn can accommodate outdoor events for more than 600.

Casual to the max is the vibe at the Salt Lick, one of the Austin area's most celebrated barbecue spots. Up to 500 people can get their finger-licking fun in at the Driftwood, Texas, site, where the smells of food cooking have been in the air since 1967. Indoors, a private dining room seats 50, the Garden Room holds 80 and the banquet room accommodates 120.

Golf: Including the four amazing courses at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa (two designed by Tom Fazio, one by Ben Crenshaw and one by Arnold Palmer;, the Austin area has plenty to please the golfing crowd. Courses welcoming tournament play include Avery Ranch Golf Club (, Bluebonnet Hill Golf Club (, Falconhead Golf Club ( and Wolfdancer at the Hyatt Lost Pines (

 Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 926-2282;