The Lone Star State's capital continues to revel in its reputation as a live-music mecca, but the area also offers an abundance of outdoor activities for groups. On the lodging front, planners will find a host of distinctive hotels, including the mammoth new Fairmont Austin that opened earlier this year.
BEST BETS IN BOUTIQUES
Among the city's charming and quirky smaller hotels is the 47-room Hotel Ella, a former mansion in the Greek-revival style built in 1900. The 3,493-square-foot ballroom holds up to 200 guests.
With 83 rooms, the South Congress Hotel has a more modern flare. A boardroom hosts 12 people, the courtyard accommodates 150 and indoor space holds up to 250. The Café No Sé does the catering.
Norwegian Air now flies to Austin Bergstrom International Airport three times per week from London Gatwick Airport. The route is served by new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
PADDLE WITH A PURPOSE
For the "Kayak the Colorado" activity at the 491-room Hyatt Lost Pines, just outside of Austin, guides lead a four-mile excursion, complete with lessons about the Texas ecosystem.
TASTE OF TEXAS
When you need to bring food into your chosen venue, Austin-based Freebirds World Burrito can show up with all fresh ingredients, as well as a team of burrito "rollers" for a full-service dinner experience. The caterers also can set up a make-your-own burrito bar or supply party platters or box lunches.
• The 1,048-room Fairmont Austin Hotel, the largest in the brand's portfolio and the largest property in the city, opened in March. Connected to the Austin Convention Center, the hotel has more than 138,000 square feet of its own meeting space, as well as a Fairmont Spa. Among its six restaurants and bars, the signature eatery is the Garrison Grill, serving a modern American menu.
• Austin has created a Tourism Commission to "provide expertise and recommendations to the city council concerning issues related to tourism and hotel occupancy-tax revenue collected by the city." Among its duties will be to advise the city on "recommendations for marketing related to the advertising of Austin." In addition, the new commission will provide guidance on "studies, reports and plans related to the Austin Convention Center and any plans for expansion," and other issues.
• About 30,000 square feet of meeting space has been added to the 297-room AT&T Hotel and Conference Center, bringing the venue's total to 80,000 square feet. The addition includes the 15,000-square-foot Zlotnik Family Ballroom, 5,000 square feet of prefunction space and a new banquet kitchen.
• The 312-room Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa currently is closed for a major renovation and expansion. More than $150 million is being spent to add 181 guest rooms, bringing the property's total to 493. The resort is scheduled to reopen in May 2019 with a new hotel tower, an expanded poolscape, a new golf clubhouse serving four top-notch courses and a new spa.
• The Sydell Group opened the 428-room Line ATX Hotel this spring with 20,000 square feet of meeting space and the lakeside Arlo Grey restaurant, from Top Chef winner Kristen Kish.
MEETING HOTELS: Austin has more than 36,000 guest rooms citywide. Properties include the 1,048 Fairmont Austin Hotel, 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin, 800-room Hilton Austin, 492-room Renaissance Austin Hotel and 448-room Hyatt Regency Austin Downtown.
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
CONVENTION CENTER: Austin Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 247,052 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 54; (512) 404-4000
AIRPORT TRANSIT: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, about eight miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $28; by shuttle, $12
GROUP VENUES: Austin is famous for the literally millions of bats that awaken each night from March to October and come flying out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Segway Tours of Austin features a fun-filled evening outing for up to 25 people that includes experiencing the winged creatures as well as haunted sights around the city. The route visits popular sites such as the Texas State Capitol, Lady Bird Lake, and the 6th Street Music and Entertainment District. (512) 663-9634
Set on 22 acres, the Stunt Ranch specializes in a host of vigorous team-building trials that the Rock, Vin Diesel and their action-loving fans would appreciate. The varied roster of challenging activities includes "action-hero training"; fun with various ropes and obstacle courses; zip-lining, rappelling and rock climbing; archery and hatchet tossing; interactive stunt and pyrotechnic demonstrations, and workshops in creating special effects. The inventive on-site wizards can conjure up wind, rain, snow, mist, explosions and more. (512) 898-9386
TAXES: Room tax, 9%; sales tax, 8.25%; total tax on rooms, 15%
CONTACT: Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 926-2282