Urban Texas Guide

Why Here?

The fabulous music scene in Austin

If your group likes meeting downtown, Texas has a plethora of cities that fit the bill. Choose the fabulous music scene in Austin (above), the diverse spread of Houston, the western-style appeal of El Paso or the welcoming towns to the north.

Austin
In July, the Austin City Council approved a $4.3 million fee-waiver package to encourage the construction of a 1,003-room Marriott Marquis two blocks from the Austin Conven­tion Center. The developer, White Lodging Services Corp., said construction will begin June 1, 2012, with completion set for January 2015. Meanwhile, Manchester Texas Financial Group announced plans to build a 1,035-room hotel east of the convention center; that project is estimated to cost $350 million.

The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering to manage customized social media campaigns for large events that come to the city. Working with Sparkloft Media, the CVB tested the program with the Biomedical Engineering Society, which came to town in October 2010, and the experiment was deemed successful enough to proceed with the program.

Meeting Hotels
Among the Texas capital city's properties are the 800-room Hilton Austin, 491-room Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, 478-room Renaissance Austin Hotel, 448-room Hyatt Regency Austin Downtown, 375-room Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, 340-room Westin Austin, 312-room Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark, 312-room Barton Creek Resort and Spa, and 251-room W Austin Hotel. For more options, visit mcvenues.com.

Convention Center
Austin Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 246,097 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 54; (512) 404-4000

Airport Transit Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, eight miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $20; by shuttle, $14

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

Group Venue
Split into three floors, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum explores the genesis of the Lone Star State from all angles in a stirring series of exhibits. On the top floor, new meeting space has been carved out, offering views of downtown and the capitol building. The 8,000-square-foot room holds up to 400 for a dinner. (512) 936-8746; thestoryoftexas.com

Contact
Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 926-2282; austintexas.org

 

Outlaw Oasis
Butch, Sundance, Bonnie and Clyde all holed up in Fort Worth.

Fort Worth
The Will Rogers Memorial Center and the city, in partnership with the Reata Restaurant, are opening two dining locations at the center. Reata at the Backstage opens Aug. 23, and La Espuela Mexican Cantina opens Sept. 2.

The design by Renzo Piano for the extension of the Kimbell Art Museum has been finalized. The new building will be for visiting shows, enabling the original building to spotlight the permanent collection of artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

Meeting Hotels
Properties include the 614-room Omni Fort Worth Hotel, 504-room Renaissance Worthington Hotel, 431-room Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa, 294-room Hilton Fort Worth, 203-room Courtyard by Marriott-Blackstone and 156-suite Embassy Suites Fort Worth-Downtown. Visit mcvenues.com for more options.

Convention Center
Fort Worth Convention Center; exhibit space, 253,226 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 41; (817) 392-6338

Airport Transit
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, approximately 17 miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $52; by shuttle, $15-$25; by Trinity Railway Ex­press, $2.50

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

Group Venue
Fort Worths Bass Performance HallKnown for hosting top cultural events, Bass Performance Hall offers picturesque studio spaces able to support a wide range of group sizes. The elegant McDavid Studio holds up to 300 people for a dinner; the Van Cliburn Recital Hall holds 250. Two smaller areas, the Green Room and the Richardson Room, can each host a more intimate group of 100. (817) 212-4209

Contact
Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, (817) 336-8791 or (800) 433-5747

Raise a Glass
Go to bit.ly/oYs52Z for wineries that welcome groups events.

Grapevine
A 10-acre pool complex was unveiled this past May at the 1,511-room Gaylord Texan Resort. Features at the new attraction include a lazy river, a 6,000-square-foot family lagoon, a 27-foot water slide and a water basketball court. In all, the complex has three reception areas with staging capabilities; they can be reserved separately or combined to host up to 3,200 guests.

Two new venues have opened at the Grapevine Mills mall: Legoland Dis­covery Center Dallas/Fort Worth and the Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium. Groups are able to rent both together for evening events.

Meeting Hotels
Major properties include the 1,511-room Gaylord Texan Resort, 811-room Hyatt Regency DFW, 605-room Great Wolf Lodge, 395-room Hilton DFW, 329-room Embassy Suites Outdoor World and 288-room Grand Hyatt DFW.

Convention Center
Grapevine Convention Center; exhibit space, 14,027 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 4; (817) 410-3459

Airport Transit
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, five miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $20; all downtown hotels offer free shuttle service

Taxes
Room tax, 12%; sales tax, 8.25%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%

Group Venue
Once threatened with closure, the Palace Arts Center was brought back to life in the 1990s; kept intact was the attention-grabbing art deco style. The facility offers more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including the Lancaster Theatre, which accommodates 160 for dinner, and the Palace Theatre, which seats 435. (817) 410-3100; bit.ly/j5etkw

CVB Services
Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 457-6338

 

Pick a Park
Houston has 27.2 acres of green space per 1,000 residents.

Houston
The George R. Brown Convention Center has earned LEED Silver certification for an existing building. Also, as of July 1, a consolidation of two entities -- the Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department and the Houston Convention Center Hotel Corp. -- has created the "quasi-public" Houston First Corp., which now oversees the facility.

The Embassy Suites Houston-Downtown opened in Feb­ruary near the convention center, offering 262 rooms and 6,000 square feet of meeting space.

The first part of a $1 billion redevelopment project at George Bush Inter­continental Airport will begin by the end of the year. The initial $161 million phase of the three-part project will replace the 1969 Terminal B south concourse with energy-efficient facilities for United Airlines' domestic regional jets. Phase one will be completed by the end of 2013, after which the lobby and baggage-claim areas will be redone, a new north concourse will be built and infrastructure improvements will be made.

Meeting Hotels
Greater Houston offers 60,000 guest rooms, with more than 5,000 in the downtown area. Near the convention center are the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston, 947-room Hyatt Regency Houston, 404-room Four Seasons Houston, 350-room DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Downtown and 262-room Embassy Suites Houston-Downtown. For more properties in the city, visit mcvenues.com.

Convention Center
George R. Brown Convention Center; exhibit space, 1.85 million square feet; number of meeting rooms, 117; (800) 427-4697

Airport Transit
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 22 miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $45; by METRO Airport Direct shuttle, $4.50

William P. Hobby Airport, 11 miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $44; by shuttle, $23

Taxes
Room tax, 17%; sales tax, 8.25%; total tax on hotel rooms, 17

Group Venue
Take a break from the ubiquitous steak houses in Texas at Massa's Seafood Grill, about three blocks from the convention center. Enjoy a full menu of delights from the sea, with a few entries from the land. Groups of up to 150 can take over the place. (713) 655-9100
 
CVB Services
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 446-8786)