Over the last year, downtown Austin had been consumed by the construction of giant hotels. There are two going up on the popular (but little!) Rainey Street alone, and several others are slated to rise within a 10-block radius in the coming months. And while it seems the demand for accommodation is indeed a real thing, with the booming tourism interest and influx for massive festivals, so is the desire to maintain the kind of charm and uniqueness that attracted so many people to Austin in the first place. Local flavor remains central to the enjoyment factor in Austin and for those who prefer to stay close to it, here are some of the best tucked-away and well-loved boutique options in town:
1. Hotel St. Cecilia
Hotel St. Cecilia is a beautiful, bougie-hipster-oriented escape that's ideal for some low-key luxury. Tucked away amidst the greenery off of South Congress, it features 14 different studios, suites and bungalows that offer a blend of elaborate chandeliers, Victorian charm, high ceilings, vintage furniture, record players, gourmet mini bars, bright wallpaper and natural light. Lay about on the green lawn under the branches of a giant Oak tree. Grab a Little King Gimlet (Square One Organic vodka, lime, basil) in the lounge with a roaring fireplace. Decompress by the heated pool and meditate on the neon SOUL sign to ponder what it all means. Mosey over to the shops on South Congress or buy something lovely and expensive in the gift shop. So many pleasurable options. The scene is peaceful, privileged, a bit over-the-top and a sweet place to spend time.
Rates: Start at $295 a night
2. Kimber Modern
The Kimber Modern also sits right off of South Congress, hiding in plain sight behind Austin's iconic Continental Club. The stay is based on a hassel-free policy with keyless entry and delightful breakfast, snacks, coffee and happy hour included in the price of the room. The structure is described by owner Kimber Cavendish as a "tree house turned inward" with a shaded outdoor patio and hammocks enclosed by the surrounding rooms. The common areas make for lovely lounging territory before a dinner out on the town, as it is at once an unexpected, private oasis and smack in the middle of the South Congress. Happily, two additional Kimber Modern properties, including a 30 room place also on Rainey Street, are expected to join the Austin downtown scene by the end of 2015.
Rates: Start at $250 a night
3. Heywood Hotel
The Heywood Hotel is an accessibly chic little place located just East of I-35 in close proximity to the galleries, restaurant and bars on the uber hip East side of downtown. The converted two-story house of seven King/Queen rooms is appointed with mid-century modern and eclectic décor, some bathrooms with sky-lights and a mini bar chock-full of Austin treats with nothing more than $4 (I love the Thunderbird Cherry Walnut Crunch energy bars). Large swing chairs adorn the front porch and make for a great place to enjoy some down time before walking over to the bevy of bars on East 6th Street or checking out Austin's new hottest Neopilitan pizza at Bufalina.
Rates: Start at $189 per night
4. Gateway Guesthouse
Just south of Town Lake, within walking distance of Rainey Street/SoCo area sits the delightfully cozy Gateway Guesthouse tucked into a converted mansion off of Riverside Drive. The house features six rooms, a lounge-ready pool and hot tub, the company of two incredibly sweet dogs and two owners that take a lot of pride in their ability to host. A delicious gourmet breakfast is served at a candlelit table every morning or can be brought to the room upon request for those that are not yet ready to socialize. The hidden local and love that goes into the place make it an under-the-radar find and the shared spaces (like bathrooms for certain rooms) make it particularly good for groups.
Rates: Start at $210 per night
5. Inn Above Onion Creek (or, as I call it: 30 minutes to Marfa)
Outside the city, about 30 miles into Hill country, sits a mecca of serenity at the Inn Above Onion Creek. Peace, quiet and romance are in the air at this rustic escape making it the perfect place to unplug and unwind. The outdoor fire pits, sweeping vistas, indoor fireplaces, huge bathtubs, hiking trails, beautiful pool, and cozy wood cabin appeal make for a blissful way to feel out-of-dodge within a stone's throw of the city. A gourmet dining experience is also a highlight of the operation with a fixed menu for breakfast and dinner that is locally sourced and truly excellent. If you go, enjoy the BYO policy with the spoils from a trip to the wineries in Wimberly, Texas, and PLEASE don't miss the homemade granola available in the dining room all day.
Rates: Start at $199 per night