City Spotlight: Austin, Texas

By Libby Hoppe, January 24, 2012

Deep in the heart of Texas, cowboys, musicians and state legislators all come together in strange harmony to “Keep Austin Weird,” an unofficial slogan promoted by the city’s small business alliance. It’s a town that hosts some of the coolest events in the country (SXSW music, film and tech conference; Austin City Limits music festival), but has remained under the radar as a major meetings city compared to some of its neighboring towns, says Steve Genovesi, the new senior VP of sales for the Austin CVB. “Austin is a vibrant, cool, hip, livable city,” says Genovesi, but really sizeable conventions haven’t had the space they need, he adds. That’s about to change.

Make Room for Marriott
Construction has begun on a new Marriott hotel in Austin. It will be the largest hotel in the city, located just blocks from the convention center (pictured). The hotel will have more than 103,000 square feet of meeting space and 1,003 guest rooms. “The new Marriott is going to parlay us into a whole new level of convention planners that will be looking at us for the first time,” says Genovesi. The hotel is expected to be complete by late 2015.

The Ideal Downtown
Downtown Austin has everything—hotels, shopping, restaurants, live music venues, outdoor space, condo living and a river running through it. It’s truly a walkable city, and one where attendees feel safe and not overwhelmed. Downtown’s Warehouse District is filled with local eateries and bars, and the burgeoning Second Street District has upscale shopping and al fresco, but comfortably approachable, cafes. Austin’s most famous downtown area, though, is Sixth Street, a historic district where pubs, restaurants, music venues, theaters and comedy clubs are open to visitors morning through night.

Not Your Ordinary Hotels
Austin has a Hyatt, Hilton, Four Seasons and other well-known hotels, and local hotelier Liz Lambert added two not-so-ordinary hotels to the fray. The small, boutique hotels are less large-meeting-group and more VIP-event kinds of places. Hotel San Jose (pictured) came first; located in the hip SoCo (South Congress) area near downtown, the once-seedy motor court was transformed into an uber-cool, bungalow-style hotel hidden behind ivy-covered stucco walls. The hotel’s courtyard could be an intimate setting for an evening event. Lambert’s other property, Hotel St. Cecilia, is just a few blocks away on a secluded estate. With rooms inspired by artists, poets, and musicians, the property is an urban fantasia of style and originality.

The Hills Are Alive
With the sound of music and the taste of wine. Austin is located on the east side of the Texas Hill Country, a region known for its small towns, old dance halls and, perhaps most notably, its vineyards. More than 30 wine trails dot the arid yet fertile landscape. Plan a day for a group touring one of five self-guided, themed wine trails at

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