Meeting in the Capital of Live Music

Austin turns up the volume on its meetings venues and offerings

Fairmont Austin skyline

Convention Centers & Facilities
Austin Convention Center (881,400 sf)

Room Tax
9 percent

The Live Music Capital of the World is a favorite destination for groups, with its wealth of cultural attractions, a hard-to-beat culinary scene, and numerous entertainment districts. And when it comes to hotel inventory and meetings infrastructure, Austin is just getting warmed up. This year alone it is expected to add more than 1,200 new hotel rooms as well as many nonstop flights.

The biggest addition to the city's skyline is the recently opened Fairmont Austin, bringing 1,048 guest rooms and 42 suites, including exclusive Fairmont Gold rooms and lounge. Set alongside the verdant Palm Park and Waller Creek, with views of Lady Bird Lake as well as the State Capitol, the hotel connects directly to the Austin Convention Center. It also boasts plenty of meeting space of its own: more than 128,500 square feet, including two large ballrooms of more than 25,000 square feet each, and a 21,000-square-foot outdoor deck with space for more than 1,800 visitors. At 37 stories high, it's now the second-tallest structure in downtown Austin.

Among the other properties coming online early this year is Homewood Suites Downtown Rainey, bringing 150 rooms to the hip and historic Rainey Street area, featuring a stretch of single-family homes that now house bars and restaurants. Later 2018 will see the opening of the 76-room East Austin Hotel in the East Austin entertainment district; the 99-room The Faulk at Green Pastures, which is connected to the iconic Green Pastures venue and restaurant (established in 1893); and the 93-room Carpenter Hotel.

Where to…
MEET - AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
This all-in-one meetings destination at the University of Texas at Austin renovated its 297 guest rooms in 2016. It is now wrapping up a $40 million expansion of its meeting spaces, adding the 15,000-square-foot Zlotnik Family Ballroom. It includes Amistad America, a large mural by artist José Parlá.

SEE - Blanton Museum of Art
This institution houses almost 18,000 works as well as several unique spaces that can be booked for groups. The museum also this year added Ellsworth Kelly's Austin to its collection. The 2,715-square-foot stone building with colored-glass windows, black-and-white marble panels, and wood sculpture is the famed artist's final work and the only freestanding building he designed -- and not to be missed.

PLAY -  South Congress Avenue
South of Lady Bird Lake, this stretch is full of boutiques, galleries, shops, and food spots. This is an ideal destination for visitors looking to get some local Austin flavor. Grab breakfast at Magnolia Café, browse the stacks at South Congress Books, gaze on works by local artists at Yard Dog Art Gallery.

Also opening soon is the Wyndham Austin, offering 189 residential-style resort suites, each equipped with a private balcony and full, modern kitchen. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, business center, and high-speed Wi-Fi.

The property is located a few blocks from the vibrant nightlife scene of West Sixth Street. Attendees can stroll this area, packed with bars, restaurants, and entertainment spots, and no shortage of shows any night of the week.

Austin is home to a number of meetings-ready properties that are infused with the city's history, culture, and music. Take, for example, The Driskill. Originally opened in 1886, this 189-room property in the heart of Austin's downtown exudes grandeur from the moment guests walk past the columns at its entryway and into the vast lobby. The property showcases the history that has happened inside its walls: It was here that Lyndon B. Johnson celebrated his election to the Senate in 1948 and presidential campaign victory in 1964, and where several Texas governors held their inaugural balls. This history infuses the nine meeting rooms on this property, covering 18,000 square feet of event space -- from a fresco painting of the Texas flag on the ceiling of The Driskill Ballroom to framed letters between LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird.

But while history is everywhere here, the property continues to update its offerings, from a renovation of all its guest rooms in 2015, to a replacement of all carpeting in its meeting spaces last year (all of which also come equipped with smart A/V and wireless capability). Another major draw here are the property's culinary offerings. The Driskill Grill's menu of locally sourced Texas produce and game (its dry-aged steak, prime beef tartare, and Wine Spectator award-winning wine list are a couple of the highlights), with the leather and dark-wood furnishings that evoke an earlier era. Downstairs, the 1886 Cafe & Bakery serves up custom-baked cakes, and a menu of offerings influenced by the hotel's history, such as Texas Pecan Waffle and Helen Corbitt's Cheese Soup.

For a property that makes music the centerpiece of its offerings, groups will want to consider the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt. Set in the city's hip Rainey Street District, every detail of the property has been designed with music in mind -- from lighting fixtures meant to evoke trumpets and trombones, to the lobby record player available for guest use, to the vintage radios that decorate the Red River boardroom. Speaking of event spaces, the property offers 12,000 square feet of meeting space spread across 11 rooms as well as dedicated pre-function space.

This level of care can also be seen in the design of the property's 319 guest rooms, decked out with dark wood and bronze, many with hard-to-beat views of the city and high-tech sound systems. The hotel includes 41 suites (the most in the city) going as large as the 1,050-square-foot Van Zandt Suite and Loretta's Suite -- each equipped with a full poker table, kitchenette, and soaking tub. The food here is top-notch. Geraldine's serves authentic Austin cuisine that offers a modern take on some Texas classics -- all accompanied by nightly live music performances. There aren't many areas at this hotel where you won't encounter music of some kind.

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

This article appears in the March 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.