500 East 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701 US
Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
I chose the Hilton in Austin for its location and very reasonable rates for a full service hotel. Located just off Red River and 4th St, the Hilton is an ideal starting point for the Austin nightlife scene which centers around 6th St, just 2 blocks away to the north and extends to the Warehouse District, about a 7 block walk down 4th St.
When you enter the hotel, which is only a few years old, you’ll find a very large and open lobby that houses a coffee shop (serving Starbucks branded beverages) and offers free wi-fi access (there is a charge for use in the room). Plenty of space to lounge around and read or wait for friends.
Check-in was easy, thanks to an earlier call to warn them I’d be arriving after midnight, although I had to specifically remind the clerk that as a Hilton Gold member, I should be entitled to an upgrade. It’s always nicer when it’s automatic. Service was very friendly, however, as it normally seems to be in Austin.
Up to the room I go. Located on the 25th Floor, the Club Room I was upgraded to was perfectly fine but nothing “special”, though very modern and clean. While you hear that everything is “bigger in Texas”, that doesn’t really apply to the room sizes here. While I thought perhaps I was given a small-ish room, I confirmed with the desk staff that most are that size. Not that it was cramped, but it was little bigger than a room you’d find in New York or London – and I somehow assumed that the Hilton Austin would have larger rooms because it is a new hotel in a city with a far lower cost of building than the bigger cities like NYC. Still, a minor complaint – not a deal breaker at all.
The bathroom was standard Hilton issue and the club floor did not appear to offer any upgraded amenities. The room was equipped with a very nice Flat Panel TV which definitely enhanced the experience.
The Club Lounge (available to people staying on the Club Floors) was average. While it was spacious and had a free computer for internet use, the continental breakfast spread was small and uninspired.
One thing that really impresses in the Austin Hilton is the Spa and Fitness area on the 8th Floor. With a full range of spa treatments at reasonable prices and in a very modern looking facility, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel to spa lovers. The included workout areas had all the standard equipment – treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights, etc. There is an outdoor pool in season.
Overall, the best things about the hotel were the location, price (rooms start at about $109), and the staff, who were always very friendly. The hotel is also 100% smoke-free (a big plus for me). Parking is either self-park or valet with self parking at $16/day and valet at $25/day as of Dec. 2008.
Some tips on things to do in Austin:
1) If you are looking for the “college bar scene”, 6th St is it. Just walk the two blocks and select a bar. For a more mature crowd, ask your concierge for recommendations in the Warehouse District – an up and coming area day and night.
2) For outdoor recreation in warm weather, check out Zilker Park. Ask for directions and a map. It’s only about a 10 minute drive from the Hilton.
3) For BBQ, the Iron Works is highly respected and two blocks from the hotel. But for a more “Hill Country” experience, take a drive over to the Salt Lick BBQ (pictured at right) about 20 minutes from the hotel. Expect to wait as this place is something of an institution in the Austin area. But it’s worth the wait.
4) San Antonio is another great city only about an 90 minute drive from Austin. It could be done as a day trip, as I did, which gives you time for the Alamo and the Riverwalk – SA’s main attractions. You could also overnight in San Antonio. If you did, I’d suggest one of the hotels right on the Riverwalk such as the San Antonio Hyatt Riverwalk (in a more bustling part of the RW) or the newest hotel on Riverwalk, the Westin Riverwalk, which is in a bit more quiet section.
If you are a huge BBQ fan, it’s not hard to detour about 30 minutes out of the way to Lockhart, TX en route to San Antonio. Proclaimed the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, you can choose from 4 places in this tiny town, including Blacks – open since 1932. You won’t be disappointed.
Have a recommendation on what to do in Austin? Please post in the Comments below…….