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As many people already know, Austin, TX is currently in the midst of the South By Southwest festival, in which music venues, event spaces, and, yes, hotels, are overrun with artists, musicians, filmmakers, tech start-up hopefuls, and pretty much anyone with a bent towards modern-day media culture.
Which makes this a pretty good time for Hyatt to announce their recent acquisition of the city's historic Driskill Hotel. The Statesman reports that Hyatt bought the iconic hotel (and classic SXSW celeb hangout) for $85 million, and plans to spend another $8 million renovating the place over the next two years.
Comprised of 189 rooms, and originally built in 1886, the Driskill occupies a bustling corner of downtown Austin and remains the city's most beloved historic hotel.
According to hotel lore, the original structure was named after Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who wanted to build the "finest hotel south of St. Louis." Looks like he had the right idea, as 126 years later, the hotel is not only thriving, but also incorporates its colorful past into its current identity (case in point: the Cattle Baron Suite).
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Our brother site Jaunted happens to be down in Austin, Texas this week for the SxSW Festival. Over the next few days, they'll be filling us in on the hotel scene and what celebs are disco napping where.
Yesterday, Ashton Kutcher sent his Twitter followers on a scavenger hunt through downtown Austin. Between 10am and 2pm, he tweeted four clues referencing four different Austin landmarks where you could check into location-based social networking app Foursquare, culminating with a live appearance by @aplusk himself at The Driskill Hotel downtown.
@aplusk: Last stop! Ghostly apparitions of the Colonel make this the most haunted place in Austin http://twitpic.com/48xvjp #SXSWNikon
The Omni Austin has a massive atrium with a bar that gets majorly packed
Well, it's officially that time of the year when warehouse loft spaces around the country go empty, as bands, film and tech companies make the big pilgrimage to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Of course the biggest hotels closest to the panel action have been sold out for some time, but let us recommend learning from this year to start thinking about next year's SXSW already.
Just as you may find yourself at many of the events at the Hilton Austin, you'll likely sidle up to the atrium lobby bar at the Omni Downtown at some point or another. It's just a hot meeting spot, and those with the foresight to be booked into the hotel have it really good this year. The Omni tells us that they're going out of their way to make SXSW-ers welcome, installing a cyber cafe and having an "Early Riser Bar" with Bloody Marys and free breakfast tacos.
We really wouldn't expect any different sort of behavior from the wackness that is Courtney Love but we do think her recent hotel stay at the Driskill Hotel for South by Southwest last month is interesting in light of her recent love interest.
Here's how a Billboard magazine reporter describes meeting with Love to discuss her new album with her band, Hole:
In six hours at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, the day after two excellent, return-to-form performances at South by Southwest (SXSW), she will do the following: show off all her clothes; explain her new style, which she calls “kook”; display financial documents on her battered laptop which, she says, prove she’s a victim of embezzlement; Google her new crush’s ex-girlfriend; learn two Big Star songs; and yell at various people about various things. She will talk. She will smoke.
On two occasions, she will smoke, talk and pee with the door open, all at once.
Holy growth spurt. HotelChatter had not graced the halls of the Austin Convention Center for SXSWi in six years, but when the opportunity knocked to head to Austin for 36 hours of south by madness we jumped on a plane, and my has the interactive portion grown. No longer confined to the closets of the convention center the 2010 gathering was spread out over three hotels and the convention center. Of course, this made for a crazy hotel scene, the bell of the ball, Foursquare, even offered a "hookup" badge if you hit enough hotels late at night.
As far as price, let's get this out of the way up front, any hotel on this list is going to cost you 2 or 3 times the usual rate if you try to book during SXSW.
Here is our guide to the who and what of this years SXSW Austin hotel lobby scene. Who we spotted where, and what lobbies registered the highest signal to noise ratio. Oh, and don't think just because SXSWi is over you can't use this for the Music and Film portion of the festival, which starts today.
It's our SXSW Hotel revealed!
HotelChatter was only in Austin for one night of SXSW but we ended up scoring one of the 14 rooms at the Hotel St. Cecilia. This here is room #8, one of the three studio rooms.
We liked the spaciousness of the room and the hard wood floors (the fur rugs didn't bother us but they may bother PETA.) We also dug the view of Austin from the semi-private back porch area.
The hotel is about a 15-minute walk to the Convention Center, which seems do-able but was made miserable today by pouring rain. Still, the hotel's super cool design and attention to detail won out here. And the fact that it was super quiet. No Foursquare-Gowalla showdowns here.
Room rates are a little pricey, about $350 for a studio room (on a non-SXSW weekend) but there is free WiFi and free parking. Hallelujah!
If you're one of the lucky ones to be absent from the Twitterverse today then you are missing out on the constant updates from SXSW attendees. Half of the tweets we don't even understand since they are full of software names, hash tags and inside jokes.
I can tell you there is free WiFi throughout Austin convention area via SXSW network -- and that the conference is taking place in three hotels as well as the convention center this year.
However, if you skip on over to the Four Seasons Austin, Mark says the WiFi is definitely not free but rather $11 per day. Judging from this picture, it doesn't look like too many SXSW attendees are keen on paying this fee.
On the bright side, while the Hilton Austin may struggle with "For Square", their WiFi is free so says @Taylorchoi. Awesome. And stay tuned tomorrow as we'll have our post on our hotel stay in Austin then.
The other day we started our running list of hotels that offer deals on Foursquare to guests. We've updated the list recently so be sure to check out who is offering you what where. And if you see another hotel on Foursquare giving something to guests that check-in, please let us know.
Yet there's one hotel in Austin, that might need to brush up on the whole Foursquare trend--The Hilton Austin.
Gone are the days that South by Southwest was a sleepy music festival for music fans and journos. Thanks to the addition of the film and interactive portions, the 10-day event in Austin is now as big as the Internet! And you know what that means? (Cue Debbie Downer trumpet sounds.) Fewer hotel rooms.
In fact, those film and internet types have gone and taken all of the official SXSW hotel blocks for their dates—March 12–16—but there are still some rooms available for the music dates, March 16–20.
That's right, "cowboy cool" is coming to Austin in December 2010 when W Hotels open their second Texas property. (The first was the legendary W Dallas.) But fortunately, the place won't cater to just cowboys.
Setting the stage for contemporary luxury and cool stylings, W Austin headlines the vibrant Second Street. In a city sizzling with hot music and buzzing with high tech, unleash your inner soul man, rock god or indie hipster in our paean to power pop.
Yes, this place is going to be insane when the SXSW music festival comes into town.
The hotel amenities look sparse right now but this is a W. You can expect a hip lounge and a hipper restaurant, a Bliss spa, a pool and in this case, W residences attached to the hotel. As for the opening date, the hotel even goes so far as to give a specific day, December 9, 2010. As always, we'll be watching.
By now, most of us are well aware of the major AT&T snafu that happened down in Austin at this year's South by Southwest. Basically, the cell service provider was not equipped to handle the massive amount of iPhones that convention-goers were packing not to mention the heavy twittering, texting, and emailing they were probably doing. Yikes. Not good.
And almost as bad as a big ol' AT&T fail is a SXSW hotel in Austin with crappy WiFi. Sadly, this was the case at the the Omni Austin, where one blogger and SXSW attendee reports the WiFi was mostly down. Oh noes.