Architecture & Lodging
2010 Readers Poll
2010 Critics Picks

Jana Birchum

Best Affordable Motel

In addition to offering hostel basics and friendly service on a rolling knoll along the shore of Lady Bird Lake, Hostelling International – Austin awards travel scholarships to those globetrotting with a purpose. This local outpost of the international nonprofit also does its best to green up your travels by using solar power and encouraging recycling and lake cleanup.

Hostelling International – Austin
2200 S. Lakeshore
512/444-2294
www.hiusa.org/texas/austin/austin

Best Bathroom

Standing regal since 1886, this classy (undeniably Texan) hotel provides inspiring atmosphere not only in the bedrooms but also in the only places more private – the bathrooms. In the blend of dark and light marble, arches, pillars, and elegant drapery, you will find a welcome break from the Sixth Street excitement.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos
512/439-1234
www.driskillhotel.com

Best Bed & Breakfast

Austin Folk House built a solid fan base for surprisingly affordable and cozy central accommodations and raved-over breakfasts, garnering "Best of Austin" win No. 5. The Kimber Modern swings the gamut toward the übermodern, where spoil-yourself luxury and sleek architecture collide to create a premier boutique destination. The common denominator in both locations? Austin's finest proprietors.

Austin Folk House
506 W. 22nd
512/472-6700
www.austinfolkhouse.com

Kimber Modern
110 The Circle
512/912-1046
www.kimbermodern.com

Best Downtown View

Both inviting and breathtaking, the second-story view from the Long Center is top-notch. The open-air access to Downtown lights only adds to its charm. Patrons may enjoy the view during intermission or playfully pose for photographs with the city view over their shoulders. It's easy to see why so many Long Center visitors rightfully dub the City Terrace Austin's new front porch.

Long Center for the Performing Arts
701 W. Riverside
512/474-5664
www.thelongcenter.org

Best Historic Site

Making improvements on our state's symbol of political power? How is that possible? Every visitor to our city gets a tour and is awed by the oversized door hinges, the elaborate chandeliers, the dizzying rotunda, and the eerie George W. Bush portrait. The current face-lift can't hurt, but we think you're beautiful however you are.

Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress
512/305-8400
www.tspb.state.tx.us

Best Holiday Display

Even on a tight budget, council knew better than to turn off the Christmas illuminations at Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights may have become the more modest Zilker Tree Holiday Festival, but you can still stand beneath the giant cone of lights and spin, spin, spin into winter.

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
512/974-6700
www.austintexas.gov

Best Hotel

It's the perfect place, if you can reserve early enough to edge out the canny out-of-towners, to spend a night away from home in the heart of your very own city: Liz Lambert's boutique hotel where Buddhist simplicity meets retro elegance in sweetly executed Lake|Flato reconstruction, where the attentive staff is likely to include a part-time bookbinder or oft-touring accordionist, where all the quirks and splendors of South Congress wait just beyond your suite's door.

Hotel San José
1316 S. Congress
512/852-2350
www.sanjosehotel.com

Best Hotel/Motel Pool

The only problems with San Antonio's Hotel Havana and the Thunderbird hotel in Marfa? They're not in Austin, of course. To the righteous go to the spoils, fortunately, so locals sidle up happily to Capital City hotelier Liz Lambert's two local flagships: the MOMA-style modernity of South Congress Avenue's Hotel San José, and the off-strip rock & roll chic of Hotel Saint Cecilia. The swimming pools at both are sleek blue retro-mod respites from the buzz beyond the hedges, perfect for lounging, tanning, and soaking in the Austin of it all.

Hotel San José
1316 S. Congress
512/852-2350
www.sanjosehotel.com

Hotel Saint Cecilia
112 Academy
512/852-2400
www.hotelstcecilia.com

Hotel San José (l), Hotel Saint Cecilia   Todd V. Wolfson (l), John Anderson

Best Hotel/Motel Staff

Well, what else would you expect from the Four Seasons? The expertly trained staff is at your beck and call, eager to cater to your every whim and fancy. If they don't have what you want, they know where to get it for you fast. Any special need? Let them know, and it will be in your room upon check-in. It's the staff that makes the Four Seasons tick like clockwork. Check it out by checking in.

Four Seasons Hotel
98 San Jacinto
512/478-4500
www.fourseasons.com/austin

Best Motel

"So Close Yet So Far Out." The landmark neon sign for the Austin Motel has appropriately marked the beginning of Austin's SoCo strip since Mom and Pop Stewart built the now-iconic mom-and-pop back in 1938. Equally beloved for its old-school American charm, the Austin Motel's ridiculously phallic sign – or at least a Photoshop'd version of it – was also used for the cover of Honky's 2005 album, Balls Out Inn.

Austin Motel
1220 S. Congress
512/441-1157
www.austinmotel.com

Jana Birchum

Best New Building (Past Five Years)

Remember that saying about everything being bigger in Texas? The Austonian is not only the tallest building in Austin but also the tallest all-residential building west of the Mississippi River. The 56-story luxury condo development now dominates the Downtown skyline – even if it does look like a monolithic USB drive.

The Austonian
200 Congress
512/623-3633
www.theaustonian.com

Best Public Art

Many first encounter the large knit covering on the pipe outside of the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and think, "What a great way to keep that poor thing warm!" So many of our readers name-checked Knitta's reworking of artist Carl Trominski's blue reflector signs, Moments, under the railroad overpass on Lamar. Having knitted coverings over sneakers, scooters, and shop signs around Austin and across the globe, Magda Sayeg brings us the soft and fuzzy side of graffiti and attack art.

Knitta Please
www.magdasayeg.com

Sandy Carson

Best Sign

"So Close Yet So Far Out." The landmark neon sign for the Austin Motel has appropriately marked the beginning of Austin's SoCo strip since Mom and Pop Stewart built the now-iconic mom-and-pop back in 1938. Equally beloved for its old-school American charm, the Austin Motel's ridiculously phallic sign – or at least a Photoshop'd version of it – was also used for the cover of Honky's 2005 album, Balls Out Inn.

Austin Motel
1220 S. Congress
512/441-1157
www.austinmotel.com

Best Trailer

No, that giant pink cupcake you’re seeing as you walk down South Congress is not a heat mirage; it’s just Hey Cupcake! These cupcake masters opened one of Austin's first food trailers and operate out of a sleek vintage Airstream with a large pink-and-yellow sprinkled cupcake on top – an architectural feat of candy-land goodness.

hey cupcake!
1511 S. Congress
512/476-2253
www.heycupcake.com

John Anderson

Best Window Display

A tie? Between Gail Chovan's original pinnacle of monochromatic couture and taste (hint: Blackmail) and the international chain of elegant, upscale furnishings; decor; and odor-enhancing ointments (take a guess) and the wonders of come-hither design they work in their respective shops' windows? We reckon the tie must be at least three layers of black lace and organdy, scented with myrrh and Dalai Lama-blessed citrus leaves, and well worth bending your fashion budget for.

Blackmail
1202 S. Congress
512/804-5881
www.blackmailboutique.com

Anthropologie
601 N. Lamar
512/236-9301
www.anthropologie.com

 
2010 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture

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