Architecture & Lodging
2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks
Best Alternative Lodging

Just to the right of the check-in desk is Firehouse Hostel's famous sliding bookcase, which opens into a bar that riffs off of its speakeasy-style entrance. Dapper gents and fancy ladies sip the sweet nectar (no snake-oil here, boys), and then scurry up to their affordable lodgings to … continue the night's festivities.

Firehouse Hostel
605 Brazos
512/201-2522
www.firehousehostel.com

Best Bed & Breakfast

It might be the heyday of the sharing economy and boutique hotels, but true B&Bs still rule when it comes to homey friendliness. A lovingly restored Colonial Revival tucked into the heart of Hyde Park, Adams House offers the luxurious, roomy digs of a country home in a walkable, central urban neighborhood; Duval’s restaurant row, groceries, and the flag store are all steps away, and it’s conveniently located for car and bus travel, too. Your other, practically perennial fave – Austin Folk House, so named for the rich display of outsider art in its hallway – is joined by its two-building sister space, Star of Texas Inn, this year. All three are located in the slightly more bustling West Campus area/central city, but they carve out calm and beautiful spaces of warmth and respite within.

Adams House Bed & Breakfast
4300 Ave. G
512/453-7696
www.theadamshouse.com

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

Best Building Under 10 Stories

Colonel Jesse Driskill may have been a wee bit overambitious building a four-star hotel in Austin, which, despite having been the state's capital for 47 years, was still a backwater cattle town in 1886. Nevertheless, we owe him a debt today, having praised the building's architecture, its food, its cocktails, and even its ghosts ever since. It's not surprising, then, that this magnificent edifice's no-holds-barred luxury water loo, too, should still come out on top. Rich wood, stained glass, chandeliers, and modern fixtures lend a certain splendor when popping one's squat.

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

Best Downtown View

Austin is the fastest growing city in the U.S., so having any view of the Live Music Capital of the World® from your home will cost you a pretty penny (and probably your firstborn). But thanks to the civic-mindedness and grand, aesthetic foresight of this mesmerizing performance venue, we have one spectacular view of the city at our feet. The only decision to make here is whether to see Austin's ravishing skyline during the day or at night.

Best Historic Site

She's the poster child for Big and Beautiful (and pink!), sure, but our beloved state Capitol's real draw is the 130 years of history scattered inside. It's the fortress where school kids and Texas newbies go to gape at the grand painting of the Battle of San Jacinto, and where they return years later as adults to lobby for causes or air their own grievances.

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

Best Hotel

The 1936 heritage and contemporary minimalist decor of this boutique hotel give it a unique aura of low-key luxury and prim comfort. Located smack in the middle of the hip South Congress shopping district, this spot is known locally as much for its large parking lot parties – usually fundraisers for charity and disaster relief – as it is for its upscale service and amenities.

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

Sandy Carson

Best Motel

Don’t make us write another "BOA" entry about this motel’s porny sign (which, don’t get us wrong, deserves all the phallocentric praise it gets), we’ve got other things to talk about! Built from the ground up by a few generations' worth of hardworking community lovers, this destination is sure to make your stay in the heart of Austin a home away from home. For example, what other motel’s FAQ begins bluntly with “Do famous people stay here?” – only to issue the sweet and satisfying rejoinder, “We think all our guests are famous.”

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

Best Patio Deck

Designed with porchin’ in mind, Red's “Half Cajun, Half TexMex, Half Southern” gem of a porch on South Lamar knows how to show a good time. Live music and daily specials, plus fan favorites such as the Waterloo Gin Greenbelt cocktail, Boudain balls, and truffled taco salad (part of a substantial gluten-free menu) buddy up with a helluva view and plenty of space to kick back and relax, Red’s-style. Across town, at lake's edge, it’s no surprise the largest outdoor restaurant in Texas boasts multiple "Best of Austin" awards since 1996. Drought be damned, the gorgeous Lake Travis sunset views from these huge, cliff-dwelling wooden decks inspire weddings and photography contests. Bands play four nights a week and Tex-Mex chow (Shiner Bock pulled pork enchiladas!) and Beer Ritas sweeten the deal, laying the groundwork for all kinds of stories.

Red's Porch
3508 S. Lamar
512/440-7337
www.redsporch.com

The Oasis
6550 Comanche Trl.
512/266-2442
www.oasis-austin.com

Best Restroom

Colonel Jesse Driskill may have been a wee bit over-ambitious building a four-star hotel in Austin, which, despite having been the state's capital for 47 years, was still a backwater cattle town in 1886. Nevertheless, we owe him a debt today, having praised the building's architecture, its food, its cocktails, and even its ghosts ever since. It's not surprising, then, that this magnificent edifice's no-holds-barred luxury water loo, too, should still come out on top. Rich wood, stained glass, chandeliers, and modern fixtures lend a certain splendor when popping one's squat.

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

Best Sign

Don’t make us write another "BOA" entry about this motel’s porny sign (which, don’t get us wrong, deserves all the phallocentric praise it gets), we’ve got other things to talk about! Built from the ground up by a few generations' worth of hardworking community lovers, this destination is sure to make your stay in the heart of Austin a home away from home. For example, what other motel’s FAQ begins bluntly with “Do famous people stay here?” – only to issue the sweet and satisfying rejoinder, “We think all our guests are famous.”

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

Best Skyscraper

Although Austin's skyline has morphed massively since this tower kicked off a 21st century development revolution, the Frost Tower remains the most distinctive skyscraper in town. The crown of this perennial favorite features a unique sculptural design that some say resembles the face of an owl – perfect for observing our rapidly changing city.

Frost Bank Tower
401 Congress
512/473-4343
www.frostbank.com

Best Statue

In what is shaping up to be a two-statue contest (at least until we get that Leslie one installed), SRV took back the title after Willie’s two-year reign. Almost 25 years after Vaughan’s untimely death, record numbers of visitors continue to pay their respects at artist Ralph Helmick's bronze tribute to Austin music’s pride and joy.

Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue
www.austintexas.gov

Sandy Carson

Best Swimming Pool Design

The fourth-floor pool at the W is pretty much the opposite of the kind of sun-seared cement ponds that still grace our nation's bargain motels. Elegant and elite, the W's watering spot is long and lean, a cool blue pool where you could swim laps, but with a surrounding surface area maximized for socializing. The space also maximizes privacy, with limited access and no visibility from outside, while offering excellent views of the city and hills. Staff will bring you nice things poolside or to your VIP cabana. Guests, spa patrons, and day-pass holders: Let the Beverly Hills fantasies begin!

W Hotel
200 Lavaca
512/542-3600
www.whotelaustin.com

Best Window Display

This window has gained notoriety with toilet-oriented pop culture hijinks. Consider the recent X Games tie-in, with a toilet suspended in the act of performing a flip on a BMX bike. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Toilets"? Yup. "A Christmas Toilet" for the holidays? Done with aplomb. Radiant earned a Critics Pick from us two years ago, and clearly they haven't lost their touch. This year, the Readers Poll results show that these pooptastic dioramas aren't just polished turds being doted on by out-of-touch critics. They're truly a work of toilet art for the People.

Radiant Toilet & Plumbing
2908 San Gabriel
512/263-9988
www.radiantplumbing.com

Sandy Carson

 
2014 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture