Architecture & Lodging
2015 Readers Poll
2015 Critics Picks

John Anderson

Best Building Under 10 Stories

There's no need to tell you how breathtakingly monumental the Texas State Capitol is because you already know that. What you might not know, is that on top of the dome stands a 15-foot, 7-1/2-inch tall woman called the Goddess of Liberty. Perhaps you know her by her street name, Old Lady? Besides the fact that the original 3,000-pound zinc version of her was placed atop the dome in 1888, she's nothing like an old lady. In fact, if you see her face up-close (at the Bullock Texas State History Museum a few blocks to the north), she bears an odd resemblance to a stone-faced Christopher Walken. With a sword in her right hand and a star in her left, the Goddess is basically the baddest aluminum bitch on this side of the Mississippi. Not to mention that thanks to her, the Texas Capitol stands taller than the U.S. Capitol, and that's just one more reason to love it.

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

Best Downtown View

When you want to see, truly see, what makes our city so special, this is the definitive place to go. Our ever-changing Downtown skyline frames the Auditorium Shores landscape, and the brightest mirror of the city, Lady Bird Lake, shines gloriously in the middle of it all. Perch on the city terrace, soak it all in, and thank the bright Texas stars above that you call this place home.

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

John Anderson

Best Historic Site

There's no need to tell you how breathtakingly monumental the Texas State Capitol is because you already know that. What you might not know, is that on top of the dome stands a 15-foot, 7-1/2-inch tall woman called the Goddess of Liberty. Perhaps you know her by her street name, Old Lady? Besides the fact that the original 3,000-pound zinc version of her was placed atop the dome in 1888, she's nothing like an old lady. In fact, if you see her face up-close (at the Bullock Texas State History Museum a few blocks to the north), she bears an odd resemblance to a stone-faced Christopher Walken. With a sword in her right hand and a star in her left, the Goddess is basically the baddest aluminum bitch on this side of the Mississippi. Not to mention that thanks to her, the Texas Capitol stands taller than the U.S. Capitol, and that's just one more reason to love it.

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

Best Hotel

Austin's epoch of maximum minimalism, the Hotel San José continues to set the bar in local lodging. People forget how unaccommodating the landscape was before Liz Lambert put her pomo boho SoCo paws all up in it. The Lambie empire now stretches to Marfa, San Antonio, and back (fame and fortune is a magnet, after all). But no matter the number of little chunky red pieces on the game board, the noble San José remains the flagship in her hotelopoly. Each room here is gloriously spartan, with feet-deep mattresses wrapped like tight little sushis in plain, luxurious white cotton and accented in Jaipuri playfulness. Reclaimed wood, simple accent chairs, and modest desk lamps round out an aesthetic that's as calming as it's been influential. Here it is, Austin, your moment of Zen.

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

Best Hotel/Motel Room Decor

Austin's epoch of maximum minimalism, the Hotel San José continues to set the bar in local lodging. People forget how unaccommodating the landscape was before Liz Lambert put her pomo boho SoCo paws all up in it. The Lambie empire now stretches to Marfa, San Antonio, and back (fame and fortune is a magnet, after all). But no matter the number of little chunky red pieces on the game board, the noble San José remains the flagship in her hotelopoly. Each room here is gloriously spartan, with feet-deep mattresses wrapped like tight little sushis in plain, luxurious white cotton and accented in Jaipuri playfulness. Reclaimed wood, simple accent chairs, and modest desk lamps round out an aesthetic that's as calming as it's been influential. Here it is, Austin, your moment of Zen.

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

Best Motel

Austin Motel’s delightfully suggestive sign may serve as the unofficial gateway to South Congress, but it has so much more to offer visitors. An institution since 1938, it showcases the perfect mix of historic charm and local quirk, making it the go-to place for visitors who want an authentic taste of the city. Glimpses of classic Austin are fading fast, but Austin Motel – which rightly calls itself “modernized but not commercialized” – remains true to its roots.

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

Best Patio Deck

They’ve seen fire, and they’ve seen rain. They’ve seen the kind of drought we thought would never end. But Austinites know we’ll always see Oasis sunsets again. Since 1979, folks have headed to the cliffside spot to glimpse the beautiful orb as it tucks behind the lake for the night. It’s the biggest outdoor restaurant in Texas, so there’s room for you, too.

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

Best Restroom

The bathrooms at the W and the Driskill Hotel couldn't be more different, but they share the fact that they are the best, according to the crossed legs of our readers. The W bathrooms are modern, chic, and geometric, and, unlike the johns in their hotel rooms, do have doors. The bathrooms at the Driskill are luxurious, rustic, classical, and popular for their spacious separate stall rooms. Thanks to these palatial potty places, Austinites get to pee not only in style but in peace.

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

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

Shelley Hiam

John Anderson

Best Sign

"Cat Puns Freak Meowt," "World Cup Austin, Free Enchiladas for FIFA Executives," and "Frankly, Autocorrect, I'm Getting Tired of Your Shirt," are just a few of the dispatches issued from El Arroyo (Spanish for The Arroyo) out toward passing traffic on West Fifth. Think Mark Twain with a margarita, and you, like so many bumper-to-bumper vehicles, are mostly there.

El Arroyo
1624 W. Fifth
512/474-1222
www.elarroyo.com

Best Skyscraper

It's the bauble of Austin's skyline that puts Gotham's Wayne Tower to shame. At 33 floors and 245,000 square feet of glass, Frost Bank looms as beautiful as it is brutal. The crown's folded panes recall a blooming lotus flower, and the exterior lighting has won industry awards. It's also home for businesses, a coffee shop, restaurants, a dry cleaner, and a 30-foot cedar tree on the top.

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

John Anderson

Best Small Lodging (Under 11 Rooms)

Who is Zelda? She's the neighborhood hen that sometimes pops by the Heywood Hotel, but don't let that eggcentricity lead you to think that this bundle of boudoirs (seven total) is one of those anything-goes/roast-a-goat-in-your-room pleasure palaces. Sure, there's pleasure to be had, but it comes from the concerted efforts of the folks at the Heywood who foster a sense of calm and quietude in the midst of a churning East Cesar Chavez. A feat. A dream.

Heywood Hotel
1609 E. Cesar Chavez
512/271-5522
www.heywoodhotel.com

Best Statue

Arguably one of the city's most revered figures, SRV has reclaimed his reigning title set in stone (bronze, actually) for two years in a row. Sorry, Willie, there's always next year. And we have this statue to thank for one of the rare moments of levity during this year's floods – seeing el Vaughan with his No. 1 walk on water in a number of viral photographs was only confirmation of his glory (and how high the waters had risen).

Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue
www.austintexas.gov

Jana Birchum

Best Window Display

For the goth kid who grew into a stylish, black-on-black wearing adult, Blackmail’s window displays can make the heart stop. Once bitten, twice in love, the boutique’s noir style evokes something both brooding and beautiful. Like the Paris of Anne Rice, or the rumbling rhythm behind a Siouxsie & the Banshees song, Blackmail’s storefront simultaneously frightens and invites SoCo shoppers to fall into the dark side.

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

 
2015 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture

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