The Staycationer: Hotel ZaZa Austin

Your Close-to-Home Guide to Getting Away

Before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Austin tourism was at an all-time high. Hotel occupancy rates are still seeing low numbers, after dropping around 40% in 2020. So, much like Austin's bars and restaurants, hotels need local support more than ever.

And since traveling out of state still isn't advised by the Centers for Disease Control, a staycation is one way to disrupt the monotony and manifest a change of scenery while stimulating the local economy.

Here, in this second edition of our new series – check out the first piece on The Line Hotel here – we'll give you the scoop on the best hotels to play tourist in your own city, if only for one night of escapist bliss.

The pool at Hotel ZaZa Austin (Photo by Ben Garrett)

The Long & Short

The Hotel ZaZa, which already had locations in Dallas and Houston, opened up an Austin hotel in the heart of the Warehouse District last September. Co-owner and developer Charlie Givens partnered with Texas-based design firm Design Duncan Miller Ullman to curate a hotel with purposefully contrasting design elements: vintage furniture lit by a modern chandelier, exposed brick juxtaposed with supple velvet, elegant details like Persian rugs plus a wide variety of modern art all throughout. Givens collected much of the art himself on travels around the world, and standouts including celebrity portraits by Annie Liebowitz, large color sketches of cultural icons and the crystal chandelier from Pretty Woman.

The 159-room hotel includes the Magnificent Seven Suites, as well as four Concept Suites, each with their own distinct theme. Cabin Fever is laid out in dark wood and cozy plaid, eliciting the feeling of a country getaway without leaving the city, while Orient Express features lush textures, orchids and Eastern-inspired florals; Seaside utilizes wicker, shells, nautical stripes and marine hues for an upscale beach house look.

COVID Precautions

As much as we’d like to get away and forget that COVID exists, it’s incredibly important that we don’t. Hotel ZaZa recognizes the gravity of our current situation with multiple reassurances throughout your staycation experience. Door tags note that handles have been sanitized, remotes are covered in plastic and marked with the date they were sanitized. Night stands are stocked with individual alcohol wipes and a checklist of room components sanitized by a masked and gloved attendant (with windows and doors open), as well as timestamp. This was by far the most conscientious COVID-modified cleaning regimen I’ve seen in my staycation research thus far. Valet parking is still in effect, however, so plan on alternative parking (or arriving via rideshare) if that falls outside your COVID comfort zone.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Street-level Perfect Strangers is currently closed for renovation, so Group Therapy is the sole dining concept open in the hotel at the moment. We’d originally sat inside the (empty that night) dining room, but found the vibe kind of cold, so we relocated to the poolside terrace, which felt much cozier (especially on the lounge couches). I love the design of the space too, which juxtaposes elegant Spanish tile and French bistro chairs with the organic lines of potted philodendrons and the more rugged texture of the building’s exposed brick.

I admittedly didn’t have huge expectations for the restaurant, as I hadn’t really heard anything (good or bad) about it, and the menu seemed a little basic at first glance. That said, I was very pleasantly surprised by my meal, which began with crunchy jalapeno calamari and sesame-crusted ahi tuna in a mustard-umami sauce. Both complemented each other well and were the type of easy, tasty snacks you’d want to enjoy poolside – with a bright hibiscus bergamot daiquiri, of course.

For mains, we decided to split the Texas fall wedge (a classic, spiced up with pecans and cinnamon-roasted butternut squash) and, at our server’s urging, we opted for the crispy buttermilk-dipped chicken breast. This perfectly crunchy chicken-fried chicken – served with stretchy aligot-like whipped potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and peppered honey – was the definition of comfort food. Thanks to both the food and the warm service, we found ourselves thoroughly relaxed and satisfied, two things we could all use right now. We decided to linger a little longer by indulging in a s’mores dessert special they were featuring plus a delightful espresso martini, the perfect pick-me-up after such a comforting meal. Group Therapy definitely lives up to its name.

Hotel ZaZa's restaurant, Group Therapy (Photo by Ben Garrett)

Go to Your Room

The Seaside Suite features two different balconies, both overlooking Republic Square Park. As soon as I checked in, I slipped into the plush robe and sat outside on one of them. (Not all the rooms have balconies, but I would highly recommend making sure you get one that does!) This suite was massive – the largest one I’ve stayed in during this staycation research so far – and really accentuated the airy oceanside ambiance of this particular one of the Magnificent Seven.

The bed was super comfortable, thanks to a Simmons Hospitality Beautyrest Black Luxury Plush mattress, Cairo Cale Egyptian cotton sheets, and a T400 Sobella cotton duvet. But the real standout was the Hansgrohe Clubmaster showerhead, which produced a satisfying rainfall from thick ribbons of water and made every shower a treat. There was also a very deep soaking tub, so I was sure to indulge in a long, hot bubble bath during my stay. (Essential for a true staycation, if you ask me!)

The mini-bar featured some delicious treats (looking at you, Pirate’s Booty and Tate’s chocolate chip cookies), but I’m of the belief that local products should always be featured in hotels (especially now)! One interesting feature they include in the suites was a microwave warmer drawer, which is perfect for reheating leftovers if you’re staying for several days. Another nice perk is the butler pantry serving everything from coffee and breakfast tacos to sandwiches for lunch to warm cookies in the afternoon as a lovely welcome treat. Normally there is a self-serve butler pantry on each floor but, due to COVID, it has been moved down to the lobby, with a staff member offering service.

Fun Factors

The ZaZa’s location, right in the middle of the Warehouse District, makes it ideal for those coming to town for bachelor parties, birthday soirees, girl’s getaways and the like – needless to say, once COVID is over. But for now, there is still some fun to be had. The hotel overlooks Republic Square Park, where the downtown farmers’ market sets up shop every Saturday morning. Be sure to check it out if your stay falls on this day. The hotel is also within walking distance to the hike and bike trail which runs along Ladybird Lake, as well as the Congress Ave bridge (which is lovely during bat season, but provides a beautiful stroll even after the freetail bats flee to Mexico around November).

If you’d rather stay within the safety of the hotel, there is live music (remember that?) outside by the pool on Friday and Saturday nights. The ZaSpa provides some great treatments (highly recommend the Morning After Scrub and Wrap, which starts with a full body massage), but it should be noted that it isn’t a full-sized spa with a sauna, steam room, and relaxation area. The 24-hour fitness studio (dubbed Barbell Billy’s), while not super spacious, was empty while I was there, so I felt totally safe there, and used provided alcohol wipes to sanitize everything I touched before and after.

Pricing

Guest rooms start at $259, while concept suites begin at $499 and Magnificent Seven Suites start at $759 a night. The spacious Seaside suite (with a huge living room, bedroom, and two bathrooms) was easily big enough for a bubble of four to have a sleepover, which would certainly make the experience more affordable.

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Staycationer, Hotel Zaza

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