The Austin Staycationer: The LINE Hotel
Your close-to-home guide to getting away
Before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Austin tourism was at an all-time high. Now, hotel occupancy rates are seeing new lows, 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 inaugural edition of our new series, 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 Long & Short
When it opened in spring of 2018, The LINE Austin became the third LINE Hotel created by the Sydell Group, after launching the flagship in Los Angeles and the sophomore in Washington, D.C. Locals might remember this building's most recent life as a Radisson, but the modernist structure was erected in 1965 as The Crest Inn, home to Club Seville, a dinner and dance club that broadcast live jazz weekly.
A comprehensive renovation by Austin architectural guru Michael Hsu and interior design by Los Angeles-based Sean Knibb transformed the hotel's communal areas into a space simultaneously minimal and modern, warm and welcoming. Concrete columns are contrasted with lush pothos vines spilling from brass fixtures; vivid patterned chairs and pastel pink walls add an element of playfulness. Flickering fireplaces crafted from limestone, copper, and cement invite guests to cozy up with a book and a cuppa from L.A.-based tea shop Alfred, which serves beverages on the lobby level.
All 428 guest rooms (including 108 suites) come with scenic Downtown or lakeside views; sheer pleated curtains encourage sunlight. Wooden headboards sandblasted with a topographical pattern inspired by Austin's ecosystem and matching desk chairs contrast the cool gray accents. Supporting the work of emerging local artists is one of the fundamental tenets of Sydell's design ethos. The LINE Austin features over 500 original pieces of art in guest rooms and public spaces by a diverse group of Central Texas artists selected in partnership with local arts nonprofit Big Medium; a zine in each guestroom documents the work.
In light of the pandemic, The LINE has temporarily swapped valet parking for a self-park lot. Signs outside the elevators politely limit use to one guest, couple, or family at a time and retro letter boards around the property remind guests that masks and social distancing are required in this "mutual respect zone." Upon our stay, everyone acted respectful of these guidelines.
Hand sanitizer is stationed throughout the hotel, and all rooms are disinfected with an electrostatic fog machine using an EPA-approved sanitizing solution between occupancy, with extra attention paid to high-touch surfaces. Daily housekeeping service is available upon request, and scheduled to occur when guests are out. Room service is currently using disposable containers and orders are left outside the room for contactless delivery.
All in-room and restaurant menus are accessible via QR code, and payments are also contactless. Check-in is also contactless, including activating the key card. Arlo Grey's bar area has been filled with a jungle of potted plants, and more greenery creates space between tables, enhancing the "indoor garden" look from expansive windows overlooking lush Ladybird Lake.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
After taking a pause throughout the spring and summer, Chef Kristen Kish's restaurant Arlo Grey reopened last fall. The Top Chef season 10 winner reworked the menu to feature diners' favorite dishes, including many variations of comfort food, inspired by Kish's South Korean culture, Midwestern American childhood, and classic training in French and Italian cuisine.
Comforting cacio e pepe white beans make for a playful and delicious starter. Simply scoop the beans, silken with melted Pecorino and caramelized onion, into endive cups and right into your mouth. The fried steamed buns with hot crab dip, which were simultaneously crispy and chewy, were also a favorite. Try the signature mushroom mafaldine dish: The house-made pasta, ruffly strands slippery with butter and sprinkled with shards of Parmigiano Reggiano, unfold to reveal juicy bursting mushrooms. As for larger entrées, fried chicken enthusiasts won't want to miss Kish's take, with its super crispy skin, punchy house hot sauce, sweet-tart pickled daikon, and creamy celeriac ranch slaw. Another star-studded dish is the butter-poached halibut bathed in a creamy soubise and served with wheat berry pilaf, oyster mushrooms, and topped with crunchy house potato chips.
Arlo Grey is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays – worth noting, as it is unusual for a hotel restaurant – but the recent addition to the hotel, Veracruz All Natural, is open daily, which makes an excellent poolside takeout option. Brunch is offered on both weekend days, so plan for dishes like the decadent BLT egg soufflé sandwich on an impressive house-made croissant and a cloudlike French toast coconut cream with passionfruit rum syrup. For drinks, reserve a table at P6 (named for its former iteration as a parking garage) around sunset if possible. We recommend the Wild Side, a refreshing herbal blend of sotol, basil syrup, cucumber, and basil seeds shaken and served in a flute.
Go to Your Room
The design of each room is minimalist, but the Sydell Group generally doesn't skimp on sleeping set-up coziness. The bed, made luxurious with Bellino linens and goose down pillows, comes from Serta's Perfect Sleeper hotel collection. The provided robes, however, are thin waffled cotton.
A little dish of palo santo on the bedside was a nice surprise (though we can't imagine they'd want it lit in the room!), and the bathroom features interesting ambient lighting and dark emerald green shower tiling. The hotel uses larger bottles for their American Medicinal Arts bath products (herbal, woodsy scents like frankincense- cedarwood), an improvement from typical (wasteful) travel-sized single-use plastics. A sleek, retro Homtime M9 wooden alarm clock is Bluetooth compatible; the TV only offers basic cable (in lieu of a smart TV). The mini bar curation would be better if it favored local snacks over Pringles and KitKats; each room has a Keurig, but we recommend venturing downstairs to the Alfred kiosk for a matcha latte.
The LINE boasts superior views for observing bats emerge from the Congress bridge at dusk. There's also the heated saltwater infinity pool (making swimming possible almost year-round), toasty fire pits, and plenty of poolside seating. The gym is open 24 hours and although they are limiting capacity to 12 people or fewer, the space still seems quite small. But with the hike and bike trail close by, why waste time in a gym anyway? The hotel offers free bike rentals and will book a paid paddleboard or kayak rental. Pets (no weight limit) always stay for free.
Standard rooms typically start around $200 a night and suites start at $300 a night plus tax, but there are special room rates, complimentary parking, and an upgrade to the best available room or suite at check-in with a Texas ID.