Austin, TX - hotel help for family and fun

Feb 8th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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Austin, TX - hotel help for family and fun

We are looking to spend 5 nights in Austin sometime this spring - probably April. I have no idea what we want to do other than just get a feel for the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. I have a 4 year old who loves pools, a husband who want to do some serious biking, and me who has an affection for rustic luxury, or places with character to stay.

Any suggestions for areas/places to stay? Hotels? Family friendly dining? Must do and sees? Just starting the plans for this trip so any advise is appreciated!
labmom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:47 PM
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Embassy Suites downtown would fit your needs.
SiteC_er is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:50 PM
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Austin is a great town, but I have a few questions before offering advice. What kind of budget are you planning? Do you want to be in the city proper or somewhere a little less crowded?
bobludlow is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:00 PM
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For budget somewhere in the $250/nt range. Certainly would not mind spending less or a bit more if the place was perfect. Since I know NOTHING about Austin at this point I don't know exactly where we would like. We will be renting a car, don't mind a short drive to attractions but don't want to be 1/2 hour away. The allure of finding someplace that is within walking distance to a lot of things is always a plus but not mandatory.
labmom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:21 PM
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One hotel that my husband and I stayed at on the night of our wedding was the Omni Downtown. It is very centrally located and probably would be family friendly. Others can chime in about some other places around. I think there is also a Hyatt hotel that faces Lady Bird Lake (aks Town Lake).

Things to do:
1. Take your little one to Zilker Park which is close to downtown. Just a beautiful park to run and play or walk the trails, rent a canoe, etc. Barton Springs Pool is also there, but I must warn you the water temp is a constant 68 degrees, so not for the timid.

2. Tour the capital building. It is a beautiful building inside and out!

3.I plan to take my son here next month so I have no firsthand knowledge- Austin Children's Museum.

4. Bob Bullock Museum for Texas History- it is actually pretty interesting.

5. If you rent a car definitely drive out toward Wimberley or Fredericksburg to see the Hill Country, if you are lucky you might be here to catch the famed wildflowers.

The one place that I have been that I think has family friendly dining is called Frank and Angie's Pizza right off of 6th St. They have good and reasonable food.
ilovetulips is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:24 PM
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Oh, I also forgot try some Tex Mex food while you are here. Chuy's has good food and is reasonable on Barton Springs Road. Might be a good place to go when you visit Zilker Park since it is on the way. Some like Guero's on S. Congress Ave, but I wasn't that impressed.
ilovetulips is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:33 PM
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I love Austin - it is wonderful that time of year. Check out the San Jose hotel. It's got lots of character. The Hyatt is on town lake and could be a good option, though it doesn't have character.

Recommendations for fun:

1. Barton Springs or Deep Eddy for swimming (if it's warm enough). Zilker park playground is great. And there's a little train that kids love.

2. Children's museum is wonderful and perfect for a 4 y.o.

3. Texas state history museum is excellent.

4. biking to/at the veloway near the wildflower center (and the wildflower center - gorgeous during wildflower season)

5. definitely drive out to hill country/ Fredericksburg. It is amazing in April!

Recommendations for food:

1. Guero's (I'm a fan!)
2. Hut's Hamburgers
3. Iron Works BBQ
4. Las Manitas (especially for breakfast)
txtree is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:46 PM
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Our kids are much older than 4 now, but we always stay at the Embassy Suites Downtown/Town Lake when we're in Austin. It's within a hop, skip and jump of the hike and bike trail around Town Lake, so your husband should enjoy that. Also, Sandy's, an old Austin drive-in burger stand is just down the street from Embassy Suites and our kids insist we go by and get a frozen custard cone (vanilla/chocolate twist, of course) every summer when we visit. Their dad, who grew up in Austin, used to go to Sandy's in the late 60's/early 70's.
longhorn55 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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If you want a hotel with charm, neither the Embassy Suites, Omni, nor Hyatt are anything but chain business type hotels. If that's ok with you then you might as well check out the Extended Stay America hotel on 6th @ Guadalupe. 5 nights with a 4yr old the kitchen ensuite could be a nice advantage. It's 10min walk to the WholeFoods flagship store - which is a great option for great take out (or eat in) freshly prepared dinners for the nights you don't want to go out to a restaurant.

J62 is online now  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:17 PM
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J62, that is a good rec for a family. Since we live in the area, we don't frequent the hotels. I can say though as the mother of a 21 month old, having a grocery store nearby, esp one as nice as Whole Foods can come in very handy.
ilovetulips is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:20 PM
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Thanks everyone for your ideas - keep 'em coming!

When is wildflower season? We love hiking are there any good hiking trails in the Hill Country?
labmom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:28 PM
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txtree - checked out the San Jose Hotel and it looks really cool. How is the neighborhood there?

Speaking of neighborhoods - are there any areas we should avoid while trapsing around?
labmom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:49 PM
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The San Jose is on South Congress - it is a funky little area of town, with restaurants, music and shopping. Close to town lake too.

There is a lot of great hiking in the Austin area. Anything from the trail on the greenbelt (it runs along Barton Creek - very fun for a 4 y.o.), to Hamilton Pool or Pedernales Falls or Enchanted Rock, which is out by Fredericksburg. can direct you to some cool places. Also, my kids enjoyed McKinney Falls state park.

Check the wildflower center's website for updates about when peak wildflower season will be this year. But April is usually terrific. You will be amazed!
txtree is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 06:34 PM
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I was thinking of the San Jose too. Get the biggest room you can tho. The neighborhood sounds like "you". It's funky, laid back, popular, near everything you might need, and not far from town lake for biking and hiking. They fill up quick, so I'd reserve as soon as you decide that is what you want.

April is my favorite month in Austin. Wildflowers at their peak. The weather is USUALLY just right - 80's during the day, 60's at night. There is the childrens' museum, town lake, all kinds of things to do.
Austin is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 06:38 PM
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Also check out the Austin Motel ( They are literally about one block away form the Hotel San Jose. Both are cool and are older hotels that have been renovated. Back in the day, they were both used "by the hour" when S. Congress was known for it's hookers....It's been totally revitalized and extremely pricey now.

I think you MUST stay at either one of these hotels.
Austin is offline  
Feb 10th, 2008, 06:27 AM
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A few more thoughts (I used to live in Austin and miss it!):

As someone else posted, check out the flagship whole foods store. It is a wonder. You should definitely plan on having a meal there. Then walk over to Book People - they have a terrific kids section.

You must hit Amy's ice cream (there is one across the street from whole foods) at least once while you're there. My favorite is sweet cream (or mexican vanilla) with strawberries mixed in.

I love having lunch at Shady Grove (near Zilker Park). It's a fun scene and the green chili cheese fries (preferably with a shiner bock) will make you happy.

If you like clothes, check out By George (also conveniently across the street from whole foods). It rivals some of my favorite boutiques in NYC.

Ok, that's it for now.
txtree is offline  
Feb 11th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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I live in Austin, so I don't know much about places to stay, but I LOVE Austin food and outdoors. Unless you want to go to the Wildflower Center, I think you'll have plenty to do in the center of Austin for 5 days. I'd definitely plan a different trip to visit the surrounding Hill Country, though!

*Canoeing/kayaking on Lady Bird Johnson Lake (double kayaks available)
*Barton Springs, if it's warm. This is where the Zilker Zephyr (train for kids) picks up.
*Town Lake Hike and Bike
*Mount Bonnell for sunset or fun nighttime view
*Mayfield Park is a great picnic lunch spot (watch out for the peacocks!) It's next door to Laguna Gloria (see below).
*Wild Basin Preserve is lesser-known, but perfect for short hikes
*Barton Creek Greenbelt is popular for mountain biking and hiking (one entrance to the trail is at the end of the Barton Springs parking lot)
*Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail is great for a walk or to play frisbee golf
*My favorite place to hike in the city that is much less crowded is the Forest Ridge Trail in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (it's off 360 and Spicewood used to be able to mountain bike there, but now I'm not sure)

Other things to do:
*Laguna Gloria is part of the Austin Museum of Art, and it's in a beautiful location. You might check out their calendar and see if there's any fun family event going on while you're there.
*If you're there on the first Thursday of the month, visit South Congress in the evening. All the stores stay open later, and it's sort of festival-like
*Toy Joy is an awesome toy store for kids and adults alike
*Ransom Center (good, free museum)
*Peter Pan mini-golf (old school miniature golf)

Breakfast Food:
*Sweetish Hill Cafe: hot breakfast and baked goods
*Upper Crust Bakery: best cinnamon rolls on the planet
*Taco Xpress: funky place, killer breakfast tacos (gospel, bluegrass music on Sunday mornings)

Other food:
*Flip Happy Crepes
*Hut's Hamburgers
*East Side Pies
*Kerbey Lane Cafe (the one on Kerbey Lane)
*Jovita's (Tex Mex, live music most nights)
*Whole Foods has live music on Thursday evenings
*Threadgill's (Austin classic, southern food and a lot of live music)
*Shady Grove (food is so-so, but fantastic outdoor seating)
mountainpie is offline  
Feb 11th, 2008, 01:03 PM
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Hey Mountainpie - this is GREAT! Thanks! I am beginning to think 5 days might not be enough....
labmom is offline  
Feb 12th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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I have no disagreements with any of the above suggestions. Austin is a great city and there's more than enough to get you occupied for 5 days.

Since you indicated that your 4-yr old loves pools, DH like biking, and you like rustic luxury, I'd serious suggest you at least look at the Four Seasons. It's downtown (although the setting doesn't feel like it) and is very much understated luxury with a definite southwestern flair. It's on Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake) just off Congress Ave. The hike/bike trail along the lake passes throught the property, which is a beautiful setting. Great pool and restaurant. We've always been able to get rooms in your budget range, but that may not always be possible. And right next door is one of our favorite restaurants - the Shoreline Grill.

Definitely worth at least checking out IMO. Here's the link:
dfr4848 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2008, 06:10 AM
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If you're going to be in Austin April 12-13, make sure you check out the Fine Arts Festival. This year they've changed the name to Art City Austin and the location has been moved from Republic Park to Caesar Chavez (First Street). If you stay at the Four Seasons, you can easily walk to the festival. I would definitely suggest you stay downtown at one of the hotels along Town Lake.

April is a really busy month in Austin with lots of festivals and events so I would book a hotel immediately. You can always cancel if you find something better.

AustinTraveler is offline  

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