So you’ve decided to come to SXSW. Now, you need a POSH place to stay.
It’s enough to make you rethink your decision. Hotels and condos and home swaps (oh my!) vie for position based on price and amenities, and it’s hard to know what to choose. At 29 days until SXSW begins, one might think there’s plenty of time. For any normal vacation, this would prove true. But, with SXSW, bands and labels, corporate tech companies and Hollywood moguls all descend on Austin, making the price rise and availability fall. So, diving into where to be, there may still be a bevy of options available, but they’ll cost quite a bit more than expected.
As with any residence or business, the “three most important things” remain the same as ever they were – location, location and location. SXSW is a walkable conference, and nearly all events are within a two mile radius of Downtown Austin’s center. Most events have been held at or near the Austin Convention Center, and the price for staying across the street at the Hilton Austin has already climbed to an excessive point (nearly $800/night), though rooms are still available for SXSW Music dates (Interactive is likely unavailable). But, for that price, you are at the epicenter of the SXSW world for everything short of events at Auditorium Shores.
For a luxurious stay nearby, the W Hotel Austin also has rooms available, albeit at a similar rate to the Hilton. The W boasts the Moody Theater, which is home to Austin City Limits and will play host to any number of unannounced parties and events. Complete with a rooftop pool and multiple bars, as well as TRACE, a refined restaurant by any standard, the W is sure to wow, with everything in easy reach and the banquet of amenities on ready command.
While both the Hilton and The W serve as great staging points for SXSW, beginning last year, the convention moved many events to a new, larger space, provided by one of Austin’s newest hotels. The J.W. Marriott began hosting multiple events over the course of SXSW, and made itself yet another focal point of the convention and festival. With sessions held in their ample convention center spaces and a lobby that can feel a bit like the lobby at the Oscars, the J.W. Marriott has planted a flag in the SXSW landscape that makes it the ideal place to stay, and at a rate slightly less than its established competitors (around $600/night).
Rounding out the cream of the crop, however, is the exclusive and world-renowned Hotel St. Cecilia. Located off South Congress, Liz Lambert’s collection of bungalows has hosted the poshest of parties, as well as the most A-listed of stars. More like a tropical resort than a hotel, the price can seem unbearably exclusive ($1600/night), but the experience of the hotel – exceptional concierge service, attention to every single detail, a private-access bar for guests only and a dedication to the very ethos of SXSW – is more than enough to justify even a single night’s stay.
There is availability for some or all of the SXSW nights at the aforementioned hotels, so book as soon as you know.
For a drop in rate without a drop in luxury, with just a little bit of a commute involved, Hotel Ella – a retrofitted hotel that feels as distinguished as a European mansion – is for you. Located near the University of Texas campus, the Hotel Ella has one of the finest little bars in town, The Parlor Bar, and is attached to one of Austin’s newest culinary destinations, Goodall’s Kitchen. The rate drops below $500/night and the chaos of late night SXSW revelry doesn’t reach quite this far north. It’s far enough away from the epicenter to enjoy, but also escape the SXSW madness.
Similarly, Liz Lambert’s sister property to Hotel St. Cecilia, the Hotel San Jose has a more affordable rate, but rather than serve as an escape from the chaos, Hotel San Jose invites the chaos into its living room. Situated on South Congress – a secondary destination for SXSW events and parties – Hotel San Jose has hosted the South By San Jose festival since 2007, inviting more local and undiscovered bands to play a public stage in their parking lot, and hosting the biggest party south of the river for almost a decade. The hotel is reflective of the “bungalow mentality” that serves St. Cecilia, but with its prime location, it has a far more accessible feel (as well as a rate below $500/night).
The great unknown is this year’s newcomer, the South Congress Hotel. With a rate near $500/night and a pristine view of South Congress and Austin’s skyline, the price might be well worth it on scenery alone. But this is Hotel South Congress’ first year of full SXSW engagement, so there’s no good read on the sort of stay a guest will enjoy over the course of the conference.
There are rooms available at all of the aforementioned properties, and these are the more posh settings for your SXSW. But, regardless of whether you’re staying POSH, PRACTICAL (tomorrow’s SX60 topic) or PARTY (Saturday’s topic), you’ve made the decision to come to Austin and the time to book your room is now.