Review: Gorgeous New Westin Downtown Austin

Austin has had several new hotel developments recently, like Hotel Van Zandt (Kimpton) and the JW Marriott with its The Corner bar and its Burger Bar window. But the one I’ve been most intrigued by is the Westin Downtown.

That’s because it’s right smack in the middle of the music and bar scene, on the edge of Dirty 6th.

The hotel adds to Starwood’s portfolio which includes the W Downtown, the Sheraton up by the Capitol, and the Westin that’s North by the Domain mall.

I didn’t stay at the Westin Downtown, I live in Austin now. It’s been open for three months, and I finally got around to visiting. So I’ve seen the rooms and the public spaces, and I’ve spoken with the General Manager about Platinum benefits, but I haven’t slept there yet.

Design elements

While the hotel’s smells and furnishings are definitely ‘new Westin’ the hotel also offers a real sense of place, and homage to Austin’s music scene. The lobby is inspired by a Gibson guitar, from the artwork behind the check-in desk to the strings in the lobby to the art that hangs above the bed in the guest rooms and in the bathrooms as well.

Guest rooms

The rooms are standard Westin, with the heavenly bed and heavenly bath of course.

What’s ‘Austin’ about them is the guitar pick art above the bed, a piece of art in the bathroom, and the colorful chair.

The king rooms all have walk-in showers, while half of the doubles have tubs and half have walk-in showers. The bathrooms have the ‘heavenly mirror’ that’s well-lit.

There are plenty of outlets in the room, by the desk and the bedside. All of the rooms have refrigerators and coffee makers.

And with windows spanning floor to ceiling the views from the hotel are pretty good.

Pool and gym

Both the pool and gym are on the very top floor of the hotel, so the gym features outstanding views — run on a treadmill looking out over the city, and relax by the pool with a view of downtown. And of course the equipment is all high end and brand new.

On the weekends they ask guests to use wristbands to identify themselves as having access to the pool, in order to preserve the space for hotel guests only. This is similar to what the W hotel does, since they’d otherwise be invaded by locals.

The bar by the pool is beside a living wall that they’re growing, and that they’re going to add to and enlarge to triple its height so that you’ll be able to see it atop the hotel from street street level in the city.

Platinum treatment

There’s no club lounge so breakfast is served in the restaurant and Platinums opting for breakfast as their amenity choice can choose any item off the menu marked in green.


(Click to enlarge)

There are only 4 suites among the hotel’s 366 guest rooms (the hotel is about a third the size of the new JW Marriott). So Platinums won’t see a lot of complimentary suite upgrades here, in contrast to the W hotel about half a mile away. Upgrades are much more likely to Corner King rooms which are ‘-12’ rooms on the 15th floor and below. (1612 – 1912 are the four suites, and the end of the hallway where the room is located can be closed off and the guest room across the hall sold to make an interesting connecting room.)

Corner kings have glass all the way around on two sides to make for an impressive room.

Noise

You’re in the middle of downtown Austin, on 6th street no less, the epicenter of bars and music venues so there’s going to be noise. The location is mostly a plus for the hotel, but the drawback is the same as it’s core selling proposition.

The hotel was built with dampening noise in mind, and since they opened they’ve double-pained the windows on the 6th street side. They’ll be doing the same around the rest of the hotel as well.

So if you’re sensitive to noise, and want the quietest room possible, definitely request something on the 5th street side.

Meeting Space

There are two floors of meeting space. The ballroom seats 300, but they can handle receptions up to 600 people. Many of the conference rooms line the walls and have the same floor to ceiling glass windows as the guest rooms. And there’s both strong soundproofing and an HVAC system that can adjust the temperature several degrees in a matter of minutes.

Meeting rooms are named for local music venues.

Good Value In-Season On Points

The W Austin is now a category 6 hotel, so at least 20,000 points per night — and on peak weekends rates there can be well over $500 a night.

The Westin on the other hand is a category 5 hotel. It’s new but already pulling rates over $350 much of the time. They’ve clearly found a market, despite all the new properties in the area. A nice hotel near the action is a draw. When the hotel is available at 12,000 points despite tax-inclusive rates over $400 it’s a great time to redeem Starwood points.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Really? How much is Starwood paying you to write this? This is one of the most idiotic hotel designs ever. It’s cookie cutter on the inside which is OK I suppose, but uninspired.

    The outside is plain ugly, like they tried to cram the building in a tiny lot where it doesn’t belong. But the worst part is the nightmare traffic jam that always forms in front of the hotel and blocks the entire 5th street for several blocks, causing problems for all drivers. The hotel has no driveway and instead just commandeered two lanes of an existing very busy street for the loading area. Absolutely a joke and a pain in the ass for residents like myself who have to deal with it.

  2. Speaking of Van Zandt, also ugly as hell. I can’t believe this is the monstrosity they put up. As a resident of Rainey street I hate this eyesore.

  3. Thanks for the heads up on tubs vs showers. I usually book a king, but prefer a tub to a shower — especially on long stays. Am a Plat & will be there over SXSW, so I did call to change the room type and get the request noted in my reservation. We’ll see –the person I spoke with on the phone said gave me a very disinterested “I’ll make a note of this,” but I’m not holding out much hope. I do ask the plat reps to note it, too—but find that doesn’t always help.

  4. I’ve stayed a couple times with my most recent stay last week.

    Overall I like the hotel but I’m not sure if it will pull me away from the W.

    Pros
    Nice atmosphere
    Good food
    Location
    Bartenders are great
    Pool area

    Cons
    Front desk is a weak
    Housekeeping – room was clean but free bottled water was inconsistent (1 out of 4 nights).
    Noise – it is really noisy on all sides of the hotel

  5. My primary concern about this hotel would be the noise from I35. I’ve stayed at the downtown Hilton before, which is a couple blocks farther from 35, and if you’re on the wrong side (east or north or south) of the hotel you’ll hear freeway noise at peak hours, starting at 6 am. Also in downtown Austin depending on the night you’ll hear live music throttling on the other side (west) of the hotel. I’d avoid downtown Austin unless you’re staying on or west of Congress Ave.

  6. @atxtravel not liking it from the outside and inconveniencing drivers from Austin are legitimate complaints but sort of outside the scope of my review which is focused on how a hotel guest would experience their stay.

  7. @atxtravel – as I note in the review, there’s going to be noise in this hotel. What the article mentions about low frequencies getting through the building is consistent with what the hotel GM told me to expect.

    As for the ad hominem reference to me as a ‘shill’, for avoidance of doubt I have not received anything whatsoever from the hotel… not cash, not a free night, not a cocktail at the bar. You calling me a shill is simply your word for “takes a different view or tone” from you.

  8. Sure, it’s a great location to stay close to the live music….except now the Westin wants to silence the live music. They moved into the area because they liked the vibe but now they want to change the vibe instead of fitting in with the vibe. That is ridiculous. These guys are corporate bullies who are effectively trying to ruin the things that everyone comes to Austin for.
    http://keyetv.com/news/local/hotel-built-next-to-austins-historic-music-district-files-lawsuit-over-loud-music

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