Austin’s very own grand dame, this landmark hotel opened in 1886 as the city’s first iconic hotel, both a testament to and display of the success of cattle baron Jesse Driskill, who wanted to build his beloved frontier town a palace to rival those in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The city fared better than Mr. Driskill did; financial troubles forced him to sell the hotel just two years after opening, and he died of a stroke just another two years later. After some initial ups and downs, his hotel ultimately flourished, housing a rotating cast of Texas elite and hosting nearly every important political event in Austin—in particular, gubernatorial inaugural balls—in the 20th century. President Lyndon Johnson had an especially close relationship with the hotel, from his first date with his wife to awaiting presidential re-election results in one of the suites.
Multimillion-dollar renovations in 2008 restored the hotel to its original grandeur, maintaining its historic charm alongside all the amenities of a modern luxury hotel. Brave guests might request a room on the reportedly haunted fifth floor. And, no stay at the Driskill is complete without a cocktail in the elegant Driskill Bar, where cattle, oil, or railroad barons would still fit in.
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Located in the heart of downtown Austin, right on the iconic Sixth Street music corridor, the Driskill is ideally situated for exploring many of the city’s most popular sights. The Texas State Capitol is just down the street, as is the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Catch some live music at longtime favorites like Emo's and The Parish. Take a romantic walk along the historic, creekside Red River Street en route to a Tex-Mex dinner at Serrano's.
Need to Know
Rooms: 189 rooms, 14 suites. From $169. Check-in: 3 p.m. (4 p.m. on Saturdays); check-out: noon. Dining options: Regularly rated one of the top restaurants in foodie Austin, the fine-dining Driskill Grill serves regularly changing à la carte and tasting dinner menus that showcase local, sustainable Texas ingredients in an atmospheric Old World setting. LBJ brought Lady Bird here on their first date, and the restaurant is just as romantic now as then, although the food has definitely been updated. Craft cocktails and a rotating menu of classic bites are also available in the wood-paneled, leather-sofa–filled Driskill Bar, a storied watering hole with a lively local scene and nightly live music. More casual—but just as Texan—dining can be found throughout the day at the 1886 Café & Bakery, which serves signature comfort food like a Hangover Burger alongside homemade baked goods to a well-heeled crowd. Spa and gym details: The hotel has a 24-hour fitness center, as well as two private steam rooms. A range of massage treatments are available with at least two hours notice.
Who's it best for: Mature, discerning couples looking for a luxurious stay and a sense of history; the hotel is also popular with business travelers. Our favorite rooms: Thanks to the historic architecture and the two buildings that make up the hotel—one from 1886 and one from 1930—each room feels distinct and atmospheric. The Historic Balcony King rooms, in the 1886 building, are especially pleasant, with French doors opening onto private balconies overlooking Sixth Street—the perfect place for a sunset aperitif. Have a ball: Austin is a dog-friendly city, but the Driskill bends over backwards to cater to guests’ four-legged friends. The Pampered Pet program includes a signature pet bed, food and water dishes, pet treats from 1886 Café & Bakery, a souvenir pet toy, and so much more.