This review appeared in The New York Times on November 15, 2015. To read the digital article, click here.
Standard rooms from $299.
Downtown Austin is brimming with big-brand hotels (and has more on the horizon), so what makes this one unique? With 1,012 guest rooms, three restaurants and 42 meeting rooms, the property, which opened in February, is the city’s largest hotel and the second-biggest JW Marriott in the world. (JW Marriotts are part of a luxury brand within Marriott International that includes Ritz-Carlton.)
The 34-story property takes up most of a city block in the southeastern stretch of downtown. Guests can head to the shores of Lady Bird Lake (formerly known as Town Lake) for a jog or paddle-boarding session before hitting the town. Great bars and restaurants surround the hotel, and the State Capitol is less than a mile away.
My stay in May got off to a rocky start when a new reception associate put me in a room that turned out to be a bed-free hospitality suite. To the hotel’s credit, the front desk manager apologized, gave me a $25 gift certificate to spend at the hotel’s bars or restaurants, and sent me to a lake-facing room on the 24th floor. It was spacious, comfortable and outfitted with a healthy dose of Texas accents, including decorative prints dipped in burnt orange and an unusual brown leather quilt draped over the tall wooden headboard. The room also contained a marble-topped desk, a flat-screen TV and an iHome music docking station. I had a view through my room’s glass wall of a pleasant, albeit small, stretch of the lake.
Opened with a sliding barn door, the room had a porcelain-tiled shower and floor. The marble countertops, a Kohler sink and products by the London-based Aromatherapy Associates added a touch of luxury.
In addition to 24-hour room service, the hotel has three restaurants: Osteria Pronto, an upscale Italian eatery; the more casual Corner, which features Texas cuisine and a large patio; and a walk-up Burger Bar that channels Austin’s grab-and-go food truck culture.
When I first visited the hotel, just weeks after its opening, I met friends for drinks in the lobby bar. We sipped pinot noir beside the glass-encased fire that divides the space, but the bar felt less cozy during my overnight stay in May, perhaps because I’d spent the afternoon feeling lost as I explored the behemoth hotel. My friends and I on the most recent visit had a few rounds of 2nd Street Lemonade (an in-house concoction of Tito’s vodka, lemon, ginger liqueur, strawberry and cucumber), $13, and decided to leave the hotel in search of something livelier; only then did we realize that the crowd at the Corner restaurant, which has its own bar, was spilling onto the street.
To refuel the following morning, I ordered room service. Though tasty and delivered promptly, my “All American” plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns seemed pricey at $22.
This downtown newcomer also features a spacious, 3,500-square-foot gym with nine treadmills, and an outdoor pool with a deck on the fifth floor. There was actually more room for lounging on the deck than swimming laps. Conference attendees will appreciate the on-site Starbucks and 24-hour business center. While Wi-Fi is free in the lobby, you are charged for it in your room.
This hotel will appeal to conference-goers and business travelers, but boutique aficionados should look elsewhere.
The JW Marriott, 110 East Second Street; 512-474-4777; marriott.com/hotels/travel/ausjw-jw-marriott-austin.