Austin, Texas is a city renown for its beauty, quirkiness, famous music scene, outdoor recreation, and for being the capital of a state seemingly much unlike itself. A jewel in the center of the big ole state of Texas, Austin exists independently from some of its more conservative and “country” counterparts, creating the offspring of a mid-Texas melting pot, a common relocation spot for like-minded nomads, and a platform for music junkies, artists, techies, and still- cowboys and cowgirls. An unusual union it is and that is what makes it beautiful, admirable, a destination and a home. Like its anomalous ingredients, the very bewitchingly undefined (and unrestricted) core of Austin continues to exist in its myriad range of accommodations. Decadent or funky, quaint or majestic, Austin, Texas has it all- and more- and surprisingly, unlike other cities, within a very friendly distance of one another and within friendly distance for exploration of Austin’s favorite landmarks. And this is what we will explore.
Round One: The Driskill
Perhaps the most majestic hotel in all of Texas is the opulent and historic Austin landmark- the Driskill. Founded in 1886, the respected member of The Historic Hotels of America, boasts a history rich with presidential love, the success of a wealthy cattle baron (The Driskill’s founder: Jesse Lincoln Driskill), and as a setting for many movies including Sandra Bullock’s flick: Miss Congeniality. A favorite resting place of Lyndon B. Johnson, the Driskill was the location of his first date with future Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson, where they met for breakfast.
The Driskill stands majestically over downtown Austin’s famous 6th street, towering far above the city’s music venues, dive bars, art galleries, eclectic restaurants, and crowds consisting of the University of Texas college crowd, young professionals, trendy artists and musicians, country folk, travelers, and everything in between. You name it, Austin has it.
The Driskill prides itself on historical preservation and continual modernization. Original marble floors, columns fit to support a medieval palace, and a stained-glass dome exist amongst modern amenities, tastefully implemented as to not overpower the opulent history, yet to satisfy the modern traveler’s expectations. It’s a truly beautiful union.
Having two well-known, highly-(re)visited, and unbelievably delicious restaurants, the Driskill continues its luxe expectations in all avenues of its continued success as a luxurious hotel landmark and a culinary Austin, (hell, a continental US) jewel. The 1886 Cafe and Bakery has an eclectic breakfast and lunch menu as well as traditional baked goods and down-home cookin’ (alongside a casual, yet elegant setting). Seasonally changing as the chef’s creativities take new winds and avenues, the menu maintains its traditional staples while still offering surprisingly unusual pairings. Perhaps my favorite seasonal dish- the salmon Benedict with a mango hollandaise. But don’t overlook the gingersnap pancakes, jalapeno corn biscuits, or the Gulf shrimp and lump crab crepes.
For a more formal dinner, the Driskill Grill, is an award-winning restaurant exemplifying culinary perfection and an old-Texas yet extravagant atmosphere (think overstuffed leather couches, cow-hide rugs, and hidden nooks in the Driskill Bar area- and rich wood walls, white table cloths, and candlelight in the actual restaurant). The menu is local yet wordly- emphasizing expert twists of wild game and world-class ingredients. Both innovative and classic, the Driskill Grill is sure to please any pallete. Some house specialities include a cherry wood smoked quail with polenta and mushroom, an herb crusted axis venison with a wild mushroom risotto and fresh plum chutney, and a cinnamon dusted duck breast. The Driskill Grill also has an extensive caviar and artisanal cheese menu. Having two distinctively different establishments for dining, the Driskill fairly encompasses both casual dining and decadent four-star cuisine.
Whether seeking romance, indulgence, lavishness, or serenity, the Driskill offers exquisite flawlessness favorable to any traveler’s budget- from the intimate and reasonably priced Curio rooms to individually themed suites suitable for royalty. Despite its grandeur, the Driskill is a truly unbiased destination.
Round Two: Lost Parrot Cabins
Located conveniently near Austin’s famous Lake Travis, is a delightfully tropical land of private, colorful cabins, island fever, live in-house music on summer nights, a quasi Mexican art gallery, and an unbridled view of hill country at its finest. Lost Parrot Cabins exemplifies a Caribbean-style mini resort tucked away in the central Texas hillside, with seven delightful bungalows with welcoming whimsical names like: Mermaids in the Night, Mexican Wind, Mango Moon, and Little Miss Magic. All are tastefully decorated with multifarious collectibles, hand-picked from world travels by the owners & innkeepers: Cat Flood and Cliff Bennett. With useful amenities like a mini or full kitchen in each bungalow, the assorted additions like fireplaces, private porches, hammocks, vintage hardback books, and retreat-like appeal are all flavorful extras.
The emphasis on uniquity in each quirky detail of the bungalows and the grounds adds a rich personality and colorful gallery-esque escape in the unexpecting country roads of Travis County. It’s truly the offspring of Jimmy Buffet, Mexico, and a painter’s pallete at Lost Parrot Cabins, and still somehow tasteful, inviting, and mistakingly tropical.
The grounds of Lost Parrot Cabins include a BYOB bar, hot tub, pool, and a handcrafted stage poolside for musical performances and mingling on warm hill country evenings, all continuing the flow of Mexican art, collectibles, and idosyncratic beauty and color. Some nights, Cliff Bennett, one of the two innkeepers, busts out his guitar for a performance alongside his amazingly talented (pre-teen) granddaughter, playing everything from Janis Joplin to Johnny Cash in a harmoniously perfect show, with the comforting undertone of genuine familial love. It’s the small moments like this that emphasize Lost Parrot Cabins, as a family-operated passion, thus a cozy nook for relaxation and intermingling.
Stay up as late as you want poolside, perhaps with tropical beverages to highlight this hand-crafted paradise, soak in the hot tub under the Texas moon, cook out at the community grill under a canopy of artsy details, or hibernate in the private bungalows for exclusive peace and quiet. Join the communal breakfast at the BYOB bar each morning alongside the friendly innkeepers. Or trek off to Austin’s Lake Travis for a day of water sports or lakeside dining. Within a short drive there’s also Hamilton Pool, hill country hiking, or zip-lining through the forests. Whichever avenue you choose, this tropical escape is truly a rarity and a hidden masterpiece.
Only partway into our exploration of Austin accommodations and we can already see the distinctive array of places to tuck in and get some Zzzs. And we still have many more corners of this diversified city to traverse.
By: Ashley Halligan
Photos from: pillowsandpancakes.com