Courtesy of Loren Hotel

A hotel boom is underway in the Austin area. As of the second quarter of 2022, 80 projects featuring 10,306 guest rooms were in the planning or development stages in the Austin area, according to a new report published by hospitality data provider Lodging Econometrics.

Austin ranks 10th in the U.S. for hotel construction.

Dallas leads all U.S. regions, with 173 hotel projects with 20,707 guest rooms in the pipeline. Big D is followed by Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville, the report says.

“While some might expect Miami or New York City to lead the U.S. in terms of the number of hotel projects underway, that distinction actually belongs to Dallas … ,” says The Points Guy travel blog, which points out that Dallas has led all U.S. locations in hotel development for four consecutive quarters.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Houston ties for seventh place, with 94 projects featuring 10,247 guest rooms
  • Fort Worth-Arlington ranks 15th, with 65 projects with 8,005 guest rooms
  • San Antonio ranks 21st, with 46 projects featuring 5,116 guest rooms

Brian Hughes, managing director of JLL Hotels & Hospitality, tells the travel blog that “a heavy trend of corporate and population migration to Texas” has lifted hotel performance in the state as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

Another plus, it says, is Texas’ business-friendly tax structure. This draws companies to the state, which then feeds demand for hotel rooms to accommodate business travelers.

“Encouraged by 2022’s upward trend in hotel performance, owners, management groups, developers, and investors are moving forward with development plans as evidenced by increasing counts at every stage of construction,” Lodging Econometrics says.

Courtesy of Fairmont Austin

Luxe downtown Austin hotel pops the cork on caviar and bubbles bar

Caviar to the General

Austin has just added one more speakeasy-style space to its repertoire. Tucked into a semi-private space in the Fairmont Austin, Room 725 Champagne & Caviar is a new destination for downtown luxury.

“Room 725 is delighted to provide a new, uniquely luxurious experience in Austin through our curated selection,” says Arun Malik, director of food and beverage at Fairmont Austin. “From connoisseurs to those that are simply curious or seeking to add to their culinary repertoire, all can enjoy the bespoke element of this offering.”

The intimate gathering space features a selection of caviar, exquisite Champagne and cocktail options, and a menu of Pre-Embargo cigars. Live music often accompanies service, adding to the luxe atmosphere.

Champagne is available both by the glass and the bottle, and guests can also select special flights of Taittinger, Brut La Francaise, Billecart-Salmon, and more. The craft cocktails are equally elevated, curated from a signature list of classic elixirs including the standout old fashioned, julep, French 75, martini, and more.

A nod to the cigar lounges of old (i.e., pre-2005), the Room 725 Champagne & Caviar experience also features a rare selection of Pre-Embargo cigars. For the uninitiated, this refers to "clear Havanas," which use Cuban tobacco, but are rolled in the United States. This unique selection of cigars pre-dates the Cuban Trade Embargo (imposed February 1962), and some have been encased for more than 100 years.

Officially open as of Friday, September 16, the experience is available Fridays and Saturdays from 6-11 pm. Visit fairmont-austin.com/room725/ for more information, and to make reservations.

Courtesy of WAX

Tallest high-rise in Texas to tower above Austin in late 2026

Up, up, and away

Texas’ tallest building is set to grace the Austin skyline three years from now.

At 74 stories tall and 1,022 feet high, the downtown mixed-use project – carrying the new name of Waterline – is scheduled to open in late 2026. Construction is underway at 98 Red River St., near the Austin Convention Center.

Developers of Waterline released specifics about the project September 6. Word surfaced in June 2020 that the Red River site would be home to the state’s tallest building, but the developers hadn’t confirmed the height.

The height of Waterline will eclipse that of Texas’ current titleholder by 5 feet. Houston’s 75-story JP Morgan Chase Tower stands 1,002 feet tall, making it the state’s tallest high-rise.

Of course, Waterline also will reign as Austin’s tallest building. The 66-story, 875-foot-tall Sixth and Guadalupe tower under construction in downtown Austin will temporarily hold the title of Austin’s tallest building.

In verifying the height of the building, developers Lincoln Property Co. and Kairoi Residential, along with investment partner PSP Investments, also unveiled details of Waterline such as:

  • 700,000 square feet of office space.
  • 352 high-end apartments.
  • 251-room 1 Hotel Austin, the first Texas location for hospitality company SH Hotel Resorts’ sustainability-focused 1 Hotels brand.

“Downtown Austin offers one of the most dynamic markets and skylines in the nation, and we’re excited to help drive its ongoing transformation,” Seth Johnston, senior vice president of Lincoln Property, says in a news release. “Waterline marks a new milestone for downtown not only because of its height but also because of the positive impact this project will have on improving connectivity, enhancing public amenities, and attracting more people to this beautiful area of downtown.”

Developers say Waterline will serve as a new gateway from the Central Business District to the Rainey Street entertainment district. The developers will add two pedestrian bridges over Waller Creek from the west, as well as three pedestrian and bicycle access points to Waterloo Greenway from the east.

The development team is contributing $1 million to the Waterloo Greenway initiative to help pay for improvements to the 1.5-mile trail connecting the University of Texas to Lady Bird Lake.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, Waterline will feature floor-to-ceiling windows, warm textures, and native stone.

“Waterline will offer a truly unique experience with unrivaled views, world-class amenities, and a thoughtful design that connects the building’s interior with the project’s unique natural surroundings throughout the building,” says Michael Lynd Jr., CEO of Kairoi Residential. “We’re thrilled to introduce Austin’s next iconic project.”

The building’s ground floor will offer 24,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space overlooking Waller Creek and the Waterloo Greenway.

1 Hotel Austin will occupy the next 13 floors, with a ballroom and meeting spaces on the 14th floor, and a rooftop pool with food and beverage service on the 16th floor.

The office portion of the tower will occupy 27 stories, with a 14th-floor amenity deck offering 24,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space along with a bar and lounge, indoor meeting spaces, and a prep kitchen for special events.

The apartments will take up the top 33 stories. Residents will enjoy access to two pools on the 41st floor, along with a lounge, bar, kitchen, and co-working space. A movement studio, workout studio, and steam room will be one floor above, in addition to soaking tubs, hammocks, a barbecue pit, and a dining area.

Photo courtesy of Legacy Hall

Start planning a drive-worthy weekend trip to Plano this fall

Let's Hit the Road

Like it or not, we're barreling toward fall and its close companion, the holiday season. The good news is that autumn and the ensuing holidays are also jam-packed with fun festivals, so you'll want to start planning a little getaway to Plano so you can enjoy them all.

Get your calendar ready for these can't-miss celebrations:

Plano Balloon Festival, September 22-25
There's more than simply a sky full of colorful hot-air balloons at this weekend festival, which also sports sky divers, live music, a kids' fun zone, and fireworks at Oak Point Park.

Oktoberfeast at Legacy Hall, September 24
The fifth annual feast includes beer, brats, and live polka music, along with a stein-hoisting competition. Oh, and it's free to attend, though you'll want to snag VIP tickets for an elevated experience.

Fall Plano Train Show, October 1-2
Brush up on your model-building skills or marvel at someone else's masterpiece when trains take over the Plano Event Center, courtesy of the North Texas Council of Railroad Clubs.

Plano International Festival, October 15
Food, music, dancing, and fun from around the world can be found at Haggard Park, site of the largest, longest-running multicultural festival in North Texas.

Beatles Night, October 15
Celebrate John Lennon’s birthday with A Hard Night’s Day at the Red Tail Pavilion located in Oak Point Park. Bring blankets, chairs, and coolers for a night of tunes under the stars.

Hollydays Market, October 21-23
Shop more than 100 merchants for new, unique, and one-of-a-kind gifts, all at the Plano Event Center.

Plano Food & Wine Festival, October 22
The 5th annual festival features over 100 award-winning wines, food from delicious local restaurants, culinary demos from local chefs, and lots of local boutiques and shops. Tickets have sold out the past few years, get yours while you still can.

Rest in Plano Fest & Apparition Expedition, October 22
It is spooky season, after all. Browse Halloween-themed food, art, and other curiosities in Downtown Plano during this devilishly good time.

Fall Harvest Festival & Outdoor Market at Shops at Legacy North, October 23
This brand-new event brings together 40-plus vendors selling everything from clothing to candles to flowers and more. Also enjoy fall-themed photo opportunities, live music, and specials from on-site restaurants.

Got the kiddos in tow? You'll find hours of entertaining fun at the Crayola Experience, Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park, and Southfork Ranch, which offers horseback rides.

Enjoy waterside dining and entertainment at The Boardwalk at Granite Park, then walk mere steps to your room at Hilton Dallas Plano Granite Park.

If you're hitting up The Shops at Legacy or Legacy West, then the Marriott at Legacy Town Center and Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West — with its modern Asian-Texas decor — are both excellent nearby choices.

For slightly funkier digs, check into the Sandman Signature Plano-Frisco Hotel or the NYLO Dallas-Plano Hotel. The former is a sister company to the Dallas Stars, while the latter offers a free shuttle to anywhere within five miles.

Side note: The hotels featured here are just a sampling and are not "preferred" hotels. See all your Plano accommodation options here.

Prost! Oktoberfeast happens September 24.

Photo courtesy of Legacy Hall
Prost! Oktoberfeast happens September 24.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]

3 choose-your-own-adventure San Antonio vacations to book this fall

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

And just like that, summer is over. Kidding, kidding — we have months of 90-degree temperatures left. Still, school is back in session and with September's arrival, it’s time to start booking those fall vacations.

This year, with airlines flailing and the economy doing whatever it is the economy does, perhaps it’s time to consider a getaway to San Antonio. A change of scenery can boost mental health while taking a sustained break from work has proven to increase physical health. Plus, there's zero percent chance of lost baggage or flight delays.

This fall, as the heat begins to break, but before the holidays hit, consider these choose-your-own-adventure vacations.

Take the whole family to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
The magic of the JW Marriott is its combination of water park and resort, making it an ideal destination for families. Situated in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, this sprawling retreat offers nearly every amenity possible: golf courses, pickle ball and tennis courts, winding trails, luxury spa, onsite restaurants, Top Golf, and the list goes on. Adding to the fun, family-oriented atmosphere are special events like nightly s’mores by the fire and petting zoos.

Where the JW Marriott really shines is the water park, a massive complex of pools, sand beaches, towering water slides, and 1,100-foot lazy river encircling the entire thing. The slides range from kiddie-size flumes to the Canyon Oak Twister and Hill Country Plunge body slides, both of which start 60 feet in the air and hit speeds of up to 20 mph. (Just remember to keep your arms and legs crossed, something this author learned from experience is not just a suggestion.)

If you need a place to shake off the adrenaline high, consider renting one of the resort’s poolside cabanas. Though it’s an added expense, the attentive staff makes sure everyone has fresh towels, snacks, and cocktails while a personal fridge comes loaded with bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. Cabanas also offer a personal mini-deck inside the larger pool with lounge chairs so the kids can splash while you relax.

Book a romantic downtown getaway
San Antonio has no shortage of fabulous downtown hotels, but there’s something magical about the Hotel Havana. The 113-year-old building has almost always been a hotel, beginning at the turn of the century when it was used to house out-of-town merchants who traveled into San Antonio to sell their wares. Today, the boutique hotel offers an industrial-meets-gothic vibe complete with creaky floorboards and crimson carpet leading up the grand staircase.

Though there’s no pool at this Bunkhouse Hotel (if a pool is a must, The Thompson is another favorite situated just a few blocks away), it does offer Ocho, an onsite restaurant with a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, and a subterranean bar.

Make the Havana home base as you explore the River Walk, Southtown, and King William. If you find yourself forced to take an e-scooter by your significant other, as I was during a stay at the Havana last fall, use it to play tourist. Take it for a drive by the Alamo (do note that scooters are programmed to automatically slow to a crawl around the famed attraction) and on through Hemisfair on your way to appetizers and early evening cocktails at Little Em’s Oyster Bar or the new-ish Up Scale, two Southtown hot spots owned by Houston and Emily Carpenter.

For dinner, book a late table at Shiro and take a Lyft (or a scooter if someone forces you to) to the north end of the River Walk for sushi and other Japanese fare. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll back along the river to the hotel for a night cap. (Pro tip: Use the restroom before leaving Shiro or you may end up speed walking the last half of the River Walk and your romantic walk will be ruined.)

Live out your Eloise fantasies at the Hotel Emma
Looking for a solo staycation? San Antonio has the perfect spot for that too: Hotel Emma. At this point, the Emma needs no introduction; the hotel has won countless awards and topped best-of lists for the past seven years. And the August 25 news that chef Jorge Hernandez is taking over the culinary program will only heighten its acclaim. All of this is to say is the Hotel Emma is nice. Very, very nice. And there is no better place to spend a little time (and a lot of money) than soaking in a giant tub in a four-star hotel with a professionally made cocktail delivered directly to your room.

Hotel Emma is located in the heart of the Pearl, a tourist destination in its own right, but when we’re traveling alone, we want to explore as much as possible. Head to Alamo Heights to fuel up with an early morning nosh at Bird Bakery before heading to the McNay Art Museum. On your way back to the Pearl, take a detour down the St. Mary’s Strip for lunch at Singh’s (shrimp bún with a side of chili oil and a Topo) and poke around the nearby vintage shops.

Recharge that afternoon with an in-room massage at Hotel Emma by Hiatus Spa + Retreat and the aforementioned soak ‘n’ cocktail. For dinner, take yourself on a date to Scorpion, an impeccably designed cafe and natural wine bar on the East Side. Once back at the Emma, cozy up in a plush robe and an episode of reality TV. You deserve it.

The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]
The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.
Photo courtesy of Visit Irving

From concerts to canals, Irving offers one-of-a-kind ways to relax

On the Road

Pining for a relaxing stay-cay with a unique, entertainment-fueled vibe — and a solid pool scene, stat?

Irving may be right in North Texas' backyard, but you’ll feel worlds away when you make a weekend of it in this city, which is nestled between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Here are just a few ways Irving makes a splash:

Escape to Venice — sort of
Inspired by Venice, the Mandalay Canals are an alluring part of Irving’s Las Colinas Urban Center. Connecting with Lake Carolyn, the canals wind through restaurants, shops, hotels, and residences, offering scenic views of waterfalls, vine-covered bridges, and more.

You can take in all the Old World charm on a European-style gondola with Gondola Adventures of Las Colinas, which offers a variety of lunch, dinner, and entertainment cruises that can accommodate a romantic twosome — or groups as big as 12.

Go paddle boarding
More water fun on Lake Carolyn can be had via paddle boarding and kayaking, and even on water trikes and swan pedalboats. You can rent them all (and get a lesson or two, too) at SUP North Texas.

See the Mustangs of Las Colinas
The largest equestrian sculpture in the world, Mustangs of Las Colinas features nine bronze mustangs that recently underwent a $7.8 million upgrade.

Turn it up loud
Toyota Music Factory is one of the most expansive and comprehensive entertainment venues in the country, with an indoor-outdoor amphitheater, event plaza, and two indoor theaters.

You can expect to see the best national and international touring music acts, from indie and classic rock to blues, jazz, and soul. And of course there’s an incredible array of bars and restaurants, too, for prime fueling before and after the show.

Cabana and chill
Without a doubt, Omni Las Colinas is the epitome of an immersive urban retreat, sitting along the shores of Lake Carolyn and the Mandalay Canals with tree-lined, cobblestone walkways and lush greenery.

It’s also the ultimate day-cay destination because you can get in on the cool poolscape without booking a room. A day pass is your ticket straight into the chic, resort-style setting.

Get your glamp on
The Americana spirit comes alive at the retro-mod Texican Court, which is nestled into acres of courtyards with twinkle lights, fire pits, lawn games, and a small but sexy pool that’s perfect for hip swimsters — and hotel guests only.

You can make a whole weekend of it with their “glamping package” that includes a s’mores kit, Two Mules Cantina drinks and apps, and a hot flapjack breakfast. Live music comes with the territory, too.

Have a spa day
The Four Seasons Spa and Salon is definitely calling your name. And whether you pop in for some post-sun pampering or general R&R, you’ll be surrounded by a beautifully landscaped, oasis-style resort that you may never want to leave.

For more inspiration for your next day-cay or stay-cay in Irving — and all the latest deals — visit IrvingTexas.com/deals.

The Mandalay Canals are inspired by Venice.

Photo courtesy of Visit Irving
The Mandalay Canals are inspired by Venice.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.


The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.