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In the age of Airbnb, have we forgotten how enthralling vacationing can be? Yes, house rentals can be economical, especially for groups, and they can help you pretend you’re a local. But sometimes we travelers just want to—and hold on to your bucket hat, because this is going to sound out there—feel like we’re traveling. We long to be welcomed by name, to order a paloma poolside, to walk through the lobby to one of the best restaurants in town. These ten Texas hotels, which have either opened or undergone an extensive renovation since we published our last “Where to Stay Now,” in 2019, all offer such experiences. More than half are housed in historic buildings, lending a certain timelessness. Several boast art collections that would be right at home in many museums. And all of them pay attention to the small details that can leave guests feeling like they got an upgrade (even if they didn’t).
La Colombe d’Or
La Colombe d’Or reigns over Houston’s historic Montrose neighborhood, one of the most walkable and culture-filled enclaves in Texas. The Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel, art galleries, and innovative restaurants are all within walking distance. But you may not want to leave the estate grounds, an aesthete’s wonderland that includes a beaux arts mansion built a century ago (for oilman Walter Fondren), nine bungalows, a gleaming new high-rise, and even a small private park. Named after the iconic, art-filled inn and restaurant on the French Riviera (“la colombe d’or” means “golden dove”), the hotel opened in 1979 and then closed forty years later for a major renovation of the house and bungalows and the construction of the 34-story tower, which houses guest suites on the lower floor and residences above. Like its namesake, the hotel, which reopened in 2021, is bursting with art: more than four hundred original paintings, sculptures, and other works adorn the public spaces, rooms, and intimate gardens.
Admire an original Raoul Dufy as you dine at Tonight & Tomorrow, the French bistro that shares the ground floor of the Prairie-style manse with a seductive cocktail lounge and a discreet check-in desk. Take the grand staircase to the second floor, which has five suites, each named after Impressionist all-stars such as Degas and Monet and featuring original parquet floors, sleeping porches that have been converted into sitting areas, and spa-like bathrooms awash in gray Carrara marble.
Back downstairs, a pathway leads from the house to the high-rise. Although the charm and ambience of the mansion rooms are undeniable, the eighteen tower suites are true sanctuaries, their understated modern design serving as an elegant showcase for artwork of all genres. Take the elevator to the tenth floor, and you’ll find lounge areas, a billiard room, and a rooftop pool and deck. The panoramic views of downtown Houston might tempt you to actually go explore, but then you sip the complimentary sparkling wine from a coupe glass they handed you at check-in and realize that would be silly. Rates start at $510. —Kathy Blackwell
Worth noting: The deep bathtub in the mansion’s Renoir suite comes outfitted with a teak tray that includes a spot for everything you could want for the perfect soak, including your book and a glass of champagne.
In a land not too far away, about halfway between the bonny hamlets of Austin and Houston, there occurs at springtide and autumn an invasion of felt-hatted, gauze-draped visitors upon green pastures newly sprouted with enormous white tents. Within this encampment, after much negotiation and a wee bit of sparring, these merry marauders harvest old and often expensive items to take back to their own country. In between, they take their rest at boutique accommodations such as the Hotel Lulu, which opened in the summer of 2021 to cater to them and their fellow foragers at the semiannual two-week extravaganza known as the Round Top Antiques Show.
Echoing the high and low style that characterizes the event, Lulu comprises six historic bungalows housing fourteen guest rooms, all situated around an expansive tree-shaded patio and the first and only hotel pool within Round Top proper. Inviting porches lead to farmhouse-rustic interiors, where Texas meets Paris in the sturdy wide-plank wood that makes up the walls and floors, elaborately canopied beds, luxe handwoven textiles, and, in our room, rather aggressive antler-bedecked lamps. Bathrooms are stocked with Le Labo products; a small nook holds a minibar, refrigerator, and coffeepot; and electronic entertainment includes a Tivoli Audio speaker (for which you’ll want to quietly ensure the proper Bluetooth connection lest you do as we did and fire up salsa music early in the morning only to hear it loudly playing in the adjoining room).
On one side of the property is a ranch straight out of central casting, populated by squabbling hens and curious donkeys; across the street is Henkel Square Market, a primo spot for year-round shopping and dining at local favorites such as Royers Cafe and Round Top Smokehouse. The hotel’s restaurant, appropriately named Lulu’s, is a pleasant Italian spot in an early-1800s stone building, but the real fun is at the ornate cocktail bar, Il Cuculo, where you can order from Lulu’s menu—the pappardelle Bolognese was our favorite—and watch the bartender craft one espresso martini after another. Rates start at $250. —Courtney Bond
Worth noting: The in-room fridge is stocked with little dairy creamers for your coffee.
In a state not exactly known for luxury beaches, Mustang Island is a low-key gem, somehow at once both remote and easy to access. Lodging options range from classic no-frills motels to high-end communities with seaside mansions. Adding to the mix is the remarkably affordable Lively Beach resort, about eighteen miles south of Port Aransas, featuring rental condominiums and a luxe pool. It’s just steps away from white-sand beaches, where you can swim, kite surf, and fish in waters that may not be blue but still feel heavenly on bare feet. The rental condos, which range from studios to two-bedroom units with a deck, are surf-town unfussy—think beachy without the seashell kitsch—and come with a refrigerator and equipped kitchen. The real action, though, is outside, where community grills, a firepit, and three rooftop decks (with views of Corpus Christi and the Gulf) make for a lovely gathering space that can sometimes feel like the Melrose Place of South Texas. The resort is situated on 46 acres of native grasses and restored estuaries between the preserved wetlands of Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park, giving the spot a faraway vibe. Rates start at $169. —Sarah Hepola
Worth noting: The private boardwalk, which offers direct access to the beach, was closer to my room than some ice machines have been in other hotels.
Over the past decade, the once provincial city of Fort Worth has leapfrogged San Francisco to become the thirteenth largest in the country, a transformation reflected by ongoing renovations in the historic Stockyards district. Located in the reimagined Mule Alley, the Hotel Drover is a showcase of Western glam. The vibe is Yellowstone meets Dallas, and though the Drover is one of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotels, it teems with personality, from neon artist Evan Voyles’s cowboy sculpture at the entrance to the upscale hunting lodge of a lobby, whose bar has become a popular local hang. A video about the city’s past plays on a loop on a television over the fireplace, and details nestled throughout the premises tell the story of Texas.
The Drover is a new building designed to fit in seamlessly with the historic Mule Alley district; the hotel’s name honors the workers on the cattle trail. Basic guest rooms can exceed $1,000 on in-demand weekend nights. A room with two queen-size beds felt small, but the fancy (yet down-home) touches, such as a flat-screen TV in a rustic wooden frame, embossed leather wallpaper in the bathroom, and cowgirl images galore, make it feel more cozy than tight. Folks just moseying through Cowtown should pay a visit to the hotel, which features a Lucchese store, an outlet of local boutique Flea Style, and the high-end Southern comfort-food restaurant 97 West Kitchen & Bar. But the crown jewel of the Drover is the sprawling outdoor entertainment area with a bar, a small concert stage, and a heated pool and hot tub flanked by crystal chandeliers. You can walk a winding path to the Trinity Trails (about one hundred miles of hiking and biking paths) or sit back in a wooden chair near a firepit and people-watch as passersby gussied up in heels and sequins or dressed down in flannel and Converse stroll by. Fort Worth takes all kinds. Rates start at $499. —SH
Worth noting: The premises are covered with Instagrammable art for every type of vibe, from corny to classic to sweepingly romantic.
The Loren at Lady Bird Lake
The Loren, which opened in October, might be the best-kept secret in a city that doesn’t tend to keep them—just try getting a reservation at almost any new restaurant. As seen from outside, the hotel is all straight lines and reflective glass, but the lobby opens into a lush hideaway that manages to be both luxurious and cozy, with a wall of ferns and other plants and slightly confounding modern art, some from the private collection of its owner, Stephen King (no, not that one), a former investment banker whose hotel empire began in Bermuda. Behind the front desk, an elk-antler sculpture with pointy tips hooked together looks like a Texan infinity loop.
The rooms are just as finely appointed, with black and white photography of plants that resemble delicate ironwork. But the showstopper in my suite was floor-to-ceiling windows offering the postcard view of all those silvery skyscrapers in a town once known as a slacker Valhalla. Take the elevator down to the lobby for easy access to the ten-mile hike-and-bike trail, antic with families and cyclists, or ride it up to the rooftop bar and restaurant, Nido, a marvel of mid-century modern furniture that reminded me of a ski resort. Outside on Nido’s long balcony, a weary traveler can relax in comfy patio furniture at sunset to enjoy a sweeping vista and much-needed perspective on a town that is profoundly changed—but still rich with discoveries. (The rooftop pool was closed for renovation during my visit.) Rates start at $395. —SH
Worth noting: The staff personifies that famous Austin charm—in a hotel of top-notch amenities, service is the Loren’s most memorable quality.
Just as El Paso is on the edge in the most delightful way, so too is this boutique hotel. A 107-year-old former furniture showroom, it has a glass and brick facade that is a beacon of elegance on a downtown street lined with dollar stores and bank buildings. Inside, the light-filled lobby is a showcase for a notable collection of provocative contemporary art, including Chihuahua City artist Paola Rascón’s Packo, a large, ironically Baroque-style portrait of a shirtless, heavily tattooed cholo.
Rooms boast still more modern art, locally curated books, and bathrooms (whose sleek frosted glass, in keeping with much of the hotel’s art, leaves little to the imagination) that offer an excellent shower and Malin + Goetz toiletries. Exterior rooms feature views of the city and Mexico beyond, while those on the interior look out on the building’s four-story light well and its star attraction, Shylights, an in-motion art installation in which ethereal light “sculptures” resembling tiny billowing petticoats sporadically descend over the heads of the movers, shakers, and daters dining below at the excellent Taft-Díaz (so named for the first-ever meeting, in 1909, between U.S. and Mexican presidents).
It would be easy to settle into the cozy library nook with a cocktail from the bar, but you should take advantage of the hotel’s location and venture out: Franklin Mountains State Park is a twenty-minute drive north, and two of the city’s best Mexican restaurants, Elemi and Taconeta, are within walking distance. Rates start at $255. —CB
Worth noting: The friendly employees—from the valets to the bartenders—go out of their way to make your stay a good one.
A trip to the Grand Galvez feels like time travel. The wildly imaginative renovation of the 112-year-old resort, spearheaded by Dallas hotelier Mark Wyant and his wife, interior designer Lorenda Wyant, brings the Jazz Age roaring back to life on the Galveston Seawall. The gleaming black-and-white checkerboard tile floors and enormous red crystal chandeliers help create one of the most glamorous hotel entrances in Texas. Try the oysters Rockefeller and an old-fashioned in the lobby’s Founders Bar or study the glass display cases filled with memorabilia and age-battered postcards (“You will forget it’s winter and find each day some new delight in the outdoor freedom of her Sunny Skies,” reads one) dating back to the hotel’s founding, in 1911, when it was billed to Northerners as a beachside escape.
Such panache doesn’t always extend past the entryway. In my white-and-indigo queen-size room, the phone didn’t work, and the shower was so confounding in its high-tech features that it prompted my companion to quip, “I have seen the future, and it doesn’t want us to shower.” The hotel’s dining options leave much to be desired. But the Galvez is so opulent that it overcomes those downsides. There’s a full-service spa on-site, and the saline pool beckons with a swim-up bar. The halls are teeming with pictures and placards chronicling the gangsters and celebrities who once frequented the place—and the ghosts who may still haunt it. One such spirit is the Lovelorn Lady, a young woman who is said to have hanged herself at the hotel after hearing that her fiancé was killed at sea; he was still alive, however, and returned to find her body. (I bought a Lovelorn Lady latte in the lobby, with edible red flowers sprinkled in the foam.) Galveston’s past is dark and troubled. Renovations like this suggest its future is exceedingly bright. Rates start at $359. —SH
Worth noting: Wallpaper in the upstairs hallway is a fabric jungle print that looks delightfully like the opening sequence in the first season of HBO’s indulgent resort romp, The White Lotus.
When it opened in downtown Dallas, in 1965, the 51-story First National Bank building was the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River. But by 2010, it had fallen into an urban torpor that finally broke when a $460 million renovation reimagined the space as a mixed-use building—now known as the National—of residences, guest suites, and acclaimed restaurants. Though the elegant Thompson Hotel chain opened the hotel during the first year of the pandemic, in the fall of 2020, its fine dining and glamorous rooftop bar quickly turned it into one of the city’s swankiest hot spots. The lobby is chic without being cold, all walnut wood and vaulted ceilings, and a metal sculpture that hangs over the front desk looks like an enormous pipe organ. (“You’re the second person to say that,” the woman at the front desk told me.)
My suite’s massive windows offered a sweeping view of countless skyscrapers and highway spaghetti sprawl. But the room itself was warm and elegant, with a low light in the bathroom that flicks on when you enter, making you feel like Michael Jackson in the “Billie Jean” video. The hotel’s four restaurants—Catbird, Kessaku, Monarch, and Nine at the National—are pure Big D, fancy dining in immaculate settings. Choose the Monarch, an Italian restaurant on the forty-ninth floor, if only for a view of the most breathtaking part of Dallas: its skyline. Rates start at $482. —SH
Worth noting: The minibar included Lyre’s nonalcoholic spirits, the first time this sober traveler had ever been treated to such a high-class amenity, particularly welcome given the hotel’s reputation for top-notch cocktails.
Whether Terlingua’s many fans and few locals like it or not (and no matter how many “Don’t Marfa My Terlingua” stickers are printed), the bar is continually rising for places to stay in and near this tiny town ideally situated between Big Bend’s national and state parks. Willow House, not far off FM 170 (but far enough), consists of one main building and twelve Donald Judd–style gray concrete boxes sitting unobtrusively on an undulating patch of 250-plus acres of desert. Opened in 2019, it evokes the communal space of Fort Davis’s Indian Lodge, the design aesthetic of Marfa’s El Cosmico, and the views of a tent pitched on a backcountry campsite. Inside the casitas, all with private patios, the right angles and polished stone floors are softened by desert-hued textiles, antique objets d’art, and the woodsy fragrance of Aesop soaps. Huge windows ensure you’ll rouse in time to watch the sun play peekaboo over the Chisos Mountains (there are shades, if you’re into that kind of thing).
Once you’re up, head over to the main building, which houses private bathrooms, complete with showers; a cozy area with books, a TV, and games; and a great room that combines two gourmet kitchens, a large dining table, and nicely spaced seating areas (including a sixties-style sunken den). There are few restaurants in these parts, so you’ll want to do some cooking there, but you won’t mind at all, as the kitchens have every tool, vessel, appliance, spice, and oil imaginable (as well as a community liquor cabinet). You’re on your own in the most comfortable sort of way, as if you were a guest in a luxe desert compound owned by a generous jet-setting friend. That said, it’s not cheap for a place where you have to do your own dishes and make your own bed, but we’re willing to trade minor luxuries for the opportunity to hike with new friends, share a big bowl of pasta with fellow travelers who’ve made a little too much, and end the evening lying in a suspended daybed perched all by itself atop a hill, listening to nothing but the song of a black-throated sparrow chirping from the tippy top of an ocotillo branch. Rates start at around $335 a night, and there’s a two-night minimum. —CB
Worth noting: There are outdoor seating areas in unexpected places, allowing for unobstructed views and the sense that you’ve got the place all to yourself.
Commodore Perry Estate
Most of the guest rooms and suites at the Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection are located in the three-story inn that was built in 2020 as part of the storied, Central Austin estate’s transformation into an upscale resort. But they feel like a natural extension of the original 1928 Italianate mansion. All the layers and textures—curved limestone walls, classic star-and-cross floor tiles, antique furniture, and vintage rugs—take you back to the beginning of the last century, not this one. Over at the manor, built as the summer home for real estate developer Edgar “Commodore” Perry and his wife, Lutie, you’ll find four additional luxurious suites as well as stately yet warm rooms for dining, imbibing, and curling up with a book. Meals are served here for hotel guests only, unlike at the other on-site restaurant, Lutie’s, which has become a local favorite for its vegetable-forward menu and lush decor.
Completing this daydream of a hotel are the European-style gardens, a chapel that’s used for yoga classes and other events, and a circular pool straight out of a Slim Aarons photograph, where you can sip cocktails and nosh on treats like the Grand Aioli platter (vegetables, ham, and deviled eggs) under oversized yellow-and-white-striped umbrellas. Or just luxuriate in your suite. Many of the 48 rooms in the new inn have a balcony or patio facing a private courtyard, although some overlook an H-E-B–anchored shopping center across Red River Street. When your room comes with its own well-appointed brass bar cart, does the view really matter? Rates start at $600. —KB
Worth noting: You’ll find well-worn books—some first editions—in your room as well as in the library and other spaces in the mansion.
What caught our eye at ten other new and notable Texas hotels.
One of Amarillo‘s only boutique hotels, the Barfield, Autograph Collection has revived the 1927 building’s original speakeasy, the Paramount Recreation Club.
The work of local photographers is featured in the guest rooms at the chic Hall Arts Hotel, in the Dallas Arts District.
Suites at the newly renovated Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa include one named after George H. W. Bush, who often stayed there with wife Barbara while visiting Houston during his presidency.
Although it’s one of four motor court–inspired hotels in Texas from the Valencia Hotel Group, the modern-retro Cotton Court Hotel feels very much of a piece with Lubbock—those rocking chairs outside each room seem made for watching that West Texas sky with a Lone Star in hand.
On weekend evenings, local DJs spin at the Hotel Dryce, across from Dickies Arena, in Fort Worth.
There’s a Vero dispensing system, offering ice and both sparkling and still water at no charge, on each floor of the Thompson San Antonio–Riverwalk.
With all the thoughtful touches of a boutique hotel—including artwork by local favorite Cruz Ortiz—Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk feels far from the tourist crowds.
Enjoy a cocktail at La Perla, the rooftop bar at the restored Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, in El Paso, which occupies the suite where Elizabeth Taylor once lived during her brief marriage to Nicky Hilton.
In addition to envisioning the smart and chic interiors of downtown’s Austin Proper Hotel, celebrity designer Kelly Wearstler teamed up with Parachute Home on the luxurious white bathrobes found in each guest room.
The retrofitted forty-foot shipping containers that make up the new addition to the historic Hotel Turkey, in tiny Turkey, about one hundred miles northeast of Lubbock, come equipped with turntables and Bob Wills albums.
Where to Stay Next
These five new hotels will be ready to book this year.
The Albert Hotel, from Austin developer New Waterloo, will bring a boutique option to Fredericksburg’s East Main Street this summer. Acclaimed chef Michael Fojtasek will run the culinary options.
In late 2023, Fort Worth’s Cultural District will welcome the Bowie House, a four-story, 106-room luxury boutique hotel with a barn-inspired spa by the Auberge Resorts Collection.
Galveston’s former sixties-era Treasure Isle Motel is being transformed into the upscale Hotel Lucine.
When it opens in May north of Dallas, the $520 million Omni PGA Frisco Resort will become the second-largest golf resort in Texas, behind the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.
Slated for a summer debut, the Plaza San Antonio Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection, bridging downtown and Southtown, is turning three historic buildings into a spa and bungalow suites.
This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where to Stay Now.” Subscribe today.