Where to Stay Now 2004
I've eaten room-service dinner on a balcony over the River Walk, sipped a smoking martini, enjoyed a crushed-pecan body polish, soaked in a tub with an Alamo view, and generally had a swell time sleeping around (usually swaddled in luxurious linens). Why all this hard labor? So I could tell you about the ten Texas hotels that—at this precise nanosecond in time—are my special favorites.
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WHEN I WAS A THREE-FOOT-TALL traveler who frequented chain motels, I went wild over the miniature bars of Ivory soap, the cellophane-wrapped glasses, and even the sash across the toilet seat. These days, it takes a bit more to thrill me, and hoteliers don’t shrink from the challenge, wooing me with everything from high-thread-count linens to palatial spas with treatment menus as thick as Gideon Bibles. While Texas boasts plenty of notable lodgings—the famously inviting Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas; the chic hideaways at Cibolo Creek Ranch, near Big Bend; the hip Hotel San José, in Austin; and a bevy of historic grande dames like Austin’s Driskill—I went looking for something more than just a great stay. At the risk of sounding like a Hollywood agent, I was searching for places that popped and sizzled. Sure, newness didn’t hurt, but what I was really looking for was nowness. In other words, to make the cut a hotel had to have the kind of buzz generated not only by material goodies like goose-down pillows, rooftop pools, and fancy shampoos but also by such intangibles as a sense of humor or a ton of class. And who am I to judge? Well, after a lifetime in Texas and a decade as a travel writer, I figure I’ve spent the night in hundreds of beds in this state alone. So with all due respect to your personal favorites, here, in no particular order, are mine.
If Madonna, a French count, and a set designer from a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams decided to open a hotel, the result would be Hotel ZaZa. Since its arrival on the scene in 2002, this whimsical palace of enlightened eroticism and raging urbanity has remained wildly popular. One weekend when the hotel was sold out, a man was so desperate for a room that he offered the front-desk clerk a $900 bonus (to no avail). Another time, someone scalped his room reservation on the street out front for quite a profit. And just try to wedge your way into the outdoor poolside club, Urban Oasis, on a Saturday night, when lights bathe the perky cocktail crowd in changing shades of pink, green, blue, and orange and fan-generated breezes spin the giant beach balls in the pool. Unlike some hotels, ZaZa’s personality doesn’t evaporate as soon as you leave the public spaces. Naughty Helmut Newton photographs and exotic furnishings such as a huge wooden horse from Indonesia line the hallways, and the concept suites are odes to individuality, from the red-black-and-Warholed Art Suite to the tailored, masculine Metropolitan Suite. Even the spacious, high-style standard rooms have their eccentricities: Nightly turndown service includes lighting votive candles and leaving a box of, say, Milk Duds on your pillow, and minibar selections go beyond a diet cola and a bag of mixed nuts. (The Shag Bag includes condoms and gender-specific vitamins.)
Insider tip: ZaZa condos and a spa are currently being constructed smack up against one window of, yes, the Zen Suite. Scenesters will be happiest with a room overlooking the pool, known for its late-night parties; sleepsters should request a room facing a quiet side street (although all rooms come with complimentary earplugs).
There’s a teddy bear on the bed, a rubber duck in the slate shower, and on the desk, a Siamese fighting fish swimming in a glass bowl. Now, before your cloy-o-meter sounds the alarm, let me assure you that, except for these few playful accents, the rooms in this renovated former wholesale grocery are otherwise the picture of pared-down simplicity: crisp white linens, leather club chairs, polished longleaf-pine floors. But never fear: You won’t have to do without modern-day necessities like Internet connections, white-noise machines, flat-screen TVs, and DVD players. Thank goodness the innkeepers realized that piling on the frippery would only detract from the building’s 121-year-old architectural strengths: soaring ceilings, brick walls, and enormous ten-foot-tall windows that frame intimate cityscapes. The views from the hotel’s seventeen rooms play like film clips from a (nearly) silent documentary: sightseeing barges cruising under arched stone footbridges, gaggles of tourists crossing Losoya and Commerce streets, and the Tower of the Americas revolving in the middle distance. Should you decide to join the passing parade, you’re only one block from the Alamo, across the street from a trolley station and the Rivercenter Mall, and steps from landmark eateries like Schilo’s Delicatessen and Tex-Mex stalwart Casa Rio.
Insider tip: The Hugman Vista, a corner suite named in honor of the architect who dreamed up the River Walk, is tops for its views, while the Joske’s Vista, overlooking the ornate facade of the venerable department store (now a Dillard’s), is a bit quieter.
Mansion at Judges’ Hill
Perhaps because this new boutique hotel sits only a couple of blocks from the University of Texas campus, I suddenly felt the need to develop an objective, scientific formula for my lodging critiques. Could I figure out how to assign numeric values to intangibles like historical importance? The hotel is, after all, the latest incarnation of the Goodall Wooten mansion, which began life in 1900 as a wedding gift to Ella Newsome and Goodall Wooten from her parents and has served over the years as a society showplace, a dormitory, a sorority house, and a rehab center. Would it be possible to quantify its restored turn-of-the-century grandeur, factoring in such variables as massive columns, original longleaf-pine floors, a wraparound verandah, coffered ceilings, and period furnishings? Could I devise an ooh-aah quotient based on its high-speed Internet access, free parking, imported linens, and sumptuous bathrooms? Would these questions best be resolved over breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the Mansion’s ambitious restaurant—or should I just sleep on them?
Insider tip: With its matched Victorian bedroom suite, ornamental marble fireplace, and French doors opening onto the second-story verandah, room 24 reeks of days-gone-by elegance.
With its blue-and-white-striped awnings, six flags of Texas flapping over the entry, geranium-filled window boxes, and whitewashed stucco walls, this 1930 Mission Revival confection, designed by the prolific El Paso architect Henry C. Trost, is like a vivacious hostess, fresh from a little nip-and-tuck and dolled up in a new party frock, waving wildly at you to join her. Who could resist? The lobby alone made me glad I stopped by. Without a howling coyote or string of chile-pepper lights in sight, it is elegant, classic Southwestern: expanses of dark glazed tile, hand-hewed wood beams, the mounted heads of a Longhorn and a buffalo. For some reason, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling that something was about to happen here, something I didn’t want to miss. Maybe it was because the Paisano had been the region’s social hub back in the day and, famously, the headquarters for the cast and crew of Giant in 1955. Maybe it was because it reminded me of the horde-free Santa Fe of the seventies or because a late-summer storm was rumbling outside. Or maybe it was because the town is in the midst of a boom. So I lugged my suitcase up to my second-floor room (What? You expect to be catered to in Marfa?) and flung open the French doors that face the courtyard. After a recently completed three-year renovation, the rooms are tastefully outfitted with dark-wood furniture and floral fabrics. The straightforward baths are all-white, and mine came with a little window at a modest height that let me keep an eye on the main drag while I showered. I stretched out on the plump king-size bed, from which I watched the comings and goings at Jett’s Grill, across the courtyard, and happily waited for something to happen.
Insider tip: If you’re planning to stay here for more than a night or two, check into one of the suites. Complete with living areas and full kitchens, they’re vestiges of a Houston developer’s plan in the seventies to convert the hotel into condominiums.
Housed in a Quonset-hut-style military hangar on the edge of the tarmac at the Gillespie County Airport, this time warp works hard at transporting guests back to the high-flying days of World War II, albeit with an overlay of nonregulation luxury. What with the vintage searchlight and red-and-white-checked water tower snuggled up next to the hotel, the boogie-woogie Muzak, big black phones, easy chairs covered in bomber-jacket leather, and airplane nose art on the walls, I half expected to find a group of flyboys knocking back a few around the fireplace in the Officers’ Club, where the diversions include a pool table and a grand piano. Military standards are strictly enforced when it comes to housekeeping: You could eat your K rations off the black-and-white hexagonal-tile floors in the bathrooms, and the sheets (370-thread-count Egyptian cotton, sir!) are starched, pressed, and tucked in tight enough to send a bounced quarter clear to the ceiling. The mahogany-and-rattan furnishings and the rustling palms just outside the windows give the rooms a South Pacific feel (which might inspire you to visit the Nimitz museum complex in town). The nostalgia fest continues at the adjacent Airport Diner, with its wood and creased-chrome paneling, swivel stools at the counter, windowside booths, and menu of burgers and malts. If you have to ask who would want to stay at a small-town airport and watch corporate jets, vintage Cessnas, and the occasional B-17 land, you obviously are not—or are not married to—an aviation buff.
Insider tip: On Friday and Saturday nights, pianist Duncan Holmes fills the Officers’ Club with music from the forties.
This downtown newcomer stands out among the city’s recent rash of minimalist digs like a show poodle in a pack of greyhounds. Has the former Union National Bank, built in 1911 and forgotten for the past few decades, taken a direct hit from an artfully packed velvet-and-fringe bomb? The lobby, with its thirty-foot-tall gold-crowned columns, weighty red draperies, and tufted settees, is a prelude to the rooms, where the froufrou furnishings are toned down, but only a little. My room sported ocher-and-mocha-striped carpet, floral-patterned sepia wallpaper, sage-green woodwork, gold curtains with multicolored fringe, and a floor lamp with a huge silk shade in apple green. Add some pen-and-ink cow prints and mesmerizing views of the Niels Esperson Building and the Chase Tower, and—voilà!—it all works. The bathroom was a sybarite’s fantasy, decked out in black-and-white marble, butter-yellow tiles, and chrome-and-porcelain fixtures. Thanks to a nifty sliding partition in the wall beside the oversized whirlpool bathtub, I could gaze down Main Street and watch Six Feet Under on the flat-screen TV while I soaked. (Give somebody in the Department of Hedonistic Details a raise!) When I ordered room service, they didn’t just dump off a cart with dishes encased in cellophane and then scoot out the door. Coffee was poured, cream added, a place setting laid out, and piping-hot brioche French toast with caramelized apples whisked from the cart’s warming oven. Although I never made it to the hotel’s spa or its much-lauded restaurant, Bank Jean-Georges, I did manage to tear myself away from my room to join the gorgeous horde in the mezzanine bar, the Whiskey, where I damaged my hearing while quaffing a smoking martini. (Ain’t dry ice fun?)
Insider tip: For the best urban views, book one of the premium corner rooms whose numbers end in 06.
Watermark Hotel and Spa
I’m not a princess, but I could sure play the part at this posh River Walk hotel. Its owners—who also preside over La Mansión del Rio, just across the waterway—must have spent a king’s ransom transforming the nineteenth-century L. Frank Saddlery Building into a place where it’s easy to feel entitled. The pampering here is just this side of fawning. Instead of having to queue up at the reception desk like a herd of commoners, guests are whisked directly to their room for a more civilized check-in. Before your arrival, the mini fridge has been stocked to your specifications (no mind reading involved; you’re consulted in advance). The housekeeping staff do not lumber down the hallways pushing those gauche carts but glide from room to room carrying little baskets of supplies. Although reminders of the building’s horsey heritage are scattered here and there—a collection of new and antique spurs in the lobby and abstract livestock-themed artwork in the meeting rooms—there’s not a whiff of cowboy kitsch in the place. Guest rooms are tranquil studies in creamy off-whites, with twelve-foot ceilings, huge windows, and marble bathrooms. As grand as the rooms are, however, they pale in comparison with the Watermark’s spa, 17,000 square feet of pure indulgence, with more than sixty treatments ranging from a seventy-jet hydromassage to an avocadolime blossom wrap. And even those of us from peasant stock can survey our realm from the rooftop, with its cafe, pool, and unobstructed downtown view.
Insider tip: Massage junkies should book one of the hotel’s four “spa” rooms, which have bamboo floors, graceful arched windows, and huge river-facing balconies. Not only will you be on the same floor as the spa, but you can also get in-room treatments.
Lake Austin Spa and Resort
After quick dips in all three pools and a lunch of golden-tomato gazpacho and pecan-crusted chicken, I had every intention of spending the afternoon balancing my chakras and kayaking or hydrobiking up and down the lake. But as I wandered the exuberantly landscaped grounds, planted with vegetables, herbs, and hundreds of native species, I was suddenly attacked by a hammock and forced to just lie there and stare across the deep-green waters of Lake Austin at the jungly cliffs on the opposite shore. I escaped just in time to totter into the dining room to face further trials—choosing between seared tuna with tropical salsa or spinach-and-cheese enchiladas, key lime pie or fallen chocolate soufflé. At least I was adequately fueled to face my next ordeal: an eighty-minute massage at the Lake House Spa, a recent addition to the resort that is both grand (25,000 square feet) and homey (screened porches, hidden outdoor nooks for couples’ treatments, an eclectic mix of art, and crocheted throws just like Granny used to make). Once the masseuse had untangled my knots, I felt I could handle anything this place dished out, even a night spent sandwiched between luxurious linens in my comfy English-cottage-style room and a morning spent sipping green tea beside the fountain in my private garden.
Insider tip: Rooms 1 through 10, with soaking tubs and private gardens, are billed as the most meditative (as in good for singles or romantic couples). Rooms 21 and 27 are next to the ice machine and guest laundry, respectively.
Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
Schizophrenia is a good thing, at least when it comes to this hotel. Outside, it’s a sunny Tuscan transplant, with curvaceous terraces and towers drenched in colors imported from the old country. Inside, it’s a serious modernist, with polished-concrete staircases, atmospheric lighting, low-slung seating in the cave-like lobby, and angular botanical accents. Introverts can recharge in the secluded third-floor courtyard, with its chaise longues and fire-breathing fountain, while extroverts can mingle in the überstylish Vbar. The guest rooms and suites are spare but not stark: long mahogany counters floating along the walls, stocky leather chairs, plantation shutters on the windows, cushy beds dressed in Italian linens and cheeky faux-mink throws. And while the Valencia commands a serene stretch of the River Walk, the hustle and bustle is only a short stroll away.
Insider tip: Some of the rooms on the third floor feature river-facing balconies that are big enough for enjoying an al fresco meal from the hotel’s restaurant, Citrus.
Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas
Shame on me. I was ready to dismiss this old gal, given her age (eighteen), her location in no-there-there Irving, and her blank look (an unadorned nine-story tower of dun-colored brick). Once inside, however, I realized that that would’ve been like tossing aside a crystal-packed geode without cracking it open. After a $25 million buff-‘n’-polish, this resort dazzles without a trace of trendiness, from the airy lobby, with its fresh flower arrangements and views of the curvaceous pool, to the Asian-inspired Café on the Green. The ample guest rooms, suites, and house-size villas are outfitted with homey furnishings (not from my home, mind you, but from a really nice one), and the marble bathrooms boast extra-deep soaking tubs with a little pillow for your head and a tray to rest your book on. The Egyptian-cotton sheets, goose-down bedding, and cushiony Four Seasons mattresses are so popular that smitten guests have been known to order a complete setup from the hotel gift shop. The spa, a sparkling warren of glass tiles, water walls, and blooming orchids, serves up such treatments as a crushed-pecan body polish and a Red River mud mask. While some folks may come here only to play the two championship eighteen-hole golf courses, not knowing a birdie from a bogey doesn’t excuse you from physical activity. As a guest, you have complimentary entrée to an indoor sports club the size of a major metropolitan airport terminal, with tennis, squash, racquetball, and basketball courts, a jogging track, a lap pool, and a mammoth fitness center that offers exercise classes from cardio dance to yoga. Despite its elegance, the resort is wholeheartedly kid-friendly, offering free activity-packed programs for guests ages two through twelve.
Insider tip: Rooms on the east side of the tower, which overlook the pool, the Tournament Players Course, and on a clear day, downtown Dallas, are the most requested (rooms with numbers ending in 67 have large corner balconies), but the less expensive west side rooms have sunset views over Cottonwood Valley, with downtown Fort Worth making an occasional appearance.
Gage Hotel, Marathon
The pool, the shady courtyard, the margaritas, and a massage at the Desert Moon Spa make this historic hotel the top spot for transitioning between the wilds of civilization and the wilds of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Driskill Hotel, Austin
Touted as “one of the finest hotels in the whole country” when it opened in 1886, the Driskill had hit the skids by 1969 and was saved from the wrecking ball by the Heritage Society of Austin. Several owners and millions of bucks later, the Driskill has been restored to its Gay Nineties splendor. The lavish suites are the stuff of Victorian dreams.
Sam Houston Hotel, Houston
A DVD and CD player, a flat-screen TV, an in-room safe with a laptop-charging outlet, a Herman Miller Aeron chair, a not-so-trusting honor bar that knows when you remove an item and what it is, free high-speed in-room Internet access, wireless Internet access in the lobby: Yep, you’re plugged in here.
Canyon of the Eagles Lodge and Nature Park, Burnet
Sometimes there’s nothing like staring at a night sky blanketed with stars to put things in perspective. And if you need a bit of instruction in the art of celestial appreciation, friendly amateur astronomers abound at the star parties held regularly at the park’s small observatory.
Lancaster Hotel, Houston
You can’t fling a flügelhorn or pitch a playbill from this cozy retreat without hitting a proscenium. Jones Hall and the Alley Theatre are just across the street, and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the Wortham Center, and the Verizon Wireless Theater are only a stage whisper away.
Balcony at Christmas:
Ashton Hotel, Fort Worth
Treat yourself to the Presidential Suite at Cowtown’s premier boutique hotel and see if the view of the enormous Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street doesn’t banish those pesky humbugs all the way through New Year’s Day.
Magnolia Hotel, Houston
A Tex-Zen-style renovation has transformed the Post-Dispatch Building, built in 1925 by Governor Ross Sterling, from eyesore to eye candy. The crowning glory of the 22-story structure is the rooftop patio, with its lap pool, whirlpool, and not-quite-360-degree views of the urban playground.
Hotel San José, Austin
Their conversations are probably as mundane as ours, but it sure seems as if the crowds that regularly gather at this artistically landscaped patio bar are talking big and deep, plotting peaceful revolutions or their next film projects over fine wines and microbrews.
Westin Galleria, Houston
A multimillion-dollar makeover has left the Westin with spacious, minimalist rooms—all with balconies and many with expansive views—that beg to be festooned with shopping bags loaded with booty from the 375 stores that are a mere elevator ride away.
Hotel Lawrence, Dallas
The great rates at this easygoing 1925 hotel belie its recent renovation and primo location in the West End Historic District. The rooms are light and airy, with top-notch amenities and spunky color-splashed bathrooms, and it enjoys the coziest of relationships with Old Red (the former Dallas County courthouse), the 1916 Union Station (with DART and Amtrak lines), and Dealey Plaza. Bonus: You get a deluxe breakfast and milk and cookies at bedtime.
View from a bathtub:
Emily Morgan Hotel, San Antonio
Do you think it’s sacrilegious to gaze down on the Alamo while soaking in an oversized whirlpool bath—or do you think it might help you sort through the myths and bad movies that swirl around the Texas shrine? Although several rooms in this recently renovated 1926 Gothic Revival beauty have tubs with a view, the best is in the Plaza Suite.
Woodlands Resort and Conference Center, the Woodlands
In this resort’s new two-acre water wonderland, kids can zip down a three-story corkscrew slide that shoots them out through a waterfall, play water volleyball or basketball, eye underwater mosaics, or run amok among the Sprayground’s computer-activated jets. If they get waterlogged, rental bikes are available to explore 120 miles of trails through the pines.
Room with a view:
Cabin 103, Chisos Mountains Lodge, Big Bend National Park
It’s cruel to even mention this stone cabin, with its iconic view of Big Bend’s mountain-framed Window, since it’s typically reserved up to two years in advance. But all is not lost: The views from the more easily snagged Casa Grande rooms in Lodge A run a close second.
Houstonian Hotel, Houston
Set amid an unexpected eighteen-acre stand of pines in the Galleria area, this tranquil property, better known for its sports facilities, multiple pools, and grand spa, boasts a monumental stone fireplace in the hunting-lodge-style lobby that would put Citizen Kane’s to shame.
Four Seasons, Austin
It’s as if a country estate has been plunked down in the center of the city. You’ve got your expanse of landscaped lawn rolling down to the edge of Town Lake and your bat colony that emerges seasonally from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge—and yet you’re within walking distance of restaurants, bars, and music venues.
Bar with a view:
Hilton Americas, Houston
Acrophobes beware: The view of downtown from the twenty-fourth-floor Skyline Bar and Grill will either cure you or kill you. Before being seated at one of the tables next to the nearly invisible floor-to-ceiling window-walls, you’d better brace yourself with a signature Sky Cosmo or a pineapple-upside-down-cake martini.
Border town oasis:
Renaissance Casa de Palmas, McAllen
This recently restored hotel, inspired by Spanish Colonial architecture, stars a tropical courtyard with an inviting pool, a tiered fountain, sky-high palms, and three-story ficus trees. Don’t miss the 78-year-old Kigelia tree, a native of Mozambique whose deep-purple hibiscus-like blooms open only at night.
Night in the slow lane:
Country Place Hotel, Fayetteville
Take a deep breath, ease into the rocker on the second-floor verandah of the historic Zapp Building, and gaze out at a town square—complete with pecan trees and white-clapboard courthouse—that’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
All prices are for double occupancy unless otherwise noted. Before you make your reservation, ask about off-season, weekend, and package deals and check the hotel’s Web site for Internet specials. At many downtown hotels, be prepared to pay a premium—as much as $25 a day—to park your car.
610 Main, Fort Worth; 817-332-0100, 866-327-4866, fax 817-332-0110, theashtonhotel.com. Rooms from $260, Presidential Suite from $780.
Canyon of the Eagles Lodge and Nature Park
16942 Ranch Road 2341, Burnet; 512-756-8787, 800-977-0081, fax 512-334-2069, canyonoftheeagles.com. Rooms from $109. No TV or room service.
Chisos Mountains Lodge
Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park; 432-477-2291, fax 432-477-2352, chisosmountainslodge.com. Cabins $93, Casa Grande rooms $83. No phone, TV, or room service.
Country Place Hotel
201 W. Fayette, Fayetteville; 979-966-7771, countryplacehotel.com. Rooms from $95, breakfast included. No phone, TV, or room service.
604 Brazos, Austin; 512-474-5911, 800-252-9367, fax 512-474-2214, driskillhotel.com. Rooms from $200.
Emily Morgan Hotel
705 E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-225-8486, fax 210-225-7227. Rooms from $139, Plaza Suite from $239.
Four Seasons Austin
98 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin; 512-478-4500, 800-819-5053, fax 512-478-3117, fourseasons.com/austin. Rooms from $260.
Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas
4150 N. MacArthur Boulevard, Irving; 972-717-0700, 800-819-5053, fax 972-717-2550, fourseasons.com. Rooms from $350.
101 Texas Highway 90 West, Marathon; 432-386-4205, 800-884-4243, fax 432-386-4510, gagehotel.com. Rooms from $69 (with shared bath) in historic original hotel, from $149 in Los Portales addition. No TV or room service; no phone in historic rooms.
155 Airport Road, Fredericksburg; 830-997-9990, fax 830-990-6096, hangarhotel.com. Rooms $109 SundayThursday, $149 Friday and Saturday. No room service.
1600 Lamar, Houston; 713-739-8000, 800-445-8667, fax 713-739-8007, hilton.com. Rooms from $139.
220 Main, Houston; 713-224-4266, fax 713-223-3223, hotelicon.com. Rooms from $175.
302 S. Houston, Dallas; 214-761-9090, 877-396-0334, fax 214-761-0740, hotellawrence.com. Rooms from $119 (Internet specials from $69), breakfast included.
207 N. Highland, Marfa; 432-729-3669, 866-729-3669, fax 432-729-3779, hotelpaisano.com. Small rooms in back of hotel from $79, rooms facing courtyard from $109. No phone or room service.
Hotel San Jose´
1316 S. Congress Avenue, Austin; 512-444-7322, 800-574-8897, fax 512-444-7362, sanjosehotel.com. Rooms from $80. Breakfast room service only.
Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
150 E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-227-9700, 866-842-0100, fax 210-227-9701, hotelvalencia.com. Rooms from $159, with River Walk balcony from $199.
2332 Leonard, Dallas; 214-468-8399, 866-769-2894, fax 214-468-8397, hotelzazadallas.com. Rooms from $239, signature suites from $350.
111 N. Post Oak Lane, Houston; 713-680-2626, 800-231-2759, fax 713-680-2992, houstonian.com. Rooms from $169.
Lake Austin Spa and Resort
1705 S. Quinlan Park Road, Austin; 512-372-7300, 800-847-5637, fax 512-372-7362, lakeaustin.com. Two-night stay from $960 per person (includes a fifty-minute, full-body Swedish massage), packages from $1,410 per person for three-night stay; rates include all meals and activities (BYOB).
701 Texas Avenue, Houston; 713-228-9500, 800-231-0336, fax 713-223-4528, lancaster.com. Rooms from $275.
1100 Texas Avenue, Houston; 713-221-0011, 888-915-1110, fax 832-201-7598, magnoliahotel.com. Rooms from $179, continental breakfast included.
Mansion at Judges’ Hill
1900 Rio Grande, Austin; 512-495-1800, 800-311-1619, fax 512-495-1869, mansionatjudgeshill.com. Rooms from $129, room 24 from $299.
Renaissance Casa de Palmas
101 N. Main, McAllen; 956-631-1101, 888-236-2427,fax 956-631-7934, marriott.com. Rooms from $104.
262 Losoya, San Antonio; 210-223-3200, 866-898-4782, fax 210-223-4278, riverwalkvista.com. Rooms from $150, Hugman Vista suite $220, Joske’s Vista suite $180, continental breakfast included. No room service.
Sam Houston Hotel
1117 Prairie, Houston; 832-200-8800, 877-348-8800, fax 832-200-8811, samhoustonhotel.com. Rooms from $159.
Watermark Hotel and Spa
212 W. Crockett, San Antonio; 210-396-5800, 866-605-1212, fax 210-226-0389, watermarkhotel.com. Rooms from $199 (introductory rate), “spa” rooms from $509.
5011 Westheimer Road, Houston; 713-960-8100, 800-228-3000, fax 713-960-6553, westin.com/galleria. Rooms from $99.
Woodlands Resort and Conference Center
2301 N. Millbend, the Woodlands; 281-367-1100, 800-533-3052 (in Texas), 800-433-2624 (outside Texas), fax 281-364-6345, woodlandsresort.com. Rooms from $149.