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Two Of The Best New Hotels On The Planet Are In Texas, According To Travel & Leisure

San Antonio’s Hotel Emma and Austin’s South Congress Hotel take prized spots on the list.

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Austin’s status as a world-class travel destination is well-established: events like SXSW and the Austin City Limits Festival attract visitors from around the world, who promptly find themselves waiting in hours-long lines for food and interacting with a lot of other people who are in from out of town. San Antonio, meanwhile, is a delightful city to visit even as its charms are too often reduced to “just a Riverwalk” by dismissive tourists and/or Charles Barkley.

But those two cities nonetheless find themselves in the same company on this year’s list of the “Best New Hotels On The Planet” from Travel & Leisure. Specifically, San Antonio’s Hotel Emma and Austin’s South Congress Hotel, both of which opened last fall, took two of the ten spots reserved for hotels in the U.S.

The South Congress Hotel is probably unsurprising—it’s a boutique hotel in one of America’s trendiest cities, smack-dab in the middle of one of Austin’s most tourist-friendly neighborhoods. It’s a fine hotel, but it’s also exactly what you would think of when making such a list—a hotel exactly where you’d expect it, highlighting exactly what people know best about Austin.

Hotel Emma, meanwhile, is a pleasant surprise. The 146-room hotel is miles away from what’s traditionally been considered San Antonio’s tourist hub. Rather than setting up shop on the Riverwalk or near the Alamo, the location is in the middle of the city’s Pearl Brewery development. Pearl is one of the more happening spots in San Antonio, and definitely deserves more attention. Although there are plenty of pleasant places to stay in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the fact that the city’s getting international attention for what it has to offer in other parts of town is a comment on how its identity is shifting. As the list puts it:

Some are calling San Antonio Texas’s next capital of cool—and Hotel Emma is at the center of it all. A brewery turned hotel sounds like a hipster cliché, but the Roman & Williams–designed showstopper advances the industrial-chic aesthetic. Its 146 character-packed rooms have original stonework and vaulted ceilings, along with an urban edge (guayabera-inspired seersucker robes, exposed steel window frames). The Emma also fits in with its epicurean neighbors: the on-site larder stocks breads from nearby Bakery Lorraine, the restaurant draws from the biweekly farmers’ market, and throwback iceboxes in each room hold the fixings for margaritas. Be sure to hit the bar Sternewirth—the former watering hole for brewery workers, which dates to 1883—where old fermentation tanks double as banquette seats.

That San Antonio is getting major national press as “Texas’s next capital of cool” is only going to be surprising for a little while longer—and though there are likely to be consequences of that change that inspire more soul searching than celebrating, it’s nice at the moment to see San Antonio, and its businesses, getting some respect that they haven’t always received.

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