New hotels are often rigged with the latest brag-worthy technology: touch-screen panels for temperature regulation and custom shower lighting, in-room voice-activated concierge information, and even robot butlers. But there’s one trendy hotel amenity that is decidedly old-school: in-room record players, along with hotel libraries stuffed with vintage and new vinyl records available for borrowing. In an era when there’s an endless digital music catalog at our fingertips, records have become a greatest hit with Texas travelers.
Naturally, you’re most likely to find vinyl records available in hotels in downtown Austin. Though the claim is often made that the “Live Music Capital” has strayed from its musician-friendly roots, music remains a marketable commodity—at least within the realm of the downtown high-rise hotels. In an effort to offer an authentic, local experience, situating guests with an in-room turntable is a hotelier’s version of Austin hospitality.
Beyond the gimmick, records and record players also encourage travelers to slow down. “One of the reasons I love vinyl in my personal life is that you have to be an active listener,” says Hannah Hagar, director of music for Kimpton’s Hotel Van Zandt in Austin. “You have to place the needle onto the groove, and you have to fire up the motor. In four to six songs, you have to flip the record because it’s silent in the living room, and you also have to be willing to listen to a record front to back. That, too, is a lost art—really sitting down and listening.”
At certain times of day, the soundtrack of the Hotel Van Zandt comes from vinyl records, piped throughout the hotel’s speakers. When the record ends, “you kind of get that fuzz in the groove, and it just kind of crackles,” says Hagar. “I think it’s really interesting to watch people realize, ‘Oh, this is not just Pandora or whatever—it’s actually ‘live.’’ When that crackle happens, it’s almost like you appreciate it more when it goes away.”
We found seven hotels across Texas that pay tribute to that beloved vinyl crackle, whether with a record player tucked into a guest room or a full thousand-album lending library with an on-staff vinyl concierge on hand to introduce travelers to their next favorite artist.
Vinyl on tap: All guest rooms include a Crosley record player as well as a custom-pressed record featuring Texas artists, with artwork designed by a UT-Austin student. The in-room album rotates annually; the current version includes Janis Joplin and Leon Bridges. Guests can select from a library of one thousand records curated by the on-site vinyl ambassador, who staffs a booth in the lobby. If guests enjoy an album, they can take it home for $35 to $50. Occasional record-centric events will eventually take place at the hotel, including at Bar AC, where themed cocktails pay homage to recording artists.
Insider tip: “I do love to focus on Texas and local Austin artists, but one of my favorite parts of Austin is the eclectic music scene that comes through here throughout the year, especially during South by Southwest,” says Beau Mouty, vinyl ambassador at the Otis. “I really like [giving] the guests their own South by Southwest experience in their room, where they’re discovering artists from all over the world.”
Vinyl on tap: The secluded, bohemian-style rooms at Hotel Saint Cecilia (named for the patron saint of music) all include a record player along with a small collection of records. Guests can browse additional choices in the lobby, and there is a curated monthly playlist available, as well.
Insider tip: Even nonguests can listen along with the Hotel Saint Cecilia’s playlist on Spotify. (Crackle not included.)
Vinyl on tap: Guests can borrow a complimentary record player from the front desk and choose from the hotel’s collection of more than three hundred albums to spin during their stay. In the hotel lobby, Hagar spins records from 5 to 6 p.m. during the hotel’s daily social hour, as well as during periodic music pop-up events.
Insider tip: “Townes Van Zandt, our namesake, was a prolific songwriter. We’re kind of breathing new life into that catalog, giving him a new audience,” says Hagar about the evenings she spends DJing for guests. “We have a pretty wide collection of records here at the hotel. I really try to cater it to who’s in the room. If it’s a Saturday night and there’s a wedding party and a group of college friends who are getting ready to go out, maybe that’s a night of Black Pumas and Spoon or Jamestown Revival. On a Wednesday night, it might be more Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan … something maybe a little more bluesy just to kind of match the feel of the room.”
Vinyl on tap: The W’s Living Room lounge includes a themed Record Room filled floor to ceiling with eight thousand vinyl records and a vintage McIntosh sound system. People visiting the bar can ask a staff member for assistance to spin records. “It’s definitely a huge conversation piece—when people pull a familiar record or maybe something they’ve never seen before, it makes for great conversation,” says Emily Moretti, marketing director for the hotel.
Insider tip: Hotel guests can also request a portable record player in their rooms, along with a few selected LPs from the Record Room library, as a complimentary add-on to a stay.
Vinyl on tap: This glamping-style property has added record players and vinyl to each of its cabins, tiny homes, and yurts, and all the records were culled by owner Mike Paclik, who for several years picked through local record stores and private collections. “For vinyl enthusiasts, there’s a sense of adventure flipping through authentic record covers hunting for hidden treasures. And it’s not always just about the music—the album covers are like little pieces of time capsule art,” he says.
Insider tip: “We prefer cosmic cowboy, classic country and ’80s rock music,” says Paclik of his record selections. “We threw a few 2000s in there for the kids.”
Vinyl on tap: Within each of the lodgings on the property—six containers and two houses—you’ll find a record player and a small library of between ten and twenty albums. Most of the albums are from owner Matt White’s personal collection, ranging from old-school country to polka. Records end up moving from house to house, and occasionally guests leave behind records for future guests to enjoy. “I didn’t want to have TVs—I haven’t had a TV in twelve years,” says White. “It just kind of goes with the whole vibe: unwind, get off your phone … your view out the back is your TV. And your sound … some good old vinyl just makes you feel good now and then.”
Insider tip: Guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada of the Black Pumas once visited Flophouze and donated some records to the cause.
Vinyl on tap: This boutique property includes record players and a small selection of vinyl records in each of its thirteen rooms. They’re mostly classic rock, but Flora & Fauna has plans to someday offer guests their choice of records prior to arrival. “Our owner is a big fan of ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s rock, everything from the Beatles to the Bee Gees,” says Andrea Williams, chief operating officer of Onyx Hotels, which helps manage Hotel Flora & Fauna.
Insider tip: Wimberley is a haven for many notable singer-songwriters, whom you might occasionally catch performing locally around downtown, including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kevin Fowler, Carl Weathersby, and Susan Gibson (who wrote “Wide Open Spaces” for the Chicks).