It’s no surprise that, as a recent study revealed, Texans prefer to vacation in Texas. Given the state’s size, we have more than enough staycation options. But since our last roundup of the most notable Texas lodgings, in 2004, there have been some significant shifts. Design-driven boutique hotels are now ubiquitous, and with the explosion of real-time online reviews, fancy extras like designer toiletries are quickly becoming obligatory. Less crucial is proximity to a major metropolitan area, as hoteliers focus on creating immersive mini-environments that you never have to leave. Whether you’re trying to escape the noisy bustle of urban life at a minimalist cottage in Talpa or swanning through the lobby of a Dallas hot spot, hotels these days tend to be all-in experiences. To get a sense of these changes, I drafted a list of 44 hotels that have opened or undergone significant renovations since 2004. After winnowing those down to two dozen, I booked rooms anonymously to determine my ten favorites. Checking each of them out was rough work (e.g., breakfast in bed, spa treatments), but someone had to do it.
With cushy rooms, a rooftop pool, an on-site guacamologist, a 12,000-foot spa, and, in some rooms, a bathtub view of the city’s skyline, this Uptown favorite gives a whole new meaning to living the “suite” life. 2121 McKinney Avenue, 214-922-0200, ritzcarlton.com/dallas
Meant to evoke the old-world sophistication of a private Italian villa, this boutique hotel has suits of armor in the lobby, rich tapestries in the suites, and Tuscan delicacies served in the elegant dining room. 1080 Uptown Park Boulevard, 713-418-1000, granducahouston.com
The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell
Designer Rachel Ashwell has transformed five cottages on an 1800’s homestead into a “shabby chic” bed-and-breakfast, which means claw-foot bathtubs and frilly white bedding. 5808 Wagner Road, 979-836-4975, theprairiebyrachelashwell.com
Revamped by hotelier Liz Lambert, this 1914 River Walk establishment has a modern-vintage vibe (yes, those are the original Bastrop pine floors) and a restaurant that serves pan-Latin dishes and old-school cocktails. 1015 Navarro, 210-222-2008, havanasanantonio.com
La Posada Milagro
If you’re looking for a West Texas hideout, make the trek to this stacked-rock guesthouse; its four rooms are small and simple (don’t worry, there’s Wi-Fi) and have amazing views of the Chisos Mountains. 100 Milagro Way, 432-371-3044, laposadamilagro.net
The Best . . .
The Best Toiletries:
Fredericksburg Herb Farm, Fredericksburg
Chances are you’re going to make off with the gratis bath products anyway. But what luck to find that the farm-to-tub toiletries left for guests in these fourteen pastel “Sunday haus” cottages are the sort you’d actually want to use again. The aromatherapy shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, and lotions are made on-site with home-grown ingredients, and larger versions are available in the gift shop.
The Best Lobby:
El Cosmico, Marfa
As cool as the trailers, tepees, and tents are at this West Texas encampment, you’ll find yourself gravitating to its living-room-like lobby to access the Wi-Fi, shop for palm-leaf hats and Bolivian blankets, buy a cold beer, play a vintage LP, or kick your feet up on the coffee table and read a copy of the Big Bend Sentinel while making new friends.
The Best Mode of Transportation:
The Ritz Carlton, Dallas
Yes, the valet attendants can get you a cab in a nanosecond. And yes, the McKinney Avenue Trolley stops a few yards from the hotel’s entrance. But wouldn’t you look so much better in the back of a chauffeured black Bentley? Complimentary rides within a three-mile radius are offered first-come, first-served.
The Best Pool(s):
Éilan Hotel Resort and Spa, San Antonio
While sun worshippers bask on loungers sitting in shallow water or sprawl out in the twenty white cabanas around the outdoor pool, serious swimmers can perfect their strokes in the indoor lap pool at this new luxury hotel in far northwest San Antonio.
The Best Do Not Disturb Sign:
Hotel ZaZa, Houston
Given the hotel’s playful—and often cheeky—charm, you may not be surprised to find that one of its privacy door hangers features a supermodel wearing what looks like full-body rainbow war paint. But you may have to suppress a chuckle when you see a burly man stealthily hanging the sign—which reads, “I’m busy putting on my makeup”—from his door handle.