Depending on the reason for your visit, you may want to stay close to the central business district or venture into one of Austin’s many fun zones. If you're arriving by car, you'll soon discover that Austin has remarkably terrible traffic for a mid-sized city. Book a hotel as close as possible to where you'll be spending most of your time, and you'll have a much better visit.
For most visitors, downtown is the place to be. Austin has a highly walkable and compact downtown area, and there are plenty of things to do. Room rates at the big-name hotels can be a little steep, particularly during big events such as ACL and the Austin Film Festival, but there are still a few affordable hotels downtown.
South Congress Avenue
This hip entertainment district in south-central Austin is chock full of antique shops, restaurants and the coolest bar in Austin. Several small hotels line the avenue, and a few boutique hotels and B&Bs are tucked into the adjoining Bouldin Creek neighborhood. The biggest hotel on the strip is the retro-style South Congress Hotel. The three-story hotel has about a hundred rooms and is designed to fit in with the style of the old motels along South Congress. The area is also close to the refreshing Barton Springs swimming pool.
University of Texas Campus
While the campus is a hub of activity in central Austin, there are only a few hotels near UT. The stiffly named AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center is a sprawling complex of buildings along the southern edge of campus. It’s probably the best bet if you’re in town on business. The nearby West Campus neighborhood is densely packed with historic homes, apartment complexes and condominiums. It may be worthwhile to try booking a privately owned space through services such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
If you want to be surrounded by bearded hipsters and craft beer throughout your stay, consider getting a room in east Austin. Some of Austin’s best bars are in this area. While there are a few large hotels near Interstate 35, most of the accommodations east of the highway are small bed-and-breakfasts.
The area around the Domain shopping center in north Austin has almost become its own city within a city. You’ll be surrounded by top-of-the-line retail stores and some of the best restaurants in Austin. Several major employers are either headquartered or have satellite offices in the area. A few of the more prominent names are IBM, National Instruments, HomeAway, Sunpower and Amazon. There are three hotels on the Domain campus: Aloft Austin, Westin and Lone Star Court.
Near Mass Transit
Although the mass transit options in Austin are limited, the city has a small light rail system and an extensive network of bus routes. Consider staying at one of the hotels along the rail line to save a little money. The train fare varies from $1 to $4, depending on where you board the train. For an even less glamorous but more affordable option, you can book a room at a hotel on the No. 10 bus line. One-way fare is only $1.25. This a popular option for young music fans in town for South by Southwest or the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
With both of these options, however, you have to keep an eye on the clock. Late-night routes are few and far between.