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5 hotels that embody the spirit of Texas

Photo by The George

Many Texas hotels capture the Lone Star State’s unique character. We’ve selected five properties that embody the history, romance, and playful spirit of Texas. The next time you’re staying local, consider a night in one of these hotels. You won’t soon forget it.

Hotel Emma

136 E. Grayson Street, San Antonio


Rates: From $350 per night

Cool amenities: Margarita upon check-in; guayabera robes in rooms; cruiser bikes available for use; 3,700-volume library

hotel emma

Photo by Jason Risner

Stroll into the handsome lobby of AAA Five Diamond Hotel Emma and you’re reminded of the building’s industrial past. Built in 1894, it once housed the Pearl Brewhouse. Inside the brick walls today, spread among the leather chairs and other elegant decor, are original, weathered industrial pieces that speak to the brewery’s storied past. The AAA Five Diamond hotel’s 146 rooms don’t shy away from that history, either, with paint-chipped patinas, bare-brick walls, clawfoot bathtubs, and exposed rafters. “Emma” refers to Emma Koehler, who is credited with rescuing her brewery during Prohibition—it was the only plant to survive those dry days in San Antonio—by diversifying her business until Prohibition ended. You could while away hours reading in the hotel’s library or sipping cocktails in the atmospheric bar—both located just off the lobby. And you’ll want to allow plenty of time to explore the Pearl District just out the front doors: It’s home to thoughtfully curated boutiques (don’t miss The Tiny Finch), great restaurants (be sure to try Cured), and a happening jazz club (JazzTX).

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Hotel Saint Cecilia

112 Academy Drive, Austin

(512) 852-2400;

Rates: From $285 per night

Cool amenities: In-room Rega record players; vintage LP lending library; custom kimono bathrobes in rooms

hotel cecilia

Photo by Nick Simonite

It’s fitting that in the Live Music Capital of the World, this chic boutique hotel located a short walk from Austin’s South Congress Avenue is named for the patron saint of music. The hotel even goes so far as to host an annual Feast Day in her honor under the two 300-year-old live oak trees in the courtyard. But that’s only one of many thoughtful touches. Guests at the 14-room hotel can select a record from the lobby’s vinyl collection to play on in-room record players or groove to a seasonally curated digital playlist (songs from the Chocolate Watchband, Nick Drake, and Jimi Hendrix were featured on one recent list). The property’s main building was constructed in 1888 as a home for a descendant of Davy Crockett. Guests can stay in this main building or in one of the more modern bungalows added in 2008. They can lounge at the pool, punctuated with a neon sign spelling out SOUL, or enjoy a drink inside the turquoise, incense-scented bar, which if you’re so inclined just might inspire your next great poem or song.

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The Sinclair

512 Main Street, Fort Worth

(682) 231-8214;

Rates: From $279 per night

Cool amenities: Digital control of showers; in standard rooms, touchscreen mirrors in bathrooms can play music and display TV channels

hotel sinclair

Photo by Kathy Tran

The 164-room Sinclair—a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel—resides in a 90-year-old art deco building that once housed the offices of Sinclair Oil Company. Here, old and new blend artfully. You see the history in the ZigZag Moderne exterior, the green marble lobby with gilded ceilings, and the original elevator facades. But the hotel embraces the new, too. For starters, it’s one of the first in the world to employ a backup lithium battery instead of a diesel generator in case of power outages (“It’s like three Teslas in the basement,” said the hotel’s Courtney Towson). And guest rooms are teched out: You can set your shower to your exact temperature preference by touching a screen, call room service or the valet from the bathroom mirror, or set the mood in the room by raising and lowering the shades with digital presets. Other fine arguments to stay here: You can dine in the Wicked Butcher Restaurant in the basement, sip a cocktail at the lobby bar (with a podcasting studio in the corner), or zip up to the 17th floor’s rooftop bar to take in the Fort Worth skyline.

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The George

180 Century Court, College Station

(979) 485-5638;

Rates: From $120 per night

Cool amenities: Free Wi-Fi; 50-inch flat-screen TVs; complimentary use of bicycles

the george hotel

Photo by The George

Paying homage to the late George H.W. Bush, whose presidential library and final resting place is located 3 miles away, The George embraces its strong Texas identity with equal parts sophistication and swagger. Guests of the 162-room hotel are greeted with a bold wall-spanning Texas flag art installation, created from 10,000 old books with red, white, and blue jackets from around the state. With views of Texas A&M University, the hotel resides in Century Square, a popular shopping and dining district, and it abuts The Green, which hosts musical events and pop-up picnics throughout the year.

Next door, you’ll find Valencia Hotel Group sister property Cavalry Court. Both hotels are popular with travelers who are in town to visit the university. Be sure to dine at The George’s Poppy Restaurant, which is another nod to the 41st president: It bears the nickname his grandchildren called him. The waitstaff wear wacky socks to honor the president, who was known for his colorful hosiery. Want to keep the playful spirit alive? Take home a pair of your own fun socks from the gift shop.

The Gage

102 NW First Street, Marathon

(432) 386-4510;

Rates: From $138 per night

Cool amenities: Adjacent game lot includes sand volleyball court, horseshoes, and boccie ball

the gage

Photo by Jason Risner

Located under the vast, dark skies of far West Texas, close to Big Bend National Park, resides the historic Gage Hotel. Owner J.P. Bryan likes to say the property is “as close to heaven as you can get and still be in Texas.” The hotel opened in 1927, and while the fortunes of Marathon have ebbed and flowed over the years, The Gage endures, drawing visitors looking for that quintessential rugged Western experience. Designed by architect Henry Trost, the 47-room hotel includes a two-story brick building that leads to an adobe-walled courtyard and rooms appointed with cowhide rugs, Saltillo tile floors, and vibrant splashes of color—apropos for a place where nothing is quite what you’d expect. The hotel is known for its popular White Buffalo Bar (be sure to order an off-menu J.P. margarita) and its 12 Gage Restaurant, where the late traveler-chef Anthony Bourdain dined during the final season of his CNN show, Parts Unknown.

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