The old joke about the state bird being the building crane must have been born in Texas. When one landmark project breaks ground, you can be sure that several others are moving forward around the state: a huge new hotel to connect to the convention center in Dallas; a bigger, better Children's Museum in Houston; a new headquarters hotel for the Fort Worth Convention Center; a 1,000-room hotel complex in Austin; a new stadium in Arlington; an extension of the River Walk in San Antonio — it never stops.

In Dallas, city council members have just approved a purchase option agreement for an 8.4 acre site for possible convention center expansion and for a convention headquarters hotel. Several sites had been under consideration, including the area next to Reunion Arena and land between the convention center and the Dallas Morning News building. The selected site is at the southwest corner of Young Street and Lamar Boulevard, across from the convention center. Estimates for the project's cost have ranged as high as $350 million. The Dallas CVB has agreed to apply $500,000 in nonhotel tax revenues and nonhotel memberships as a fee to secure an option for this site.

Meanwhile, Victory Park Dallas is in its third stage of development and looking forward to completion of its second luxury hotel: The Mandarin Oriental, now under construction, will soon join the W Dallas-Victory Hotel & Residences. Victory Park includes 75 acres around the American Airlines Center sports and entertainment complex, a $3 billion city within a city. The pedestrian-friendly, Wi-Fi-enhanced area has a variety of meeting venues for small, select groups or crowds of up to 20,000.

Farther south, San Antonio has begun a $216 million project to lengthen the River Walk, quadrupling it from a bit more than two miles to nearly 13 miles. Currently, the river flows through downtown's central business and tourism district. Barges ferry visitors up and down the two-mile stretch, pedestrians crowd the walkways, and the River Walk is hopping 24/7. The first phase of the planned extension will bring the River Walk north to several museums, the Pearl Brewery, and other cultural attractions by 2009. The second phase will take it south to San Antonio's four Spanish Colonial missions by 2012.

In Houston, the three blocks above the Gerald R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green are being transformed into the Houston Pavilions, with completion expected by year's end. The Pavilions will be home to entertainment venues, including a House of Blues, and shopping. Planners can also expect upgrades at the Children's Museum of Houston and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which opened a new gallery in December.

Dallas/Fort Worth

  • The Dallas Hilton Anatole recently converted its Stemmons Auditorium to a ballroom as part of the hotel's $40 million renovation. Transformed from a 1,000-seat amphitheater, Stemmons Ballroom no longer has a sloping expanse of fixed seats, but gives the hotel and meeting planners more versatile meeting space. During the next two years, the Anatole will renovate its 700 tower guest rooms and Chantilly Ballroom. The hotel has 1,606 guest rooms and 333,400 square feet of meeting and banquet space, including 79 meeting rooms and 128,000 square feet of dedicated exhibit space.

  • Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine began an expansion in November that will add 203 suites for a total of 605, and nearly quadruple the size of the conference space to 27,000 square feet. The project is expected to be complete in December 2008.

  • Mandarin Oriental, scheduled to debut in 2010 in Dallas, will include a 30,000-square-foot spa, an outdoor pool, and 9,000 square feet of meeting and event space, plus six dining and cocktail venues.

  • The Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa is finishing up a $46 million transformation and is scheduled to open May 15. The property will have 430 guest rooms and suites and an 8,000-square-foot full-service spa and fitness center.

  • After a major restoration, the 170-room luxury Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa reopens in March in the Uptown neighborhood. The renovation includes new guest rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, and a 5,200-square-foot spa.

  • NYLO Hotels LLC will bring a second hotel to the Lone Star State, this one to Irving's Las Colinas community; the first was in Plano. The new loft lifestyle hotel brand will break ground early this year and open NYLO Las Colinas early the following year with 200 rooms.

  • W Dallas-Victory Hotel & Residences includes 252 guest rooms as well as eight function rooms totaling more than 11,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts has opened the 282-room Wyndham DFW Airport North hotel in Irving. A $13 million renovation has transformed the former Holiday Inn Select into a full-service hotel with 12,500 square feet of event space.

  • Benchmark Hospitality has announced that Lakeside Resort & Residences, under construction on Lake Grapevine in Flower Mound, will open this coming fall. Included will be 289 guest rooms, a 25,000-square-foot conference center, and two water-view restaurants. The resort will also have a 12,000-square-foot spa and an outdoor pool with a lazy river feature.

  • The 1,842-room Adams Mark Dallas will rebrand as the Sheraton Dallas Hotel by mid-April. The property, which offers more than 230,000 square feet of meeting space, is attached via sky-bridge to a sister Starwood property, The Westin City Center, Dallas. A renovation is under way, redesigning guest rooms and lobbies, that is expected to be complete by this summer.

  • Omni is constructing a headquarters hotel for the recently expanded Fort Worth Convention Center. The Western-themed, $90 million Omni Fort Worth Hotel and condominiums is expected to open in November. The new Omni will have 607 rooms, 48,000 square feet of meeting space, two restaurants, and a ballroom.

  • Northeast of Dallas, the Hilton Bella Harbor at Lake Hubbard Dallas/Rockwell opens at the end of March overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard with views of the downtown Dallas skyline. The property features 231 guest rooms, each with flat-screen televisions, high-speed Internet access, and work desks with ergonomic chairs. More than 25,000 square feet of meeting space, on-site tennis courts and boat rentals, and nearby golf and horseback riding round out the offerings.

  • In Frisco, the Sheraton Stonebriar Hotel opens in March with 119 guest rooms and two meeting spaces, the largest of which is 480 square feet. Guests will have golf privileges at The Westin Stonebriar Resort's Fazio Course.

Galveston

  • Three hotels have come together as the Wyndham Galveston Trio to offer groups more rooms and combined meeting space. The Hotel Galvez features 13,000 square feet of function space, and the Tremont House provides 17,000 square feet, including the recently renovated Davidson Ballroom, a rooftop terrace, and the Merchant Prince restaurant. The Harbor House has 1,000 square feet of function space under renovation. Its Olympia Grill restaurant is scheduled to open this summer.

Houston

  • The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center is set to begin construction early this year on a $50 million expansion that will add 158 guest rooms; a winding, lazy river; a new entrance; and a fine-dining steakhouse. The property's existing lobby will be used as a satellite check-in area for conference attendees.

  • The Sheraton Houston West Hotel, 24 miles southwest of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, opens this summer with 155 guest rooms, all with high-speed Internet access. More than 1,000 square feet of meeting space will host groups of up to 80 people.

  • Omni Hotels has taken over a former Sheraton in downtown Houston and will redevelop it as a 400-room, all-suite hotel with 30,000 square feet of meeting space, a full spa, and multiple restaurants. The Omni Houston is slated to open in 2009.

  • The Warwick Hotel reopened in June as Hotel ZaZa after a multimillion-dollar renovation. The 315-room property encompasses a mix of guest spaces, including eight suites up to 3,000 square feet and 14 suites that double as guest rooms and meeting space. The hotel offers a total of 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 313-room Doubletree Hotel Houston InterContinental Airport has completed a $6 million renovation. The hotel's 18,500 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,875-square-foot ballroom, has been upgraded.

San Antonio

  • Westin La Cantera Resort, home of the Valero Texas Open, will soon become an arm of Gaylord Entertainment, which also owns the Gaylord Texan Resort near Dallas, among other resort properties. The $253 million purchase includes two golf courses on 691 acres. Gaylord has also bought 90 acres of undeveloped adjacent land and is planning a three-year, $250 million expansion that will bring the resort to 1,000 rooms and 160,000 square feet of meeting space by 2011.

  • San Antonio's Marriott Rivercenter (1,000 rooms) and Marriott Riverwalk (514 rooms) hotels will undergo $45 million in renovations this year. Both hotels will change the look and feel of their lobbies, restaurants, and seating areas. The Marriott Rivercenter will also upgrade 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio has begun a $12 million restoration to upgrade all meeting areas, public space, and 352 guest rooms. Completion is anticipated this month.

  • Got golf fanatics in your group? While naming San Antonio one of its top golf destinations, Golf Digest magazine singled out the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa for special mention as one of its Silver Medal Resorts. The resort has 500 guest rooms, 25 meeting rooms, and more than 33,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

  • InterContinental Hotels Group has plans to open its third Hotel Indigo in Texas, this time in San Antonio. The 91-room property will be in the renovated 100-year-old Gibbs Building, steps from the Alamo and within walking distance of the River Walk. The new Hotel Indigo boutique hotel brand also has properties in Dallas and Houston.

Trip Tips

  • Some Austin streets and highways go by many different names and can be a bit confusing. (First Street runs north and south and east and west, for example.) For a primer on the lay of the land, go to http://austin.about.com/od/mapsofaustin/p/austinroads.htm.

  • The landmark 50-story Reunion Tower in Dallas closed in November for a year of renovation, but the lights on the tower's globe will not dim. The $55 million renovation closes the observation deck and Antares restaurant, but the Hyatt Regency will serve customers in another part of the hotel until Antares reopens on the tower's top level.

Special Venues

  • Would a party on an oil-drilling rig in Galveston Bay say “Texas!” to your group? At Galveston's Pier 19 sits the Ocean Star II (left), a museum, educational attraction, and working drilling rig all rolled into one. It is available for meetings, luncheons, theme parties, and receptions. Its theater accommodates up to 35 people. The entire rig can accommodate a group of up to 500 people. (713) 975-6442; www.galveston.com/oceanstar

  • Austin's new Mexican-American Cultural Center opened in September on Town Lake. Dedicated to preserving and promoting Mexican-American cultural arts and heritage, the 126,000-square-foot center provides theaters, galleries, and classrooms where music, dance, literature, and cooking are among the arts displayed. The center also rents space for private events. (512) 478-6222; www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/macc_index.htm

  • The French Room at the Adolphus Hotel (above right) in Dallas has the grandest Baroque décor and can be reserved for private events. (214) 742-8200; www.adolphus.com

  • Galveston native Michel Menard built his classic Southern mansion in 1838 as a Greek Revival showplace. The Menard House was constructed in Maine, shipped in pieces to Galveston, and sited in what was early Galveston's most exclusive neighborhood. The house provides an elegant setting for meetings, receptions, period-costume events, and special banquets. (409) 762-3933; foundation@galvestonhistory.org

  • The Hyatt Regency San Antonio recently renovated the Lonestar Palace, an event space (pictured below) overlooking the Alamo. The facility now features contemporary Texas décor and a rooftop penthouse with a 2,000-square-foot outdoor deck, full catering kitchen, and oversized outdoor grill. With three indoor seating areas, a formal conference/dining area, and the deck, it can entertain groups of up to 150 people. (210) 362-6352