Not only are many of the meeting and convention facilities in Texas adding new services, but there is also a trend toward building large neighboring developments featuring, dining, shopping, entertainment, and/or recreation. One good example is in downtown Houston, where the 12 acres in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center have been set aside for Discovery Green, a park that will feature an interactive fountain, a one-acre pond, and enough green space to change the ambience of downtown when it opens in early 2008. And by the end of that year, the three city blocks just north of Discovery Green and the GRBCC will emerge as the upscale Houston Pavilions development, where entertainment such as a House of Blues music venue, chic Lucky Strike Lanes bowling, restaurants, and 350,000 square feet of shopping are planned.
Austin's vibrant Second Street district expects the new W Austin Hotel & Residences to come online by 2010. Its 2,000-seat live music and event venue will be the new home of the world-famous “Austin City Limits” public television music show. Also planned for the area is the new Austin Children's Museum and about 25,000 square feet of shopping, dining, and extensive outdoor space.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Grand Hyatt DFW Hotel has arranged a pilot program to make more entertainment and shopping available. Sanctioned by the Transportation Security Administration, the program allows qualifying hotel guests to proceed through security screening at Terminal D, which is linked to the hotel, to gain access to the 2-million-square-foot terminal's unique architecture, soaring 80-foot ceiling, paintings, restaurants, and retail shops.
Arlington is building the new $650 million Cowboys football stadium, seating 75,000, with expanded seating for 90,000. City plans include development of an entertainment, dining, and shopping area that will be a neighbor to the new stadium as well as Ameriquest Stadium, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Irving is planning a multi-use meeting facility in Las Colinas Urban Center, expected to open in late 2009. Plans call for a 50,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and 22,000 square feet of additional meeting space. It will be part of Las Colinas Live!, an entertainment complex that will include a 6,000-seat concert hall, an outdoor arena, a 120-room Watermark Hotel and Spa, restaurants, and retail-lined streets.
In San Antonio, the 1,000-room Hyatt Hotel on the River Walk, adjacent to the downtown convention center, will open in 2008. Away from the River Walk, but with 36 holes of golf, Westin La Cantera Resort opened its upscale, 1.3 million-square-foot Shops at La Cantera.
The Hilton Arlington has finished renovating its 252 rooms. The hotel has 11,000 square feet of meeting space and a redesigned restaurant and lounge.
The Wyndham Arlington at DFW Airport South, surrounded by theme parks, has renovated its 310 rooms.
La Quinta Conference Center and La Quinta Inn & Suites Hotel, near The Parks at Arlington Mall, have been renovated and feature 178 guest rooms and 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
The W Austin Hotel plans a 2010 opening with 250 guest rooms in the Second Street District.
The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa near Bastrop opened in 2006. The 491-room resort is 13 miles south of Austin Bergstrom International Airport. It has 50,000 square feet of indoor function space, an 18-hole golf course, and a spa.
The 211-room Lakeway Inn Conference Resort of Austin, with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, is renovating its lobby, upgrading 168 rooms, and redesigning its 5,500-square-foot spa and fitness center. A new 5,200-square-foot ballroom will overlook Lake Travis.
Marriott International opened a 449-room hotel last fall adjacent to the Austin Convention Center. The hotel combines two brands under one roof. A 270-room Courtyard property and a 179-suite Residence Inn share 6,600 square feet of meeting space.
The Sheraton Austin opened next to the capitol in January with 365 guest rooms and 16 meeting rooms.
In January 2006, the Wyndham Anatole was reflagged as the Hilton Anatole and announced a major renovation stretching over two years. The hotel, located on 45 acres just north of downtown Dallas, has 1,606 guest rooms and 341,000 square feet of meeting space. Its five restaurants include the five-star Nana on the 27th floor, overlooking the Dallas skyline.
The 120-room Mandarin Oriental, Dallas will open in the city's new Victory Park development in 2009. It will offer 9,000 square feet of meeting space.
The renovated 185-room Hotel Palomar Dallas, formerly the Mockingbird Hilton, has a spa, a restaurant, and 8,555 square feet of meeting space.
In 2007, the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas will open in Uptown. The 216-room hotel will have 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
In the West End, the W Dallas Victory Hotel is open with 251 rooms and 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
Hotel Indigo opened its fifth property in Dallas last fall — a 170-room, 1925 historical landmark previously known as the Holiday Inn Dallas-Aristocrat. The 170-room hotel offers 3,300 square feet of meeting space.
The 600-room Omni Fort Worth Hotel broke ground in August 2006, adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center. It is expected to open in 2008 with 48,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 294-room Hilton Fort Worth, previously operated as a Radisson, opened in 2006 after a $10.5 million renovation. The hotel's 35,000 square feet of meeting, pre-function, and ballroom space were completely renovated.
Holiday Inn North and Holiday Inn South in Fort Worth are being redesigned. Fully renovated, each hotel will have 247 guest rooms, a restaurant and bar, and 12,000 square feet of conference facilities.
Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Los Colinas in Irving has added 40 new villas, bringing the total number of guest rooms to 397. The 400-acre resort has 31,675 square feet of multipurpose conference and function space.
In Irving, the Harvey Hotel DFW Airport has been reflagged as the Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport Hotel. It has 38,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,521-square-foot ballroom.
The new 120-room Holiday Inn Frisco StarCenter is slated to open in June with 1,780 square feet of meeting space.
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center opened the 39,000-square-foot Glass Cactus nightclub last August, complete with an entertainment stage and a dance floor. It can be used for private parties. The 1,511-room resort offers a 400,000-square-foot convention center, which includes a 180,000-square-foot exhibit hall and three ballrooms.
The 131-room Hotel Indigo, with more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space, opened less than a block from the Galleria in summer 2006.
In the Museum District, the Hotel ZaZa, formerly known as The Warwick, is scheduled for a July opening. It has 315 rooms, suites, and bungalows. Meeting space includes the Phantom Ballroom.
The 314-room Hotel Derek opened six “Business Loft” guest rooms in 2006.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide plans to open three hotels as part of the Memorial City Project, a mixed-use community in West Houston. Construction is expected to begin this summer on the 250-room Westin Houston, Memorial City and the 155-room Sheraton Houston, Memorial City. The Radisson Suite Hotel Houston West is expected to open as a 170-room Four Points by Sheraton Houston, Memorial City this summer. The Sheraton is scheduled to open in the first half of 2009, while the Westin opening date has not been announced.
The George R. Brown Convention Center is celebrating its 20th anniversary year and offering new concierge desks to assist attendees and a FedEx Kinko's with full services.
The new Granduca Hotel in Houston opened last fall in the Uptown Park development. It offers 130 residential-style suites with full-service kitchens. The hotel has 2,500 square feet of meeting space and a full business center.
Hilton Americas-Houston, the city's largest convention hotel, was the site of the 2006 annual meeting of the International Special Events Society. The 1,203-room property, connected to the George R. Brown Convention Center via skywalks, has ample meeting space of its own — 91,500 square feet — and is two blocks from Minute Maid Park, home of baseball's Houston Astros.
Thirty minutes from downtown Houston, the 440-room Woodlands Resort & Conference Center, a member of the International Association of Conference Centers offering 60,000 square feet of meeting space, expanded its Web site in January to offer tools for meeting planners. In the “planner resources” section of www.woodlandsresort.com, planners can download a “Meeting Budget Worksheet” in Excel, or a “Meeting Planner Guide,” which includes a 9-page site selection worksheet, planning timeline, and transportation worksheet.
The 1,000-room Hyatt Hotel on the River Walk, adjacent to the downtown convention center, will open in 2008 with 79,300 square feet of meeting and ballroom space.
The 500-room Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa has renovated guest rooms, two restaurants, a bar, and five additional dining and lounge options. The hotel has 33,000 square feet of function space, a full-service spa, and a 27-hole Arthur Hills golf course.
In winter 2007, Solis Hotels and Resorts will open a 150-room hotel with meeting and banquet facilities near Dominion Park.
Westin La Cantera Resort has completed renovations on its Casita Village. The 508-room resort has more than 39,000 square feet of function space.
ThePlayers Club of San Antonio is developing a golf resort on a 2,855-acre tract. It will have an 800-room JW Marriott Resort Hotel and two 18-hole golf courses. Both the hotel and courses are scheduled to open in 2008.
The 305-room Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk finished its renovations and opened in February. The hotel has 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Westin Riverwalk went smoke-free in 2006, also expanding its meeting space and updating its guest rooms.
Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 433-5374; www.arlington.org
Total Hotel Tax: 13%
(800) 926-2282; www.austintexas.org
Total Hotel Tax: 15%
(214) 571-1000; www.visitdallas.com
Total Hotel Tax: 15%
Fort Worth CVB
(800) 433-5747; www.fortworth.com
Total Hotel Tax: 15%
Greater Houston CVB
Total Hotel Tax: 17%
(800) 247-8464; www.irvingtexas.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%
San Antonio CVB
Total Hotel Tax: 16.75 %
The Woodlands CVB
(281) 363-2447; www.town-center.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%i
Houston's “Six in the City” cab program allows you and your colleagues to take a taxi anywhere in the downtown area for just $6. The one fare applies regardless of the number of riders; however, there can be only one pickup and one drop-off. The fare is $6, even if the meter reflects a different amount.
The Trinity Railway Express takes you to and from DFW International Airport for a fraction of the cost of taxi fare. Just take it to CentrePort/DFW Airport Station and transfer to the DFW Airport bus, serving airline terminals. Airport buses meet all trains, departing every 15 minutes Monday through Saturday. There is no Sunday service. Bus service between the rail station and the terminals is free.
Austin has free motorcoach parking for the State Capitol, Texas Governor's Mansion, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, and surrounding attractions. The special area is on Trinity Street between 12th and 18th streets.
Corpus Christi insiders frequent Water Street Market, where they can drop in on the free-admission Texas Surfer Museum, stroll along the South Texas Music Walk of Fame, or hear live music at the casual Executive Surf Club. The neighborhood includes the Water Street Seafood Co., a restaurant with a banquet room for 80 seated guests; and the Water Street Oyster Bar, offering private dining areas on its second floor. (361) 882-2211, www.waterstreetco.com
At Houston's John P. McGovern Texas Medical Center Commons, the central gathering place in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, Trevisio serves contemporary Italian cuisine as well as views of two 64-foot waterfalls. Its conference center has seven rooms that accommodate groups of five to 500. (713) 749-0400, www.trevisiorestaurant.com
Near Houston, George Ranch Historical Park has offered a Texan experience for groups for over a century. Host a fandango — an evening of music and entertainment — for up to 4,000. (281) 343-0218, www.georgeranch.org
The Aztec on the River, in San Antonio, is a restored 1926 movie theater. It once offered 2,500 seats but has been reconfigured down to 483 — so every seat has an unobstructed view of its five-story-high screen. Private gatherings are hosted on the mezzanine level, overlooking the dramatic special-effects show in the lobby. Other space includes a 1,400-square-foot meeting room. (210) 227-3930, www.aztecontheriver.com