Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Fairmont Austin

31 Jul 2022 by Hannah Brandler
Fairmont Austin. Drew DeGennaro

Background

This towering high-rise opened in 2018 and is the Fairmont brand’s largest property in the US and second largest globally in terms of number of hotel rooms and meeting and events space.

The property has 1,048 guest rooms, five restaurants and bars, an outdoor pool, spa and fitness centre, and 13,000 sqm of events space.

Where is it?

In the southern area of Downtown Austin, a short walk to the riverfront Waller Beach Metro Park, as well as restaurants on Rainey Street.

It is directly connected to the Austin Convention Centre on its second floor via the 33-foot elevated footbridge known as the Red River Canopy Walk.

There are entrances on Red River Street and 2nd Street, the latter of which has a driveway always busy with taxis and Ubers.

Fairmont Austin. Drew DeGennaro

What's it like?

In one word: huge. The 37-storey property is the second tallest building in the city, with an illuminated 52-metre tall spire that is a useful feature if you ever need to find your way home.

The wall-to-wall window façade is also well suited to the city’s sunny weather, with sunsets reflected across the exterior. The building is L-shaped, with a seven-floor section topped off with a rooftop pool.

The ground floor is open plan, with reception desks on the left of the entrance and escalators to the right which take you to the events floors. Then there’s the Fulton bar around the corner, as well as the Good Things boutique, Revue restaurant and areas with high tables for working.

The bright lobby features natural light, high ceilings and indoor plants, with an aquamarine colour scheme of blues and greens, wooden furnishings and artworks throughout – including galloping horses by sculptor Edd Hayes.

Fairmont Austin. Scott Mason Bittinger

The hotel’s audience is mainly event-goers, with the public spaces brimming with lanyard-wearing guests – at the time of my visit, a cryptocurrency convention had taken over the town. The benefit  is that the public spaces are always buzzy, much like Austin itself, but the downside is the long wait times for the services.

There are two lift banks but the higher floors are only accessible from one of them. The trouble with this is that guests from the lower floors can use both sets of lifts, meaning that they are busy ferrying people to- and fro- the lobby and take longer to reach the top floors.

During my stay I waited on average ten minutes for the lifts to my floor, which was a pain as I had to factor it into my timekeeping. On the upside it gave me a chance to meet fellow disgruntled guests during the wait.

That said, check-in and check-out were both breezy (at 3pm and 11am respectively), and you can leave your bags with the concierge.

Fairmont Austin views

Rooms

Fairmont rooms (38 sqm) are located on floors 8-24, Deluxe rooms (38 sqm) are located on floors 15-31, while floors 32-35 are reserved for the 131 Fairmont Gold rooms and suites (from 38 sqm). The latter offer private check-in and check-out, a dedicated concierge, complimentary breakfast and evening snacks in the Gold Lounge. There is also a presidential suite on floors 36 and 37.

All rooms have a contemporary décor with shades of blue, white and beige, retro carpets and floor-to-ceiling windows offering beautiful city, park or lake views (and some over the pool). My room had a striped L-shaped sofa by the window, a coffee table, and a large desk for working.

Fairmont Room, Austin

Amenities include free wifi, a comfy King bed (or two queens), a 50-inch HDTV, Le Labo bath products, bathrobes, a safe, and a Nespresso machine. There are well-placed USB and plug sockets, both beside the bed and the desk.

The bathroom has a shower over the bathtub, and a separate door for the toilet.

On the sustainability side, there was no master switch for the lighting which seemed like a waste of energy, and the toiletries are small rather than in refillable large bottles.

Fairmont Austin bathroom

Food and drink

The ground-floor Fulton lounge and bar offers small plates and music-inspired cocktails beneath a large oak tree (supposedly a replica of the oldest oak tree in Texas) strewn in fairy lights, which bathes guests in blue and green lighting.

The food court-style Revue is described as a ‘journey through distinct culinary worlds’ but reminded me of a western film set and was a little kitsch. At breakfast it offers a traditional American buffet as well as à la carte options, while its dinner menu includes Italian and Asian fare.

It was very understaffed during our visit and we waited in a queue for 30 minutes before a staff member even addressed the (arguably far too patient) guests. At this point, we were told that there weren’t any tables available, which wasn’t true. We pointed out several free tables, and given it was a buffet service, were confused why we had to wait any longer.

Some cross words were exchanged (blame the hangry nature of the guests), and we took it into our own hands and swapped with another table from our group. It was really not worth the hassle so I had breakfast out the following morning.

Also on the ground floor is the Good Things boutique, which offers coffee, pastries, gifts and travel essentials, and upmarket grill restaurant Garrison.

Rules and Regs, located on the seventh floor, was my favourite venue as it offers views across Austin’s cityscape, delicious Latin-inspired light bites and fun cocktails. It serves a Tex Mex-style brunch on weekends, and light bites from Wednesday to Sunday.

Fairmont Austin rooftop pool. Photographer: Brent Hall

Leisure

The hotel has a 24-hour fitness centre on the sixth floor and a large seasonally-heated pool on the seventh floor.

The rooftop pool is incredibly refreshing and picturesque, overlooking the rest of the city. Guests can reserve cabanas surrounding the pool (for a fee). These include 50-inch TVs, towels and drinks service – these can accommodate parties of two, five, seven or ten guests

Meetings

The hotel has over 13,000 sqm of events space across floors 3-6, which includes 66 meeting rooms, two ballrooms and a business centre.

Verdict

This huge hotel is beautifully designed and conveniently located for those attending meetings and events in the city. Its huge size, however, has equally huge downsides, with the hotel not able to keep up with demand.

This is largely due to the hotel being understaffed, which is a real issue in the hospitality industry at the moment, and my visit coinciding with a large convention. Nonetheless, it’s disappointing considering that the hotel is specifically designed to cater to such large crowds, with the property even linked to the convention centre across the road.

Hopefully the service will be smoother in the coming months as the hotel continues to recover from the pandemic.

Fact box

Best for

Its Downtown location and access to the Convention Centre

Don’t miss

Cooling down poolside with a prickly pear margarita

Price

Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in August started from US$260 for an entry-level Fairmont room

Contact

101 Red River Street Austin, Texas 78701; +1 512 600 2000; fairmont-austin.com

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