Photo courtesy of Booked.net

Since it was founded in 1837, Austin has been a destination for travelers from Texas and beyond. In the early 19th century, the city was being constructed to accommodate the Texas seat of government, and the need to house guests visiting the newly minted Capital City was becoming apparent. While city legend has long given the historic Driskill Hotel, built in 1888, the designation as the first hotel in Austin, it is actually the Bullock House Hotel that can claim that crown.

Whether you'd like to stay at an historic property or a modern highrise, here's a closer look at some of the most famous hotels in Austin.

Bullock House Hotel
In 1829, the Bullock Hotel was built on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. The Bullock House Hotel also served as the residence of owner Richard Bullock, his family, and servants. The hotel became a social gathering place for locals, and even played a role in the Pig War between owner Richard Bullock and French government dignitary Alphonse Dubois de Saligny.

Saligny stayed temporarily at the Bullock House Hotel while the nearby French Legation was being built. According to historical accounts, Bullock and Saligny did not care for each other. Bullock felt the Frenchman was filled with pretension, and a quarrel ensued when Bullock's marauding pigs invaded the Frenchman's private quarters. After that, Saligny packed his bags and headed for the French Legation. The rift resulted in a temporary diplomatic disruption in relations between Texas and France, but afterward, Bullock and his surviving pigs became local celebrities. The hotel later changed ownership and became the Swisher's Hotel in 1852 and the Smith's Hotel in 1858.

The Driskill Hotel
The city of Austin was officially incorporated in 1839 and became the capital of Texas in 1846. In 1886, Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron, built the Driskill Hotel on an empty lot he purchased for $7,500. After spending $400,000 on construction, the Driskill was complete, and local newspaper headlines deemed it "one of the finest hotels in the country."

The Driskill, often referred to as "The Grand Dame," was meant to rival luxurious hotels in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Decades later, an annex was added to the original hotel at Brazos and Pecan streets (later renamed Sixth Street), and today it features 189 guest rooms, two restaurants, a popular bar and live music area, and even a bank vault that was part of the original hotel. The Driskill was a favorite date spot for President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, and the hotel has hosted innumerable election night parties for Texas politicians. The Driskill is also the oldest hotel in Austin still operating today and remains a highly popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Hotel Ella
Although Hotel Ella is a relative newcomer to the Austin boutique hotel scene, the grand home has been in existence since 1898. Hotel Ella, or the Goodall Wooten home, sits on the southern edge of the University of Texas campus at 1900 Rio Grande St. The home was originally purchased by Dr. Thomas Wooten, one of the original founders of UT, and a few years later, Wooten offered his wife, Ella, the chance to take a trip around the world or have renovations made to their home. Wisely, she chose both.

The home is an exquisite example of a Greek Revival-style mansion, and throughout the decades the home has been a student housing site, a chemical dependency center, a boutique hotel name Mansion at Judges Hill, and finally, after a complete revamp, Hotel Ella opened in 2013. The hotel hosts weddings, university functions, local gatherings, and a number of charitable and social events. There are 47 guest rooms, a courtyard area with a pool, fine dining restaurant, historic bar filled with artwork, and huge wraparound porch for guests to sit on rocking chairs and sip iced tea and mint juleps.

Hotel San Jose, Austin Motel, and Hotel Saint Cecilia
Native Texan and hip hotelier Liz Lambert attended law school at UT, moved to Manhattan to work as a prosecutor, then a few years later returned to Austin — and the city is fortunate she did. Lambert was always interested in design, and serendipity struck one night when she was at the Continental Club and spied the seedy San Jose Hotel, originally built in 1936, just across South Congress Avenue. Lambert bought the San Jose and remodeled the hotel to create an urban bungalow vibe.

In 2006, Lambert formed Bunkhouse Group, which now operates Jo's Coffee; Fair Market; Hotel San Jose; Austin Motel (also on South Congress, the motel opened in 1938); and Hotel Saint Cecilia (named after the patron saint of music, the Miller-Crockett house was originally built in 1888 at 112 Academy Dr., just a block off South Congress). In addition to the Austin properties, Lambert and company also have hotels in Mexico, Marfa, San Francisco, and San Antonio.

Along with a few other eager Austinites, Bunkhouse has helped revitalize South Congress from a vice-filled street to a burgeoning strip filled with musicians, tourists, vintage shoppers, and others wanting to experience Austin's unique culture. Lambert's hotels are filled with nostalgic touches like vibrating beds, neon signs, retro swimming pools, vinyl records, music posters, handmade furniture, and kimono bathrobes.

Fairmont Hotel
The newly opened Fairmont Hotel, adjacent to the Austin Convention Center, is now the largest hotel in Austin. Not only is it the largest in the city, but the Fairmont Austin is also the largest hotel of the Fairmont brand in the U.S., and the company's second largest hotel in the world. The towering high-rise at 101 Red River St. is 37 floors with 1,048 guest rooms, a spa, multiple restaurant options, two bars, and a huge pool overlooking the city.

From the early hotel days featuring roving pigs to today's modern skyscrapers, Austin has seen a dramatic change. What has not changed, however, is Austin's reputation as a welcoming destination that appeals to a spectrum of visitors.

Photo courtesy of Greystar Properties

Say howdy to Fort Worth's finest from these extraordinary apartments

Cowtown Charm

Cowboys and city slickers can both agree: There's no other apartment community like Elan West 7th. Located mere blocks from bustling Montgomery Plaza and Crockett Row, the apartments offer a truly enviable location along with outstanding amenities, making it much more than just a place to hang your hat.

Imagine being right by some of Fort Worth's best shopping and dining. You could run out for lunch at Gloria's Latin Cuisine or grab a few rolls at Sushi Axiom one day, then head over to Terra Mediterranean Grill or Mash'd another night for dinner. Flirt Boutique, West 7th Nail Spa, and LA Fitness cover all the look-good, feel-good basics in Crockett Row, and with the newly opened West Elm so close, decorating your new home is suddenly a chic adventure.

Available floorplans at Elan West 7th include one- and two-bedroom layouts, with townhomes that come with their own private, attached garages. But community is huge here, with shared outdoor and indoor kitchens where residents can grill or cook up a meal for their friends and neighbors. With two fire pits by the saltwater pool, it's a cozy setting for weekend cookouts or an evening under the stars.

Expect to also see friendly faces at the building's coffee bar, resident lounge, and 24-hour fitness center. After a workout, you can soothe sore muscles with the aqua massager or return home to soak in your garden tub or spa-style shower.

Sleek granite countertops can be found in each bathroom and kitchen, along with undermount sinks and custom cabinetry. Eager hosts and hostesses will appreciate the other kitchen features, which include stainless steel appliances, shimmering tile backsplashes, and gourmet prep islands and wine chillers in some units. And never miss a call or text thanks to USB charging stations in the home's central hub (the kitchen, obviously).

To make everyday life easier, full-size washers and dryers are included in each unit. That's a huge help, especially considering the apartments come with Texas-size walk-in closets. Still need more room for all your stuff? Additional onsite storage is available.

Right now Elan West 7th is running a special where you can lease today for $99, and then get up to $750 off your first month's rent. Set up an appointment to tour with a leasing agent by calling 817-820-0202 or visiting here.

Elan West 7th is full of Cowtown charm.

Elan West 7th apartments
Photo courtesy of Greystar Properties
Elan West 7th is full of Cowtown charm.
Photo courtesy of Briggs Freeman

Get the best views in North Texas from this pricey penthouse pad

Sky Living

How would you like to own a billionaire’s penthouse in the sky with the best views in North Texas? The founder of Dallas-based TRT Holdings (Omni Hotels, Gold’s Gym International) has placed his pristine Fort Worth condo, at the tip top of the Omni Residences, on the market again.

Robert Rowling, a Dallas billionaire whose primary residence is a $12 million house on Beverly Drive in Highland Park, has listed an amazing $7.9 million property with Allison Hayden and Margo Bentsen of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. Hayden and Bentson were the sales team that marketed and sold out the Omni Residences in Fort Worth when they were agents with Allie Beth Allman & Associates.

The penthouse, decked out by Dallas-based designer Adrienne Faulkner, is 10,000 square feet, with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, five living areas, two dining areas, and even a four-car garage. There are five — count ’em, five — balconies with unparalleled 360-degree views of downtown Fort Worth.

It also has a private elevator entrance straight into the unit so you never have to see neighbors. The Omni offers a stunning outdoor pool, exercise facility, and direct access to Bob’s Steak House.

Rowling’s wife is from Fort Worth, but sources say he never spent more than a week in the property, which was mostly used to house friends or business associates.

The Corpus Christi native got his start in the oil business with Tana Oil and Gas, which was partly owned by his father. In 1989, Texaco acquired Tana for $476 million, which seeded TRT Holdings. According to Forbes, Rowling has an estimated net worth of $6.5 billion.

Tarrant County will sure reap the benefits of the sale: The penthouse was valued at $3.1 million. But the price has come down somewhat; last year, Rowlings listed it for $9 million.

“This is a very unique property in that it takes up the whole entire floor of the building,” Allison Hayden told the Dallas Business Journal.

Hayden also says there is no comparison in Fort Worth, and maybe even Dallas. Unless you are talking the $25 million penthouse at Museum Tower.


A version of this story originally was published on Candy’s Dirt.

All of Fort Worth is your backyard at this penthouse.

1301 Throckmorton St. Fort Worth Omni penthouse for sale
Photo courtesy of Briggs Freeman
All of Fort Worth is your backyard at this penthouse.
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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

The Alamo previews awe-inspiring new exhibit ahead of 2024 debut


Ask first-time visitors about their experience at the Alamo, and you're likely to hear a frequent refrain: the grounds are so small. But that's slowly changing with ambitious plans to bring the site's original footprint back to life.

Starting May 25, visitors have been getting a sneak peek at the complex's newest structure, the Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit, before it officially opens in 2024. Funded in part by a $3 million donation from the Joan and Herb Kelleher Charitable Foundation, the exhibition gives guests a broader understanding of the Alamo's scale.

The historical re-creation was crafted by lauded San Antonio artist Carlos Cortés. A third-generation concrete faux bois artisan, his work is featured throughout the city, most notably on the River Walk, where his fantastical The Grotto greets thousands of Museum Reach visitors each year.

The life-size sculpture stands in for the original main gate of the fort at the southern boundary of the complex. Cannons and placards scattered throughout give crucial context to the structure. Though early renderings show the beams and spiked fence with more verisimilitude, the forms currently stand in ghostly concrete — inviting quiet contemplation.

When the exhibit is finished next year, guests will be more fully immersed in the hallowed grounds, which extend far beyond the walls of the iconic Church and Long Barrack. Coupled with the upcoming Alamo Visitor Center and Museum and the recently debuted Ralston Family Collections Center, it will turn the grounds into one of Texas' most awe-inspiring historic sites.

"We are deeply grateful to the Joan and Herb Kelleher Charitable Foundation for their support of the Alamo and our ongoing efforts to preserve this important piece of Texas history," says Kate Rogers, Executive Director of the Alamo Trust, Inc., in a release. "Their generosity will allow us to continue to educate and inspire visitors from around the world, ensuring that the legacy of the Alamo lives on for generations to come."

Alamo Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit

Photo courtesy of the Alamo.

The Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit gives visitors an understanding of the original grounds' scale.

Decadent desserts in jars from celebrity Top Chef roll in to Fort Worth

Dessert News

Desserts in jars from a celebrity chef are coming to Fort Worth: Jars by Fabio Viviani, a fast-casual dessert brand serving popular desserts in jars, is opening a location in the Trinity Commons/Tom Thumb center, at 3000 S. Hulen St. #150, taking over a former Wild Bird Center.

This will be the first of a planned 10 franchised stores in the DFW area. According to a representative from the company, it'll open in late 2023.

Longtime fans of Top Chef will recall the charming and dreamy Fabio Viviani, who was a contestant in 2008, voted "fan favorite," and was among the most engaging contestants to ever appear on the series. That is a totally objective statement. To be honest, this story should have featured a photo of Fabio as the lead art, instead of the desserts. To wit:

Top Chef Fabio VivianiWhy yes, chef Fabio Viviani, I will totally buy your desserts in a jar.Courtesy photo

A native of Italy who moved to the U.S. in 2005, he's cultivated a profile as a celebrity chef, hospitality developer, best-selling cookbook author, and TV host, opening dozens of restaurants, bars, and event spaces, and serving as spokesperson for several international brands.

He founded Jars in 2021 as a gourmet quick-serve dessert concept serving an assortment of classic desserts from around the world in a single-serve jar. The first corporate location opened in Chicago's West Loop in February 2023, and there are now many more in development.

The menu rotates through more than 100 recipes, featuring classics such as cherry cheesecake, birthday cake, and even gluten free options.

Selections include:

  • Double Dark Chocolate Cake - Dark Double Chocolate Custard, Chocolate Sponge Cake, Vanilla Frosting, Rainbow Sprinkles
  • French Vanilla cake - French Vanilla Custard, White Sponge Cake, Vanilla Frosting, Rainbow Sprinkles
  • Tiramisu Espresso & Cream Custard, Coffee-Dipped Lady Fingers, Nilla Wafer, Cocoa Powder
  • Tres Leches Cake - Salted Caramel, Tres Leches Sponge Cake, Sweet Strawberries, Crunch Cereal Topping

They also limited-edition seasonal flavors such as Apple Pie with Granola Crumble, Pie Crust, and Pastry Cream; and Freedom Jar with Red, White, & Blue Custards, Sponge Cake, and Blueberries.

Prices range from $7 to $10.

They also do flavored waters such as mango passion fruit and blood orange.

Bringing the Jars concept to Fort Worth are husband-and-wife Tejal and Jason Wible, Fort Worth residents and franchise veterans whose prior businesses include a location of Dogtopia.

They're particularly happy about the location.

“We’re right between I-20 and I-30 and situated near some great schools, including Texas Christian University, and several residential neighborhoods,” the couple says in a statement. “We’re confident we found the perfect spot to bring the good people of Fort Worth the next big thing in desserts.”