During my recent trip to Austin, TX, I stayed at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. The room was free, thanks to my IHG credit card. Along with my bonus for meeting the minimum spend after getting the card, I earned enough points to stay there for two nights.
Rooms can easily reach $240 a night. As for points, a Traditional King costs 50,000 points a night. Not the best value, but not horrible either. You can also combine cash and points, which will typically give the points a slightly better value. Another perk to my IHG card: complimentary upgrades. I was booked in a Traditional King, but when I checked in, they had a King Deluxe room available. So, Crystal and I stayed in that one.
Quite the history
The hotel first opened in 1924, and today is very much a recognizable landmark in the city. It has also been deemed a historical site by the Texas Historical Commission. According to an Austin realtor, Lyndon B. Johnson used the hotel as his campaign headquarters when he ran for congress in 1937. And George H.W. Bush used the presidential suite as a temporary office at one point.
The hotel is located in the heart of downtown Austin. A great location. You’re a hop, skip, and a jump away from Dirty 6th Street, a short walk from the Texas State Capitol, and a stone's throw away from the Colorado River.
The lobby and check-in
Right when you walk in you see a beautiful grand staircase in front of you. The check-in desk is to your right, and a lounge area to your left. All the employees we encountered were very polite. Before we even walked through the door you were made to feel welcome, and important. For example, the day we checked-in I called ahead to say we were in town already (we stayed at another hotel the night before and had an 11:00am check-out time) and would like to check-in early. They already had a room available, and we were able to check-in right when we got there (at about 11:30), well before the normal check-in time.
We were assigned a room on the 9th floor, not too far from the elevator. You could tell the room (and hotel) was recently renovated. And in fact it was. According to their website they finished renovations in 2013. Right when we walked in I noticed several things: we had a decent view of downtown, a loveseat, and coffee table. The closet was in the entranceway, which is typical.
The bathroom was a big perk, in my opinion. Completely separate from the sink was a makeup mirror. Very convenient if more than one person was in there at a time. There were two shower heads available for use in the shower/bathtub. One was detachable. And the water pressure was just fine.
The room also had a newer flat screen TV (with nice swivel action), a Keurig coffee maker, which is important for me, and a minibar.
The pool was in the basement and looked small. We didn’t use it, but besides the size, it looked nice. There was also a decent size gym right next to the pool.
If you went up the grand staircase in the lobby, you’d find yourself on the second floor where there was a bar with an outdoor terrace. We didn’t eat or drink there but it looked very nice, and was pretty crowded every time I walked by.
As much as I enjoyed staying here there were some cons. One was the parking options. Crystal and I drove down from Dallas. A side effect of the great location was limited overnight parking. Which is why the only official parking the hotel had was valet at $41 a night (that includes tax). If at all possible, don’t bring a car and get dropped off. Because once you’re there, you don’t need one.
Something else to take note of was the minibar setup. You had a tiny space for “personal use.” We used that. But in using that personal space we touched (barely) some of the overly priced items in the minibar. Well, it turns out that minibar has motion sensors in it. And when I was checking-out they thought we took (or “bought”) an item. Yeah, not the case. I’m not interested in buying a $3 can of Coca-Cola. So it’s certainly something to be aware of.
This one is minor, but still annoyed me. When I was checking-in they offered me one of two things because I was a IHG Rewards Club member: roughly 600 points, or a welcome treat. We asked what the treat was. The front desk employee said we would get cookies and a bottle of water. First of all, 600 points is basically nothing when it comes to IHG points. So we chose the treat. Well, the “cookies” turned out to be one (broken) cookie. It was actually extremely unimpressive. I will choose the points next time. I know. At this point I’m nitpicking. But that’s what a review is for.
Overall, I had a fantastic stay at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin, and would certainly stay there again. It’s not a cheap place to stay, but that’s expected with the location, and name. If you have the IHG points it’s a no brainer. And remember, IHG is partners with Chase. That means you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your IHG account. Again, if you can help it, don’t drive there. Take a shuttle, Uber, Lyft, or taxi. Hell, have your parents drop you off if you want. My point is, if you do drive, look for overnight garages that may be cheaper, or be prepared to pay the $41 a night.
I hope to stay here in the future. Have you had the opportunity to stay here? What did you think?
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