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Austin Welcomes You to the Heart of Texas Hill Country

By R. Chad Dove

The city of Austin began along the Colorado River in the 1830s as the first permanent Anglo settlers arrived and named their modest village Waterloo. In 1839, the village was selected as the site for the capital of the new Republic of Texas. The bustling city that quickly emerged was later renamed Austin after the U.S. statesman and “Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin.

As Texas transitioned from republic to state, Austin remained the capital, but not without a fight. In 1842, the threat of an invasion by the Mexican army caused the relocation of government to the city of Houston. Austin residents were determined to keep the capital and staged the so-called Archive War by forcibly retaining government records. In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States and its state government returned to Austin.

Throughout the following 170 years, the city has continued to grow. According to recent estimates, Austin is now the fourth largest city in Texas and 11th largest city in the nation. Austin is home to a thriving technology industry, including several Fortune 500 firms such as Apple, Cisco, PayPal and Texas Instruments. 

Between the Sixth Street and Rainey Street entertainment districts and countless other bars, outdoor stages and concert halls, the city is home to more than 200 live music venues. This vibrant music scene, which also includes the annual South by Southwest Music Festival, has led to Austin being nicknamed the “Live Music Capital of the World.”

The slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” was originally coined by local Red Wassenich to promote local businesses, but over the years the slogan has come to mean much more. Austin is the place to let things get a little weird. This eclectic community spirit is what makes Austin eager to welcome visitors and more than willing to show them a good time.

Brazos Hall

Brazos Hall is a converted turn-of-the-century warehouse and grain mill at the corner of Brazos and Fourth Street. The historic mixed-use event venue features brick walls, open wooden rafters, exposed duct work, steel beams and refurbished pine floors. The wideopen venue lends itself to a multitude of decorating and event possibilities. 

The Main Hall of the building offers 8,400 square feet of industrial, yet elegant event space. Ceiling height is 12-14 feet and the room can accommodate 500 guests seated or up to 900 people standing. A catering prep area is adjacent to the hall and includes a commercial refrigerator, ice maker and sink. 

Brazos Hall also offers a 3,400-square-foot covered rooftop deck. The space is ideal for open-air business mixers, corporate receptions or rooftop award ceremonies. The ceiling stands at 14 feet, providing protection from inclement weather or glaring sunlight, yet still allowing a light and airy feel. The capacity of the rooftop deck is 250 people seated and up to 450 guests standing. The deck also includes a catering prep area with ice maker and sink. 

The venue offers a variety of customizable bar packages, stage lighting, a loading dock, ADA compliant elevator, two 150-inch, wallmounted video screens with a full range of audio equipment and event staff, including site managers, bartenders, security, cocktail servers and more. 

The Driskill

Built in 1886 by a Texas cattle baron, The Driskill stands as an opulent reminder of a bygone era. The 189-guest room hotel has served as a meeting place for socialites, elite businessmen and U.S. Presidents such as Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. The opulence of the columned and marble-floored lobby carries over into the main level and mezzanine meeting and event space.

The Driskill offers more than 18,000 square feet of unique and historic venue space. For smaller groups, the hotel offers the Governor’s Boardroom, which can hold up to 15 people, or the Citadel Club that accommodates up to 50 guests. Event planners hosting larger groups may choose the Victorian Room, which can seat up to 120 attendees or the hotel’s largest space, the Driskill Ballroom. At more than 2,500 square feet, the ballroom can accommodate up to 350 guests. 

Meeting rooms at The Driskill are outfitted with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and high-speed internet access. The hotel features catering menus crafted by an award-winning culinary team. Additional property amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center, a business center, same-day laundry, dry cleaning and concierge services. The hotel is located at Sixth and Brazos streets, and is within walking distance of many restaurants, and live music and entertainment venues.

“For more than 131 years, The Driskill has stood in the heart of Austin and it is truly considered to be Austin’s hotel, providing attendees with a one-of-a-kind, authentic experience they can’t find anywhere else,” says Corinna Wenks, general manager of The Driskill. “With 18,000-plus square feet, the property is ideally suited for executive retreats, small meetings and events, and legendary parties. Each function room lends privacy, elegance and a sense of place to each event. Attendees walk away knowing they are part of a larger story involving some of the most iconic figures of our time.” 

800 Congress

800 Congress is located on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. The venue features an industrial warehouse look with exposed foundations, original brick and large windows for plenty of natural light. The building is within walking distance of many hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The venue features a total of 5,800 square feet of event space, 4,500 square feet inside and a 1,300-square-foot outdoor patio. 800 Congress can accommodate 250 seated and up to 600 guests standing. Direct sightlines, large windows and 17-foot high ceilings provide natural light and an open feel for the space.

Several additional amenities are offered with the rental of the facility, including an onsite venue manager, catering kitchen and walkin refrigerator, four moveable bars, a house sound system, Wi-Fi internet access, tables and a projector complete with a 200-inch projection screen. The venue is owned by Parkside Projects and represents the company’s first venture outside the restaurant industry.

“800 Congress is a prime downtown Austin event venue located on historic Congress Avenue with views of the Paramount Theatre and the Capitol building. The close proximity to the best downtown hotels makes it the ideal corporate event destination in Austin,” says Jeylan Yolac, brand manager for Parkside Projects. “The space features an open warehouse look that is industrial yet polished and can host all kinds of décor. A covered outdoor street-level terrace and state-of-the-art audiovisual system makes it one of the most wanted spaces for corporate events in Austin.” 

Austin Convention Center

The Austin Convention Center is located at 500 E. Cesar Chavez Street, within a short distance of 9,500 guest rooms at hotels such as the JW Marriott Austin, Hilton Austin, the Westin Austin Downtown, the Four Seasons Hotel Austin and the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt. The convention center is also two blocks from Interstate 35 and in close proximity to multiple restaurants, parks, museums and other attractions including four different entertainment districts.

The multipurpose convention center stretches across a footprint of 881,400 gross square feet featuring a total of 369,132 square feet of meeting space. Included in this total is 247,052 square feet of column-free exhibit space divisible into five contiguous halls that can house 1,289 10-foot-by-10-foot booths. One of the halls offers retractable riser seating for up to 1,500 people.

The facility boasts seven ballrooms including the 23,418-square-foot South Ballroom, which can hold up 2,000 people. The upperlevel Grand Ballroom provides planners with 40,510 square feet of space that can accommodate seated meals for more than 3,000 guests. An additional 54 flexible meeting rooms and show offices offer more than 58,000 square feet of event space throughout all four levels of the facility. 

The state-of-the-art Austin Convention Center offers complimentary wireless internet access to keep pace with the digital access needs of group attendees. The convention center has gone a step farther and is now a gigabit-rated facility with technology infrastructure to support a voice, video and data rate of 1 billion bits per second. A skilled and proficient in-house staff provide oversight with a 24/7 network monitoring system allowing meeting planners to focus on their event instead of technology glitches.

The staff at the Austin Convention Center provide assistance from initial planning to the closing of events. Catering and concession management partner, Austin Convention Center Catering, offers premium food and beverage preparation, as well as portable concessions, including regional and Southwestern cuisine for meetings of 10 to 5,000. On-site, 24-hour security is also available.

The convention center has two parking garages, and an additional 10-story parking garage is two blocks west of the property. Austin is near the center of the state and is within a three-hour drive of many major Texas cities. The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is only 8 miles from the convention center.

With so much to do throughout the city, it is easy to see why meeting planners would choose Austin. Throw in the city’s atmosphere, central location, rich history, lush parks, biking and hiking trails, and an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and the decision gets even easier.