One of the best ways to experience Houston —at an affordable rate, no less— is at the fabulous
Magnolia Hotel (1100 Texas Ave., 888/915-1110, www.magnoliahotelhouston.com , $129 d). This historic downtown gem hosts many business guests and events, and the bustling activity contributes to the cosmopolitan aura of the grand 1926 building. The Magnolia offers an impressive number of complimentary services, including wireless Internet access, a continental breakfast, downtown car transportation, and, even better: free happy hour drinks and milk and cookies at bedtime. The rooftop fitness center, lap pool, and hot tub make the Magnolia one of Houston’s top-notch lodging options.
Less historic yet nearly as impressive in its value is the Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St., 713/577-6027, www.hilton.com , $129 d), a humongous hotel with more than 1,200 rooms towering over downtown. This is a big-time business destination since the Hilton is attached to the convention center, but weekends are a nice (and cheaper) time to stay since the hotel’s many amenities are even more accessible. Highlights include three restaurants, several bars and lounges, and an impressive spa and health club with downtown views. Rooms feature free wireless Internet access, fancy 300-thread-count linens, and an in-room refreshment center.
For a modest price increase, consider the clean and spacious Best Western Downtown Inn and Suites (915 W. Dallas St., 713/571-7733, www.bestwestern.com , $159 d). Rooms and suites include microwaves, fridges, and free Wi-Fi service, and the hotel offers a free full breakfast every morning, in addition to happy hour cocktails (Mon.–Thurs.), a fitness center, a spa, and an outdoor pool.
Those seeking the comforts of home in a historic urban setting will enjoy the Residence Inn Houston Downtown (904 Dallas St., 832/366-1000, www.marriott.com , $169 d). The building itself is spectacular—the 1921 Humble Oil Building features well-restored Classical Revival details such as brass elevator doors, tall ceilings, and stately rose marble. Hotel amenities include free Internet access, free drinks at the evening social hour, a large pool, a fitness center, and spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens and separate sleeping and living areas. Check out this over-the-top service: You can leave a grocery list at the front desk and return in the evening to a stocked kitchen.
For a deluxe downtown lodging experience in a major city of Houston ’s size, it doesn’t get much better than the Alden (the former Sam Houston Hotel at 1117 Prairie St., 713/224-6300, www.aldenhotels.com , $170 d). The Alden offers near-luxury accommodations without charging outrageous prices. Pamper yourself in this contemporary setting with amenities such as fancy bathrooms (granite walls and glass-walled showers with plush robes and towels), quality bedding (400-thread-count sheets, down comforters and pillows, pillow-top mattresses) as well as DVD libraries, gourmet snacks, minibars, and free Wi-Fi service.
Sometimes a visit to a cosmopolitan city requires a cosmopolitan lodging experience. In Houston , look no further than the Hotel Icon (220 Main St., 713/224-4266, www.hotelicon.com , $219 d), offering dynamic contemporary lodging in the heart of downtown. This 12-story hotel is filled with bold colors and lavish details, including marble countertops, antique claw-foot tubs, luxury robes, and plush linens. In the mood for a bubble bath? Simply summon the Bath Butler for a perfectly drawn sudsy experience. Other amenities include free Wi-Fi service, Web TV, a stocked minibar, and fresh-cut flowers.
If a historic setting is more your style, consider the elegant Lancaster (701 Texas St., 713/228-9500, www.thelancaster.com , $219 d), considered Houston’s original small luxury hotel. The Lancaster’s posh aura is immediately apparent upon entering the lobby, decorated with large oil paintings, beveled glass, and dramatic lighting. There’s a sense of European opulence in the hotel’s décor, and the guest rooms capture this charm with dark wood two-poster beds, feather pillows and duvets, and brass furnishings. The Lancaster also offers free wireless Internet service.
Those in search of five-star accommodations have several downtown options, including the reliably luxurious Four Seasons (1300 Lamar St., 713/650-1300, www.fourseasons.com , $295 d). The skyline views are outstanding here, as are the services, including the exquisite spa and salon, a spacious pool and fitness center, complimentary downtown car service, a tasty antipasti bar, and rooms featuring plush bathrobes, minibars, and Wi-Fi access.
Some of the most expensive lodging in town is at the mediocre-sounding Inn at the Ballpark (1520 Texas St., 713/228-1520, www.innattheballpark.com , $309), located within earshot of the cracks of the Houston Astros ’ bats. The location is one of the prime amenities here, since the other services (aside from being five-star in quality) are as inspiring as the hotel’s name. The Inn at the Ballpark offers free transportation services around town as well as complimentary Internet access and a light breakfast.