Where in the hell am I?

January 17, 2014

An Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014: Lodging and getting around

Filed under: archaeology, archeology — Tags: , , , , — John @ 11:34 am

Hi y’all!

Note: we say y’all in Texas. Very few people, besides Aggies, say “Howdy”. There’s your language lesson for the week 🙂

After doing some research, I thought it might be best to combine lodging and transportation in a single post. This is because most of the lodging options near the convention center (ie walking distance) are pretty expensive, and I was tasked with finding cheaper lodging. Note that, as often happens, most of the downtown hotels have jacked their prices up during the convention weekend. I should also note that the downtown hotels are never really cheap (besides the La Quinta, which SAA took over for student housing), and the trend has been to build upscale/”hip” boutique hotels in the area.

LODGING:

First, if you are a member of Hosteling International, and/or not opposed to staying in a hostel, there is one located walking distance from the convention center, on Lakeshore Boulevard: http://www.hihostels.com/dba/hostel060035.en.htm?himap=Y#book. I’m surprised that this actually has availability that weekend, so maybe jump on that (and I may have to edit this in a week). I have never stayed here but have driven by it a number of times, and it seems to have decent ratings.

A number of people have mentioned finding a room or place from sites like AirBnB or HomeAway. I have never used these services (and it looks like there is a lot of overlap of listings between the 2) and don’t consider my listing of these any type of endorsement. There are some places walking distance, or easy mass transit distance from the convention center listed. I wouldn’t stay further south than William Cannon (and really, not further than Ben White Boulevard/290 West), further west than Lamar Boulevard or MOPAC (Loop 1), further east than Chicon Ave (and only in the immediate downtown area), and further north than St. Johns (which is kinda pushing it). Please check the “Getting around” section below for more details!

UPDATE 1/27/14: THE AUSTIN MOTEL IS NOW COMPLETELY BOOKED FOR THE SAA 2014 WEEKEND. One pretty cool place that I actually HAVE stayed, that is walking distance to the Convention Center is The Austin Motel. This place is something of an Austin icon (and not just for the phallic sign). You’ll have to call to check on availability (and it’s entirely possible it’s already booked solid), but there are some single rooms for under $100 a night, and if you have a roommate there are lots of two bed options. Each room has it’s own theme. It’s also located on funky/hip South Congress, so lots of restaurants and bars and shopping in the area.

Another place I’m familar with is Habitat Suites. This place isn’t walking distance (but on a transit line), and not really in an ideal location (by a failing mall) but it’s a great hotel, and a room for 1 is $99/night during the conference (or one with a sofa bed for $109). One proviso: if you stay out after midnight, you’ll be taking a cab here. On the plus side, they have an amazing free breakfast!!

Some other options (between 90 and 130 bucks per night before taxes) are around the UT Campus. I have no idea how nice those places are, but they’re all the lower scale “name” hotels: Days Inn and Rodeway Inn. Both are walkable, but not the nicest walk (along the highway) and I can’t vouch for the safety of this walk. There are buses that can get you close (again, check the section of Getting Around).

After that, you’re looking at the cluster of hotels on the SW side of the IH-35 and US-290 intersection, or along IH-35 south of the river. There are a range of options, from Motel 6 to Embassy Suites. If these places don’t offer shuttles (and I can’t tell/don’t want to look at every one of them), you will likely be taking a taxi or walking a bit to get to a bus stop.

GETTING AROUND AUSTIN IN GENERAL:

This section will be important in helping to choose lodging.

First, as I stated above: I wouldn’t stay further south than William Cannon (and really, not further than Ben White Boulevard/290 West), further west than Lamar Boulevard or MOPAC (Loop 1), further east than Chicon Ave (and only in the immediate downtown area), and further north than St. Johns (which is kinda pushing it). Anywhere further than that and you will need to rent a car or pay for cabs. And you might have to do some cabbing anyway, because…

Austin’s dirty secret is that we have below standard public transportation (although it’s getting better), particularly when it comes to late night travel. Particularly for a progressive city that is now the 11th largest in the US. For a city that calls itself the Live Music Capitol of the World (still justifiably so) and promotes itself as an entertainment destination, if you stay out late and don’t want to drive/don’t have a car, you may be screwed or have to shell out some money. There are a limited number of late night buses on the weekends. These fill up fast, don’t go everywhere, and you may show up at 2am and not get on one until 4am. We have trains that run to the suburbs, and to a couple of the hip new developments. These also don’t run late.

Here’s the link to the Capital Metro website: http://www.capmetro.org/default.aspx. From here, you can look at maps and schedules, and plan your ride. For funsies, go ahead and enter your possible hotel/room location and the Convention Center, and check on various to and from trips, at different times. As an example, there is no bus that can get you within 3/4 mile of the campus area motels after midnight on the weekend.

So cabs. Here is a link to taxi fare info for Austin: http://www.yellowcabaustin.com/fare_info.aspx. From here, you can go to a fare generator. This should be very helpful in figuring out transportation costs from various lodging options. The trip from the Convention Center to the campus area hotels costs $10.53 (including the $1 surcharge for trips after 9pm, and not counting tip). It’s $16.50 to the hotels around 290.

One possible option is to use Car2Go, which is a Smart Car share program. You have to be a member, and please don’t do this if you are intoxicated! But, for trips within the center city and even to the edges of what can be considered the urban core (alas, my own house is just south) it could be an excellent option for getting around relatively affordably.

GETTING AROUND DOWNTOWN:

Downtown Austin is very walkable, especially for us CRM archaeologists used to walking 5-7 miles a day with heavy packs (sorry, a little good-natured rib at my academic counterparts). I consider anything within about 2 miles to be walking distance.

First, let’s talk safety. I consider Austin a pretty safe city, especially for being around a million people. Downtown is also very safe, although of course crimes do occur. You’re more likely to have to deal with drunk college students than muggers, but it happens. Click here for a link to the official 2012 crime statistics from the city website. The downtown zip code is 78701. The numbers are high, but remember this is a high activity entertainment district. The best advice is that which applies to any city. Be street smart: be aware of your surroundings, try and stay in well lit areas, travel in groups when you can. Once you’re away from the convention center or the immediate area: TAKE OFF YOUR BADGE. Especially late at night. Put it back on at the bar/restaurant if you want to meet people.

If you don’t feel like walking, or want to do something different, there are options. First, downtown is full of pedicabs. You tell the operator where you want to go and they’ll tell you how much it costs. Most have music and a sense of fun. It’s a good option to get someplace in a hurry, or just take a load off your feet, but it’s not super cheap.

A newer option (and something I haven’t tried yet) is the Austin B-Cycle bike share program. You can get an annual membership, OR purchase a daily or weekly pass (probably the best option for the SAA goer). You can ride the bike around and return it to any station (this is the critical part, it must be returned to a station to end the service time); the first 30 minutes is free. For getting around the immediate downtown vicinity, this seems like it might be a great option.

SO…that’s a lot of basic information! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer, or shoot me a tweet at twitter.com/archaeocore (you can use that handy little widget on the side too)!

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3 Comments »

  1. Hey John,
    I have 2 goals while I’m in Austin for SAA2014 (aside from actually attending the conference): 1) to have good Texas BBQ and 2) to see one good live music performance. Have any advice on where to make that happen?
    Thanks!
    -mandy-

    Comment by Mandy Ranslow — April 4, 2014 @ 8:42 am

    • Those are two of the posts I’ll be making in the upcoming days leading to the SAAs. But I’ll do a short preview for you 🙂
      1. The #1 place for BBQ in Austin (and Texas) is Franklin BBQ. But you usually need to be there in line between 9-9:30, and might not get to eat until 1. Fortunately, there are 3 other good options not too far from the convention center. My friend owns Mickelthwait Craft Meats, they have the best beef rib in Austin, handmade sausage, solid ‘cue, and great sides. La BBQ is another top 10 in Texas place, on east 6th, some say theirs is the best brisket (nope, it’s Franklin). Further down east 6th is John Mueller’s BBQ. From a famous family of Texas BBQ, another top 10 place in Texas.

      2. It depends on what type of music you’re interested in. My friend does a site called showlistaustin.com that has show listings, with a focus on punk, indie pop/rock, metal, underground stuff. You can also check the Austin Chronicle online to see the full array, which would include the more stereotypical “Austin” stuff like Americana, Texas country, and blues. Most of the main music venues are downtown, so walking or pedicabbing will be no problem.
      Saturday of SAAs I’ll be at The Mohawk for Cloud Nothings and The Men (my favorite current band).

      Comment by John — April 4, 2014 @ 8:50 am

      • Awesome! Thanks for the preview, and I look forward to the article. See you in Austin!

        Comment by mrshlltwnmauler — April 9, 2014 @ 6:37 am


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