I stayed at The Driskill – The Unbound Collection by Hyatt in Austin for a night in June. I live just a couple of hours away from Austin, so when a longtime friend from California was in town for a conference, I took it as a chance to explore the historic Driskill Hotel on a quick road trip with my bestie.
Explore we did, as The Driskill satisfied our curiosity and proved to be a great place to stay. We were entertained by the cattle-baron vibe, history, endless curiosity, and top-notch service. Plus, the room was comfortable and far more spacious and updated than we expected from a 19th-century hotel.
The Driskill is in the heart of Austin. It’s located at the corner of Brazos and the famed Sixth Street that’s home to live music, bars, dining, and shopping. The hotel is just 4 blocks away from the Texas Capitol building and 1 block away from Congress Avenue with its cool shops and dining. Several art spaces and museums are nearby, too, so it’s a good landing pad for sightseeing in downtown Austin.
It was fun to stay downtown and be able to walk around, though Sixth Street was tame on our Monday night visit. It was also close enough to my visiting friend’s conference hotel that she was easily able to meet us on foot at The Driskill Bar.
I drove myself to The Driskill, but for those visiting from further afield, the hotel is just about 7 miles away from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). With light traffic, the journey should take around 15 minutes by car.
Hot Tip: The area surrounding The Driskill is walkable, or you can rent a scooter to get around if you don’t want to drive.
The history and grandeur of The Driskill are why I booked our stay here, which lived up to my expectations. My bestie and I love to explore, and I booked The Driskill so we could have fun checking out this storied property.
The Driskill, which originally opened in 1886, is the oldest operating hotel in Austin. If you look at some of the art on the walls in the bar, you can see depictions of the hotel’s exterior when Sixth Street was a dirt road with cattle. The cattle are appropriate, as the hotel was built by Texas cattle baron Colonel Jesse Driskill.
History is alive practically everywhere you look at The Driskill. You can see it in the gilded meeting rooms where Texas oil barons and politicians made deals. It’s also in the painting of Col. Driskill at the grand lobby stairs with a patched-up bullet hole from a gunfight back in the cowboy days. We even got a sneak peek at some secret stairs off of the bar where elite guests once discreetly whisked dates upstairs.
The Driskill has hosted U.S. presidents, Texas governors, and countless galas, weddings, and special events. President Lyndon Baines Johnson met Lady Bird, his future wife, at the Driskill’s restaurant, then used the hotel as his campaign headquarters during congressional runs and even watched the results of his winning presidential election from the hotel’s Governor’s Suite.
The hotel also housed Austin National Bank, then KTBC, the first TV station in Central Texas. You can still see (and step into) the bank vault in the lobby.
The Ghost Stories
A 19th-century hotel with a lot of history, The Driskill has racked up a double-sided sheet of ghost stories. We got a printout with all the spooky stories from the front desk and later that night from the balcony, we watched a ghost tour make a stop at the hotel. Some of the creepiest stories involve suicides and a little girl who fell to her death on the grand staircase.
The Driskill’s spirits are said to have haunted guests, including Annie Lennox who left 2 dress choices laid out on her bed before showering and came back to find just 1 of them left, apparently styled by a ghost.
The most prevalent of the haunting stories center on room 525, a king room on the fifth floor where 2 suicides have occurred. The first, a bride, is said to walk the halls in her Victorian gown, while the second woman, who died in 1991, is claimed to carry packages down the hall and vanish into the room.
I was happy to be on the sixth floor and thankful to not be staying alone. However, I wish I had waited until morning to read on our printout about guests feeling their hair being brushed in bed. I slept with my hair up that night!
We didn’t experience anything explicitly supernatural during our stay, though my friend had some trouble with the lobby elevator taking a long time to open. There are Driskill elevator ghost stories, but I think the pauses had more to do with it being an old elevator.
I booked this stay using Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®. I knew I wanted to stay at The Driskill specifically, so I shopped our stay on a few websites before booking, including Hyatt’s own site, so I could have a shot at the Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee.
The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection booking option came out to be the same or lower than every other site I checked. Plus, I got credits and other benefits by booking through the Collection, which sweetened the deal. The only downside is I earned 3 points per dollar booking with the Collection using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card instead of the 10 points per dollar I could have earned if I booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Driskill is a luxury hotel and was a bit more expensive than most of the other hotels in the immediate area, but not exponentially. For most hotels, it was a difference of about $50 to $100 before fees, which I more than made up for with Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection benefits.
Bottom Line: Booking with the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection got me elite-like benefits at the hotel’s best available price.
We arrived in Austin around 1 p.m. and were immediately greeted by the friendly valets who helped us with our bags and took the car keys. We walked into the main lobby all the way past the staircase and to the back of the lobby to reach the front desk.
Persephone, our front desk agent at check-in, was exceptionally welcoming and explained all of our available amenities and how to get to our room. We chatted for a while about the hotel and she gave us a fact sheet about the hotel’s history and notable hauntings — while assuring us that our room didn’t have a history of ghosts to be concerned about.
The lobby was grand, with a sweeping staircase, high ceilings, stained glass, and lots of curious nooks (including an old bank vault). Next to the front desk was infused water, and the business center was located on the opposite side. There was extensive seating in the lobby off to the side near the adjoining 1886 Café & Bakery.
Like the rest of the hotel, the lobby had lots of ornate ceilings and light fixtures.
The concierge desk, business center, and ATM were to the right of the front desk under the staircase area leading to the bar.
To the left of the front desk were the bank vault, elevator up to the mezzanine, and an infused water station.
Around the corner from the vault were a corridor and seating area leading to the 1886 Café & Bakery, which was just to the right of the circular entrance.
I don’t have World of Hyatt status, so the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection benefits were a good substitute. Since the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection isn’t Hyatt’s own loyalty program, I expected to have to ask for my benefits. But Persephone cheerfully informed me of available credits at check-in — and what we got turned out to be greater than promised.
Here’s what I was granted booking through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection:
- Full breakfast for 2 daily in the 1886 Café & Bakery ($20 maximum credit per room, per day)
- $75 hotel credit (good for food and beverage or in-room movies)
- Upgrade to the next available category (subject to availability)
- Early check-in (subject to availability)
- Late checkout (subject to availability)
Though the breakfast credit was advertised as $20 maximum, I got more than double that in reality. Our breakfast was around $50 including a tip and gifts. I charged it to the room and asked about the balance at check out, but was told the entire breakfast was credited. I didn’t question it!
We used all of the $75 hotel credit at The Driskill Bar where we got 4 drinks and a snack. We went a teensy bit over, which unlike breakfast was reflected in my bill at checkout.
The front desk didn’t mention an upgrade when we checked in, but our view was better than some other rooms in the hotel. We got a downtown street view instead of an alley. And we were able to check in plenty early, which came in handy for a meeting I had to catch before the official check-in time!
Generally, you won’t earn loyalty points with a hotel unless you book directly. I didn’t expect it on this stay, booking through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, but I earned World of Hyatt points anyway! When I checked out, the front desk attendant asked me if I wanted to sign up for the World of Hyatt loyalty program and get points for my current stay. I gladly snapped up that opportunity!
The Driskill is a luxury hotel, but not a resort. It doesn’t have amenities such as a spa or a pool which we would have enjoyed during our stay amid an Austin heat wave. Still, we found fairly impressive amenities.
Gym and Locker Room
The gym was tucked away down a hallway with the locker rooms to the side and the fitness area around the corner and through another door. We got a weird vibe from the gym, but it was probably because we explored it shortly after reading the hotel’s ghost stories and it was eerily quiet with no guests but us. We did not use the facilities and you definitely wouldn’t catch me alone in the gym or locker room, though the locker room was impressive!
I found the locker room to be an unusual but welcome addition. It had what looked like Texas limestone tile throughout, some of the tiling with The Driskill’s signature D.
There was even a steam room available.
An accessible shower stall was also available.
The gym itself felt pretty small and somewhat limited in equipment, though it had a nice view!
There were a few weight machines, free weights, and a handful of cardio machines.
You can peer down at the city streets while you work out.
The gym had water and warm towels available.
The Driskill doesn’t have on-site parking, so you’ll need to find parking on the street or use the valet. We chose valet, which was $55 per night. I’d looked ahead at other parking options nearby, but we would have been limited on in-and-out privileges we planned to use, so valet fit the bill for this stay.
We arrived in a manual performance vehicle, which my friend is understandably precious about. She’s found that valets often don’t know how to drive a manual, much less one with some power, so she offered to park it herself if needed.
When we arrived, the valet in charge was able to handle it, but later, we did have to walk to a nearby garage to retrieve it when the valets on shift didn’t know how to drive a manual. I won’t say it was great making the trek on a 100-degree Austin day, but we appreciated that they respected her wishes to be cautious with her car.
I found the Wi-Fi to be slow, but I didn’t really need it.
Meetings and Events
We visited on a Monday, so we didn’t see any grand events during our stay, though a few meeting rooms were set up.
We walked through the mezzanine full of ballrooms to get to our room and got a peek at the impressive offerings for events. The mezzanine itself was inviting, and I imagined wedding parties spilling out into it and onto both of the street side balconies. I lost count of the grand ballrooms and meeting rooms available, and all of the ones we peeked into were opulent with features such as ornate fireplaces, huge chandeliers, and ceiling murals.
There were even named suites next to some of the ballrooms for guests of honor to slip away when they need a break or are done with festivities.
Hot Tip: You can book a suite if you want to be in one of the best rooms at the hotel — and close to the ballrooms.
The mezzanine can be booked for private events, too.
There were balconies overlooking both Brazos and Sixth Street, deeply set with lots of shade, seating, and a good view.
The business center was in the lobby right next to the front desk. It was a single room with 2 desks, computers, and a printer. Guests can access the business center from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
It was quiet in the business center with the door closed, so this would be a good place to catch a phone call or get a few things done.
I didn’t book The Driskill with art in mind, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Everywhere we went, the walls were lined with endless paintings. We viewed just a fraction of the art on display at the hotel, but we found many interesting and enchanting pieces.
Hot Tip: You could spend hours walking the hallways, mezzanine, bar, and other areas of the hotel to see all of the art the hotel has to offer.
Many of the art pieces shared views of events and days gone by at The Driskill.
We stayed in room 609 with a street view.
On the sixth floor, our room didn’t have a history of paranormal activity.
Our room had 2 queen-size beds on iron frames with The Driskill’s signature D on the headboards. These beds were comfortable and we conked out quickly that night!
At the foot of the beds was a lamp, sitting chair, cabinet, and desk.
The bed on the window side was close enough to look out on the view from the bed.
There was a single nightstand with a double-headed lamp, alarm clock, and remote for the overhead fan and light. A light switch was next to one of the beds, though we didn’t figure out what it controlled.
The alarm clock and the lamp both had USB plugs, and there was also a wall outlet available for charging.
The desk had plenty of room and even more plugs to use, plus some hanging storage for documents or devices.
Though the minibar wasn’t free, the welcome amenity waters on the desk were.
Next to the desk was the cabinet which functioned as an entertainment center and coffee station.
Inside the cabinet was the coffee and tea maker along with the minibar.
I was surprised by the size of the bathroom. The bedroom was comfortable, but not expansive, so I imagined the bathroom would be the same. While it wasn’t opulent, it was spacious and included a sink, tub/shower, toilet, table, and storage closet.
The bathroom was accessible with grab bars both at the toilet and in the tub/shower.
There was a closet with a door, shelving, robes, a luggage stand, and a hanging rack. I liked that the closet had its own light so I could easily see what I was getting in there.
Opposite the closet was a small table with extra towels, a hair dryer, and other bathroom amenities. This bathroom had no counter space, so this table was essentially the bathroom counter.
The bathroom featured full-size refillable bottles of Grown Alchemist amenities — with a note that these were available for purchase at the front desk.
There was a full-size lotion bottle, too.
Our room was near the back of the hotel, so we got a view of the intersection of Brazos and Seventh Street.
Food and Beverage
The Driskill has 3 food and beverage options: The Driskill Grill, The Driskill Bar, and the 1886 Café & Bakery. Though the grill was closed for renovations during our visit, the bar and café were open, and we visited both.
Hot Tip: Though the grill wasn’t open, the bar kitchen offered appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrées you could make a meal out of.
My Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection booking came with a couple of food and beverage credits for the bar and café, so we took advantage of them. I love a good credit, and they worked out well for us.
The Driskill Bar
Just up the grand staircase from the lobby was The Driskill Bar. There was also a street-level entrance on Seventh Street and a set of stairs that led up to the guest rooms. The bar had cocktails, spirits, wine, beer, and snacks.
The Driskill Bar is open:
Sunday to Thursday from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Friday to Saturday from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Driskill Grill was attached to the bar, but it was closed while undergoing renovations. You can enter the restaurant just past the bar when it’s open.
While Sixth Street just on the next block wasn’t rowdy as usual on the Monday night we visited, The Driskill Bar was fairly busy early in the evening with nearly every seat around the bar taken and several groups seated throughout the expansive space.
This bar absolutely lived up to the cattle-baron vibe, with cowhide seating, leather everywhere, and mounted steer heads. There was an old carved-wood bar, a cowboy and horse sculpture at the center, and cut glass windows and doors with a Lone Star at the center.
It’s very Texas. Maybe obnoxiously so for people who don’t love Texas, but as a lifelong Texan, I found it appropriate for the venue.
The art that’s everywhere at The Driskill was in the bar, too. It was along the walls and right in the middle with this large sculpture at the center of the bar seating.
The Driskill Bar has live music every night of the week, which started at 7 p.m. the night we were there.
We opted for a spot around the corner from the music and parked it on a cowhide leather sofa.
We had a $75 credit to burn here, which sounds like a pretty good budget for drinks and a snack but in practice didn’t go very far when each round was about $30. We got 2 cocktails each at around $14 per drink, plus a $12 hummus plate. With tax and a tip, we used all of the credit and went a bit over. I think we got a good value out of the credit!
I started with a gin-based Corpse Reviver #2 and my friend got Samantha’s Ghost, a mezcal cocktail. I enjoyed mine, but she didn’t finish hers, finding it too heavy on the mezcal.
For the next round, I opted for a classic gin and tonic. My friend got a watermelon ranch water, a tequila-based cocktail mixed with house-made watermelon agua fresca. We both enjoyed this round!
As we hung out in the bar, we noticed a curious door cutout on a wall. Extremely nosy as we are, we asked at the bar about it and the bar manager had a free moment to give us a tour and a brief history of what’s behind the door — and what could come soon.
It turns out this mysterious door leads to a large, narrow room with a staircase that goes up to the guest room hallways, which was formerly used by some of the hotel’s VIP guests to surreptitiously take dates upstairs.
The reality of what’s behind the door today is far less alluring, as it’s now a dimly lit storage area. There’s even storage on the stairs, so they’re not really operational. I wish we’d thought to find the other entrance upstairs, not that I’d expect it to be open.
The bar manager told us he’s dreamed of turning the space into a speakeasy, as there’s a door that opens on Brazos street with what could be a patio area.
We voted a huge yes on the speakeasy idea. It’s perfect and we’d make a return trip just to visit!
1886 Café & Bakery
Next to the lobby with an entrance and patio on Sixth Street was the 1886 Café & Bakery. Though its most prominent history was as a lunchroom, it reminded me a bit of an old-fashioned pharmacy with a treat counter and bar. This was where breakfast, brunch, and lunch were served at The Driskill.
The café is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
The café had a menu of cocktails, brunch entrées, sandwiches, signature dishes, and desserts, including the bakery’s famous 1886 chocolate cake. I regret not getting the cake, though I guess it would have been a weird choice at breakfast.
There were 3 seating areas for the café: near the counter, near the lunchroom-style counter, and outside on the Sixth Street patio.
We sat on the outside patio so we could street watch and enjoy some fresh air. It was a bit noisy, but not surprising given the location.
Like the bar, we had a credit to burn at the café, too. The credit was supposed to be $20 maximum and we had big lunch plans, so we didn’t get a full breakfast here — just a couple of lattes, some fruit, and a mango chia pudding. I grabbed a couple of extra items from the counter, including a hot sauce to bring home to my husband, and the total came to around $50 with tax and a tip. I charged it all to the room and planned to settle it at checkout, but the front desk told me it was entirely covered!
Bottom Line: Between the bar and breakfast, I got about $125 in value from my credits.
We were charmed by the warmth and enthusiasm of everyone at The Driskill, from the valet and front desk to the bar manager. Everyone we interacted with at The Driskill seemed genuinely enthusiastic to share this gem of a historic hotel. I think they were excited to see guests who appreciated the history and spooky stories and we had a great time with them. We were well taken care of, even on such a short stay.
The Driskill lived up to its famed history and was practically flawless in every way, from the surprisingly spacious and comfortable room to the impeccable service. We enjoyed our stay here and had a fantastic time exploring the hotel and enjoying the amenities.
This was my first time booking through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, but it won’t be the last. I found it to be a great option to take advantage of elite hotel benefits without elite status.