2018 Editor's Picks

Our Best of 2018 readers' choice awards couldn't possibly cover every segment of the meetings and events industry, especially in a state the size of Texas, so here are a few more places that deserve a little recognition. 

BEST RESORT SPA
Spa Django

Spa Django at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa is about a 20-mile drive from downtown Austin, but the secluded location will make you feel a thousand miles away. The 400-acre Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort is nestled on the banks of the lower Colorado River and adjacent to the McKinney Roughs Nature Park. The spa, a stand-alone facility, is conveniently located at the southwest corner of the resort complex and overlooks the Wolfdancer Golf Club and the wilderness of the Lost Pines region in the distance. 

Spa Django boasts 18 treatment rooms, a salon and a fitness center that is available to resort guests 24-hours-a-day via room keycard access. Guests can take advantage of the spa’s many massage, facial and body services as well as manicures and pedicures. Service packages are available for guests who would like to make a day of it, including the Soulmate Sunset, a couples massage in the duet suite concluding with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. 

The interior of the spa is modern and relaxing with muted color tones complemented by serene views of the surrounding natural environment. In addition to an outdoor co-ed pool and hot tub area, the spacious Spa Django facility features separate men’s and women’s areas that include relaxation rooms, saunas, steam rooms and private outdoor hot tubs. 

BEST MENU
Brasserie 19

Brasserie 19 is situated in the heart of Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood. This unique French restaurant offers guests a lively and social ambience whether seated in the crisp white interior or on the patio among the art deco facades of the historic River Oaks Shopping Center. From the house-made Brasserie 19 charcuterie to melt-in-your-mouth foie gras or trout almondine, guests will find plenty of fresh French fare. The restaurant offers private dining for groups up to 50 guests in the Wine Room. Brasserie 19 features one of the city’s most extensive wine lists. To start your meal off right, I recommend the deviled eggs topped with caviar, pickled onion and fresh dill.

BEST OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE
Hilton Anatole

The Hilton Anatole is north of downtown Dallas and features 1,606 guest rooms, more than 600,000 square feet of event space, eight restaurants and bars, and a full-service fitness club and spa. The property’s seven acres of outdoor space includes a private sculpture park. Event planners can take advantage of two beautiful event lawns that can host up to 400 guests. During the summer, guests or attendees with families can participate in daily games in the park, family movies on Friday and Saturday nights, and afternoon pool parties. 

One of the newest features is the JadeWaters Resort Pool Complex. The 3-acre, $20 million water park opened in summer 2016 and offers a splash zone with two 180-foot slides, a lazy river, and an adult-friendly leisure pool with three TVs and a swim-up bar. 

I recommend reserving a private cabana with chaise lounges, a 55-inch TV, refrigerator, bottled water and tropical fruit platter. The JadeWaters complex is closed mid-October through early May. However, the Hilton Anatole offers an outdoor heated pool and an indoor pool for year-round use. 

BEST MUSEUM ROOFTOP VENUE
Moody Rooftop at The Contemporary Austin - Jones Center

The Contemporary Austin - Jones Center is home to the Moody Rooftop, a unique 3,300-square-foot outdoor event space overlooking Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. The venue is an ideal setting for corporate banquets, workshops or group meetings, and can accommodate up to 250 guests.

A permanent open-air canopy was added as part of a facility-wide renovation and expansion completed in 2016. In addition to a panoramic view of the Austin skyline, the Moody Rooftop has bistro tables and chairs, a built-in bar and an optional 20-foot video screen. 

The outdoor art installation, “With Liberty and Justice for All,” by artist Jim Hodges, encompasses two sides of the rooftop yet leaves plenty of room for guests to enjoy the view. In fact, if you stand in just the right spot, you can see the “Goddess of Liberty” statue on the Texas State Capitol building reflected on the back of one of the artist’s letters.

“Located in the heart of downtown Austin, our newly renovated roof space offers stunning views of the city, as well as a blank canvas to truly create a unique event. We love seeing what our clients can design in our contemporary space,” says Andrea White, rentals manager of The Contemporary Austin Jones Center.

BEST HOTEL LOBBY RENOVATION
Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

The Hotel Valencia Riverwalk in San Antonio completed a property-wide renovation in spring 2017. As part of the $10 million project, the entrance and reception areas received a floor-to-ceiling overhaul. The design concept of the hotel update, executed by Houstonbased Rotett Studio, blends Spanish colonial and modern Mediterranean styles. 

Changes with the entrance begin outside with new lighting on front columns and over - sized pots containing olive trees. Once inside, the fountain and seating area near the eleva - tors has been redesigned, allowing more light to the back of the space and providing a view of the front doors and a water feature. An updated color palette and painted cow skulls by Shannon House from Of the Earth Boutique, adorn the walls and hand-painted tiles cover the stairway to the second floor registration area.

The public spaces of the hotel’s second floor represent the most dramatic transfor - mation. The previous registration area has been reimagined as a library with dark wood paneling and shutters reminiscent of a cigar lounge in a posh private club. A map of San Antonio by artist Maksim Koloskov spans the spines of books on one wall, and a pair of paintings of graceful flamenco dancers hang on another wall. 

A hand-carved registration desk was relocated and is now more accessible to guests from the elevators and stairway. The wall behind the desk features a his - toric technique of plaster stamping, creating a three-dimensional texture. A leather tapestry hangs on the wall opposite the front desk and the columns throughout the second floor are now clad in walnut. The central area houses a wrought iron chandelier and wrought iron scones flank the fireplace. The transformed Dorrego’s restaurant, and Naranja bar and café, are also found in the second floor public space.

This perfect springtime drink will chase away any remnants of the winter blahs and get you in the right state of mind for warmer days ahead.

INGREDIENTS:
» 2 oz. Tito’s Vodka
» .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
» .75 oz. Osmanthus syrup
» club soda
» cucumber slice

DIRECTIONS:
» Build cocktail in mixing glass.
» Pour into a Collins glass and top with club soda.
» Garnish with cucumber slice or slices and serve.

 

 

INGREDIENTS:
—3.5 oz. Pederzana Lambrusco Il Grasparossa
—2 oz. fresh squeezed Satsuma tangerines
—.75 oz. Del Maguey San Luis del Rio  
—splash of lime
—splash of agave nectar
—fresh thyme
—sprig of mint to garnish

 

Named after a line by Mark Twain, who said of watermelon in the summer “I imagine it’s what angels eat,” this clever mixture of watermelon and kaffir lime ice cubes, cointreau, orange bitters and sparkling wine will make guests swoon.  

INGREDIENTS:
—3 watermelon ice cubes*
—.5 oz. Cointreau
—3 dashes of orange bitters
—2.5 oz. Moscato d’Asti 
—2.5 oz. sparkling wine
—.75 oz. lime juice