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Presidents Day Travel: 12 Historic California Hotels

by Staff

California’s hundreds of historic motels, lodges, hotels and resorts have gotten a serious glow-up since the pandemic.

Everything from Gold Rush saloons to Old Hollywood hideaways to mid-century monuments have been redesigned from the ground up to host a generation of revenge travelers.

Just in time for Presidents Day weekend, The Standard compiled a list of a dozen extraordinary hotels around the state that recently reopened following multi-million-dollar renovations.

Dillon Beach Resort, Marin County

Tiny homes, seafood and stargazing | From $299 per night for Presidents Day weekend

In far West Marin, a small fleet of high-style “tiny homes” has replaced a former trailer park on a bluff overlooking a lone cypress, the mouth of Tomales Bay and miles of dunes. Rechristened the Dillon Beach Resort, the oceanfront lodging is the most recent incarnation of a fishing and weekend destination that dates to 1888.

A room with a large window looking out at green bluffs and the ocean
A guest room at the Dillon Beach Resort sits at the mouth of Tomales Bay. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson for The Standard

From this remote, windswept coastline near the border of Marin and Sonoma counties, guests are not far from oysters in Marshall, seafood in Bodega Bay, long walks on the beach and some of the Bay Area’s best Dark Skies for stargazing.

Murrieta Hot Springs Resort, Riverside County

Palm trees and other green and pink plants line a pathway next to a body of waterPalm trees and other green and pink plants line a pathway next to a body of water
The landscaping at Murrieta Hot Springs dates from 1902. | Source: Courtesy Murrieta Hot Springs

Soaking in mineral pools sound a bit too tame? Murrieta is only an hour’s drive south of the Ontario Airport and is dangerously close to Temecula Valley wineries, as well as Southern California’s destination for skydiving and hot air balloon rides.

Sea Ranch Lodge, Sonoma Coast

Strolls, style and tranquility | From $699 per night for Presidents Day weekend

It’s not too often that mere mortals can overnight in an architectural masterpiece, lounging in Paul McCobb chairs and exploring grounds featured in an SFMOMA exhibition. Yet a stay at Sea Ranch Lodge provides just that. 

A wooden interior with large windows and long benches looks out on the oceanA wooden interior with large windows and long benches looks out on the ocean
A guest room at the Sea Ranch Lodge overlooks the Pacific Ocean. | Source: Courtesy Adam Potts for Sea Ranch Lodge

A 2023 refurbishment of the 17 guest rooms stripped out the remains of less-faithful remodels for a return to the pioneering 1964 eco-focused design, which aimed to provide seamless integration into the surrounding meadows, cypress groves and bluffs above Sonoma’s wild Pacific Coast. A long weekend of strolling the windswept cliffs and beaches and soaking in mid-century design delivers unparalleled peace of mind.

The LINE Hotel Los Angeles, Koreatown

Cuisine, karaoke and baths | From $193 per night for Presidents Day weekend

While Korean everything is still having a moment, get yourself to the LINE Hotel in Los Angeles’s Koreatown for some of what the L.A. Times deems the region’s “most exciting food scene.”  

A room with a floor to ceiling window looks out on a cityscape scattered with palm trees and mountains in the distanceA room with a floor to ceiling window looks out on a cityscape scattered with palm trees and mountains in the distance
A guest room at the LINE Hotel in Los Angeles offers views of Hollywood and beyond. | Source: Courtesy Adrian Gaut for the LINE Hotels

Set in a refurbished 1964 mid-century tower between Downtown and Hollywood, the LINE puts guests in the center of K-town, with a “Deco-disco” cocktail lounge, karaoke and rooftop pool on the property. Plus, you’re near authentic Korean food, bars and spas.

The Incline Lodge, Lake Tahoe

Skiing, trails and gambling | From $265 per night for Presidents Day weekend

The north shore of Lake Tahoe has become something of an accommodation ghost town. Despite the lake’s dramatic increase in popularity, many of the old motels and casinos near the California-Nevada state line have shuttered. 

A room with a bed opposite a long table looks out to a balcony with trees in viewA room with a bed opposite a long table looks out to a balcony with trees in view
The Incline Lodge in Incline Village is convenient to several ski resorts. | Source: Courtesy the Incline Lodge

The Incline Lodge steps into this void with a bottom-up rebuild of a former roadside inn. Modern design and furnishings are warmed by High Sierra touches—and the indoor pool is heated year-round. Best of all, the property makes a convenient base from which to ski Diamond Peak or Mt. Rose, snowshoe near the lake, traverse the East Shore Trail past Sand Harbor, bowl at the all-new Bowl Incline or try your luck at the casinos.

Lafayette Hotel, San Diego

Sunshine, chaises and shops | From $274 per night for Presidents Day weekend

Between the time Bob Hope checked in as its first guest in 1946 and its $31 million renovation in 2023, the Lafayette Hotel has witnessed San Diego’s maturation as a tourist mecca. The new eye-popping decor means the Lafayette will never be mistaken for a chain motel—and its classic poolside chaises are dreamy.

A room with two beds with dragon drapery and a red tiled floorA room with two beds with dragon drapery and a red tiled floor
The Lafayette Hotel sits in the trendy North Park neighborhood in San Diego. | Source: Courtesy Lafayette Hotel

La Playa Hotel, Carmel

Village life, 17-Mile Drive and galleries | From $599 per night for Presidents Day weekend

A tribute to its 1905 beginnings as a luxe Bohemian mansion, La Playa Hotel’s 2023 redesign oozes early California glamor. Most of the guest rooms have ocean views and the property sits just steps from the sand.

Two couches with a green and floral design sit across from a wooden coffee table in front of an ornate fireplaceTwo couches with a green and floral design sit across from a wooden coffee table in front of an ornate fireplace
The lobby of the La Playa Hotel in Carmel dates to the early 1900s. | Source: Courtesy La Playa Hotel

MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, Sonoma

Wicker chairs with cushions sit around a fireplace under a large tree in a backyard patioWicker chairs with cushions sit around a fireplace under a large tree in a backyard patio
A fire glows on the patio at the MacArthur Place Hotel in Sonoma. | Source: Courtesy MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa

The five-acre property is located just blocks from the Sonoma Plaza and a short drive to landmark wineries like Buena Vista and Gundlach Bundschu. A body polish using oils made from plants grown on site sounds like an ideal mid-winter refresh.

Holbrooke Hotel, Grass Valley

Saloons, Gold Country and cross-country skiing | From $205 per night for Presidents Day weekend

Host to Gold Rush luminaries like Mark Twain, Lotta Crabtree and Black Bart, the historic  Holbrooke Hotel in the Sierra foothills glitters from a 2021 restoration that catapulted its rooms, restaurants and famed 1852 Golden Gate Saloon into the 21st Century.

A large bar sits in the back of a dining area with a green indoor plant and taxidermy on the wallA large bar sits in the back of a dining area with a green indoor plant and taxidermy on the wall
The Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley has been attracting luminaries for more than 150 years. | Source: Courtesy Kat Alves for the Holbrooke Hotel

Downtown Grass Valley’s shops and happenings have something for most visitors but winter also offers cross-country skiing at Royal Gorge just 45 miles away and nearby hiking trails

Life House, Palm Springs

Desert vibes, palm trees and cabanas | From $411 per night for Presidents Day weekend

Opened in November 2023, the new Life House Palm Springs preserves the soul of the 1960s Royal Sun motel it replaced.

Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco

Urban forest, SF history and pizza | From $410 per night for Presidents Day weekend

Haven’t seen Tunnel Tops, the largest parkland to open in San Francisco in decades? Book a weekend at the Inn at the Presidio to see what’s new in the nation’s first urban national park.

A room with dark red walls and gray and black furniture on a red and black rug and hardwood floorA room with dark red walls and gray and black furniture on a red and black rug and hardwood floor
The redesigned lobby at the Inn at the Presidio | Source: Courtesy Paul Dyer for Inn at the Presidio

A former army officers’ residence dating from the turn of the last century, the Inn is now one of the city’s most popular boutique hotels, boasting a 2024 cozy redesign of its common areas. The Presidio provides access to a full weekend of adventure, including countless trails, the indoor Field Station science center and a new pizza spot, Il Parco.

The Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach

Art Deco design, maritime history and ghosts | From $280 per night for Presidents Day weekend

Almost sunk by skyrocketing renovation costs, the Queen Mary was saved by the city of Long Beach in 2021 and reopened its hotel in 2023, giving back the port its one-of-a-kind lodging experience. Guests can spend the night in 1930s Art Deco staterooms once slept in by movie stars and royalty—from Winston Churchill and Jackie O. to Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor—and still reportedly inhabited by numerous ghosts

A large shipA large ship
Guests can overnight aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson for The Standard

Take a tour of the famous ocean liner and then disembark to explore Long Beach’s Fourth Street “Retro Row”—a corridor locals regard as better than Hollywood’s Melrose Street—and the Southland’s best Cambodian eats. Best of all? It’s a 15-minute drive from the blissfully tiny Long Beach Airport.

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