Travel’s new normal? Staying home. Well, not exactly at home. Staying somewhere near home so you don’t have to hassle with airports, unknown cities and — hopefully — the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s called a staycation, and it’s what you do when you’re tired of your house and the meals that come from your refrigerator. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. This year, Southern California has seen a bonanza of sleek new hotels. You can escape reality for a night or two at these delightful digs. They’re also super spots to stash the relatives when they visit for the holidays.
“People are really tired of staying home,” said Nusrat Mirza, general manager of the glitzy JW Marriott Anaheim Resort, which opened Aug. 19. “They’re looking for a safe place to go.”
That place may be one of the region’s new hotels. You could be one of the first guests to stay in a room. Plus, I found hand-sanitizing stations, masked employees and lots of cleaning protocols at all the new hotels. And, because occupancy rates are low, social distancing comes naturally.
One more sweet advantage: Room rates are low right now, so you can score a great deal.
Here’s a sampling of the new hotels.
Beautiful bling in Anaheim
The JW Marriott Anaheim Resort, an art-filled luxury hotel that overlooks Disneyland, has 444 rooms, making it one of the largest hotels in the city. Ordinarily, its marble floors and high-ceilinged lobby would be filled with happy guests. Today, it’s — well — pretty empty.
The Happiest Place on Earth is closed, as are other nearby attractions and the Anaheim Convention Center. But that’s a plus for visitors during a pandemic. You don’t have to worry about crowds in the elevator or at the pool. As a bonus, Mirza has appointed a hotel cleaning champion and “got creative with customer service skills by teaching our employees how to smile with their eyes.”
The 11-story hotel is attractive, with sparkling glass-blown chandeliers, 650 iridescent titanium butterflies, a jazzy rooftop bar and a garden deck where rosemary, basil and strawberries grow.
Info: 1775 S. Clementine St., Anaheim; (714) 294-7800. From $199 per night.
History and charm in San Juan Capistrano
This southern Orange County city, with its adobe buildings, red-tile roofs and historic mission, has a lot going for it. Now, there’s also a picturesque new hotel, the Inn at the Mission, in the heart of downtown. The sprawling three-story hotel, which opened Sept. 1, is adjacent to Mission San Juan Capistrano, known as “the jewel of the California missions.” In keeping with the town’s historic past, the inn reflects the vibe of colonial California, complete with Spanish Revival architecture and a grove of olive trees.
It’s easy to warm up to this charmer, which already is drawing locals to its Ysidora restaurant, named for a 19th century Capistrano matriarch. There’s a deck overlooking the ruins of the mission’s Great Stone Church and a patio dining area where classic Spanish favorites are served. (I loved the smoked tomato and pepper gazpacho.)
The hotel has 125 hacienda-style guest rooms and three residential-style villas, on 4 landscaped acres. A 2,500-square-foot spa is to open next year.
Info: 31692 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano; (949) 503-5700. From $329 per night.
Catch a wave in Hermosa Beach
Want a laid-back retreat with a beach vibe? H2O Hermosa, which opened in October, might be your ideal coastal getaway. The boutique hotel is a block from the sand and near the popular Hermosa Beach Pier, Strand and Pier Plaza.
The city is known for its robust nightlife and diverse restaurants, all of which are close to H2O.
Beach colors are prominent in this three-story building. It’s a simple place, without a pool, restaurants or landscaped acreage. But you may be able to get a peekaboo view of the Pacific from a balcony room; a rooftop deck and large skylights add an airy feel.
Info: 1429 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach; (888) 411-7780, From $199 per night.
Flying high in West Los Angeles
Hotel June is an airport hotel with a difference. It’s removed from the flight path at LAX, meaning you won’t see many planes overhead, and it’s a good place to raise a glass — and the roof, literally.
The fun-and-games part of the hotel is its Caravan Club, an elevated terrace where you can drink tequila — there are dozens of small-batch brands to choose from — and eat oysters, grilled seafood or other Baja-inspired cuisine. Although the hotel just opened in June, the Caravan Club, which overlooks the pool, already has a following.
The multistory hotel has 250 rooms in a Midcentury Modern building. Rooms are white with a minimalist look that is clean and inviting. One downside: There’s no airport transportation, so you’ll have to book your own. The drive takes about 10 minutes.
Info: 8639 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles; (888) 435-5070. From $140 per night.
Panoramic cityscape in Los Angeles
Downtown has come a long way in the last few years. Now there’s another hotel in the rebuilt urban center with a rooftop lounge that wows guests with amazing views of the financial district.
The appropriately named Rooftop, on the 12th floor of the Wayfarer, is one of several colorfully designed, art-filled playgrounds at this 156-room hotel that opened in February.
The Wayfarer is fun from the moment you walk in the front door and find a lively communal space called the Gaslighter Social Club. Sit in a plush chair and read a book — there’s an art installation of 600 of them — or order food and drink. The high-ceilinged lobby is showy, with vibrant murals and eclectic décor. Rooms are similarly eye-catching and flamboyant.
Other pluses: The hotel is dog-friendly, offers rooms for four with bunk beds and is within walking distance of L.A. Live and Staples Center.
Info: 813 S. Flower St., Los Angeles; (213) 285-4400. From $120 per night.
British takeover in Beverly Hills
Things hadn’t changed much in front of the Maybourne Beverly Hills — formerly the Montage — when I visited the other day. There were two Lamborghinis, a Ferrari, a Porsche Carrera and a Bentley in the valet area. I was glad I had parked my Subaru on the street.
I quickly saw that things inside haven’t evolved much either. The new owner, the Maybourne Hotel Group, arrived this fall and hasn’t had time to make many improvements. The Beverly Hills hotel is the first international property for the British group, which operates London’s Berkeley, Connaught and Claridge’s hotels.
Will the Maybourne take on a British tone? No, I was told. The look will eventually be California modern, with a nod to vintage Scandinavian and California furniture and design elements.
The lobby has been repainted and the Terrace, an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Beverly Cañon Gardens, has opened. It offers seasonal California-inspired cuisine and cocktails. Lunch and dinner menus include salads, pastas, seafood and meat. A weekend brunch includes a complimentary mimosa tasting.
Info: 225 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 860-7800. From $545 per night.
A new life for an old favorite
The landmark Century Plaza Hotel closed its doors more than four years ago, making way for a $2.5-billion renovation project. There was hope the revamped hotel would open in the spring, but then the pandemic struck.
“I’ve always said I love a challenge,” said Philip Barnes, general manager of the hotel, now renamed the Fairmont Century Plaza and scheduled to reopen in early 2021. “When the virus hit, everything ground to a halt.”
More than a dozen new hotels have opened in Southern California this year, but others, such as the Century Plaza, have missed opening deadlines.
Launching a hotel can be harrowing even in the best of times. This year developers also had to contend with a virus that sent the lodging sector into a death spiral. With few people traveling, the industry was hit with a staggering number of cancellations. More than half of America’s hotel rooms were empty in October, down more than 30% from last year, according to marketing and statistics firm Statista.
To alleviate the hemorrhaging, many established hotels closed in the spring; not all have reopened.
Some new hotels were delayed. In Orange County, the Westin Anaheim Resort, scheduled to open in October, is now working toward a March opening. And the Pendry West Hollywood, also slated for a fall opening, is now aiming at a January debut.
The most anticipated local opening is the Century Plaza project, centered on the landmark crescent-shaped hotel that has hosted presidents and rock stars for more than five decades.
Built in 1966 and considered a Midcentury masterpiece, the 19-story hotel’s façade is protected, but everything else is changing radically, including the number of rooms, which will drop from 726 to 400.
“In the past, it was considered a very large convention hotel,” said Barnes, whose most recent gig was as managing director of the Savoy Hotel in London. “It will reopen as a much smaller luxury hotel with half as many rooms. The lobby is stunning, with floor-to-ceiling windows; the rooms are fabulous.”
The project includes 63 hotel residences and two 44-story high-rise condo towers along with thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant and lifestyle space.
The hotel has been closed for four years but reinventing it took much longer, Barnes said. “It took perhaps as much as seven years to reimagine the site and residential details. And the shell had to remain because it is a protected building.”
Completing the project in the era of COVID-19 has been difficult. “The world is a very different place now than it was when we envisaged the opening,” Barnes said.
His hope: “To reinvent the Century Plaza with a spirit of warmth and welcome. I want people to feel like it’s a home away from home.”