Where to Stay in California Like a Local

Stay at Solage and enjoy fish tacos at Solbar, the resort's fabulously rustic restaurant
Stay at Solage and enjoy fish tacos at Solbar, the resort's fabulously rustic restaurant | Courtesy of Solage / Expedia
Photo of Casey Hatfield-Chiotti
8 December 2020

Hang with the best of them at these honeypot hotels – home to trendy clubs, glamorous bars and destination restaurants.

Luxury hotels often create carefully crafted worlds through considered decor and fine service. But the most buzzed-about properties know how to blend in with the local fabric. These special hotels are often located in up-and-coming ’hoods, take their cues from regional history and lay on bars and restaurants that are as appealing to locals as to those just passing through. Choose these California hotels to make you feel like a traveler, not a tourist.

Mama Shelter Los Angeles

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
Map View
Mama Shelter Los Angeles is close to Hollywood’s hotspots
Courtesy of Mama Shelter Los Angeles / Hotels.com
Mama Shelter has perfected the art of enticing locals. The Los Angeles hotspot, located blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has a lively bar where DJs spin and a rooftop with a 360-degree city view that demands power lunching and date-night dinners. Guest rooms designed by Thierry Gaugain (right-hand man to Philippe Starck) are welcoming havens in the heart of LA, with king-size beds and views of the Hollywood Hills.
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Sunset Tower Hollywood

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Sunset Tower Hotel / Expedia
Checking into the art-deco Sunset Tower Hotel gives you a front seat to Hollywood intrigue. The chic Tower Bar, West Hollywood’s unofficial living room, is housed in Bugsy Siegel’s former ground-floor apartment. Movie stars and musicians flock to the walnut-paneled spaces, kitted out with a fireplace and suitably discreet seating. As hotel owner Jeff Klein describes it: “It’s an elegant, safe haven for the players.” A-lister sightings are a given.
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Found San Francisco

Hostel
Map View
Courtesy of FOUND Hotel San Francisco / Expedia
Found, which operates hotels in cities like DC and Boston, specializes in revitalizing historic buildings into hotels that foster shared experience and connection. At the Union Square outpost in San Francisco, tech employees catching happy hour are as likely to be spotted as couples on vacation at Lower Mason, a social club featuring traditional cocktails and late-night bites. Found also offers the chance to truly become a resident, with extended stays in micro-apartments for a week, a month or more.

Hotel VIA

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Hotel VIA / Expedia
San Francisco’s industrial South Beach has a reputation as the city’s workhorse. The neighborhood’s shipping and warehousing past changed when the Giants’ Oracle Park stadium spurred a wave of modern apartments, tech offices and trendy cafes and restaurants. Hotel VIA plugs you straight into the neighborhood’s evolution through its architecture. The modern facade blends with the area’s historic brick-and-steel buildings and guest rooms are inspired by minimalist lofts beloved by locals.
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Hotel Drisco

Hotel
Map View
Hotel Drisco, San Francisco
Courtesy of Hotel Drisco / Expedia
Edwardian-era Hotel Drisco encourages guests to discover San Francisco’s manicured Pacific Heights neighborhood. The hotel has bikes to borrow and free passes to the Jewish Community Center – home to a thriving arts program and fitness classes. In nearby Cow Hollow, a former dairyland, a walk down Union Street reveals Victorian mansions and carriage houses turned into restaurants and boutiques. Guests can also head to Alta Plaza Park a few blocks from the Drisco. At the park, surrounded by baronial mansions, you can mix with local dog walkers while taking in the bay-side views.
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  • Skylark Palm Springs

    Boutique Hotel, Budget Hotel
    Map View
    Skylark Palm Springs
    Courtesy of Skylark Palm Springs / Expedia
    Palm Springs is fast becoming a foodie hotspot and the city’s best coffee shops and restaurants are minutes from the Skylark. Independently owned Ernest Coffee serves robust Stumptown beans, and pizza joint Birba serves the city’s best thin-crust pies. Art galleries and furniture shops also line North Palm Canyon Drive, but guests can also stay put and experience Palm Springs’ signature mid-century style in the Skylark’s 28 rooms, each furnished with Danish designs.
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    Colony Palms Hotel

    Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel
    Map View
    Colony Palms
    Courtesy of Colony Palms Hotel / Expedia
    The Colony Palms Hotel recalls the glamorous 1930s. Built in 1936, its original Spanish architecture, including arched entryways, covered ceilings and ceramic floor tiles, have been preserved. However, the boutique hotel’s lively bar and restaurant, a much-loved local haunt, is pure 21st century. The Purple Palm serves Mediterranean-flecked fare like seared scallops in marsala sauce and prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin; and the popular Sunset Hour (where specials are offered on cocktails, appetizers and wine) also draws a local crowd.

    The Kinney Venice Beach

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
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    Courtesy of The Kinney Venice Beach / Expedia
    The boutique Kinney hotel invites guests to make eccentric Venice their home for a night or seven. Guests can chill in the old-school lounge or relax in the sun in the Quad – a courtyard with a ping-pong table, firepit and a turntable. Less than 1mi (1.6km) from Venice Beach, guests can hop on a beach cruiser and hit the boardwalk or follow the locals to the food carts for an ahi-poke bowl or carnitas (crispy pork) taco. The heated pool, spa and quiet Crash Pad Suites with pop-art prints, still treat guests like they’re on vacation.
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    Basecamp South Lake Tahoe

    Hotel
    Map View
    Basecamp South Lake Tahoe feels like a stepped-up backpacker’s getaway. Adventure seekers can plan their backcountry trip or hiking trek in the Explorers Club, a guest room with four bunk beds and local art. Or, if you love camping (but not that much), the Great Indoors guest room has an indoor tent, camping chairs and a faux log fire. Basecamp gets extra points for its year-round beer garden and a location minutes from the Heavenly ski gondola.
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    Solage

    Resort, Cottages
    Map View
    Solage
    Courtesy of Solage / Expedia
    You’re as likely to spot vintners as cocktail-aficionados dining on fish tacos at Solbar, the resort’s rustic restaurant with vaulted ceilings and dark-wood floors. Solage is inspired by nearby Calistoga, a historic town known for being more laid-back than its Napa Valley neighbors, with natural hot springs and boutique wineries. Studio rooms, strewn throughout the 22-acre (9ha) estate, help bring the outdoors in with sliding glass doors. Guests can explore it all on free cruiser bikes or head into town to visit the Calistoga Farmers’ Market, brimming with local produce each Saturday and less than a mile from the resort.
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    These recommendations were updated on December 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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