10 Amazing Historic Hotels in California

California is a delightfully diverse destination with a colorful history. Long a magnet for visitors with its warm weather, spectacular scenery, and reputation where fortunes can be made if you’re willing to take a chance, California is understandably chock full of hotels with histories as interesting as the state in which they reside. From seaside resorts and legendary cruise ships to Hollywood playgrounds for the rich and famous and desert oases, California’s historic hotels are fantastic and fascinating.

10. Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island

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The Hotel Del Coronado, aka, Del, has been a legendary resort from the moment it opened on Coronado Island in 1888. It attracted a wealthy clientele, with elegant amenities like electricity, telephones, elevators, and even private bathrooms. In fact, it was one of the largest buildings in the U.S.to have electric lights when it opened. A sunny playground for the rich, it offered billiards, bowling, croquet, boating, cycling, archery, golf, swimming, and fine dining. Meticulously maintained to the present day, the 28-acre, 757-room resort has been a haven for Hollywood’s elite and a backdrop for many films and TV shows. In 1918, Rudolph Valentino starred in “The Married Virgin” there, while Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis filmed “Some Like It Hot” on Del’s beach. The ghost of Kate Morgan is among Del’s most famous celebrities. She has been a ‘guest’ since she died there in 1892.

9. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco

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Some hotels are merely old while others are truly historic, as is the case of The Fairmont Hotel, the landmark hotel that graces the pinnacle of Nob Hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Fairmont’s original planned opening in 1906 was ill-timed, as fires resulting from the infamous earthquake that struck the city on April 18 that year substantially damaged the hotel. It opened a year later and quickly assumed its place as San Francisco’s social hub and one of the nation’s most revered hotels. Memorable moments in the Fairmont’s history include when delegates met there in 1945 to draft the United Nations Charter. Every U.S. president since Harry Truman has stayed there, and Tony Bennett first sang his iconic song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” in the hotel’s Venetian Room. A recent $85 million renovation to the 592-room hotel has the San Francisco treat shining like new.

8. The Mission Inn & Spa, Riverside

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The spectacular Mission Inn & Spa that now occupies an entire city block in downtown Riverside had a most modest beginning as a two-story, 12-room adobe boarding house in 1876. Looking to capitalize on the influx of wealthy people flocking to Riverside’s warm climate and booming citrus industry, owner Frank Miller opened the first wing of the Inn in 1903 in a Mission-Revival style. He eventually added three more wings, with the final Rotunda wing opening in 1931. The 238-room resort incorporates an amazing mix of architectural styles including flying buttresses, grand archways, interior courtyards, fountains, bell and clock towers, and an open-air, five-story rotunda with a wrought-iron, circular staircase. The Inn closed for seven years to undergo a $55 million renovation but reopened in 1997. Docent-led tours of the resort highlight its 6,000-piece art collection and rich history that includes visits by 10 U.S. presidents and countless celebrities.

7. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles

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Throughout its 92-year history, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel has been one of Tinseltown’s most treasured downtown assets. The Beaux-Arts-inspired hotel has been used in the filming of dozens of movies and TV shows over the years including “Ghostbusters,” “Chinatown,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mad Men” and “CSI.” High tea is still served on weekends at the opulent Rendezvous Court, and the Gallery Bar remains one of L.A.’s top bars with its signature martinis and classic look with rich wood paneling and leather couches. The 683-room hotel, which is currently undergoing a renovation slated for completion in 2016, has hosted everyone from Rudolph Valentino and the Prince of Wales to Howard Hughes, Herbert Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy even used the Biltmore as his headquarters during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

6. U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego

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Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. built the 11-story U.S. Grant Hotel now situated in San Diego’s Gaslamp District in honor of his father, Civil War hero and 18th U.S. president. The 437-room luxury hotel opened to great fanfare in 1910 with an Italian marble grand staircase with carved alabaster handrail, a ninth-floor ballroom that could host 1,200 people, and two rooftop terraces. During U.S. Prohibition, the Bivouac Grill became the city’s most popular speakeasy, the Plata Real Club. During that time, the Italianate Ballroom was built with travertine floors and a hand-painted ceiling. In the 1930s, a radio tower was installed on the roof and Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast one of his first “fireside chats” from the hotel. FDR is among 14 U.S. presidents to visit the hotel. Over $130 million in renovations in recent decades saved the grand dame of San Diego from the wrecking ball and restored its original splendor.

5. Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco

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The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel opened in 1926 on Nob Hill, adjacent to the iconic Fairmont Hotel that opened in 1907. The hotel’s namesake, among the founders of the Southern Pacific Railroad, built a 40-room mansion at the site that was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In 1939, owner George Smith created quite a stir around town when he converted the 19th floor’s 11-room penthouse into a glass-walled cocktail lounge that came to be known as the Top of the Mark. It was an instant hit with its sweeping views of the city and bay. The opulent, 391-room hotel has hosted five U.S. presidents and world statesmen like Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and French General Charles de Gaulle. Celebrities from Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson and Liz Taylor also have stayed at the landmark hotel, which received a multi-million-dollar restoration in 2002.

4. The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles

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The Beverly Hilton is as much Hollywood royalty as the countless movie stars that have passed through its doors since hotelier Conrad Hilton opened the landmark in 1955. The 569-room hotel’s International Ballroom has hosted the Golden Globes for over 50 years. It also hosts the Oscar Nominee Luncheon and the Pre-Grammy Gala. Its famed Aqua Star Pool is Beverly Hills’ largest heated hotel pool and the site of numerous film shoots. Actress Angelina Jolie celebrated winning her second Golden Globe by jumping into the iconic pool, and the hotel has 36 poolside Cabana Rooms with a tropical theme. Trader Vic’s Lounge is equally famous as a legendary Hollywood watering hole for generations. Located at the iconic corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, the Hilton has 101 suites including nine luxurious private suites that comprise its Penthouse Collection.

3. Queen Mary, Long Beach

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Hotels come in all shapes and sizes these days, including ocean liners. Cunard spared no expense when it built the Queen Mary luxury liner in 1936. Now considered one of the world’s best examples of Art Deco design, the lovely lady sailed the high seas in style until 1967. During her time at sea, she hosted celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable and even royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During World War II, the Queen Mary was transformed into a military transport vessel that was capable of shipping up to 16,000 troops. Today, she is permanently docked in Long Beach as a floating hotel and events center. Guests can stay in one of 346 original staterooms and suites, and its restaurants are open to the general public. Notorious for its paranormal activity, the Queen Mary hosts twilight tours that celebrate the ship’s ghostly guests.

2. Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles

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Affectionately known as the pink palace, the Beverly Hills Hotel has been an L.A. institution since opening over 100 years ago. Located on iconic Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills, the circa 1912 hotel supposedly inspired the Eagles’ smash hit song, “Hotel California.” Its Polo Lounge has been the scene of breakfasts, lunches, and cocktails among Hollywood power brokers for generations. Its Sunday brunch remains one of the top places to see and be seen in Hollywood. The hotel’s 208 guestrooms include 23 bungalows located in its 12 acres of lush tropical gardens. Some of the bungalows have up to four bedrooms, fireplaces, and private garden patios. Liz Taylor honeymooned with six of her eight husbands in these bungalows, which also have hosted Marilyn Monroe and other top stars. The Fountain Coffee Room first opened in the 1940s and still features a vintage soda fountain.

1. The Inn at Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park

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The remote Inn at Furnace Creek is located in Death Valley National Park, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. Opened in 1927, the Inn is a spectacular architectural masterpiece of stonework that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open from mid-October to mid-May, the Inn features spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, spa treatments, and golf at the world’s lowest course (214 feet below sea level) that first opened in 1931. The Pool Bungalow rooms are located adjacent to the two pools and feature great views of the Death Valley desert and surrounding Funeral Mountains. The Inn’s fine-dining restaurant adheres to a resort attire dress code and serves a classic Sunday brunch and high tea. The scant fall rains bring an explosion of wildflowers to the desert floor, making it an especially good time to visit. The resort’s website posts updates on wildflowers during the season.

10 Awesome Aquariums Where You Can Spend the Night With Sharks

Imagine drifting off to sleep while a shark silently stalks above you, or a school of colorful fish dart in and out of coral, all while you are safely tucked into your warm sleeping bag, next to your kids, or a loved one. Aquariums around the world are taking experiences to a new level by offering a variety of overnight experiences. These sleepovers allow guests to explore the aquarium after dark, learn more about the marine life that live there and have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and participate in feedings and cleanings. From Toronto to California to South Africa, here are 10 awesome overnight aquarium experiences.

10. Vancouver Aquarium -Vancouver, BC

Spending a night at the Vancouver Aquarium is like no other in Canada, and offers visitors an exciting opportunity to go behind the scenes in their marine lab. Visitors on one of these sleepovers will have the opportunity to touch local invertebrates including live sea stars, anemones, sea urchins and more. Visitors can choose from different sleepovers including a family night where participants embark in a variety of activities, presentations and tours. They also offer an incredible Valentine’s night sleepover for the romantic couple that wants to create unique memories. A three course plated dinner, a presentation on the sex lives of sea animals and a behind the scenes tour is included with this sleepover. Fall asleep in the Arctic Canada underwater gallery to sights of the majestic beluga whales swimming right in front of your eyes in this awesome Canadian aquarium sleepover experience.

Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com
Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

9. Georgia Aquarium -Atlanta, GA

Sleeping at the aquarium doesn’t have to be just for kids as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta offers adults-only nights, along with a variety of family themed nights. The family nights are recommended for ages seven and up and include a variety of activities and behind-the-scenes tours, specifically focusing on whales and sharks. The adults-only sleepovers here are hugely popular and for good reason. The behind-the-scenes tours, gallery tours, activities and events that the aquarium plans for adults gives you a once in a lifetime chance to get up close and personal with the marine animals. Dinner, snacks, a 4-D movie and more are all included here. Make sure to spend the next day talking in the dolphin show and exploring the aquarium during daytime hours.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

8. Maui Ocean Center -Wailuku, HI

The aquarium here is an exciting place to be after dark as the creatures that normally hide during daylight hours make their debut, while others seem to disappear right before your eyes. The sleep with the shark sleepover at the Maui Ocean Center offers a total hands-on experience complete with fun activities, education, crafts and a movie. Watch as the sharks behavior changes from day to night, learn more about the marine animals and even have the chance to help an ocean naturalist feed the turtles and rays. This sleepover program is offered to anyone ages six to 13, accompanied by an adult. When you are all tuckered out from a fun-filled night, curl up in your sleeping bag and watch the Open Ocean show of the mesmerizing Sea Jelly exhibit. This program is one of the most hands-on sleepovers and promises to delight visitors of all ages.

Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr
Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr

7. Two Oceans Aquarium -Cape Town, South Africa

Not anyone can spend the night at this aquarium, but if you happen to be a member, part of an educational group or want to hold your child’s birthday party here; you will have access to a pretty awesome sleepover aquarium experience. The aquarium closes to the public at 6 pm, which allows sleepover guests plenty of time to explore the aquarium after dark. A kid-friendly dinner, a ton of planned activities, movies and more await guests here. Exhibits include the penguin exhibit, Indian Ocean gallery, touch pools, Atlantic Ocean gallery, predator exhibit and more. Birthday parties are perhaps the most popular sleepovers here, an experience your child will never forget. They happen to be best for children aged eight to 12.

InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com
InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com

6. Aquarium of the Pacific -Long Beach, CA

Grab your sleeping bag and prepare for the ultimate family adventure at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California. This is one of the best sleepovers if you are looking for the most hands-on activities. Sleepover guests will embark on an awesome scavenger hunt with the whole family as well as have a pizza dinner, guaranteed to make every kid happy. Next up guests are encouraged to pet marine animals such as sharks, sea stars and sea jellies. You can even help participate in a fish feeding. A light snack before bed and the chance to paint your own souvenir t-shirt is also included with this experience. These themed overnights do fill up quickly and are normally offered in the summer, winter and Halloween; all complete with a different theme. These sleepovers also happen to be one of the most budget friendly on our list.

Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr
Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr

5. Newport Aquarium -Newport, KY

This awesome overnight experience is something not to miss if you are in the Newport Area. First up, children and adults of all ages are welcome although they do recommend children be at least 6 years old. Each group of children must be accompanied by an adult and there will be no shortage of fun activities to keep everyone entertained all night long. Along with backstage animal experiences and encounters, sleepover guests will get guided tours, help with tank feedings and enjoy either a shark or penguin presentation. The sleeping areas include Shark Tunnel (our personal favorite), Jellyfish Gallery or Coral Tunnel. An evening snack and breakfast is included, as is admission to the aquarium the next day. At just $49 per person, this is an amazing price to check out what happens after dark at this ultra cool aquarium.

Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons

4. SeaWorld -San Diego, CA and San Antonio, TX

For any animal lover ages four to 14, with an adult chaperone, a family sleepover at SeaWorld might just be the most unforgettable and exciting night of your life. Your event begins at 5:45 pm where guests will be invited to check in and eat a delicious pasta dinner. Following that are a multitude of animal encounters and fun and educational activities. Bedtime ranges between 10 pm to midnight and sleepover guests are encouraged to explore SeaWorld the entire next day, as admission is included. Kids also love the fact that they get a souvenir SeaWorld sleepover t-shirt to take home. If you happen to take the kids to SeaWorld San Antonio, try to visit during the Christmas season and stay overnight at the South Pole with the penguin encounter. Nothing says Merry Christmas than waking up to these cheerful creatures. Whichever experience you decide to try, you won’t be disappointed at SeaWorld.

Roka / Shutterstock.com
Roka / Shutterstock.com

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium -Monterey Bay, CA

Seashore sleepovers at this aquarium offer animal loves the chance to experience the aquarium after hours, even choosing to sleep next to your favorite exhibit. Check in begins at 6 pm and sleeping areas are first come first serve, which means you best come early to get the sleeping area you want. The doors close at 8 pm to the general public and that is truly when the adventure begins. Special programming throughout the night means you won’t ever be bored and participants can choose to explore the aquarium on their own or participate in one of the many activities. A light evening snack is offered and bedtime is between 10:30 pm and 11 pm. In the morning have a continental breakfast in the café and spend the rest of the day exploring the aquarium by daylight.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

2. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada -Toronto, ON

Let’s talk facts; this aquarium features over 16,000 animals, North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and more than 100 interactive exhibits, including three touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks and rays. What makes this aquarium even better, which we didn’t think was possible, is there shark sleepovers. Yes we said shark sleepovers. Visitors are invited throughout the year to curl up under the famous shark tank and sleep under the watchful eyes of the scary sharks that swim overhead. Included in this experience is admission to the aquarium in the evening and the next day, a take home activity in the classroom and a late night snack plus breakfast. The aquarium does remain open to the general public until 11 pm on the night of the sleepover but rest assured you will be the only ones that get to experience the overnight in the dangerous lagoon tunnel, packed full of sand tiger sharks, roughtail stingrays and green sea turtles.

mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com
mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com

1. National Aquarium in Baltimore -Baltimore, MD

It is no surprise that this impressive aquarium boasts two awesome sleepovers for anyone over the age of eight. Visitors here can choose to sleepover with the dolphins or the sharks, each offering unique programming. For dolphin lovers the evening begins with a talk from the marine mammal team where you will get to know the dolphins and discover how they learn and play. From there, a kid-friendly dinner is served and you are off to experience the 4-D immersion films, explore the aquarium after dark and discover the behind-the-scenes area with expert guides. Fall asleep in one of the underwater viewing areas and in the morning help wake the dolphins up with an exclusive enrichment session. If you choose to sleep with the sharks, expect much of the same experiences; only substitute the dolphin with the shark. A once in a lifetime opportunity awaits you here at this awesome aquarium.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com