Even in the hyper-competitive world of Los Angeles travel and tourism, it’s amazing what a pile of money can do to reinvent hotels. During a recent tear through LA, I had the chance to sample two recently re-created California properties to see how they updated their personalities to stay relative in a town where trendy is essential and a short consumer memory is a hard reality of doing business.
The Marina Del Rey Hotel sits on some of the city’s most desirable real estate — smack on the city’s busy and most elite waterway. Yachts of various sizes line the piers outside the hotel, watched over by some of the most expensive condos in the city.
The hotel has been a fixture in the area for 51 years, obviously celebrating its 50th birthday in 2014. Its bars and restaurant are a destination for locals, especially with their views of the busy slipways and tourist activities on the water. To modernize for the times, the hotel dropped $27 million — making sure that the hotel stays on the Marina’s (and all of LA’s) radar.
The renovation was an obvious success. The rooms are bright and simply laid out, some with a deck or patio allowing people watching on the bay. The entire vibe of the hotel is light, cheery, accessible and mellow — a good call when the property could’ve opted for elitist airs.
The only drawback is the traveler has to deal with the occasional central casting, up his own arse LA jackass. But that’s not the hotel’s fault. That’s the risks of west coast tourism.
During my visit, the hotel’s main restaurant – Salt – was just reopening with a new menu and redesigned cocktails offerings. The service was still working out the bugs and figuring out who was handling what during a quiet lunch hour, but it settled into order.
The selections focus on fresh ingredients and ample portions. I recommend staying locked on the salads and seafood to enhance the sun-drenched seaside life at the MDH.
Finally, the cocktail offerings include all of the current trends of Mules and Negronis, but the in-house offerings focus on taste — offering selections based on Salt, Sweet and Sour, Bitter, Dry and Savory. I opted successfully for the latter (Templeton Rye Whiskey, Apple Cider, Maple Syrup, Fresh Lemon Juice and Port Wine).
Heading inland into Beverly Hills, the Carlyle Inn is a prime example of what smart rebranding can do for a hotel. The property was originally a Best Western – little more than a motor lodge. Now, Best Westerns in recent years looked to upgrade in recent years — but this location wasn’t a part of that movement.
New ownership came along and grabbed the space — transforming it into a hip boutique hotel. The joint is small (only 32 rooms) and the fitness center, restaurant, sun deck, hot tub, etc., all have to squeeze themselves into limited space. But, that space is smartly designed with an artsy, very LA decor that sets this one-time run of the mill venue into a unique little spot to hole up amidst the hustle of Beverly Hills.
It enjoys a prime, very functional location for the Los Angeles tourist — with quick-ish access to Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Century City.
Of course, you’ll have to fight through thick traffic to enjoy all of that, but that’s just another reality of LA travel. Fortunately, both of these new hotels will offer some R&R when you’re out of your car.