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8 historic hotels in California

Updated: May 5, 2023

Are you intrigued by the stories behind historic California buildings? Whether you're planning your epic California vacation or you're just a weekend road warrior, make sure to add these historic hotels in California to your list! Let's take a deeper dive into some of the oldest hotels in California that have been taking guests for over 100-years.

1. Hotel del Coronado - Coronado, California

Exterior image of Hotel del Coronado on beach
Photo Courtesy of Hotel del Coronado

When the 399-room Hotel del Coronado (known as "The Del") opened it's doors in 1888, it was the largest hotel resort in the world. It's also one of the few remaining examples of a wooden Victorian beach resort. In 1885, the original developers bought 4,000 acres comprising of Coronado and North Island for a whooping $110,000. By the 1900's the property was hosting U.S. Presidents including Harrison, Taft and Roosevelt along with Hollywood royalty including Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth. One of the hotel's most notable guests was Kate Morgan, who in 1892 checked-in to the hotel but never checked-out. Get the full scoop on the resident ghost of Hotel del Coronado here.

Interesting Fact: In March 2020, for the first time in the property's 132-year history, the hotel closed temporarily due to Covid-19.

2. Mission Inn Hotel & Spa - Riverside, California

Exterior image of Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside, California
Photo Courtesy of Mission Inn Hotel and Spa

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa started as a small boarding house taking in their first guest in 1876 and became a full service hotel by the early 1900s. The property has undergone numerous additions over the years resulting in a mix of architecture styles including Spanish Gothic, Spanish Colonial, Renaissance Revival and others. Today it is considered the largest Mission Revival Style building in America. It also houses an extensive art collection that includes works by famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera.

For a truly unique experience, visit the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa during the holidays to view their Festival of Lights. One of the largest holiday light collections in the United States and voted "Best Public Light Display" by USA Today.

Fun Fact: Check out the Garden of Bells, including one from 1247 and known as the "oldest bell in Christendom."

3. The upham hotel - santa barbara, California

Exterior image of The Upham Hotel and Cottages in Santa Barbara, California
Photo Courtesy of Upham Hotel

This property opened it's doors for the first time in 1871, then named the Lincoln House which was operated by the Amasa Lincoln family (a distant cousin of President Abraham Lincoln. The hotel originally served as a stagecoach stop and boarding house for travelers on the El Camino Real, the historic road that connected California's missions. In 1898, Cyrus Upham bought the property and renamed it The Upham Hotel. This Victorian treasure boosts 50 rooms and several garden cottages surrounded by gardens with walkability to downtown Santa Barbara.

Fun Fact: The Upham Hotel is considered the longest continuously operating hotel in Southern California.

4. Palace Hotel - San Francisco, California

Interior image of room at The Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Photo Courtesy of The Palace Hotel, San Francisco

The original Palace Hotel opened October 2, 1875 by a weathly businessman named William Chapman Ralston, featuring 755 rooms and at the time was the largest hotel in the Western United States. Sadly, in April 1906 the original building was badly burned by a three day fire caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. By December 1909, the "new" Palace Hotel was open for business and hosted many notable guests over the years. In fact, in 1923, U.S. President Warren Harding suddenly died in room #8064 effectively ending his term as President.

Fun Fact: In 2016, the hotel was named The Best Historic Hotel with over 400 rooms by Historic Hotels of America. A very impressive collection of history and artifacts on the Palace Hotel can be found here.

5. National Exchange Hotel - Nevada City, California

Queen room at The National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City, California
Photo Courtesy of The National Exchange Hotel

The National Exchange Hotel (also called The National Hotel), located in the charming gold rush era town of Nevada City, opened in August 1856. Built during the California gold rush and originally served as a bank, as well as a hotel and saloon. It housed the first telegraph office in Northern California in the late 1800's. The property and all 40 guest rooms and suites are decorated in a Victorian style with antique furnishings and décor.

Fun Fact: Considered one of the oldest continuously operated hotels west of the Rockies.

6. Paso Robles Inn - Paso Robles, California

Patio at Paso Robles Inn
Photo Courtesy of Paso Robles Inn

The Paso Robles Inn was established in 1889 and sits right on the very spot where Paso Robles was founded on over 150 years ago. Originally built by a group of local businessmen and was known as the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel. One of the original stockholders of the hotel was Drury James, uncle to famous outlaw Jesse James. The hotel was well known for the healing mineral hot springs located in the area and housing famous guests like John Wayne and Clark Gable who came for a soak.

Fun Fact: The famous outlaw Jesse James hid out at the hotel to soak in the hot springs after suffering a gunshot wound. Stay in one of the two-room suites in the Jesse James Building and soak your troubles away just like Jesse did.

7. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, California

Inside image of piano at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, California
Photo Courtesy of The Fairmont Hotel

Perched atop Nob Hill, made of granite, marble and terracotta stone this luxury 600-room, seven story building was nearly ready to open before it was almost destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco fire. Local architect Julia Morgan lead the rebuild effort and in April 1907 The Fairmont Hotel formally opened for guests. The hotel's architecture features a mix of Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical styles, includes a grand lobby, famous penthouse suites and a rooftop garden.

The San Francisco landmark hotel quickly became a coveted spot for wealthy travelers, some staying for months at a time. In 1945, the Garden Room was the where the charter of the United Nations was signed and in the early 1970's The Fairmount was the first hotel in America to offer concierge services.

Fun Fact: It has been reported that during renovations in 1950, almost six miles of fabric and three miles of carpet were used in the hotel.

Learn More: Interested in learning more about the rumored ghosts that roam the Fairmont Hotel? Check out Wild SF's blog and book a ghost tour of San Francisco.

8. Murphys Historic Hotel - Murphys, California

Murphys Historic Hotel, originally called Sperry and Perry Hotel, opened in August 1856 in the heart of the giant sequoia groves discovered in 1852. Today the property features an 1800s saloon, nine historic rooms named after notable historic figures who visited the hotel along with modern rooms with amenities. Murphys Historic Hotel is considered one of the longest continually operating hotels in California.

Fun Fact: Signatures of registration can be viewed in the lobby of famous historic guests including Mark Twain, J.P. Morgan, Ulysses S. Grant and others.

California is home to numerous historic hotels that offer visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the glamour and elegance of a bygone era. From the luxurious Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco to charming Paso Robles Inn and the Murphys Historic Hotel, each hotel has its own unique story to tell and has played a significant role in the Golden State's history and cultural heritage. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or solo adventure, these historic hotels in California offer a one-of-a-kind experience. Book you stay at one of these iconic hotels and immerse yourself in the history and charm of California!

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