In 1907, one of the best cities in the word—San Francisco—got even better, when The Fairmont San Francisco opened its doors. Holding court high on Nob Hill, the new grand dame forever changed the landscape of San Francisco and the hospitality industry in general.
Just 40 miles north of the City by the Bay, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa became an instant icon as well upon its opening, bringing an entirely new level of luxury to one of the most beautiful regions on earth. Following an extensive multi-million dollar renovation just two years ago, the beloved resort became even more spectacular.
When you combine these two Fairmont legends into one trip, you get a truly one-of-a-kind vacation of a lifetime.
Fairmont San Francisco
From its opening over 100 years ago—giving birth to the Fairmont brand—to its hosting the UN Charter Draft in 1945, and its role in music history (Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in the hotel’s famous Venetian Room), the Fairmont San Francisco has always been what legends are made of. It’s rumored that JFK first laid eyes on Marilyn in the Penthouse Suite.
Today, the historic elegance remains, but with every modern luxury a traveler could wish for. The location, of course, can’t be beat—with priceless views to match. Not only is the Fairmont within a stone’s throw of all of the city’s main destinations, but it also happens to be the only spot where each of the city’s cable car lines meet.
From the moment you enter its sprawling lobby, you’ll see that Fairmont San Francisco is something special. With the “jewel box”-inspired rooms and suites in the original Main Building and the sophisticated design and jaw-dropping views of those in the Tower Building, the 591 rooms and suites are the perfect combination of contemporary elegance and classic beauty. Of course each room and accommodation type features every bit of comfort any guest could hope for, from plush robes and pillow-top mattresses to inspired and inspiring design details—right down to the crown-shaped backs of the in-room seating, meant to remind guests of the hotel’s Nob Hill location.
The Penthouse Suite (the aforementioned rumored location of the JFK/Marilyn introduction) is, quite possibly, the most spectacular suite I have ever seen. In addition to President Kennedy, Prince Charles of Wales, Mick Jagger, Nat King Cole, Elton John, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands are just some of the notable names to have stayed in it. And while the 6,000-square-foot masterpiece of luxury has been awe-inspiring since it was created in the 20s, today, following a complete restoration in 2009, the beauty is beyond belief—and the value is a staggering $20 million.
Features of the Penthouse Suite include three bedrooms, a living room with grand piano, a formal dining room that seats 60, a full kitchen, a famous two-story circular library crowned by a gold-leaf rotunda, a billiard room with floor-to-ceiling Persian tile, and an enormous terrace with arguably the very best views in the entire city. At $18,000 per night, it’s one of the most expensive night’s sleeps in the world—but also the most exquisite.
Less decadent—but in a way, just as delightful—one of the most famous and beloved of the Fairmont San Francisco’s onsite offerings is the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (perhaps my second favorite spot in the entire city, after that Penthouse Suite terrace). Having opened in 1945 as one of the country’s first tiki bars (think kitschy but oh-so-glam), the Tonga Room is pure fun: Tribal wall coverings, bamboo tables, and giant drinks in coconuts. But that’s just the beginning; the tropical tiki palace is complete with a lagoon pool with a floating stage that moves throughout the night, on which an orchestra plays, and actual thunder and rainstorms (no umbrella necessary), much to the delight of Fairmont guests, San Francisco tourists, and local residents. When the night calls for more sophistication, there’s the ornately domed Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar, which also delivers a delicious breakfast and renowned afternoon tea.
If San Francisco is one of your favorite cities (as it is mine), you’ll find that a stay at the Fairmont makes it even better. If going for the first time, a word of warning: After a stay here, you’ll never want to sleep anywhere else. Either way, you’ll definitely leave your heart there.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
At this idyllic setting, where natural and man-made luxuries seamlessly combine, it’s all about serenity. And sipping fabulous wines, of course. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa—with its ancient thermal mineral waters and overflowing sense of enchantment—is an oasis in every sense of the word. Here, it feels as though the city (and your worries) are a million miles away.
What makes it so special? It’s hard to know where to begin. All guest rooms and suites are impeccably designed to maximize the sense of serenity, but I can’t imagine anywhere more ideal than my signature Mission Suite. While the private patio overlooking the quiet courtyard proved to be the perfect spot for enjoying a glass of wine, I had a difficult time tearing myself away from the interior of the suite, with its working fireplace and in-room two-person Jacuzzi tub. The suite was the embodiment of wine country beauty and bliss—and that’s just the beginning.
As befits its location, there’s a huge emphasis on food and wine here. The lobby—inspired by wine country living—gives way to 38º North, a relaxed yet elegant open wine bar/lounge offering over 50 fine wines by the glass, an array of small plates, and comfortable, communal seating.
The pièce de résistance, however, is Santé Restaurant, a Michelin-starred culinary masterpiece that in itself is worth a trip from San Francisco, or anywhere in the world, for that matter. Utilizing local produce and meats of the highest quality, the perfectly executed dishes—paired equally perfectly with the best wines available from an award-winning wine list—prove more than memorable. I still can’t stop thinking about the seven-course Chef’s Tasting Menu that had me weak in the knees before I’d even gotten past the two amuses-bouche.
There are multiple other opportunities for delicious dining at the resort, from the light poolside fare at the Water Tower to the casual comforts at The Big 3 and the wine country cuisine at the cozy Sonoma Golf Club Grill.
If you’ve worn yourself out from all the eating and wine-tasting (on- and off-property) and the countless activities available in the area, or if you simply want to know what true pampering is all about, the Willow Stream Spa, consistently ranked among the top in the nation, will more than please you.
Sitting directly above ancient mineral springs, drawing healing from the waters and inspiration from their history, the 40,000-square-foot spa ventures beyond the traditional to offer a complete spa experience. Beginning with the signature Bathhouse Bathing Ritual and moving on to treatments such as the 90-minute Wine-Country Recovery massage and mini facial, you’ll easily see why this spa is in a league of its own.
From the impeccable design of every square inch of indoor and outdoor space to the unforgettable food, heaven-on-earth spa, and proximity to all the best the Sonoma Valley has to offer, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is much like a very fine wine; it’s pleasing to all senses, satisfying on all levels, and definitely gets better with age.
F-Scape to NoCal – and Combine the Two
Being much more than a hotel brand—but actually an all-encompassing ambassador of luxury travel—Fairmont aims to bring guests the full experience a property’s locale has to offer. Their F-Scapes do just that, providing a curated travel package.
At the Fairmont San Francisco, for instance, you can book a package that includes overnight accommodations, dinner for two at the Tonga Room, and two tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon, America’s longest-running musical revue, and a quintessential San Francisco experience. With Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa’s F-Scape to Sonoma package, you’ll enjoy accommodations in a Mission Suite, daily breakfast for two, a private VIP tour and tasting at Benziger, a winery picnic lunch, and a bottle of Benziger.
To further their never-ending luxury offerings, Fairmont has gone one step even further, providing guests with a fleet of over 25 vehicles through an exclusive partnership with Cadillac. Combining these two iconic American brands means Fairmont guests enjoy courtesy rides in the newest Escalades and sedans to nearby destinations—such as Pier 39 in San Francisco and local wineries in Sonoma. Thanks to the partnership, the escape-factor gets amplified. And of course, if you want to unite all of the above, you can add a Cadillac to an F-Scapes package and really paint the town red.
Like good food and wine, some things are better when done together. Joining both properties into one trip is the best way to fully experience Northern California; they’re less than an hour away from each other yet completely distinctive. Combine the F-Scapes packages and add a Cadillac to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect escape, in every sense of the word.
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All photos courtesy of Fairmont