10 Urban Hotels with Loads of Local Character

Forget chains and bland properties—a hotel like one of these really embeds you in your urban destination.

Forget chains and bland properties—these hotels really embed you in your urban destination

By Allison Young, Sunset


Ace Hotel Seattle, Seattle, WA

Ace may be the hippest hotel chain going, but it all started in Seattle with the O.G. Ace property. The name came from a deck of cards, where the ace plays both high and low, which sums up the vibe. Located in the heart of Belltown, so close to everything, the mothership occupies a former inn for maritime laborers. There are shared and private rooms with locally made and vintage furniture, low-slung beds, turntables and vintage records, reclaimed wood flooring, and custom artwork by KAWS and Shepard Fairey. And, of course, it carries that see-and-be-seen swagger synonymous with the hotel brand.


The Greens Hotel, Sacramento, CA

Sacramento is finally being given its due, and the retro charm of The Greens is helping put the California capital on the hip must-visit map. The renovated mid-century motel in the up-and-coming Del Paso neighborhood screams green, from the vine-covered walls and natural toiletries to the quirky, oversized lime letters over the upcycled metal doors. The hotel offers only 26 rooms, so you’re never fighting for a spot at the heated outdoor pool. Park and walk to Queso Kings for a gourmet grilled cheese and King Cong Brewery for a Sacramento Stout.
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El Cortez Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV

El Cortez might seem like novel relief from the overdone glitz of Sin City, but the family-owned Fremont Street fixture is one of Vegas’ oldest and most-storied properties (it opened in 1941). Topped by the original neon sign, inside offers rooms to match your Vegas vibe, from original vintage spaces from when Bugsy Siegel owned the joint, to four “designer” suites recently renovated by four Las Vegas-based companies. No wonder it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Major bonus: Rates start at $34.


The Downtown Clifton, Tucson, AZ

Between the location, decor, and small touches, The Clifton is oh-so Tucson. Right in the heart of downtown, the modernized motor lodge dating back to 1948 borders two historic neighborhoods: Barrio Viejo, known for its 19th-century colorful adobe houses, and Armory Park. Rooms are retro-cool with mid-century furniture, cozy saddle blankets, and wooden platform beds handmade in town. Every guest receives $10 toward breakfast at Five Points Market, a lively cafe up the street, and by all means should raid the locally-sourced minibar stocked with RBars, churro-flavored popcorn, and cold Mexican sodas.


Hotel Figueroa, Los Angeles, CA

Walk into Hotel Figueroa and the first thing you’ll see is a badass painting of Maude Bouldin, the first female general manager of any hotel, astride a motorcycle by Santa Monica artist Alison Van Pelt. Built in 1926 as a YWCA, the property recently got a top-to-bottom facelift to restore the 268-room downtown gem to its original Spanish Colonial grandeur (think wood beams, arches, and columns). In essence, this hotel has history and moxie. Book the Casablanca Suite (pictured) for a bohemian escape complete with a secret passageway.


The Tilden Hotel, San Francisco, CA

The Tilden gives you the perfect excuse to stay in the Tenderloin district, the gritty yet up-and-coming slice near Union Square alive with concert venues and underground art spaces. The 1928-built former Mark Twain Hotel may blend into the urban scenery on the outside, but the inside got a glammed-up minimalist makeover with a buzzing lobby and stylishly spare guests rooms; thankfully the vintage two-person lift remains. The first Tuesday of the month spotlights one local artist and exhibits their work in the lobby. Don’t miss The Douglas Room, a just-off-the-lobby bar slinging old-school cocktails with panache.


Jupiter Hotel, Portland, OR

The Jupiter, a 81-room rebooted roadside lodge, keeps Portland weird. Located in the heart of the trendy LoBu neighborhood, not only is this east-side fixture the city’s first cannabis-friendly hotel (the “420 Package” grants guests accoutrements, snacks, and the latest issue of Oregon Leaf), but also it’s adjacent to Doug Fir Lounge, Portland’s best music venue. Mod minimalist rooms feature local art, photo murals, and chalkboard doors where you can leave your mark. What’s more, the hotel curates a do-as-the-locals-do experience with discounts to nearby boutiques, breweries, coffee shops, and dispensaries.


FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel, Phoenix, AZ

Think of this downtown 104-room hotel as one big canvas. Lighting up the outside of FOUND:RE Phoenix is a six-story digital projection, a massive video installation of ever-changing local artwork. In the lobby you’re greeted by “Burtney,” a cheeky painting of a nude Burt Reynolds by Phoenix-based Randy Slack. Original works by local artists are also on display in the main floor gallery space as well as in the industrial-chic rooms. And then there’s the hotel’s location right on the border of Roosevelt Row, a walkable creative hub lined with galleries and coffee shops.


The Crawford Hotel, Denver Union Station, Denver, CO

Whether you travel to Denver by train or plane, you’re likely to pass through historic Union Station, a recently-renovated hub of restaurants, bars, and people-watching. The station’s 1881 building also happens to house The Crawford, a hotel that captures Denver’s storied history. The “Pullman” rooms on the second floor are inspired by luxury Art Deco sleeper cars, the third floor “Classic” rooms blend Victorian decor with modern elegance, and fourth floor “Loft” rooms feature original wood beams, exposed brick, vaulted ceilings, and local art. In the a.m., order room service from Snooze, a Denver breakfast fixture known for its pancakes, and in the p.m. hit Terminal Bar for Colorado craft beers and old-school cocktails.


The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Waikiki, HI

Boasting the “most Instagrammable pool” in Hawaii, the design-driven boutique Surfjack is a feast for the eyes. Honolulu-based artist Matt Tapia’s “Wish you were here!” mosaic adds a retro splash to the pool, wooden art panels and framed antique postcards decorate the 112 vintage-inspired rooms, and “hang loose” wallpaper by Honolulu designer Andrew Mau sets the tone in the downstairs restaurant Mahina and Sun’s. Order a Kona coffee ice cream sandwich, chill by the photogenic pool, and let the aloha vibe wash over you.
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Travel Magazine: 10 Urban Hotels with Loads of Local Character
10 Urban Hotels with Loads of Local Character
Forget chains and bland properties—a hotel like one of these really embeds you in your urban destination.
Travel Magazine
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