A Trio of Hotels Offer Unique Experiences in the Bay Area

Pati Navalta Poblete | August 20, 2019 | Lifestyle Travel Weekend Escapes California Destinations

Sonoma_Ballooning_Adventure.jpgCrew members with Sonoma Ballooning Adventures prepare for a flight before sunrise over Sonoma Valley.

Let’s face it, here in the Bay Area we are truly spoiled. Mountain ranges, towering redwoods, bucolic vineyards, nature preserves and, of course, the beautiful Bay. Throw in our Mediterranean climate, and you understand why the Bay Area is such a sought-after address for both bohemians and billionaires alike. Three Fairmont hotels have figured this out and have created unique experiences showcasing and celebrating the best that nature has to offer in their respective regions. From air to sea to land, your ultimate staycation is only a car ride away.

Air_Fairmont_Sonoma.jpgWatsu pool at Fairmont Sonoma; inside the Willow Stream Spa.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Highlights: Private spa cabanas, spa experiences, private yoga classes, intuitive readings
Excursion: Hot air balloon ride over Sonoma
On-site dining: Santé (Californian-French cuisine)
Vibe: Spanish-mission relaxation

Located above an ancient thermal mineral spring, streaming from 1,100 feet below the surface, this hotel is all about its 40,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa. Zen-seekers have four geothermal pools from which to choose, including the spa’s signature Watsu pool experience. Guests are encouraged to place flotation noodles under the neck and legs to experience a full floating massage in the mineral water, kept at 98 degrees. And, no, that music you’re hearing isn’t in your head. The pool comes with an underwater sound system to lull you into a deeper realm of relaxation. Guests can also reserve private cabanas for small groups and experience a European bathing ritual in the bathhouse, which includes exfoliating showers, two mineral-water soaking pools, herbal steam and a dry sauna lined with an illuminated wall made of Himalayan salt. For those seeking something more spiritual, intuitive readings (60 minutes, $169) offer insights about your current life challenges and goals. The property is surrounded by wineries, but why not take them all in at once? Nearby Sonoma Ballooning Adventures (standard package $219, private charter $2,200) has a three-hour experience beginning at dawn, lifting you up just in time to catch the sunrise. At its height, you’ll be surrounded by panoramic views of Sonoma Valley, local vineyards, rolling hills of Petaluma and distant views of the San Francisco Bay. The hotel concierge will take care of all the details for you, including transportation to the launch site.

Sea_Faimont_SF.jpgYacht excursion on the Diamond Seas; Fairmont San Francisco penthouse.

Fairmont San Francisco

Highlights: Location, views, history—oh, my!
Excursion: Sailing on the Diamond Seas yacht hosted by Fairmont San Francisco and Veuve Clicquot
On-site dining: Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar (seasonal California coastal-inspired), Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (Pacific Rim)
Vibe: San Francisco luxury

This luxury hotel may be the very reason why Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Located atop Nob Hill, Fairmont San Francisco rooms offer breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape and the Bay. The grand entrance to the hotel’s opulent lobby alone lets you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. The property, built in 1907, is so scenic that numerous movies and TV shows have been filmed there, including The Rock, Vertigo, The Intern and, most recently, Netflix’s popular Always Be My Maybe, with a scene-stealer shot in the hotel’s famed penthouse. Speaking of which, the penthouse is one of six one-of-a-kind suites among the hotel’s 606 guest rooms, including the Fairmont presidential suite, Diplomat Tony Bennett suite, Napoleon two-bedroom suite, Buckingham balcony suite and the Cambridge suite. And even at $18,000 per night, it’s safe to say you get your money’s worth with the penthouse suite. You’ll have plenty of room in this 6,000-square-foot space with an expansive terrace, billiard room, three bedrooms, a formal dining room and that famous library with that famous hidden door. Don’t worry, for the less-than-baller among us, other rooms start under $400.

Located in the only spot in the city where each of the cable cars meet, San Francisco sightseeing requires only footsteps and a cable car ride. But for a truly San Francisco experience, take your adventure on the Bay. Talk to your concierge about your options for a day on the water—from dinner cruises to sailboats to a yacht.

Land_Wine_Fairmont.jpgWine cellar at Byington Winery; Guests of Byington Winery in Los Gatos can stroll the wine cave as part of a tour of the facility.

Fairmont San Jose

Highlights: Chef’s Table dinner series
Excursion: Vineyard tour and tasting at Byington Winery
On-site dining: Fountain Restaurant (seasonal California), McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant (steak and seafood)
Vibe: Work and play

Fairmont San Jose is located in the heart of the city’s downtown area, which means there’s no shortage of options for entertainment. Surrounded by museums, theme parks and the home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, you can fill your itinerary with local attractions. There is more of a corporate vibe to this property compared with the other Fairmont locations—but if you have to work, there could be worse places to call your office for a few days. If you’re lucky, you can time your stay to coincide with one of the hotel’s Chef’s Table dinners, which gives you a chance to meet with executive chef Marcelo Salinas and be among the first to taste his seasonal dishes before they are offered on the menu of the hotel’s Fountain Restaurant. Fun fact: The restaurant was originally a soda shop and creamery, which is why the wall art is of cows. Look closely enough at the cows’ pupils, and you will see that they are actually ice cream cones. But back to the food. The Chef’s Table dinner includes four courses and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Each course also features wine pairings from Lexington Winery. Salinas is masterful with aromatics and flavor experimentation. Be sure to look out for the next offering—you’ll definitely want a seat at this table.

Land_Fairmont.jpgColorado rack of lamb at Chef’s Table dinner; a suite at Fairmont San Jose.

If you’re up for leaving the downtown area, ask the concierge to book an excursion to the Byington Vineyard & Winery, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The property boasts 95 acres with gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay, not to mention its pinot noir vineyards. Visitors can tour the winemaking facilities, tasting room, wine cave and, on a clear day, have a picnic and take a hike on the grounds.


Photography by: pati navalta poblete; yacht excursion photo by pati navalta poblete; all other photos courtesy of fairmont hotels & resorts; cave, dish, chefs dinner and wine cellar photos by pati navalta poblete; photo of hotel interior courtesy of fairmont hotels & resorts