Whether you like Taylor Swift or not, you’ll love these iconic Northern California hotels. And so would she. Probably.
Yes, we are absolutely leveraging Taylor Swift’s name in relation to the Super Bowl. 100% pure clickbait. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t adore these hotels. They seem right up her alley. And until she tells us otherwise, we feel okay about what we’ve done here. Because these are 13 of Northern California’s most fun, most luxurious, most stylish hotels — a real gold rush of great accommodations. Whether you’re Taylor Swift, Jonathan Swift, or you’ve been swift-boated, there’s not much to dislike.
Unless, of course, you’re a fan of the San Francisco 49ers and are rooting against Swift and her new favorite football team, the Kansas City Chiefs. In that case, you may want a break from toiling in the Taylor economy. Just remember, real Swifties know that her actual favorite team is the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s their T-shirt she has hanging from the door.
Woodside, CA, USA
As spectacular as the retreat itself is, nestled among giant redwoods in a hidden hillside forest, it’s the programming that makes Canyon Ranch what it is. Guests choose from a wealth of offerings, from spa treatments to health and fitness interventions and even a substantial spiritual wellness program, overseen by staff with advanced degrees in divinity or theology.
Big Sur, CA, USA
It would be difficult for any man-made structure to compete with Big Sur’s redwood forests or cliffside views of the Pacific; but this strange and decadent little hotel holds its own. Modernist architect Mickey Muennig settled in Big Sur in 1971, and has been responsible for most of its notable buildings ever since. Post Ranch is his only hotel, a collection of discreet houses, each uniquely suited to its location.
Napa, CA, USA
Carneros Resort and Spa is rather more modern than the Tuscan-Provençal style that seems to dominate California wine country. Its style is a sort of rustic minimalism, with inspiration seemingly drawn from the American Midwest and Northeast. The corrugated metal roofs of the cottages are striking and unassuming at the same time, and fit well into the landscape of rolling hills and wide-open farmland.
Healdsburg, CA, USA
The Madrona may be new, but the Mansion, the hotel’s ornate centerpiece, certainly isn’t — this 1881 mansion was built in Aesthetic Movement style. The interiors, by co-owner and designer Jay Jeffers, are eclectic, incorporating period elements as well as modern interventions, a very fine art collection, and a boatload of antiques and curios collected during several lifetimes’ worth of travels.
Yountville, CA, USA
North Block is a surprisingly intimate and private hotel, considering its in-town location. 20 rooms are distributed in villa-like buildings surrounding a central courtyard, with a faint Tuscan atmosphere familiar to regular visitors to California’s wine country. This being Napa Valley, the hotel also has well-thought-out wine and wellness programs, plus high-quality cuisine by chef Juan Cabrera.
Carmel, CA, USA
It shares the certain unpretentious, vintage-inspired warmth of all the Palisociety hotels, but Le Petit Pali at 8th Ave is a 24-room inn that’s closer in its scale and its concept to a seaside bed-and-breakfast than an urban boutique hotel. It occupies a charming and thoroughly Californian Craftsman-style building, which is aesthetically a perfect match for Palisociety’s eclectic interiors.
Midpines, CA, USA
As stunning as Yosemite National Park is, it’s never been served by accommodations you would describe as stylish. AutoCamp changes that all at once, with its fleet of custom-designed Airstream trailers and a mid-century modernist-inspired Clubhouse that will have you wondering if it might not be time for the Park Service to update its architectural style.
San Francisco, CA, USA
If you’re expecting a private member’s club in San Francisco to be full of app-pitching tech hucksters, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by The Battery. Business chat is discouraged, photography is out of bounds, and public mobile phone use is restricted. The only way in is to be a member — or have a reservation, which earns you one of 14 stylish, tastefully luxurious suites and rooms.
San Francisco, CA, USA
In a landmarked 1904 flatiron-style building, designer Kelly Wearstler has drawn inspiration from Europe for her stunning San Francisco Proper Hotel, combining the expected Victorian and Art Deco currents with everything from Cubism to Bauhaus and beyond, paying special attention to the graphic arts, with bold patterns and vibrant illustrations adorning the walls.
St. Helena, CA, USA
St. Helena has a legitimate claim on the title of America’s culinary capital. It’s home of the West Coast branch of the Culinary Institute of America, and also home to one of the California wine country’s most rarefied — and wine-obsessed — hotels. Meadowood Napa Valley has been a local institution for half a century, but far from showing its age, today it remains an absolutely first-rate luxury resort.
Jenner, CA, USA
The Sixties-era Timber Cove Resort, built of native redwood and stone, was originally conceived as a meditation lodge. After thorough renovations in 2016, it’s more rustic-chic than strictly rustic — in-room amenities include modern record players, yoga mats, and organic bath products — but it’s still as peaceful as ever, situated on a quiet stretch of the Sonoma Coast, high on a bluff over the Pacific.
Nevada City, CA, USA
The Gold Rush town of Nevada City, California has settled into a second life as an outdoor-friendly bohemian enclave in the foothills of the Sierras; no surprise, then, that the town’s 1856-vintage Victorian lodging, the National Exchange Hotel, has found new purpose as a stylish and modern (if retro-styled) boutique hotel. It’s been thoroughly renovated, but it’s remained true to its historical inspiration.
Big Sur, CA, USA
It doesn’t get much more California than Ventana Big Sur. Fortunately this is the eminently dignified and respectable face of the state, a sort of middle ground, as far from New Age hippie excess as it is from the glitz and materialism of Hollywood. Ventana is clearly a high-luxury resort, but Big Sur is the star here, the main event the hallucinatory view of the Pacific a thousand feet below.