Pasadena was blessed with a number of posh hotels (none of which survive today) during its first boom period, in the 19th century, but it really arrived with the construction of this place. First built in 1906 as the Hotel Wentworth, it struggled and was finally bought by railroad magnate and local boy Henry Huntington in 1911. He hired architect Myron Hunt to fix the place up, and three years later, the Huntington Hotel opened, becoming the premier winter resort in Southern California. Everyone who was anyone wintered here, strolling the 23 acres of gorgeously landscaped grounds by day and attending formal dinner-dances in the Georgian Room by night. The Huntington’s success led to its opening year-round in 1926, when it built California’s first Olympic-size swimming pool to refresh summertime guests. It remained Pasadena’s swankiest address for decades, though it shut down during World War II, when it was rented to the Army for $3,000 a month.
By the ’80s, however, the Huntington (by then a Sheraton) had faded, and its inability to meet earthquake standards led to its closing in 1985. Along came the Ritz-Carlton, which pumped in zillions to bring the place up to modern code and restored it to its 1920s glamor. And now the Langham, a small, high-end hotel group, runs the place to the nth degree. Today the Huntington gives guests deeply comfortable rooms, grounds that epitomize gracious Pasadena living, a serious and ambitious restaurant, a fantastic (and fantastically expensive) new indoor-outdoor bar, a luxe spa, solicitous service, a fabled pool, and gobs of period charm, from the Picture Bridge, with its 40 murals depicting California history, to the English-library look of the lobby lounge, where jazz and blues bands play on weekends.
You’ve really made it if you can stay in one of the eight bungalows, most of which were built around the hotel in the ’20s and ’30s by wealthy regular guests who wanted more comfortable lodgings for a long stay. If you don’t stay at the Huntington, at least come for a sunny-day lunch at the Terrace by the pool, and take time to stroll the grounds. Or stop in the new Tap Room bar, which has fast become the place in town to meet and/or celebrate.
1401 S Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena
$260-$580; discounts and packages often available