With Santa Barbara as the destination, the next decision was where to stay? A good friend recommended the Fess Parker Hotel. My first reaction to this was “Fess Parker, the star of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone from my childhood?” Yep and if you don’t know what I am talking about go here. The photo below may jog your memory.
Parker was a WW II vet who started acting in the stage show Mister Roberts. In the mid-50’s, he was cast in what we would today call a mini-series of one hour Disney shows and later a movie all as him portraying Davy Crockett. Remember the theme song? “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier…” No? Well look it up, it’s pretty catchy. After that he was later cast as the lead in the Daniel Boone TV Series (talk about type-cast) which ran ’64 -’71. Not getting much work after that, her retired at the age of 49. He took his money and invested in land in the Santa Barbara area. In 1988, he started a winery (more on that in the next post) and later bought a hotel right on the beach.
The property was the location of a railroad roundhouse until 1961, which is how beachfront property stayed out of development so long in Santa Barbara. With the diesel locomotive taking over the railways, there was no need for the old roundhouse and it was sold off. This large hotel was built on the property and incorporated the feel of the old roundhouse by being circular in form.
When I started researching this hotel, I came upon a big bonus – the hotel was a Doubletree Resort. The hotel was pricer than I normally stay at – about $250/nt., but since it was a Hilton, I could use the one Free Weekend Night Certificate that I received from spending $10,000 in a year on the now-discontinued Citi Hilton Card. No worries as you can still do the same thing by either getting the new AMEX Ascend card and spend $15,000/ yr. or better yet, get the new AMEX Aspire card which comes with a free weekend night and an additional one if you can manage to spend $60k/ yr on it. The Aspire comes with another great benefit that you can apply at the Fess Parker. The card gives you $250 credit at Hilton resorts for incidentals. While this can be used to offset any resort fees, this property didn’t have any fees. It did have a first class restaurant which mean the wife and I could get a first-class dinner for free.
Pulling into the property, we found that we had to pay for parking. Paying for parking goes against the grain of anyone who grew up in L.A., like I did, but at least it was only $10. The entrance was grand, as was the lobby.
Checking in, we were given a beachview room which we had to find by taking a really long circular hallway (remember the roundhouse?) and were very delighted with the room.
The beds were each queen sized and the overall room gave plenty of walking around space.
The bathroom was OK, but it was nice to have two sinks as any married couple will tell you.
They even had bottles of wine from the Fess Parker winery, but at $40 each, we took a hard pass on drinking those.
The views of the beach were great, and we lucked out with 70 degree weather. The little patio would be the perfect place for breakfast or an evening drink.
Walking around the property, you can see the roundhouse theme. Also shown it their casual dining area. Remember my plan to use our resort credit on the fine dining recommended by my friend? Turns out the restaurant is undergoing renovation and closed. Oh, well, the credit will still be available for another 11 months…
Our free breakfast was very good and the service was absolutely great. They even had donuts and churros for breakfast – how many hotels have that? I’ll have to tell Ed Pizzarello, my donut-fiend friend.
So for a free stay, it is hard to complain. The property was great and so were the staff. Very disappointed about the renovations closing the restaurant, but hey, it happens. Note that you can walk to all the wine tasting areas from the hotel. More on that in another post.