In a city like Los Angeles with hotels on every single block and marketing spiels that sound eerily identical (only two blocks from the beach, walking distance to the best shopping in town, and the like), many women travelers find themselves going the “safe” route and booking a hotel chain they are familiar with (or get points for). Personally I’m a big fan of Marriott and Omni, but rarely do they offer any uniqueness to the city in which they are located.
Going the safe route almost guarantees one fatal flaw – missing out on unique (which usually means boutique) hotels that are indigenous to that city – hotels that have so much character in the lobby alone that you wonder if you even need to venture out into the “real” city just beyond the doors.
Hotels like Figueroa Hotel.
And thanks to my inherent risky travel behavior, I was introduced to the Figueroa Hotel. (Actually I lied – the media hotel I originally wanted to book was sold out, so the Los Angeles Tourism Board/Discover Los Angeles suggested the Figueroa, which was literally (for once!) right across the block from my event as they had promised.)
For quite possibly the first time, the words “hidden gem” really stood out. It was like the definition finally made sense. Not only do I feel I experienced the epitome of those two words during this stay, but I’ve seen first-hand how awesome it can be.
I’ve written about it before, so don’t be shocked – LA isn’t my scene. Nor is New York City. I know, I know. It doesn’t seem to “fit” with my wildly inappropriate always on the go personality you’ve come to know and love, but they are just too much. My job may seem to operate 24/7, but even I need a break from the hustle and bustle. But when traveling, a break is more than pulling down the blinds in my hotel room trying to zone out (or nap). And throughout all my travels, I never noticed just how important this little quirk of mine really was.
As mentioned, Figueroa Hotel is directly across the street from LA Live, where I needed to be that week for work. So close in fact, I wore my heels there, which is a rare occurrence for me. If you’ve ever been to or near LA Live, you know how busy that area gets – cabs (and now Uber) zooming past you, tourists stopping traffic to take pictures of the rotating digital billboards that are larger than life, locals trying to avoid and not swear at said tourists, and then add to that all the acts and events that LA Live attracts. Just writing that makes my blood pressure rise, but walking in and out of Figueroa was literally like a switch I could turn off and on.
The building itself is the most unassuming building I’ve ever entered. I exaggerate a lot in this line of work, but this is not one of them. I realized I had only seen pictures of the inside of the hotel so I assumed the exterior at least closely matched.
I hesitantly walked inside and within a mere second it was as if zen-like music started playing overhead and the walls opened and I went into this completely new state of mind. Note – there was no actual music playing. The hotel was like a castle. Granted, I’ve never been in a castle, but it’s close to what I’ve seen in Disney movies. The walls were compiled with ornate tile, the ceilings were high up and the vibe was…chill. Not something I was expecting so close to all the ESPYs action just across the street.
The rooms were larger than most, the décor was tasteful and unique, but it was literally like the second-biggest city in the US was hundreds of miles away rather than just outside my window.
The area that most drove this ‘hidden-gem’ concept home was the pool, but it’s more than me just being a sucker for sipping a cocktail while in a bikini. The pool itself was nice, but I noticed something that surpassed sunning by pool in my opinion. Looking in the far left corner, just past the beautifully and purposely trimmed hedges, there sat LA Live in all it’s bright and lit up glory. I know I have a good arm from my softball days, but I could probably have thrown a rock and hit LA Live, yet the meticulously groomed yet strategic shrubbery made it feel miles away.
So consider my personal story and journey with Figueroa Hotel your own personal encouragement next time you’re traveling – take that risky route and be ready for adventure – and don’t judge a hotel by its exterior walls.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Houston focusing on travel writing and is in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Be sure to follow Jayme’s travel and sports adventures on Twitter @jaymelamm.