Glittery celebrity power and big-screen blockbusters have propelled a slew of hotels into the spotlight over the years. But a handful of hotels, sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, continue to command a magnetic pull with travellers. They may have first caught the eye of Tinsel Town movie-makers, but they remain the object of enduring starry-eyed affection for travellers. Taking a pilgrimage to the shooting locations of your favourite flicks is a booming travel trend.
Just look at the legacy of the Rings and The Hobbit on New Zealand tourism. They are gifts that keep on giving. Movie-inspired travel has even coined its own catchphrase – it’s called “set-jetting.” As Hollywood gets set for its annual binge on self-glory at the Oscars, here’s my hit list of the world’s legendary movie hotels well worth a sample. From old-school classics and Christmas flicks to blood-curdling horrors and sloppy rom-coms, these hotels are not just pop culture landmarks, but virtual shrines of cinematic history.
First stop, The Plaza in New York, lording over Central Park. Now under the Fairmont banner, and a Big Apple high society beacon for over a century, The Plaza’s cinematic pedigree runs deep, having featured in dozens of movies. Most recently, The Great Gatsby, but other stand-outs include Crocodile Dundee and most famously, Home Alone 2, where Kevin lives it up in a lavish suite courtesy of his father’s credit card. If this Fifth Ave pleasure pad is beyond your pay grade for an overnighter, plump for Afternoon Tea in the hotel’s Palm Court. A revered New York ritual for over a century.
Closer to home, the Palace Hotel in Broken Hill is instantly recognisable from its starring role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The 1994 Aussie cult hit saw Priscilla cut a swathe across the Outback, and the Palace Hotel is where they enjoyed a particularly colourful layover, en-route to Alice Springs. If you really want to pay homage to the Queen of the Desert in style, why not book a night in the Priscilla Suite?
If you find yourself in Oregon, how about making a date with the horror hotel in Stephen King’s classic chiller, The Shining? Overlook Hotel, as depicted in the 1980 film, is in fact the ski resort of Timberline Lodge. Movie fans flock to stay in Room 217, the most haunted room of all according to the storyline, and the hotel library will happily lend you a copy of the movie, for your viewing pleasure.
Since it burst onto the big-screen five years ago, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been a bonanza for tourism growth to Rajasthan. I only recently discovered that the property depicted in the movie, is in fact a real hotel, namely the Ravla Khempur, a 17th century former palace in Udaipur. With an all-star cast of British acting royalty, including Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith, the 2014 sequel also starred Richard Gere. Fawned over by film aficionados, the hotel also set-jetter tours of the movie’s key locations around the hotel and city.
On a similar note, the award-winning Lost in Translation has seen the Park Hyatt Tokyo remain one of the most popular hotels for a city stay. The property served as the main setting for the Oscar-winning flick, as it was where Bob and Charlotte stay. This five-star hotel doesn’t come cheap – nightly tariffs can be eye-watering. But a far more economical way to toast the film is to pop up to the top-level New York Bar & Grill (which featured in the movie) and order up their signature drink, an LIT cocktail.
When it comes to rom-coms, the hotel queen would have to be the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. Overlooking fashionable Rodeo Drive, a dream spot to toast your day’s discoveries, is to enjoy a cheeky cocktail at THE Blvd Restaurant and Lounge, at the hotel made famous by Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The legacy lives on with the signature cocktail list headlined by The Gentleman and Pretty Woman. If you’re willing to seriously splash out and stay the night, much of the action between Vivian and Edward took place in the swish presidential suite – including the bathtub scene.
Legendary Hollywood experiences don’t get more starry-eyed than a sojourn at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Just think of the primping and preening going on in the hotel bungalows, during Oscars season. The “Pink Palace” is still at the top of her game, retaining her charismatic pull with the Hollywood crowd. Even if you’re not in residence, enjoy a bite or drinks, from breakfast till late, at the iconic Polo Lounge, a golden escape to old school swank and the pinnacle of Hollywood’s power dining scene.
I scored some fun facts about the Polo Lounge from the hotel staff. For years Charlie Chaplin had a standing lunch reservation for booth 1. It remained empty if he didn’t show up. Director Richard Attenborough came to the Polo Lounge for a post-Oscar celebration in 1983 after winning two awards for Gandhi. While Attenborough stood by, the maître d’ held up the two Oscars to a cheering Polo Lounge crowd. Inspired by the soda fountains of the 1940s, the Fountain Coffee Room is another celebrated haunt for a casual bite, cappuccino, or as the hotel’s neighbours know, for tasty take-out!
A more contemporary spot, named in honour of the hotel’s opening year, Bar Nineteen 12 is definitely worth a visit simply to drink in a Beverly Hills sunset, with cocktail in hand, on the beautiful terrace overlooking the pool. Speaking of the glittering pool, where you’ll find complimentary drinks and soft serve ice creams, take a dip and marvel at the underwater music of celebrated movie soundtracks. How very La La Land.