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8 Cool Presidential Getaways in California

8 Cool Presidential Getaways in California

Step inside presidential history at hotels, golf courses, and a grove of sequoias

Posted 6 years agoby Katrina Hunt

George Washington may never have slept here, but California can claim a lot of interesting presidential history. For starters, it’s home to two presidential libraries: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, and the Richard M. Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Both museums offer compelling looks at the two presidents’ lives and times. Ventura County’s Reagan museum, for instance, features a piece of the Berlin Wall and an Air Force One, while the expanded Nixon museum in Orange County takes a nuanced look at both the Vietnam years and the Watergate scandal.

But California has also hosted a lot of leisure time for POTUSes over the years—including weddings, extreme campouts, and, no doubt, a lot of rounds of golf. Here are eight locations across the Golden State, listed south to north, with notable presidential connections.

14 Presidents Stayed Here—But Not Its Namesake
U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego
This elegant hotel (pictured at top) in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter was built in 1910 by the son of Ulysses S. Grant—also named Ulysses—who had moved here for his health and wanted to honor his dad. (President Grant had his own San Diego connection, having issued an executive order in 1875 that set aside 650 acres for the local Kumeyaay tribe.) The U.S. Grant features one of the few existing portraits of President Grant, though he actually never stayed here—but 14 other presidents have spent the night. Stay here and you can enjoy art in bed, thanks to the unique "Sleeping with Art" canvas headboards.

The Ultimate Executive Golf Course
Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage
This 200-acre estate in the Palm Springs area—once the private home of the philanthropist Annenberg family—has hosted seven presidents for golf vacations over the years. (Nixon reportedly came here the same day he was pardoned by Gerald Ford in 1974.) It’s still a mid-century gem, with beautiful gardens and its own golf course. You can’t stay at Sunnylands, but come take the cool guided tours Thursdays through Sundays.

Greens with a View
Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
President Trump’s California-based course is located in Rancho Palos Verdes, not far from the Terranea Resort. You need not be a club member to practice your swing here: The 18-hole course is public, with tee times starting at $175 per player. You can also just walk the trails that edge the oceanfront course, which has sweeping views of the Pacific.

A Custom Chair and Wedded Bliss
Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside
This Spanish Mission-style hotel with flying buttresses, domes, courtyards, and its own small museum certainly has a stately presence, and six presidents have stayed here since it opened in 1903: FDR, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush. The hotel had a giant chair made just for the visiting Taft (who was 350 pounds; you can sit in it today), and Richard and Pat Nixon even got married here in 1940. There are five presidential suites in the hotel now, some with their own Roman pillars. Come to the Riverside resort during the holiday season for the millions-twinkling Festival of Lights.

From Campus Café to the Oval Office
Occidental College, Los Angeles
President Barack Obama attended college here, in L.A.’s Eagle Rock area, from 1979–81. He reportedly lived in dormitory Haines Hall, worked at the on-campus dining spot Tiger Cooler (where today you can pick up a wood-fired pizza or some sushi), and gave one of his first public speeches, about apartheid, outside Coons Hall. He also lived in a nearby apartment building, which now has a plaque outside.

Presidential Foul Ball
Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach
Over the years, presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush both played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (formerly known as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am), held at courses including Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach Golf Links, just outside Monterey. Ford—beloved for his colorful playing style—even had an incident at Spyglass in 1984, when he accidentally hit a bystander with a flying golf ball at the 15th hole.

Blog Photo

Monumental Campout
Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park
Long before one could procure high-performance gear, Theodore Roosevelt supposedly slept amongst 40 wool blankets while camping here with naturalist John Muir during the winter of 1903. It was during this trip that Muir convinced Roosevelt to grant this area permanent protection and become part of Yosemite National Park. (Come check out the sequoias here when the area’s restoration project is done in June.)

Tea Fit for a POTUS
The Palace Hotel, San Francisco
In 1923, President Warren G. Harding actually passed away of a likely stroke while staying at this opulent hotel near San Francisco’s Financial District. The 1875 hotel has hosted happier presidential times, too—such as a Garden Court luncheon hosted by Woodrow Wilson, in support of the Versailles Treaty, and a state dinner for President McKinley, using the hotel’s famous gold-rimmed china. Today, don’t miss the hotel’s signature afternoon tea in the Garden Court, or the 6-by-16-foot mural in the hotel lounge of the same name, created by Maxfield Parrish in 1909.

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