By Lena Katz
New Year’s Eve falls on a Thursday this year, giving us a four-day weekend to welcome brand, shiny and new 2010. Party promoters, event planners and venue owners in California’s big cities are planning a merry-making marathon that lasts ’til Saturday p.m. (Which still gives you all of Sunday to lie around on the couch going “Owww my head,” and watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model.) If you’re up for the challenge, and ready to book a room at your favorite San Francisco hotel, San Diego hotel or other Cali destination, here are four cities ready to ring out 2009 with a bang.
If you really want the “VIP-table, champagne-all-night” experience and don’t mind paying up the hoo-ha for it, then join the flesh-baring, camera-ready, status-jockeying masses at Party Central: AKA Hollywood. Just about every club, restaurant and Los Angeles hotel from the Cahuenga Corridor all the way over to the WeHo rock star zone will have a special New Year’s Eve program with a special jacked-up price to go along with it. Start scouting now for the place you want to be at that countdown moment. It might be a club like MyHouse or King King; perhaps a posh lounge like Bardot or H.Wood; or if you’re smart, you’ll stay in a hotel like the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Sunset Marquis, or the Mondrian, where you can use the “guests only” entrance to the party, and skip the velvet rope altogether.
Though San Francisco would never admit it — liking to consider itself altogether more artsy, sophisticated and intellectual than silly Hollywood — its party scene gets as frenzied as anywhere on a big holiday weekend. And New Year’s might be the biggest of its calendar year. There are parties overlapping other parties all over SOMA, Potrero Hill, and downtown …and of course, bars from the hipster-ish Mission to fratty North Beach to the yuppie Marina will be jam-packed. If you want to book a San Francisco hotel room, you may try one of the Personality Hotels like Hotel Union Square, Hotel Diva or Hotel Frank; or the Joie de Vivre properties like Hotel Kabuki or the White Swan Inn. If you feel like splashing out a little, I think the Hotel Palomar and W San Francisco are reliably chic all the time.
If you want a scene that’s a little less about getting past the rope and a little more about having fun and being crazy with your friends, San Diego might be the New Year’s Eve spot for you. Downtown is mayhem any weekend, with students, military and younger professionals packing the clubs and bars — not to mention, the sidewalks. On New Year’s it’s going to be a few notches up from there (consider yourself forewarned). Surprise guest Aubrey O’Day (oops! There goes the surprise!) will be doing the countdown at the ragingly popular Hard Rock Hotel, while local nightclubs Onyx Room and Stingaree are already selling discounted tickets for people who want the full-on club experience. If you want to check out one of the newer San Diego hotels in the Gaslamp district or near the waterfront, I would suggest the Hotel Indigo, Se San Diego or the Sofia Hotel.
My last pick isn’t nearly as big or busy as the first three, but these things are all relative, and for fun per square foot, I think Palm Springs is nearly unbeatable. It’s wild, welcoming and walkable all at the same time, whether you’re hanging at a posh hotel (like the Parker Meridien or a gay bar (Alibi). There are a slew of cute little Palm Springs hotels downtown that won’t kill a budget: futuristic-sexy Hotel Zoso, posh yet cozy Colony Palms, and the Moroccan-inspired Korakia. Just outside of town are the big desert resorts, where days of spa and golf can balance out your hyped-up New Year’s Eve antics. The JW Marriott Desert Springs may top the something-for-everyone list, but I think the Miramonte Resort and Spa, Agua Caliente Resort and Hyatt Grand Champions are all great properties.
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Lena Katz is the author of SUN: California and SIP: California, part of the Travel Temptations series published by Globe Pequot Press.