The Darling is one of the world’s hottest hotels

Tripadvisor ranks hotel in downtown Visalia No. 19 on top 25 “Hottest New Hotels in the World”

VISALIA – Now that travel restrictions are easing, you might have the urge to jump on a plane to a luxury hotel across the ocean. Or, you could just head to Visalia, home to one of the hottest new hotels in the world.

Last week, The Darling Hotel was ranked No. 19 on Tripadvisor’s list of the “25 Hottest New Hotels in the World.” The hotel, located in downtown Visalia, was awarded as part of the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best awards from Tripadvisor, the world’s largest online travel platform. The ‘Hottest New Hotels’ list is comprised of hotels that opened July 2019 or later and celebrate the most highly rated hotels based on quality and quantity of traveler reviews.

General manager Michael Seaward said the rankings were heavily weighted on the number of positive Tripadvisor reviews, as well as few, if any, negative reviews. Seaward admitted opening during the pandemic put the Darling on a shorter list of candidates worldwide but credited a well-trained staff, its unique rooftop cocktail lounge and restaurant, Elderwood, and art deco architecture and decor with providing a destination in the heart of the Valley that continues to attract people from the Bay Area and Southern California.

“In addition to providing a quality experience of staying at the hotel, our staff make it a point to greet people, check in with them and get to know a little bit about our guests,” Seaward said. “I think this honor speaks to the relationships we build with people.”

The hotel’s ownership group also attributes the achievement to the hard work of Seaward and the other staff members. “We are so proud of our staff and how they’ve managed through a difficult period. They truly continue to be instrumental to accomplishing a key part of the vision: to create something that brings positive recognition to this city and the Valley,” said Bob Ainley, a member of The Darling’s ownership group.

The hotel opened on July 1, 2020, at the height of COVID-19 restrictions. Michael Seaward, the hotel’s general manager, attributes much of the hotel’s success to the local community. When the hospitality industry was essentially closed off for most travelers, Seaward said locals stayed at the hotel to celebrate special occasions or have romantic staycations.

“We are grateful to have the overwhelming support of our local community,” said Seaward. “They really blew us away and we could not have done this without them.”

Other U.S. hotels making the top 25 list include Emeline (#7) in Charleston, SC, The Rockaway Hotel (#10) in New York, NY, and Rise Uptown (#20) in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Darling Hotel is a 32-room boutique hotel located in California’s San Joaquin Valley near Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The four-story building was constructed in 1935 as an expansion of the original County Courthouse built in the 1880s. When the current Courthouse was constructed in 1958, the building was used for a variety of purposes but has been vacant since 2008.

Signs of the building’s rich history echo throughout its walls. The first-floor vault has been converted to a wine cellar. Original 1930s doors and antique light fixtures have been restored and rehung. All the way to the fourth floor, where one of the executive suites retains the wood paneling from the original chambers from the buildings time as a venerable courthouse and Board of Supervisors chambers.

Historic photos and blueprints of the original courthouse square, courthouse and art-deco annex grace the walls of every floor as windows into the past. The classic black and white photos complement the more modern, mixed media pieces by COS art professor Matt Rangel, whose topographic drawings of the Sierra Nevadas and Kaweah watershed are brought to life with drawings of native species and hiking notes. Elements of the hotel’s art deco logo design can be found in the hallway doors, patterned carpet, windows and rooftop railing.

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