The Darling Hotel was named one of the “Hottest New Hotels” in the world by Tripadvisor, placing Visalia in the top 20 along with Sydney, Dubai and other international tourist destinations.
The Darling was ranked 19th in the travel agency’s annual Best of the Best awards, which ranks hotels and other travel destinations around the world. A blurb hailed the downtown boutique as “the perfect local getaway.”
“We are delighted and blown away,” Darling Managing Director Michael Seaward said of the ranking, adding that he was first notified of the award through a colleague’s text message.
âAt first I was like ‘This is cool’. I had no idea we were in the top 20 in the world,â he said. âI went up the list, and that was New York. , Dubai, South Africa and then … Visalia. “
The Darling was one of four US sites to make the list.
The ranking is a testament to The Darling’s commitment to local history and flavor, as well as customer service, Seaward said. The hotel is rated 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor with 125 reviews.
âWe go above and beyond to give it a personalized, authentic touch that you might not get at some of the other hotel chains,â he said. “We want all of our guests to have a keepsake they can take home.”
The building in downtown Visalia once served as the Tulare County courthouse before a group of local investors bought the long vacant property and turned it into a boutique hotel with a rooftop bar.
The four-story art-deco wonder features 32 hand-crafted rooms, four meeting spaces, a pool and Elderwood, a rooftop bar, and a restaurant with views of the Sierra Nevada.
âThe owners and developers have done a wonderful job renovating the building and bringing it back to life, keeping it as local as possible,â Seaward said.
The journey was not without challenges, however.
The Darling celebrated its grand opening on July 1, 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which particularly hit the hospitality industry.
âIt was one of the worst times in the history of the world to open a hotel,â Seaward said, adding that the staff were trying to look on the bright side.
âIn some ways it was an advantage. We fixed the issues when it was quite slow and mellowed out in it which really trained our staff well.
To date, the hotel has not recorded any positive cases of COVID-19 among its staff or customers, he said.
The hotel hopes to continue to attract locals and tourists from around the world, especially as the pandemic subsides and people become more eager to travel.
âOur vision is to become the # 1 destination in the Central Valley, not just a stopover on the way to Sequoia National Park,â he said.
Joshua Yeager covers water, agriculture, parks and housing for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @VTD_Joshy. Receive alerts and stay up to date on all things Tulare County for as little as $ 1 per month. Subscribe today.