We received an invitation from the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Ynez to attend their Wine Club Member Pick-Up Party this weekend and since it happened to coincide with our anniversary, we thought it would be fun to attend and make a weekend out of it. We drove up to Santa Ynez on Saturday morning and returned to the Santa Ynez Marriott hotel; a property we have not visited for over a year and a half now. I was a bit skeptical and hesitant in returning to the Marriott in Buellton because the last time we were here, the hotel was undergoing a much-needed renovation. The problem was that no one informed us of the renovation when we made the reservations (we were a group of about 14 or so). We were all surprised to learn of the renovation upon our arrival and we could see and hear the construction process. Upon checking in last year, we were informed of the renovation but told that the construction activities were only taking place on the opposite side of the hotel from where our rooms were and would only be going on during the hours of 10 AM - 7 PM. We were all assured that the disturbance would be minimal and we would probably not even notice it at all, at least while in our rooms. Well, that was not the case as we were awoken both mornings of our stay by loud banging and other construction-related noises going on right above us. I mention this as my complaints both directly to the hotel management as well as to Marriott were rebuked; in fact, I even got into a fight with the manager over whether or not we were informed of this construction prior to reserving or arriving and whether or not the desk attendant checking us in assured us that the construction would be secluded to the opposite side of the hotel and during which hours it would take place. Suffice all this to say that we were both skeptical and hesitant to return to the Santa Ynez Marriott even eighteen months later. To its credit and convenience, it happens to be the only Marriott in the area. So we tried again, making our reservations in hopes that both the hotel and the attitudes of the staff had completed their renovations.
Upon arrival, we were profoundly surprised at the new look of the lobby, cafe, bar and lounge areas. The new look is definitely an update; it is very modern and minimalist with a rustic flair, a nod to the area. Even though the 101 delayed us considerably from our intended arrival, our room was not ready. Additionally, there were no upgrades available, even after we asked. We were allowed to pre-check-in and they stored our luggage for us indicating that they would call us as soon as the room was ready. We drove to Solvang and two hours later, having not heard from the hotel, we decided to drive back and try to check in again. We were greeted by the same desk agent again, who proceeded to ask us if we were ready to check in now? Um, wait a minute, we were waiting on you... but I let that go and we went up to our room. Also, and I only mention this because it is always a question on the survey that Marriott sends out after every stay; no, our gold status was not acknowledged and no, we were not thanked for being elite members.
Thankfully, the renovations to the room are also nice. Gone are the green patterned carpets from the 60's, the tattered wallpaper and grandma's furniture. In their place were wood-paneled accent walls, ash-grey laminate floors, and a cozy little nook perfect for sitting and reading, typing away on the computer, having our morning coffee and tea or eating a snack. The room was also well-appointed with an abundance of outlets and USB plugs throughout. They were located in the bathroom, in the seating nook, on both sides of the bed, by the balcony and at the desk/entertainment center. It was great! I don't think I have seen that many outlets in a hotel room before. I must admit, however, although the room looked very nice, it was clear this was done on the cheap, like IKEA cheap. The laminate floors had already warped and buckled in our room so that it was like walking on a wavy floor - there was a pronounced buckle at every seam, which was noticeable both visually as well as physically. In our shoes and bare feet, we easily noticed a feeling of walking up and down as we wandered about the room.
The bathroom was also modernized and looked great but the toiletry basket/shelf in the spacious shower had already begun falling off the wall. Setting even the hotel-provided sundries in it caused it to tip forward and roll everything off onto the floor. It was so loose upon inspection that we decided not to use it at all for fear it may fall off the tiled wall completely. As we were only spending one night and did not want to waste any time having to wait for maintenance to come and repair it, we chose to inform the hotel staff upon check-out.
The grounds also received a refresh with new furniture, seating areas and fire pits placed both in front of and behind the hotel in several places. We did not make use of the pool but from our peek-ins, it seemed like it had not been refreshed but would have still been enjoyable to lay out around had we more time. It did not appear as though the exterior of the building itself had received a refresh.
One other thing I noticed and appreciated very much was the addition of several TESLA charging stations. I think we counted 10 or more of them in the parking lot. If you have an electric car, this is perfect as you'll be able to drive up from Los Angeles, charge your car over night and be able to get back to Los Angeles the next day. We don't have an electric vehicle right now but I am considering one for my next purchase so this is good to know and I wanted others to be aware of it.
We did enjoy our stay overall; the room was comfortable (thanks in no small part to the fabulous Marriott beds), nice-looking, the staff was friendlier than eighteen months ago, and we had time and ability to relax. I'll say the hotel is still a work in progress, but a vast improvement and we will stay there again (if for no other reason than the fact that it is essentially the only nice hotel as well as the only Marriott in the area).