Empress Hotel: Technology Meets Art in La Jolla

This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

One of the perks of being a travel writer is that you get turned on to hotels that are doing exciting things. Grand openings, renovations, expansions…these are all my jam.

So when I had the opportunity to stay at the Empress Hotel in La Jolla, California, after a major renovation, I jumped at the chance. La Jolla, if you’re not familiar, is one of the most picturesque parts of San Diego. So I invited my friend Rose to join me on a little girls’ getaway staycation at the Empress.

Wait, Did That Painting Just Change?

As I checked in at the front desk, I admired the luminated painting of a small girl with a ball. I looked away for a second, and returned my glance to see…a woman on the beach? I did a cartoon-worthy doubletake. Before I could get anything more than “What the—” out, the concierge smiled knowingly.

Empress Hotel lobby

He explained that they worked with a company that updated the art in the lobby monthly. It’s displayed on several large flatscreens and changes every minute or so. He pointed to a tablet next to the desk where I could browse to learn more about the artists and even order prints.

Wow. Color me impressed.

“Welcome, Susan”

Taking the elevator to our room was like a walking meditation. The entire hotel has a tasteful and not overdone (a difficult balance for many) beachy theme. Giant photos of local beach life, surfers, and shells line the halls, and the rooms themselves are awash in gentle blues.

After the requisite ooh’s and aah’s over the decor (“Rose, don’t touch anything until I can take photos!”), I spied a tablet on the table next to the beds. I picked it up.

Empress Hotel technology

“Welcome, Susan!”

Well, hello there. Beyond the typical functions of a tablet, I saw that you could command a whole host of hotel-related functions, like report a leaky toilet, order extra pillows, or get room service. I was tempted to push one of the buttons just to see it work. I always hate calling the front desk or room service (chalk it up to me being Gen X and much more comfortable texting), so this idea was appealing.

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After a Night on the Town…

Rose and I enjoyed La Jolla thoroughly. We ate sushi at Shiku, watched the sun set from the balcony at La Valencia Hotel, and grabbed a drink and burrata at Catania. Then we returned to Empress Hotel, satiated. We were ready to hit the hay, but as we entered the lobby, we saw people spilling out of the hotel restaurant, Manhattan of La Jolla. Curiosity piqued, we entered, and found a lively crowd gathered around a baby grand where a musician was playing Michael Jackson. We looked at each other and bellied up to the bar. Maybe just one more drink.

We couldn’t find a place to perch, so we grabbed our wine (hers) and Cosmo (mine) and headed up to our room. I’d return to the restaurant because it was filled with locals, not tourists, and that always means a good time.

In the morning, when we’d packed up our things, the little girl in me delighted in pressing the valet button on the tablet. Finally, a hotel that gets it.

Need to know: Check in: 3:00 p.m. Check out 12:00 p.m. The hotel is pet-friendly for an additional fee. Valet parking is $28 per night. Continental breakfast included.

Insider tip: While there is the restaurant on premises, there are some amazing restaurants within walking distance, so plan your culinary adventure in La Jolla accordingly.

If You Go:

7766 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, California 92037

Phone: 858-454-3001

Empress Hotel review and all photography by travel writer Susan Guillory. I received a comped stay at this hotel, though all opinions are my own.