Santa Rosa’s Flamingo, once a celebrity playground,
becomes a fabulous family hotel with great rates
By Sandy Sims
When I was a young person living in Los Angeles, our family trundled three or four times a year out to Palm Desert to a small motel. There we’d stay for the weekend or longer, swim, play games in the pool, read, eat. You get the idea. This place was our homey little paradise. As an older person living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve searched for such a place to take our grandchildren.
And I found it.
North of San Francisco in Santa Rosa is the Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa. The name sounds hoity-toity, and the garish, tall neon sign out front with a flamingo perched on top conjures a gambling joint. Believe me, it’s neither.
WHY FAMS LOVE IT
The place is perfect for families and reasonably priced.
Our 5-year-old granddaughter wants to live there, and so do I.
What makes it so great is the Olympic-size, L-shaped pool that starts at one-and-a-half-feet deep and ends at nine feet, and is surrounded by lawn, shade trees, and manicured shrubs. Two-story sections of the hotel extend outward in spokes, which are connected by glassed-in hallways, making it impossible for toddlers to wander out on their own.
Some rooms with small patios face the pool and gardens. Our patio fence was usually festooned with beach towels hanging out to dry, though the hotel furnishes plenty of towels poolside.
The place feels manageable, family friendly, not like those humongous hotels that are more like villages.
Moms, dads, grandparents and others settle under umbrella tables and chaise lounges. Some dip giggling tiny-tots into the shallows. Bigger children romp, and swim in deeper sections. Occasionally, Tomas, the pool man, blows his whistle, calling all children out, so adults have the water to themselves for a bit. Not a bad idea. But it’s a kick watching youngsters hurtle themselves back in when he blows his whistle again.
San Franciscans Michele and Eugene Duffy have been bringing their three children to the Flamingo for seven years. (It’s about an hour’s drive for them, almost two from San Jose, where we live.) The Duffy twins, Frankey and James, are now 9 and their sister Alexa is 11. "It’s the best place there is for families," Michele Duffy says. She says they often pay the stay-and-play rate on their last day. (For $50, you can keep your room and play in the pool until 6 p.m.)
Our two granddaughters spent two and a half days swimming and lying on the warm cement around the massive pool. Between playing with our kids in the pool and soaking in the hot tub, we big folks sprawled our sun-screened bodies on chaises. We ordered pizza, sandwiches and beer from the hotel’s Terrace Grill.
Adjoining the hotel grounds is the Montecito Heights Health Club (also open to the surrounding community). The club offers up a spa, yoga, cycling, aqua aerobics, kickboxing, a lap pool and tennis courts and more. There's even a kids' camp during summer months. My daughter-in-law and I had pedicures at the spa, and my husband enjoyed a Thai massage, maybe the best massage he’s ever had.
The Flamingo wasn’t always so family-oriented.
Built as a replica of the famous Lady Luck in Las Vegas, the Flamingo opened with a gala bash in 1957 and became a Hollywood celebrity hangout. Jayne Mansfield, Steve Allen, Groucho Marx, Tony Curtis and others lounged around the pool. At that time the Flamingo bird atop the neon sign revolved. Today, it just sits there. In 1996, the City of Santa Rosa declared the Flamingo a historic landmark.
Today’s Flamingo celebs are man-size statues of Peanuts, Snoopy, and other Charles Schulz cartoon characters. They stand here and there about the hotel. That’s because Santa Rosa is home to the Charles Schulz Museum—about three miles from the hotel.
And a bonus for adults—the Flamingo sits in the middle of Sonoma’s beautiful wine country.
Santa Rosa has a number of family attractions, such as Howarth Park, which offers up an expansive playground, train rides, pony rides, a carrousel, paddleboats on the lake, and more. Ice skating is available at Snoopy Home Ice rink, and 30 minutes from the hotel, Safari West gives jeep tours and overnight stays amid giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs and other exotic animals.
Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa
2777 Fourth Street
Room rates start at $109
Howarth Park www.ci.santa rosa.ca.us/departments/recreationandparks/programs/howarthpark/Pages/default.aspx
Charles M. Schulz Museum
2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, 707.579.4452
Snoopy's Home Ice (ice skating rink)
1667 West Steele Lane ~ Santa Rosa, 707-546-7147
20 to 30 minutes from the hotel. Offers three guided safari drives a day and overnight stays. (must have reservations) 800.616.2695
Day camp at Montecito Heights Health and Racquet Club (adjacent to the hotel)www.montecitoheights.com/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp
During most of June and July 6 to 12-year-olds can attend day camp at the club. For the younger set short term babysitting is available at the club. 707.526.0529
The Terrace Grille at the hotel (Sunday brunch too)
International House of Pancakes-across the street from the hotel
Lyons restaurant-across the street from the hotel
The Terrace Grille is in the hotel offers a menu poolside. You can eat on the terrace or from your lounge chair
Mary’s Pizza Shack
615 4th St.
500 4th St.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Sandy Sims lives in the Bay Area. This is her first article for BAFT.