BEYOND THE BOWS AND BAUBLES: Stroll into most lobbies in any grand hotel in the nation around late November and you're bound to see greenery lining various banisters and plaid bows ornamenting various doorways and a tree of the tallest, glitteriest sort. If you adore your decorations, it can be a delicious cookie of visual treats, seen only once a year, but there is the little matter of this: Where are you, actually? That isn't always apparent when you first glance at the plaid bows and greenery. And while we're absolutely not getting high-hat or sniffy over grand hotels displaying decorations that might be similar to other grand hotels -- it's nice that they've decorated, for sure -- it is rather plummy to see a place give some local character to the celebration. Look to hotels like The Mission Inn and Hotel del Coronado, which sell and hang ornaments that pay tribute to their famous physical features, and look to The St. Regis Monarch in Dana Point, which has one of the most grab-your-camera-y seasonal touches anywhere, one that definitely speaks to its beach-close location. It's the famous St. Regis Monarch sand sculpture, and it is set for its unveiling on Sunday, Nov. 30.
MAGIC JOHNSON... will be on hand to do the flip-switching honors, so prepare to see the hotel's tree go all a-glitter. There's also a new element this year, a VIP reception with the NBA legend before the lighting, complete with a "special viewing area," for an additional fee. As for that nine-ton sand sculpture? It'll stay, after the day, which is probably not a surprise, as putting together nine tons of anything, but particularly sand, is an effort that should be awarded with a longevity. And so the sculpture shall have it: It'll up inside the St. Regis Monarch from Nov. 30 through New Year's Day. By the by, this is year fourteen for the grittiest of traditions, one that more beach-close hotels should consider as an inspiration. For while we'd never turn our nose up at a standard-issue bow or ornament, it is lovely to see a hotel go so very local, year after year, when it comes to greeting the season.