At the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, everything old is new again.
Relive your Atari glory days with an old-school arcade machine loaded with 60 classic video games (Space Invaders, anyone?), or be a pinball wizard, no coins needed, at fast-casual Bristol’s Burgers, where throwback cocktails also help pass the time.
Order homemade ice cream and a treat from the penny-candy wall at Candy & Cones’ retro soda-fountain counter. Even the resort’s rebranded logo harkens back to the olden days, when the hotel played host to the likes of Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli for their sold-out shows.
But make no mistake: Modern amenities abound at this playground for kids of all ages. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, the Diplomat’s stunning $100-million renovation renders this property a top choice for those looking to get away from it all.
Now part of Hilton’s exclusive Curio Collection, the reigning vibe is resort-casual and the mood is set from the moment you pull up. Valet attendants sport breezy striped shirts rather than formal uniforms that were a hallmark of the bygone Westin era.
Step inside the redesigned atrium-style lobby, where views of the ocean beckon and a breeze blows through the open floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Outdoor elements like sand, moss and faux palm trees make their way inside, adding to the open-air resort feel. At the check-in desk, an LED screen features ocean scenes with dolphins who swim up and stare with a friendly nod, and pint-sized travelers can choose among prizes from a treasure chest.
The kids won’t want to take the time to drop their bags upstairs, where newly furnished guest rooms and suites — all 1,000 of them — feature playful sunrise or sunset themes based on their geographic orientation. They’ll want to make a beeline for the Dip+Slide. A waterslide and playful sprinklers delight, but the biggest draw is an enormous bucket that gradually fills with water before dumping it all on top of them — endless amusement. Bright orange letters hanging on the wall near the elevators remind guests: “Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen.”
Sun, Sand and S’mores
The pool complex is dotted with luxurious cabanas, but behold the eye-catching ones with free-flowing drapes and lush pillows designed by Trina Turk. Radiating bright colors and festive patterns reflective of tropical flowers, sea and sunshine, these cabanas come with a personal butler. Meanwhile, a see-through partition between the two-story pool gives guests the chance to gaze through to the other side.
Steps away, the saltwater awaits with beach chairs, sand pails and a volleyball net at the ready. Those who want to venture offshore can rent watersports equipment. On weekends, kids are treated to additional activities like poolside movies and bounce houses.
Hop a shuttle to the golf course, though it’s no longer owned by the hotel, or cross the skybridge to the Intracoastal side, where there’s a beer-and-wine garden with ping-pong tables, a cornhole set and an ever-popular whimsical bus that makes for a great photo opp. There’s also a bustling on-site conference center, but don’t fret: The hotel doesn’t feel overrun, in part because the conference luggage is handled on that side with military-style precision. Come dusk, roast s’mores at one of the poolside fire pits, kept aflame even during the summer.
For some grownup time, drop the kids at the Diplomat Kids Club for sand art and computer games and head to the full-service spa. A mesmerizing rain wall runs the length of the relaxation room and primes your mind for a massage or facial.
Eat All Day, Sing All Night
Post-treatment, relax on the sun-drenched ocean terrace. Follow it up with a special night out at old standby Diplomat Prime, a steakhouse that keeps with the resort’s old-meets-new approach. A dramatic, 18-foot mural of two women in old-fashioned bathing suits sets the decidedly unstuffy tone, as do marble and white-leather furnishings that offset the dark wood and velvet touches. “The mural is a nod to our past,” said Ed Walls, the hotel’s general manager.
The renovations not only added four restaurants, bringing the total to 10, but attracted considerable culinary star power. Geoffrey Zakarian opened Point Royal, where the impressive raw bar complements coastal American cuisine. Michael Schulson brings his progressive Japanese fare to Monkitail, churning out shareable small plates from the open robatayaki kitchen and sushi flown in fresh from Japan.
Tucked in the back of Monkitail is Nokku (“knock,” in Japanese), a discreet karaoke bar. Nokku has four soundproof studios, so you can not only belt out your best renditions of old-time favorites — but also take home your very own recording. Stairway to Heaven sounds about right.
Diplomat Beach Resort, 3555 South Ocean Drive, Hollywood; 954-602-6000; diplomatresort.com.