When Paramount Pictures put Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby, and Fred Astaire together back in 1942 to lens the now classic holiday film “Holiday Inn,” little did they know that they were creating a slice of pure holiday magic that would thrill audiences, young and old, for ages.
Not only did the film go on to become the highest grossing musical up to that time, it produced the all-time Christmas classic “White Christmas,” which went on to win Irving Berlin an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“Holiday Inn” was shot in large part on the banks of Russian River in the postcard perfect town of Monte Rio at what is known today as the Village Inn, which is in fact what it was originally named before the wildly successful release of the “Holiday Inn” film in 1942.
According to legend, the movie’s big box office combined with the fact that Crosby was allegedly so in love with the Inn and Monte Rio that he held the film’s production hostage in order to guarantee it would be shot there, inspired the owners to change the name of their humble hotel to the Holiday Inn back in 1942.
Today, the 10-room Holiday Inn is once again called the Village Inn and it is gay-owned and operated. Most importantly, it is still filled with exactly the kind of charm that one imagines left Bing Crosby so smitten more than six decades ago.
Thanks to its prime perch along the Russian River, most of the recently updated rooms have sweeping views and discreetly romantic private balconies overlooking the river.
The Inn, which houses four rooms along with the hotel’s popular restaurant and bar was originally built as a private home back in 1908 and it shows. Something about the scale and warmth of the place creates the feeling of a stately summer vacation.
Meanwhile the six-room Lodge just across the garden is a cozy addition that blends in lovingly with the surrounding redwoods. Though the rooms have all the modern conveniences – WiFi, cable, mini-fridges, microwaves and more – they also feel like these cozy but spacious cabins a world away from city life. I often feel I use this word too often when I describe the many wonderful hamlets that Sonoma County has to offer but there is no denying that there is a certain unspoiled beauty to this place.
At any time of the year, guests of the Village Inn also have the option of driving five minutes or so down the road to Guerneville, the hub of gay life in Sonoma County for a nosh, a cocktail or a spot of shopping. But on warmer days, guests might opt to simply lounge on the neighboring beach, hike through the neighboring Armstrong Woods State Reserve, enjoy cocktails on the restaurant terrace or rent a kayak and float down the river all against the lush scenic backdrop of Monte Rio’s natural beauty.
And as for this time of year … well let’s just say this … if it was magical enough to inspire “Holiday Inn” and the phenomenon that is “White Christmas” is there any doubt that it could offer you an inspired winter wonderland?
Find out more about the Village Inn at www.villageinn-ca.com.