Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Top Downtown Hotels

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman

Convention Center, Gaslamp District Close

This is why we love San Diego.  Just minutes from the airport is our downtown where you'll find everything from the Convention Center to the party-friendly Gaslamp District to a cool baseball stadium (Go Padres!).  Heck, we even toss in an aircraft carrier you can tour, boats in the harbor, a major tourist trap called Seaport Village and a ferry boat to Coronado.  Coming to Comic-Con?  This is the place to stay.

You'll find small boutique hotels, giant glass towers, and just about everything in-between.  But while downtown is moderately compact you'll want to be selective on where you stay if you want to avoid the home-ownership-challenged and employment-intolerant crowd.  And that's where Local Wally comes in.  I'll only show you the hotels good enough I'd send my Mom to - that's a promise.

Check Rates at all Downtown Hotels


Best Hotels Near the Convention Center


333 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 234-1500

With two mirrored glass towers rising 25 stories and housing over 1,300 rooms, the San Diego Marriott Marquis is a monster of a hotel.  Popular with both business travelers as well as families looking for deluxe accommodations close to the attractions, the San Diego Marriott Marquis has earned the reputation as one of our city's finest hotels.

Offering both downtown and bay views, the rooms are what you would expect for an upper class Marriott. Rooms in the North Tower are newer and offer balcony views.  Down below you'll find resort style pools with waterfalls and a marina where you can take a ferry to Coronado.  The hotel's restaurant is none other than Roy's of Hawaii, one of my favorites.

Follow the boardwalk and you'll soon be at Seaport Village, a Disneyland sort place with touristy shops and restaurants.  Go the other way and you'll be at the Convention Center.  Or just cross the street and you're at the entrance to the Gaslamp District.  You won't find a better location whether you're here on business or on a family getaway.

PRO'S: Super convenient location with ultra resort pool.
CON'S: Convention people make me nervous when I am on vacation. Lots of rug rats in the pool during summer.
WALLY SAYS: Love it, the perfect vacation hotel!


1 Market Pl, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 232-1234

From the valets in the front to the marble-encased lobby to the opulent art hanging on the walls, the Manchester Grand Hyatt looks a bit like a Vegas hotel.  With 1,625 rooms spread out over two towers, one at 33 floors and the other at 40, it's the tallest hotel in San Diego.

You want a view?  You got it, with gorgeous city views on one side and water views on the other.  And unlike other giant hotels that cage you in like you're in the orangutan exhibit, you can actually open the windows and let the fresh ocean breeze in.  The best view?  Go to the very top floor and check out the Top of the Hyatt bar with stunning views that extend all the way to Mexico.  See me there at sunset.

Rooms are very nice, perhaps not as nice as the lobby area, but above average - think 4 star rooms in a 5 star package.  A smaller pool is on the 4th floor building that connects the two towers, offering terrific bay views.  OK, so you won't find giant waterfalls and tropical landscaping here, but the pool area is still a great spot to chill out on a hot San Diego afternoon.

PRO'S: Feels just like a big Las Vegas hotel.
CON'S: Pool and rooms are not as good as you might expect.
WALLY SAYS: Great pick for conventioneers paying with the corporate credit card!

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401 K St, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 231-4040

You might think this is an old building refurbished to look new and trendy, but the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter was actually built in 2000.  That's good because you get all the coolness of staying in a contemporary urban boutique hotel but with all the amenities and modern touches - like nice bathrooms - that you only get with a new hotel.

This 12 story, 252 room hotel looks like a throwback in an area surrounded by the giant Marriott and gigantic Hyatt, and that's part of the charm.  No beehive activity in the lobby, nice and simple to get to your room and a short run across the street to the Convention Center when you oversleep from too much partying the night before, easy to do with the Gaslamp District right outside your door.

Rooms are fresh and stylish and they even found a way to get a pool on the rooftop for those sunny San Diego days.  There's even a day spa for the spouse if you find yourself stuck in a trade show or business meeting (bummer).

PRO'S: Great location and way easier to get in and out of than the big towers.
CON'S: You might learn to hate the trolleys which run right outside the hotel if you pick the wrong room.
WALLY SAYS: Sometimes size doesn't matter and this little hotel surrounded by giants is a winner!


601 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 239-2400

Free Breakfast. 

That always gets my attention, especially when I'm on vacation with family in tow.  And if you've ever stayed at an Embassy Suites then you know what I'm talking about (hint: bacon).  You'll save a small fortune and tons of time by eating in and getting on your way, whether your adventure is the Zoo or the Convention Center.

Inside the hotel it's much as you would expect.  You've seen one Embassy Suites, you've seen them all.  It's a big hotel with 12 stories and 337 rooms with open hallways that face the atrium area.  Rooms are just like you would expect, nice and clean and as cookie cutter perfect as an Oreo.  There are plenty of kids screaming so you'll feel right at home and plenty of stressed out business people all wishing they could ditch the sales meeting and go sightseeing instead.  Inside the room open the curtains and there's a glorious view of the San Diego Bay on one side, the city on the other. Pretty sweet Embassy Suite!  So while the Embassy Suites Downtown isn't where I'd go on a honeymoon (but if you do there's a sofa for when you have your first fight), it is a perfect place for someone who just wants a good hotel in a great location. 

PRO'S: All you can eat bacon. Need I say more?
CON'S: An indoor pool in San Diego is like wearing socks with flip flops.
WALLY SAYS: It's just like every Embassy Suites you've ever seen, and that's not a bad thing!



1 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 564-3333

I'm not easily impressed but my mouth fell open the second I walked into this lobby.  I mean, wow, this is some place with the crazy mesh lighting, the contemporary modern setting, it's like something out of a futuristic movie.

The location isn't quite as prime as the Marriott Marquis or Manchester Hyatt, being at the far and opposite end of the Convention Center, but it's still walkable to the conventions and super convenient if you want to catch a game at Petco Park.

The rooms themselves are crisp and modern with contemporary colors, though not nearly as fancy as the lobby might suggest.  The bathrooms are standard Hilton; good enough and functional, just like every other 3 star business hotel you've stayed at.  Conventioneers will be fully satisfied but vacationers might find the rooms a bit too business-like, especially if they get a room facing the industrial shipping yard.  The rooftop pool might make up for all of this with stunning views of the bay and a party friendly ambiance.

PRO'S: Great location next to the Convention Center and a terrific pool.
CON'S: Rooms are a bit business-like and half of them face the wrong direction for good views.
WALLY SAYS: Not my first pick but works just fine if you can get a good rate.


San Diego's Best Gaslamp District Hotels


207 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 702-3000

You don't have to be young and beautiful to love the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego- but it helps.  Hand stamps at the bar, techno music blaring at the pool, you have to be the right demographic to get this place.  If you get it, the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego is like a weekend in Vegas.  It's as much as a destination as a place to sleep. Sleep??

First impressions matter and the dark lobby greets you like you're entering a nightclub.  Music videos, rock and roll memorabilia like Madonna's underwear or John Lennon's doodles, and rooms that are ultra modern chic with things like halo illuminated beds that create a sense of floating, fully integrated sound system, a martini bar, sensual bathrooms with rain shower heads... this isn't the Holiday Inn.  Heck, this doesn't even look like a hotel! 

While the hotel decorations nod to rock and roll's royalty, the vibe at night is more Lil Wayne than Elvis.  There's two popular nightspots with long lines of 20-somethings eager to get in, a crazy pool party on the weekends, the exquisite and expensive Nobu sushi restaurant, a re-do on an old coffee shop done up hip called MaryJane's

PRO'S: Super fun place if you are young enough to fit in.
CON'S: You're going to miss your meeting if you are staying here on business - guaranteed.
WALLY SAYS: Check your own ID before booking to make sure you fit the demographic.



600 F St., San Diego, CA  92101

(619) 849-1234

What kind of place is this?  Well, for starters the shower is in the middle of the bedroom.  Quick - is that cool or weird?  How you answer this question might determine if this is the place for you.

The Andaz San Diego is a historic old building that's been updated for the young and hip, the tan and beautiful - you know, the people who like to work out.  The pool scene can be outrageous, the cocktails are always flowing, and the rooms - hey, there's a shower right in the middle of the room!  Oh, I already said that? 

The Andaz San Diego is a high end, luxurious hotel aimed at a very specific crowd.  Mom and Dad are going to hate this place but the euro-chic crowd wanting to be pampered and hip hopped will be in heaven.  Not for the tired traveler looking for a good nights sleep, the Andaz San Diego stays up and parties all night like a Vegas hooker.   Let's face it, if you're staying in the Gaslamp you know what you're getting yourself into and the Andaz is the type of place that doesn't tell you to quiet down and get out of the pool - quite the opposite, which is what makes it so unique in the sea of corporate sameness.

PRO'S: I work out so I don't mind if you see me nude in the shower.
CON'S: I don't really work out.
WALLY SAYS: Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.



435 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 819-9500

Klimpton Hotels are known for their upscale boutiques, different from the rest and well executed style.  They do things right at Hotel Solamar, from the modern furnishings to the fantastic lounge and pool on the roof.  It's even dog friendly, good to know if you're bringing your party animal.

Inside, the rooms are clean and sophisticated with dark mahogany furnishings and leather-like stitched walls. Talk about service, they even let you pick the softness of your pillows.  Upgrade to a spa room and get a giant soaking tub and pop open the windows to let the cool San Diego breeze in - I like that.  And I also like the complimentary wine and cocktails served up at 5 every afternoon - is that local San Diego craft beer?  Free?  Of course!

Location is Gaslamp perfect, close enough to the ballpark and convention center, and while you're surrounded by great restaurants in the area it's nice to know that you have a good one right there on site.  The Hotel Solamar doesn't hit everyone's radar but it should be on yours if you want an upscale hotel that's offers style with grace in an elegantly trendy setting.

PRO'S: Terrific location, lively and sophisticated, great rooms with good attention to detail.
CON'S: Parking is a bit expensive at $45 a day.
WALLY SAYS: Good balance between the crazy party hotels and a more grown up experience.



660 K St, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 696-0234

Marriott's are not known for their hip factor but this one in the middle of Gaslamp is like your cool uncle - crazy enough to be fun and lively but respectable enough to not make you uncomfortable.  The lobby sets the mood with the nightclub lighting and everything suggests that the demographic is the same as the Andaz or Hard Rock.   That is, until you see the paintings of Marriott founders - who knew these Mormons love to party so much?

But that also tells a lot about this hotel.  While it's definitely way cooler than a normal Marriott, it's still a Marriott, meaning you get a nice and contemporary room in a setting that's actually designed for sleeping.  Wow, what a concept. The location a couple of blocks away from the main activities is a definite plus when you want to crash out and tune out the Gaslamp.

Upstairs on the roof is the Altitude Bar, a lively space with great views of the city and ballpark.  The demographic is more diverse here than some of the other clubs with everyone from conventioneers to parents to 20-somethings and the atmosphere is less frenetic and more relaxed.  And what a view! 

PRO'S: Great location for conventioneers and a ballgame and one of the coolest Marriotts ever.
CON'S: Better disclose to the kids there is no pool before you arrive.
WALLY SAYS: This is the most fun I've ever had at a Marriott!



675 L St, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 231-6664

Not every hotel in the Gaslamp area is one step away from intervention.  The Omni San Diego Hotel is downright respectable, a luxurious high rise tower that's walking distance to the convention center, steps away from Gaslamp, and actually connected to San Diego's cool downtown ballpark, Petco Park. 

If you haven't been to our ballpark, if you haven't been to a ballgame in years, even if the Padres are in last place (quite possible), you need to get yourself to a game just so you can walk across the private bridge that connects to the hotel.  Wait in line down below with the others?  I think not!

The rooms range from standard to the 2,200 square foot Jimmy Carter suite (that's sort of weird for a guy who builds habitat houses, right?) and the views of the bay and city are stunning, especially if you are there on a night when they are shooting off fireworks.  Service is top notch, 4 star quality, and if the setting is a bit businesslike the location makes up for it. 

PRO'S: Upscale business hotel, great rooms, no hip hop music and drunk 20-somethings at the pool.
CON'S: Impossible to leave if there's a ballgame, average chain restaurant on site.
WALLY SAYS: A grownup hotel in the Gaslamp District.


Best Hotels in San Diego's Downtown Area


326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 232-3121

Some old hotels look old and tired but the Grant retains its original opulence and style after all of these years.  Rooms feature original art - no cookie cutter Marriott here - as well as the types of comfort creatures you would expect in a top notch hotel. Classic European touches mix with new commissioned art pieces by current artists, elegant baths and 300 count Italian linens, the U.S. Grant is fancy without being stuffy, elegant without being snobby. Overstuffed pillows, down comforters and pillow top mattresses will lull you to sleep in 5 star style.

Make sure you dine at least once at the Grant Grill, an art deco styled dining room that was once reserved for San Diego's most powerful businessmen (and men only - women were not allowed in before 3PM until the late '60's).  Unlike many of the hip and trendy downtown and Gaslamp hotels, the scene here is refined and comfortably elegant, like the Sinatra crooner in the bar on a typical Friday night.  If you like classic hotels, if you appreciate 5 star service, then the U.S. Grant should be on your list.

PRO'S: Elegant and historic hotel that's perfect for a special getaway or vacation.
CON'S: The downtown location means there are plenty of homeless people nearby.
WALLY SAYS: Live like a Boss, if only for your vacation!


W San Diego

421 W B St, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 398-3100

The W Hotel just about invented that modern, chic hotel genre, a hotel aimed at a youthful demographic who wanted more than a clean bed and free shampoo.  When the W arrived in San Diego it blew our minds with it's rooftop pool and lounge scene and party atmosphere.  Today, especially when compared to the major party hotels in the Gaslamp, the W seems downright tame and that's a very good thing for those looking for a hotel that's fun and lively but not like an out of control Vegas party.

The Living Room Lounge, the upstairs bonfire on the roof, the sophisticated bar, it's still going to get your adrenaline going.  Rooms are modern as well and eclectic - when was the last time you had a chalkboard in your room?  Of course, all the amenities you would expect in a high end hotel.  It's location is a bit downtown, a bit Little Italy, and be aware that the description "urban" shows up often when describing the W, meaning street noise and traffic.  Even so, the W should delight a traveler who wants a sleek hotel that can party like Roxanne without having to take her red dress off.

PRO'S: Fun and lively hotel that's remains elegant and fashionable.
CON'S: Location is a bit funky - it's not really downtown, it's not really Little Italy.
WALLY SAYS: Don't be a square, I bet you'll love it!