Local Wally's Top Central Area Hotels
Best Hotels in Old Town, Mission Valley, and Little Italy
San Diego's Old Town, the "birthplace" of California, is today best known for its Mexican restaurants and shops. Sure, parts of it border on tourist trap territory but there's something cool about staying in a hotel where down the street they're making homemade tortillas and margaritas. With so much personality you'll forget you're staying in one of the more affordable areas of town. Muy bueno.
Nearby is Mission Valley, the stretch of land that borders the Highway 8 freeway. When I first moved to San Diego the valley still had cows in it. The cows and dairy's are gone, replaced by condos, office buildings, shopping malls, a golf course, and yes, hotels, lots of hotels. You'll also hear this area referred to as Hotel Circle. Nearby is Little Italy, a trendy neighborhood with good budget hotel options and lots of great dining.
Best Places to Stay in Old Town, San Diego
BEST WESTERN HACIENDA OLD TOWN
With its Spanish and Santa Fe inspired architecture, the Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel in Old Town is not your basic motor lodge. Located on a hill above the tourist jammed sidewalks, the Best Western Hacienda features panoramic views of the city from the balconies in many of their 195 rooms. You're close enough to catch the scent of freshly made tortillas but away from the noise and congestion of the main strip.
Rooms are perfectly fine, your basic 3 star hotel room, hey, it's a Best Western! You don't get the trendy flair of the fancy hotels but you get all the basics, including a microwave and mini-fridge, perfect for your leftover Mexican food. Trust me, you'll use it with all the great restaurants right down the street.
The views of the city are outstanding and there's something wonderful about walking down the street for chips and margaritas and not having to worry about driving to get back to your hotel. Convenient to the trolley for trips to Gaslamp and the touristy Old Town Trolley (the goofy fake trolley cars) can get you to all of the attractions.
PRO'S: Really great location, it sort of feels like a Puerto Vallerta hotel.
CON'S: Old Town is a busy tourist destination.
WALLY SAYS: I love it - stay here if you want a reasonably priced hotel with a lot of personality.
MARRIOTT COURTYARD OLD TOWN
No one does mid-priced hotels better than a Marriott. As predictable as a Big Mac, you know when you book a mid-line Marriott that you can expect a decent room at a fair price, a comfortable bed and a bathroom that won't knock your socks off but won't make you want to keep them on either.
This four story, 176 room Marriott is on the edge of Old Town with one side bordering the busy freeway. I know, that sounds terrible but the Marriott Courtyard Old Town does the trick for those of you looking for a decent hotel in a tourist friendly location. Rooms have been recently refurbished and if the hotel isn't sparkling new they've done a good job of giving you more than just the essentials.
With all of the many hotels in San Diego why does this Marriott end up on my short list? Because the location in Old Town is so fun that you'll overlook any shortcomings of the hotel. Walk to Old Town for dinner, grab the free shuttle to the airport or train station, the location is perfect for those "on the go" and looking for a decent place to stay that's not going to break the bank.
PRO'S: I love staying in Old Town.
CON'S: Hotel is a bit dated and right on the freeway.
WALLY SAYS: For a non-resort vacation it's hard to pass up on this Marriott.
Best Hotels in Mission Valley and "Hotel circle"
DOUBLETREE SAN DIEGO MISSION VALLEY
You have to love a marketing department that calls the Doubletree Mission Valley the California quintessential chic hotel. Don't get me wrong - I like this Doubletree but it's about a chic as a Ford Winstar. I'm telling you this so that you don't check in wondering where all the sexy cool people are and why everyone seems to have a laptop and dressed in business casual.
There's also nothing chic about the location in a busy strip mall. But look, there's a trolley station right at the hotel making your trips to the convention center super convenient. Want to see the truly chic people in the Gaslamp or the truly geeky people at Comic-Con? Jump on the trolley and avoid the parking hassle.
Free continental breakfast in the morning, free reception in the evening, pet friendly, there's a lot to like. So go ahead, wear your out of style Members Only jacket proudly when you check in and act like you're stylishly chic even if you're not. What happens at the Doubletree stays at the Doubletree.
PRO'S: Trolley station makes getting to downtown very convenient.
CON'S: Lots of traffic getting in and out of Mission Valley.
WALLY SAYS: Predictable Doubletree - nice and clean and you get a cookie.
Pssst.... Looking for a GREAT full featured resort at a standard hotel price? Then go go the Town and Country Resort in the heart of Mission Valley. With newly renovated rooms available and a major re-do in the works, it's got a cool mid-century vibe that makes it perfect for hipsters and families alike. Far enough from the freeway to keep the tropical vibe going, great pool, and a location that puts you right in the heart of it all. Check Rates! It's one of San Diego's Best Buys.
SAN DIEGO MARRIOTT MISSION VALLEY
The San Diego Marriott Mission Valley is a bit of a wallflower, off to itself and deserving a bit more attention than it gets. A recent refurbishing brings everything up to date and it's location away from the scene allows a serenity that's hard to find. Just because you want to be close to the attractions doesn't mean you have to stay in a freeway view hotel or surrounded by party animals.
Located in a business park area less than a quarter mile off the freeway makes all the difference in the world. Surrounded by palm tree lined streets it feels like an oasis in the valley of traffic, a hotel that thinks it's a resort. Rooms are typical Marriott, meaning they won't win any awards for cool design but that they do the job when you want a nice room to crash out at after a long busy day. The pool on the other hand is very good with waterfalls and plenty of lounge chairs and a nice vacation vibe to it, even if a lot of the guests are there for a conference rather than a holiday. Close to the trolley, close to restaurants, and close to all of the attractions, the Marriott Mission Valley is one of the better choices in Mission Valley and a good overall choice for your stay in San Diego.
PRO'S: Location away from the chaotic crowds, great pool that's more resort than hotel.
CON'S: Why so many people in slacks and oxford shirts? Oh yeah, they're here on business.
WALLY SAYS: It's like a miniature version of the giant Marriott resort downtown!
COURTYARD SAN DIEGO MISSION VALLEY
Woo baby, this place looks fancy on the interweb. Nicely updated, trendy cool, and wow, a great rate! What's the catch? Could it be that it sits right on the freeway? Oh heck, what?? But wait, before you move on let me tell you why even with this shortcoming I still love the Courtyard Mission Vally.
Yes, it faces the freeway on one side but a bit of smiling at the front counter when checking in goes a long ways and rooms at the back are nice and peaceful. Once inside this Marriott Courtyard shines like a new BMW and has a sleek modern feel, sort of like something you might expect to see downtown. Everything is fresh and updated, it feels like a brand new hotel.
Rooms retain the same updated feel as the lobby and feature flat screen TVs and down comforters with modern bed dressing. I also like the free boarding pass kiosk, something every hotel should be doing. There's a nice pool area, full featured exercise facilities, you'll soon forget that you started your hotel search looking for a good deal and just sink into all of this affordable luxury.
PRO'S: Freshly updated and a great location for those looking for a "close to the attractions" hotel.
CON'S: Easy freeway access means literally right on the freeway.
WALLY SAYS: Business and vacationers looking for an above average hotel in a convenient location should check this one out!
Great places to Stay in San Diego's Little Italy
LA PENSIONE HOTEL
La Pensione Hotel is a boutique hotel located in the heart of San Diego's Little Italy, a cool historical neighborhood with great restaurants and a ton of charm. Don't worry, this isn't some manufactured theme area like Seaport Village, this is one of San Diego's most interesting and vibrant neighborhoods and you get to stay right in the heart of the action at La Pensione.
The European style hotel has been fully updated and features modern furnishings and lots of style - Italian chic? Rooms feature high end furnishings and luxury accents that you would not expect in a hotel in this price range. Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry in the cafe next door, wander through San Diego's largest Farmer's Market on Saturday that's right down the street, dine in restaurants that locals love as much as the tourists.
In the past Little Italy has barely registered on most tourists radar but in recent years it's become an essential destination. It's a fun and vibrant neighborhood, safe, and close to the airport and attractions. Best yet, La Pensione Hotel often has some of the best rates in town making it one of my favorite budget hotels in San Diego.
PRO'S: Great hotel in a very interesting neighborhood.
CON'S: Parking can be tough if you can't get into their "first come, first served" underground lot.
WALLY SAYS: It's like a vacation within a vacation!
PORTO VISTA HOTEL
Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you have to stay in some cookie cutter motel located next to a freeway. If you're looking for an independent and inexpensive hotel with a lot of style, consider the Porto Vista Hotel.
Great location right in the heart of Little Italy. Walk outside for dinner or go upstairs and dine in their own restaurant while enjoying the views of the bay and harbor. The upstairs lounge is nearly as lively as a Gaslamp party and the scene is fun and youthful.
Inside the rooms are small but decorated with punch and pizazz, aiming for the "luxury youth" market and for the most part hitting the mark. Expensive sheets, pillow top beds, bright colors and giant black and white mid-century photos, you'll almost forget that this is a budget hotel. Free breakfast in the morning on the rooftop, a soon to open pool in 2015 (check the hotel for updates), free wifi, parking on site, and a great location makes this one of the better affordable options for your stay in San Diego.
PRO'S: Super good location and typically low rates.
CON'S: It's still a bit like a crummy motel once you get inside but if you think "urban" you'll love it.
WALLY SAYS: Why be boring when you can stay here?