Megan and I have been traveling a lot with our families this year, so on Labor Day weekend we took our first vacation alone, visiting San Diego. I’d heard a lot about the Gaslamp Quarter but never been there. The US Grant Hotel, one of Starwood’s Luxury Collection hotels, seemed like a great fit. It had more character than some of the nearby Sheratons and Westins; Megan always likes visiting historic properties. And it appeared that a great deal of effort and money had been invested in its restoration — there was nothing shabby about this 104-year-old property.
Finding our way to the hotel was our first challenge. It’s very easy to get from the airport to downtown without even getting on the freeway. But the hotel’s address on Broadway is deceptive since there is no valet stand there. Instead you have to pull in behind the hotel off of Third or Fourth Avenue. We booked a AAA rate for just $20 more than the cheapest non-refundable rate, which was not only more flexible but included valet parking, normally about $39 a night. This was one case where paying a higher rate saved money in the end.
I’ve already detailed how we used three of my Suite Night Awards as a SPG Platinum member to upgrade to a Legacy Suite. While it was not the most impressive suite upgrade if only because the living room was so small, it was still a good use for a fun weekend trip like this. But service at the hotel was excellent, and the furnishings in general were of high quality. I’ve had big rooms that were rather sparsely decorated, and this was much better.
The living room still had a couple of comfortable leather sitting chairs and a desk by the door. I would have preferred not to be staring at a television three feet from my chair, but I guess people expect those things in their hotel rooms these days. Unfortunately a view to the outside wasn’t much of an option. There was some kind of balcony just below our ninth-floor room that made it impossible to see the street and only gave us a view of the pool at the hotel next door. Ironically, a lower floor might have been more desirable.
But the room had good bones. Nothing creaked or sagged. The hardwood floors were polished, and the carpet in the bedroom looked fresh while having a nice pattern that made it look more like a stylish rug. Turndown service had already come, leaving chocolates and a little card on the bed with the next day’s weather forecast. Megan appreciated the architectural quirk in the design on the front.
The bathroom was not large but not very small, either. Remember that they had to work within the confines of the original construction. Someone had ripped out the tub to put in a nice tile shower, and the toiletries were high-end Remede, which you’ll often find at St. Regis properties. My only gripe was with the sink: the faucet had a tendency to spray in all directions when I put my hands underneath the stream, and the handle leaked.
I requested continental breakfast as my Platinum amenity, and we were informed that we could use this as a $14 per person credit for anything on the menu. Portions were quite large, so you might be satisfied if you picked just the continental breakfast, which included coffee, juice, bread, and fruit. The little rock candy stir sticks included with espresso drinks were classy, but I think they would have been more appropriate with standard coffee as a good espresso doesn’t need any extra cream or sugar. In any case, the service was great once again, and the art deco surroundings added a certain modern touch without losing the hotel’s historic charm.
This property doesn’t have a pool on the premises, but you are welcome to take advantage of the pools at any of the nearby Starwood hotels, including a Westin across the street. We opted instead to spend some time on our last day exploring the older rooms. Down in the basement we found not only the gym but several ballrooms, each decorated in a different style. And up on the seventh floor we got a great view of the roof garden over the lobby. Unfortunately it’s not directly accessible to the public.
For a little over $200 a night on a holiday weekend it seemed like a great pick. The room was adequately sized even if it wasn’t large. But the furnishings and service were great. Quality over quantity. It’s just unfortunate that the Gaslamp Quarter seems to have moved in an opposite direction. The bars and restaurants we passed seemed pretty rowdy and didn’t match the gentrified urban core that I had expected. Not that it mattered. Balboa Park was a very short drive away. Between that and the beach we had plenty to entertain us, so I would still say The US Grant Hotel is in an excellent location.