By Valerie Moloney
San Diego, once defined by Shamu and sailors, won’t be upstaged by its camera-ready SoCal sister, Los Angeles. A look inside three cheap San Diego hotels in the reigning neighborhood of hip — the Gaslamp Quarter — reveals big-city swagger with VIPs, stylish restaurants and look-at-me spaces to boot.
Solamar – A Kimpton Hotel
Endless days of sunshine aren’t spoiled on San Diegans; if there’s a rooftop bar somewhere, they’re going to sip martinis there and set up a DJ stand. Enter LOUNGEsix, the alfresco bar at Solamar. Private cabanas and Hollywood lighting turn up the swank factor, while light bites – like the house-made charcuterie – complement top-shelf cocktails. When the night winds down and the locals have to go home, you can simply retire to your room for goodies from the honor bar.
Andaz San Diego
Andaz sounds like the name of a hot foreign DJ you met on vacation. It’s actually the moniker of this Gaslamp Quarter hotel, where the scene is so sizzling that guests can order bottle service by the pool and sparkling cupcakes on their birthday. Ivy, the four-story dance club on site, isn’t for wallflowers, so if your idea is a quiet night is sampling some of the best organic fare in Orange County, book a table at the resident restaurant Quarter Kitchen. Either way, your night in SD is sure to be one to make your friends back home jealous. And isn’t that the point?
Se San Diego
Se’s lushly landcaped rooftop bar is a staple for scoping out singles after a show at the neighboring House of Blues, but indoors impresses, too. Start with the lobby, which looks more like the penthouse loft of a single urban professional than a check-in area thanks to chocolate wood floors, low-slung seating and orchids to soften the space. The Zen feel flows into the spa, and Suite and Tender, an American bistro serving comfort food.
Valerie Moloney is a writer for Orbitz who was born in the Philippines, lived in Morocco and married a native Irishman. She now covers hotels around the world and contributes to the Orbitz blog.