Take a vacation in your own backyard
If you live in North County like I do, downtown San Diego can seem a world away, especially during rush hour. So I like to make a weekend — or even weekdays — of it, with staycations at hotels and resorts around town. It’s a great way to sample everything the city has to offer — all without getting on a plane. Here are some of my faves.
“It’s no place like home,” is the motto at Moxy on Sixth Avenue in the East Village, Marriott’s experiential, millennial-minded brand catering to those who don’t like the pomp, circumstance, and price of luxury hotels. You realize something is definitely different when you check in — not at a stuffy reception desk but at the lively lobby bar, where you are quickly handed “Got Moxy,” a signature cocktail of Bacardi dragon berry rum, fresh lime, and black cherry puree. Next to the bar, a two-story lobby living room offers contemporary furnishings and playful diversions including Giant Jenga, Twister, and Connect 4, as well as a glass-enclosed workspace.
The hotel’s 126 rooms have a contemporary, minimalist vibe. But they are small (two-person max). And don’t pack a big wardrobe because there are no closets, just a row of pegs to hang your clothes. Moxy is obviously aiming for a younger clientele given its slogan: “We like to play, but not by the rules. And we encourage our guests to do the same.” But Tim Billing, area general manager for Azul Hospitality Group, the property manager, says there are quite a few baby boomers who have been “flabbergasted with the atmosphere and the unconventional nature of the check-in process. The big thing is that they’re all young at heart.” 619.239.6699, marriott.com/sanox
For a luxe hotel on the waterfront without the massive conventions, check in to the InterContinental San Diego, located on the storied grounds of San Diego’s Lane Field. The Padres played here from 1936 to 1957 but now, high above home plate, a glass tower with 400 rooms offers a sophisticated bayside setting. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views at sunset, and after dark, lights from a parade of boats passing by in the bay. Vistal, the lobby-level restaurant, bar, and terrace helmed by well-regarded chef Amy DiBiase, focuses on local produce and fish, while Del Frisco’s Double Edge Steakhouse anchors the street level. (A 19th floor rooftop bar is also in the works.)
The InterCon is a short walk to The Headquarters, Seaport Village, Tuna Harbor, and the historic Midway and Maritime museums. The latter includes a Russian submarine and the majestic Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. OK, admit it — when was the last time you toured this floating symbol of San Diego? How the Star ship came to moor here is as fascinating as its seafaring history. (Watch for opportunities, from time to time, to actually set sail.) You can also see San Diego the way millions of out-of-towners do each year, aboard a Hornblower cruise ship on one- to two-hour sails around the bay. Book a private yacht for a sunset sail, or take a ferry to Coronado. After a weekend’s worth of sightseeing, relax back at the InterCon, where the million dollar views make you feel that your own ship has come in. 619.501.9400, intercontinetalsandiego.com
The Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, which recently concluded the final phase of a three-year renovation, offers sparkling views of the San Diego skyline and the Coronado Bay Bridge. The Coronado Ferry Landing, with shops, restaurants, a weekly farmer’s market, and weekend concerts, is just steps away. Also nearby is the 20-acre Tidelands Park with a small beach, playground, and picnic tables. Toss a Frisbee, bird watch, or sit on a bench and watch the wave of Navy ships, merchant vessels, fishing boats, and pleasure craft cruise the bay in the shadow of the bridge. Hop on a water taxi to entertainment in downtown San Diego.
The low-rise resort has tiers of oversized guest rooms in shades of sand and sea, many with patios and balconies, and suites and cottages with living rooms and kitchenettes. Flop down on a floatie in the curvy, palm tree-lined pool (one of three on property) or settle into a chair by the fire pits. For more active pursuits, work out in the wellness center or play ball on the resort’s sports courts.
Albaca (derived from “alta” and “baja”) is the chic new “Cali-coastal” indoor-outdoor restaurant that melds the cuisine and spirits of Southern California and Baja Mexico. Sample such fare as poke with local tuna, grilled octopus and chorizo tacos, clam toast, crispy local fish, or a seafood Cobb heaped with shrimp, crab, and avocado. The restaurant offers wines from Napa to the Guadalupe Valley, a range of tequilas and mezcals, and cocktails that include a smoky mule with mezcal, chipotle pineapple syrup, lime, and ginger beer.
The tranquil spa offers heavenly, ocean-inspired scrubs, wraps, and rituals with a private patio for lounging. After your treatment, order a bento box filled with a healthy, flavorful lunch and coconut water. Lucky for you, home is just a drive away. 619.435.3000, marriott.com