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Hilton San Diego Bayfront: Beautiful Behemoth

Hilton San Diego Bayfront

Hilton San Diego Bayfront

  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront
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Having trampled through many boilerplate convention hotels all over the country, my expectations were low. But the 30-story Hilton San Diego Bayfront, which has 1,190 rooms and 165,000 square feet of meeting space, is a beautiful behemoth.

It’s also a work of art—$2 million worth of commissioned public art. Outdoors, stainless steel “wind palms” decorate part of the hotel’s 4.3 acre grass park. The ceiling of the hotel’s chic, expansive lobby holds a suspended sculpture composed of woven stainless steel mesh. It emits a colorful light pattern that changes in an ethereal way. Several other pieces decorate interior corridors.

The drive-up ramp that leads to the porte cochere outside the second-floor lobby is awkward in design, especially for guests arriving on foot. But in sum, the Hilton is a useful new part of a downtown convention package, and one leisure travelers will also enjoy.

Sleep Here: Rooms are modern and airy. A standard room could go for $139/night, with an executive suite priced around $589 and the tricked-out Presidential Suite costing almost $3,000.

That top-floor Presidential Suite has a king-sized bed and bedroom, and an oversized, L-shaped living and dining room. The living room has a dark wood desk, and a dining table that seats eight. A faux-candle light fixture hangs over the dining table.

In-room technology abounds. In a sleek bathroom that features a six-foot bathing tub, though, the electronics went awry. The overhead showers can be programmed to remember your favorite temperature and angle of water spray—you could even program music.

The best feature in the room is easy enough to access: the windows. The Hilton’s location offers a rare look out on a San Diegan panorama that begins with the Coronado Bridge, extends to the tip of Point Loma and ends in the East Village seating bowl of Petco Park. You could spend an enjoyable hour just looking at the scenery.

Eat This: Vela (Latin for “sail”) is the signature restaurant. The large, elegant room seats 325 and offers some views of the bay. The cocktail list is creative: a bartender’s special martini mixed up Hangar 1 Mandarin vodka, pomegranate foam and a blood-orange wedge. The restaurant was deserted on a Sunday night; our server was attentive and well-informed. Try starting with the oysters topped with a dollop of Bloody Mary sorbet, or New Zealand mussels-and-shrimp. For entrees, the Mayer Ranch New York steak is just okay, but the mushroom risotto is a winner.

Do This: Hang out out back near the actual bayfront in the hotel’s saltwater vanishing edge pool and hot tub. Grab a cabana by day; at night, enjoy the deep blue lights that illuminate the pool. If you want to use the nearby Aquazul gym, be prepared to shell out $15.

By The Way: Hilton is phasing out mini-bars in all its guest rooms…On property is San Diego’s first Fox Sports Grill…A skybridge over Harbor Drive from the hotel to Petco Park is slated to be completed in 2011…Fruits from the Dole California shipping vessel are unloaded just behind the hotel on Monday and Tuesday. More than two billion bananas come through the port each year.

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  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: (619) 564-3333
  • Name: Hilton San Diego Bayfront
  • Address: 1 Park Boulevard