My family and I have gone to the amazing Legoland, I’ve stayed in a condo on beautiful Mission Beach, and had an unforgettable girl get-away at the elegant and stylish downtown Gaslamp District. Last month, however, I had an experience that became the greatest of my San Diego experiences when I spent four days at a sparkling new contemporary hotel. I was there on a combination of business and pleasure – “bleasure” trip. (That’s a real word…. Look it up.) I had a fantastic time, made all the more wonderful because I was invited as a media representative to attend the grand opening of the Springhill Suites that included VIP red carpet festivities.
I hadn’t heard of SpringHill Suites San Diego Downtown/Bayfront, but learned that it was a Marriot brand, which meant it was going to be quality. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the extent to which the actual quality at SpringHill Suites would exceed my expectations. Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the impressive appearance of the 17-story modern building with bright yellow accent features that made it stand out like a beacon among the area’s more historical and conservative structures. Another quality that I quickly came to appreciate was the SpringHill Suites downtown location right above the San Diego harbor. The rooms afford panoramic and even breathtaking views of the bustling waterfront and city. One morning I woke up to the view of a huge cruise ship outside my window. I felt my ship really had come in! The lobby walls, decorations, and furniture carry on the sleek, modern, and yellow- accented style of the building’s impressive exterior. Media was used in creative ways with flat screen monitors displaying animated depictions of beautiful scenery while the air was filled with light upbeat music. SpringHill Suites provides impressive levels of services for travelers on business or tourists seeking a good time. (Or like me, guests mixing business and pleasure.) Computer stations were conveniently located supplying Internet access to help guests maintain the virtual contact with the universe that seems so important to us, whether at work or play.
The décor of my room, which was located on the 14th floor, complemented the sleek modern mixture of elegance and style of the rest of the SpringHill Suites. True to the building’s name, the room was a small suite with a couch, desk, flat-screen television, and bed — all of them oriented to a huge floor-to-ceiling window that provided a panoramic view of both the harbor and downtown. A small microwave and a refrigerator were neatly tucked away in the corner. As opposed to the decorative art in most places like this, the walls were decorated with original pieces created by a local artist.
The press conference wasn’t scheduled until the day after I arrived, which gave me plenty of opportunity to explore SpringHill Suites facility and the surrounding area. We were within walking distance of the fabulous Gaslamp shopping and dining areas, but even closer I discovered a charming little outdoor mall, where I spent a few happy hours shopping and dining. San Diego is located a short drive from the border of Mexico, which is probably the reason that authentic and fabulous Mexican dining opportunities are found everywhere. My first eating experience on the trip included an unforgettable crab guacamole dip at a restaurant called Puesto.
That evening I joined a group of media people from all over the country for dinner at an amazing new restaurant called Coasterra that is located just across the Bay from SpringHill Suites. The restaurant has a Vegas-meets-San-Francisco-Bay extrava- gance. The food was pricey, delicious, and worth every penny. However, even better than the food, the location provided us with a truly spectacular vantage point from which we could view the impressive San Diego cityscape as a backdrop to the vast Bay waters. The perfect weather enabled us to dine outside and to enjoy the full effect of the location including the distant soaring SpringHill Suites.
The next day’s Press Conference and Ribbon Cutting events were carried out with just the right amount of pomp and ceremony, which made us media people happy, because the brilliant weather of the preceding day had degenerated into a light rain. We heard from the SpringHill Suites General Manager who said his career began 25 years earlier as a bellman. We heard from a few other dignitaries including the Marriott’s Senior Vice President and a few representatives from the City of San Diego. The event ended with a photo-shoot, some footage being shot for a story in the local news, and climaxed with the cutting of a big red ribbon.
That evening the Marriott executives and hotel staff hosted a VIP red carpet grand opening party. It proved to be a “grand” event, in fact. A commercial strobe light set up in front of the building sent brilliant beams into the sky, showing everyone for miles around that something special was taking place at the SpringHill Suites. The event was marked with gourmet food stations, multiple bars, a band called The Colourist, and a DJ — all of it illuminated by state-of-the-art lighting. The party flowed through multiple conference rooms, and a vast outdoor open area that showcased the downtown city lights view as well as the beautiful waters of the Bay. Each of the rooms displayed highlights of the hotel over multiple large screens that also provided automatic updates of anything posted to a #SuiteExtras hash tag. It was great to see my own Instagram photos go live on the screens.
None of us wanted the night to end! We spent the rest of our time enjoying the San Diego experience. My new media friends and I chose to begin with the San Diego Zoo. This had been on my bucket list for a long time so I set out with a child-like sense of anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed. The sight of a mamma hippo swimming around in a huge tank, nuzzling and playing with her baby, was charming and unforgettable. I always knew these were large creatures, but until I could get close I never realized how truly enormous they actually are. The Panda bears, as well, were surprisingly large animals, and I was stunned to see them in person — as were the polar bears, which seemed perfectly content with their home in the midst of sunny San Diego, so far removed from their northern ice floe habitats.
The other adventure on that trip was touring the Downtown and Balboa Park on a Segway. Even though I had never been near a Segway before, it takes only a few minutes to learn to ride like a professional. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast they would go, yet how easy to maneuver. It was a great sensation to be able to cover so much ground with perfect unobstructed 360-degree views of the surroundings.
That night we visited a bar that featured dueling pianos. I never have been more entertained by two people. We sang, laughed, clapped, and enthusiastically enjoyed the musical journey the gifted piano players took us on. They tailor their playlist to suit the particular people in the room. We were encouraged to write our song request down, then bravely walk to the stage and hand it to one of the pianists. It didn’t take long to discover that including a tip made your request rise to the top. We were happy to be big tippers that night.
One of my take-aways from the trip is the realization of what an amazing destination San Diego is. San Diego is one of those places you don’t want to leave because there is so much more to do and to see. The city is an entertainment mecca with such attractions as beautiful beaches (La Jolla is my favorite), Legoland, the Gaslight District, and Little Italy. Visitors can explore the USS Midway Museum, Coronado Island, Balboa Park, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park, or catch a Padres game. Along with all that is the fact that San Diego provides an inexhaustible selection of fine restaurants ranging from upscale 5-star dining to hidden hole-in-the wall mom & pop treasures.
The laid back, unpretentious, artsy and cultural San Diego vibe adds to the “wow” factor when visiting the place. A synergy of some kind apparently results from the proximity to the ocean and warm tempera- tures creating an impression that you couldn’t be in a better place or having better choices for fun and relaxation.
SpringHill Suites in San Diego seems the ultimate location in this destination. I was within minutes or walking distance of almost everything! The beach, the parks, the airport, the train station, the cruise ship harbor, the Bay Ferry, the downtown, the Padres Stadium, plus amazing shopping and dining venues.
I can’t wait to go back with my family!