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San DiegoJune 1, 2008 By: Mark Rogers Home-Based Travel Agent
Good food, unique accommodations and consistently warm weather make this city an attractive destination
Getting There: Visitors fly into Lindbergh International Airport. Expect to pay from $8 to $10 for a taxi from the airport to downtown San Diego.
In May, JetBlue Airways (www.jetblue.com) began daily nonstop service from San Diego to Seattle, and added a second daily flight from San Diego to Salt Lake City.
Northwest Airlines (www.nwa.com) has added nonstop flights between San Diego and Memphis, TN. The flight will be available through August 18.
Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com) is now offering five daily flights between San Diego and San Francisco. Fares start at $39 one-way in the main cabin.
Tours: San Diego Insider Tours (www.sandiegoinsidertours.com) is a new guided-tour company specializing in providing high-end, in-depth encounters showcasing unique aspects of San Diego. Aimed primarily at small groups, the company has debuted with three excursions: "Surf Culture Safari" is a dry-land experience introducing participants to San Diego's four diverse beach communities and its thriving surf culture; "Photographic Treasure Hunt" takes participants on a guided tour to photogenic spots around San Diego; and "Beads, Baubles and Jewelry Junket" takes tourists to the largest retailer of beads and jewelry in the United States. Participants get a 90-minute basic beading lesson, all materials necessary for the class and a DVD recap of the instructional material. Private tours can also be arranged, and gourmet food is a part of every Insider Tours experience. Visit www.sandiegoinsidertours.com or call 858-488-7512.
Attractions: Last May, the New Children's Museum (www.sdchildrensmuseum.org) opened in the downtown Marina District. The museum bills itself as an interactive arts destination for children and families, offering innovative, hands-on art opportunities, classes and exhibitions designed by emerging and established contemporary artists. The museum will also be downtown San Diego's first public green project with environmentally friendly architecture and infrastructure practices, including the use of recycled building materials, water-saving devices and natural convection cooling.
Hotels: The US Grant (www.starwoodhotels.com) in downtown San Diego was out of commission for a while as it experienced a $56 million renovation. Fully open and more impressive than ever, the iconic hotel, now a member of Starwood's Luxury Collection, will be further enhanced later this fall with the addition of an 8,000-square-foot, two-story spa and indoor pool. Presently, guests can book spa services in their rooms or suites, or if they prefer they can schedule an appointment in the hotel's spa treatment suite.
The hotel's 270 rooms include 47 suites. The two bi-level Presidential Suites have the master bedroom on the upper level, while the downstairs has a spacious living room, separate dining area and terrace. The hotel also has an 11th-floor Presidential Penthouse Suite. The property's signature restaurant is the Grant Grill, which specializes in market-fresh cookery; the signature dish is jumbo diver scallops. Last January, the hotel added the Celebration Fine Arts Gallery. The 3,000-square-foot art gallery on the hotel's lobby level showcases works from contemporary artists.
Agents with special requests can reach out to the US Grant's concierge, Mark Peak, at [email protected].
The Ivy (www.ivyhotel.com) is credited with bringing Las Vegas style to downtown San Diego. Envy Nightclub and the Eden rooftop bar (with a pool and cabanas) have become the place to be seen in the city.
Amenities at the Ivy include butler service; complimentary Wi-Fi; an MP3 docking station; a 42-inch, high-definition plasma TV; and a full in-room bar. Rates start at $450 for a Deluxe Room. The Ivy is a family-friendly hotel during the week, but not on the weekends, when it takes on a party hotel ambiance. Rooms have enclosed glass showers that are visible from the bedroom; it's a sophisticated touch, but not to everyone's taste. Rooms with the best views face F Street; these are the rooms on each floor usually numbered in the teens.
Although the hotel doesn't have a spa of its own, in-room treatments from nearby spas can be arranged. These are made through the hotel's concierge staff of four ([email protected]).
Single travelers enjoy sitting counter-style in front of the presentation kitchen in the hotel's Quarter Kitchen restaurant. A signature menu item is the caviar tacos.
The travel agent liaison for the hotel is Mia Williams, director of leisure sales ([email protected], 619-814-1000).
Sports fans and groups flock to the Omni San Diego Hotel (www.omnihotels.com). The hotel is connected via a pedestrian sky bridge to the San Diego Padres ballpark, PETCO Park, and lies directly across the street from the San Diego Convention Center.
The Omni's ultimate rooms are the Tony Gwynn Suite and President Jimmy Carter Suite. These feature a full kitchenette, wet bar, separate dining area, sitting room and private balcony affording sweeping views of the San Diego bay and skyline. The most requested accommodations are the Premium Rooms; these also have views of the bay.
The hotel's spa has one treatment room. Travel agents can book treatments ahead of time by calling Hopper Spas (619-918-0075).
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant (www.mccormickandschmicks.com) is adjacent to the hotel lobby and serves fresh seafood in a casually elegant atmosphere.
Direct your questions to Sandy Ruff, executive assistant to the general manager (619-645-6511, [email protected]).
Restaurants: This spring, San Diego saw a number of new restaurants opening or reopening.
The Hillcrest neighborhood welcomed Dish (www.dishhillcrest.com), which premiered as an adjunct to the neighboring nightclub, Universal. Dish features live music and a lush color scheme of red, orange and gold. The restaurant serves up organically prepared comfort food such as Brandt beef pot roast with green garlic-potato purée and Maderia gravy. A lounge menu will also be available in the restaurant and nightclub. Call 619-544-9704.
Jolly Boy Saloon and Restaurant (www.jollyboyrestaurant.com) reopened in Plaza del Pasado inside Old Town State Historic Park after an eight-month renovation. Jolly Boy's menu features heirloom meats and seafood such as mahi mahi Vera Cruz, Duroc pork roast and bone-in churrasco. The restaurant has 19th-century decor and sailors who greet guests with sea shanties. The adventurous can even try traditional absinthe served in antique fountain glasses. Call 619-297-3100.