On the morning of July 4th, we left the laid back life of La Jolla and headed into the City for a bit of urban action. We checked into the historic U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego for a single night before heading back to our seaside ranch house. It had been many, many years since previously visiting the U.S Grant so I was looking forward to checking-in since the hotel finished the final touches of a multi-year renovation earlier this year. All I can say is that my one night made me want to come back for more…
For those of you interested in architecture and historic preservation, you might be interested in knowing that the U.S. Grant is officially designated on the National Register of Historic Places and over the years it has hosted 15 Presidents, countless dignitaries, and celebrities. It was built by the son of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, whose portrait (below) hangs prominently at the entrance to the hotel accessible from the lower level valet drop off. It’s as if President Grant is personally welcoming you to the hotel and when you walk inside you immediately realize that you’ve entered a very special place. The portrait is original to the hotel since its opening in 1910 and is just one of the many pieces that make up the hotel’s $6.5 million dollar art collection scattered throughout the hotel.
An original chandelier from 1910 still hangs in the lobby.
When we got off the elevator to our room on the 5th floor, I took notice of the fact that the color scheme shifted to a bolder color palette and included palm tree upholstered wall panels. Each floor also has a unique piece of artwork on display.
Upholstered wall detail.
The windows next to the bank of elevators provide a great view of the hotel garden and cityscape beyond.
Our room was compact and cozy (i.e. small) but very comfortable. I didn’t mind the size of the room, particularly since we were staying for only one night. However, if we plan another visit I will opt for a larger room and I’ll tell you why….I slept on the right side of the bed closest to the window. The only downside to this was the fact that there is no room for a nightstand on this side of the bed. The hotel could easily remedy this issue by constructing a simple, shallow shelf to at least accommodate a phone or bottle of water. Luckily, there was an outlet on this side of the bed so I was able to charge my phone but I had nowhere to put it other than on the bed itself. This is far from ideal, especially when you are trying to relax and disconnect. This was really the only negative about the room and besides this one inconvenience, I was actually very comfortable here. The bed was perfect and I felt like l was sleeping on the clouds. I could have slept in for days….
Did you notice the interesting artwork that acts as a headboard? It is definitely a focal point of the room and the hotel’s website describes the artwork quite well:
Masterfully blended within the custom moldings of the headboards in each guestroom is a one-of-a-kind art piece by French artist, Yves Clement. A “Sleeping with Art” concept integrates the large black-on-canvas paintings, which he calls “drippings.” Clement employed an “action painting” process by virtue of his controlled gestures and dribbling paint directly onto a floor canvas with a paint stick rather than a brush. The outcome is evocative, loosely figurative, abstract artwork with a value of $10,000 – $15,000 each.
The hotel is said to be designed in “presidential colors”, such as blue and gold, as seen in our room. The gold drapes are a nice contrast against the blue and beige houndstooth patterned carpet. Houndstooth is such a classic pattern but here it feels fresh and modern due to its color scheme and scale. Houndstooth is definitely an up and coming trend…
Our room had an interesting three tier cabinet which was a nice change from the predictible furniture typically seen in a hotel room. A coffee maker, bottled water, snacks, stationery, ice bucket, safe and mini refrigerator are all neatly tucked away and concealed behind closed doors.
The design palette for the bathroom was a bit of a change from the rest of the room design and had a slightly masculine feel to it. I am picky about my bath products and I will typically bring my own toiletries to a hotel if I don’t know what type of products will be provided. I was pleasantly surprised to see that our room was stocked with bath products from the British company, Elemis. Even Mr. B commented on how much he enjoyed the Elemis products. Shhh…don’t tell him… but when we got home I ordered him some products as a small “just because” surprise. No matter how big or small, everyone deserves a surprise every now and then!
At one point in the evening, I noticed a red glow through the window sheers. I pulled the curtains back and realized that the exterior of the hotel was lit up in alternating blue and red “stripes”. I told Mr. B that we had to go outside to see what the building looked like from the street. This is what we saw… We didn’t come here for the fireworks and, in fact, didn’t learn until that evening that the City of San Diego hosts the “Big Bay Boom'” each year. Fireworks are launched from four separate barges located in the San Diego Bay and can be seen from a variety of locations around town. Based on news reports, there were 500,000 people in attendance to view the Big Bay Boom. Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with crowds and were able to enjoy the show from the comfort of our room.
The hotel is located within walking distance to the City’s Gaslamp district that serves as downtown’s restaurant row. Block after block you will find a lively scene home to a wide variety of restaurants and bars. The U.S. Grant is located so very close to the Gaslamp but the location can feel a bit sketchy at times so if you decide to stay here, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Would that deter me from staying here again? No. Would I like to come back for a future stay? Absolutely. However, next time I will opt for a larger room and take advantage of the dining opportunities onsite. Having been there before, the Grant Grill is a wonderful place for a convenient meal.