Downtown San Diego's other side: Manchester Grand Hyatt puts you on the water, away from business as usual

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

SAN DIEGO - Spend most of your time in the Gaslamp Quarter, and you can almost forget that this city sits on the water.

Manchester Grand Hyatt - San Diego
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego sits right on San Diego Bay.
Manchester Grand Hyatt - San DiegoManchester Grand Hyatt - LobbyThe Grand Del Mar Golf Course
If you go

Which means many conventioneers and business travelers end up largely missing out on what truly makes San Diego special. For those who have to stay downtown, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego can provide a welcome jolt of life on the sea while keeping you close to those meetings and dinners you need to attend.

Manchester Grand Hyatt looms right over the San Diego Bay, its twin towers stretching to the sky with ships going by below. Get a corner king, and your windows look out on blue and more blue.

This is a mammoth hotel (1,625 rooms) that feels like it's in its own separate little section of the city. There are no other hotels next to it, and it's anything but hemmed in. Seaport Village - an outdoor shopping center right on the water with the breezes and seagulls to prove it - is right behind the hotel. The USS Midway Museum - a huge aircraft carrier that you can go all around, from the mess hall to a flight deck that has Navy planes from all different eras on it - is a short walk away.

These attractions probably haven't even been on your radar if you haven't visited the Manchester Grand Hyatt before. The Midway's a surprising don't-want-to-miss visit, too. If you've stayed at other hotels in Ron Burgundy's favorite city, chances are you've never even been to the bay.

"I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I thought you had to get out to La Jolla to really be on the water," visiting businessman John Lavelle said. "San Diego just seemed like another crowded downtown to me."

La Jolla is still a much better base if golf is the main reason for your trip, and money's not a major concern. That trendy ocean-side community is home to the famed Torrey Pines, close to other top resorts like La Costa Resort and Spa and soon to be the center of the golf universe when the U.S. Open rolls around in mid June.

But if you need to be downtown for business, or you're staying there to be close to the San Diego Padres' new PETCO Park, or you're looking for four-star hotels that can be found at non-resort-wonderland prices, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego turns out to be a more-than-pleasant surprise.

You also might be taken aback by its major golf perk. Guests at Grand Hyatt San Diego can book tee times at The Grand Golf Club - the only Tom Fazio course in the area, one that's otherwise only open to members and guests of the new $270 million Grand Del Mar resort. Fazio's The Grand recently underwent a renovation geared to make its natural beauty (it runs along the Los Penasquitos Canyon Reserve) pop out even more.

Who knew the hidden downtown mega hotel on the Bay had great golf connections, too?

Manchester Grand Hyatt hasn't done a lot of advertising about its Fazio Grand link. You almost have to ask about golf, or already know, to realize. Consider it an insider's perk.

Grand Hyatt San Diego's luxury style

There is a real sense of entrance at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. Walking into the lobby with its sky-high ceiling can feel like strolling into a train station. At least, your memory of what train stations used to look like back when there was some romance in rail journeys.

Thankfully, the hotel staff harks back to a superior age of service, too.

A late check in after a long day of travel could not have been handled smoother. The front desk clerk actually asked a few questions and offered different room options (without trying to sell an upgrade) rather than the usual "just quickly stick you into whatever room the computer pulls up first." A bellhop went out of his way to make sure I had menus of local spots when I inquired about late-night takeout options.

The Manchester Grand Hyatt is one of the largest hotels in all of San Diego, a mammoth hub of business. It boasts about having the biggest ballrooms in all of San Diego and has more than 125,000 square feet of meeting space overall. This is convention central. But you don't really feel that, if you're a vacationing guest. You're not forgotten, which is no small feat.

In fact, it's sort of cool to be leisurely walking the hotel grounds, killing some time before your tee time as all those harried road warriors in suits scurry about. Then, in a few minutes, you've left the bustle behind for that quiet shopping village on San Diego Bay. The shops themselves aren't anything great (mostly kitschy souvenir trinkets), but the breeze is beautiful.

It's like you're not even in the big city.

Of course, when it's time to pay your parking charges ($28 for valet) or in-room Internet usage bill, you'll remember. On one night, there were also a few hot young women in skimpy short skirts and outrageously high heels - likely "working" their way through college, of course - apparently waiting to be called up to some rooms.

Hey, nobody said San Diego is Kansas. And for the non-biblical guest, scenery is scenery.

Mostly, you'll remember Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego for delivering the unexpected, though: a water retreat in the middle of the city, good service in a gigantic operation, an insider-level golf perk provider.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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