San Diego + Starwood

San Diego Starwood The US GRANT is San Diego’s landmark hotel, radiating with an illustrious past dating back to the time of its 18th President namesake. This Starwood Luxury Collection hotel in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter delivers a decidedly more formal and elegant option in a coastal beach town where hip boutique properties tend to be the flavor of the day.

Fresh off a $56 million revamp, this storied icon listed on the National Register of Historic Places is anything but fuddy-duddy.

The 1910 architecture celebrates the American Industrialist era, while the interior public spaces do a nice job blending the Antebellum-ish design with updated clubby leather chairs and rich Indian blue sofas. Each of its 270 guestrooms and suites reflects the same refined ambience combining custom-crafted furnishings and original, contemporary drip-painting headboards by noted French artist Yves Clement. It has also woven traditional architecture and chic design into the four elegant ballrooms and 22 distinctive meeting rooms totaling 33,000 sf of group space, previously used for gala balls by 14 US Presidents and various tycoons and film celebs.

“What surprises most people is the modern sophistication of our hotel,” says Russ Mitchell, director of sales/marketing. “As a Starwood Luxury Collection property, it truly offers the finest in service. But beyond that, it’s a piece of San Diego’s rich history.”

The hotel’s Grant Grill restaurant has always been one of the city’s most popular power lunch destinations. In 1969, a famous sit-in by locally prominent women forced the US Grant to abandon its “gentlemen only” policy, and the place has been politically active ever since. Today, the Art Deco eatery also caters to trendy urbanites who enjoy its farm-to-table California cuisine, such as roasted squab with peaches, grapes and sunchokes. Grant’s can cater private parties for up to 140.

One of US GRANT’s hottest new meeting/incentive options is the America’s Cup Experience. Groups of 20 can crew, team build or race head to head aboard the America’s Cup Class racing yachts Stars & Stripes and Abracadabra.

“San Diego Harbor is ideal for year-round sailing,” says Warren Allan, vp of sales/marketing. “So you’re almost certain that an event like this won’t have to be cancelled because of weather.” While some of us steered, trimmed the sails and cranked the winches, others simply kicked back to soak in the scenery.

For a more traditional sailing experience, book the 139-ft replica of the legendary tall ship America for 85-max dinners with 4-time America’s Cup winning skipper, Dennis Conner.

The America slips right into the dock at US GRANT’s sister Starwood property, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, located at Harbor Island across from San Diego International. After a $35 million makeover, the waterfront urban resort features 1,053 refreshed guestrooms in two separate towers.

Sheraton is a major proponent for green lodging and meeting practices throughout its 120,000 sf of function space. In October, the property became the largest southern California hotel to achieve the California State Green Lodging Program’s top-tier “Two Palm” status.

While sharing his lavish Chef’s Table luncheon experience showcasing sustainable seafood and organic catering, executive chef Steve Black explained how the green theme plays front and center with cuisine.

“More and more people want to know where food comes from,” Black says. “Cooking demonstrations and chefs’ pairings are especially interesting to groups so they can learn more about local products and the sustainable food focus…. These green measures also incite guests to make green choices personally.”