453 Sixth Ave., Gaslamp
The view from the Nolen is so vast, it’s hard to be believe you’re only fourteen stories above downtown San Diego. On a clear day (which is most days here), you can see the Gaslamp district, Petco Park, and all the way to the Coronado Bridge. But the Nolen is worth it even in the rain: The drinks game is solid (we love the Damnit Janet—a mix of vodka, rose water, watermelon, and lychee), and the warm, salty, delicious snacks will inspire you to make a night of it. Or a day, in fact. The Sunday brunch is one of the best in San Diego.
Gaslamp Quarter, Gaslamp
The Gaslamp Quarter is not unlike a miniature New Orleans (and in fact, this is where the city throws its Mardi Gras parade): a historic pocket of downtown full of Victorian-style buildings, bustling sidewalks, late-night revelers, and restaurants that stand cheek by jowl next to bars that spill onto the street. This district is the epicenter of nightlife in this city. Given the fame and popularity of the Gaslamp Quarter, it can get pretty touristy, and one of the best places to take it all in is from a rooftop bar, like the one at the Andaz Hotel. Sit by the firepit, order a wild mushroom flatbread pizza and something called a Smoky Ginger (like a smoky margarita with ginger), and listen to the sounds of the city coming to life after sunset.
550 J St., Gaslamp
There's a special synergy between bustling urban energy and laid-back California cool found in downtown San Diego, and this hotel—a completely fresh boutique concept emerging from the Montage’s luxury umbrella—occupies a corner spot that's right in the middle of it all. Moderately sized with a totally non-corporate feel, the bedrooms are done in a spectrum of beachy patterned blues and textured whites: azure plaid sofas against light-blue drapes and crisp bedding, for example. This retreat-like aesthetic is brought home by luxe touches like silky Lunya bathrobes and particularly beautiful subway-tiled bathrooms. The Pendry is within walking distance to some of the city's best restaurants and bars. If you don't want to leave the grounds over the weekend, the picture-perfect rooftop pool offers some of the best views in the city, while the adjacent restaurants, Lionfish and Provisional, serve up excellent seafood and steak, and fresh California dishes, respectively.