Hotel Reviews: Hilton Bayfront and the Marriott Marquis!

San Diego Comic Con

We have two more hotel reviews to share with you! They come from Transmute Jun of the Friends of CCI forums! It’s a really great and in depth review. Enjoy!

Living Large Next Door to SDCC:

Staying at the Hilton Bayfront and the Marriott Marquis

Have you ever left the San Diego Convention Center and taken twenty minutes or more to cross the street to get into the Gaslamp or to the trolley stop? Maybe as you waited in the massive crowds at the traffic light you saw a few people heading left and right, to the hotels next door to the Convention Center, and envied them the quick walk back to their rooms. This is the primary reason why the Hilton Bayfront and the Marriott Marquis are two of the more desirable hotels on the SDCC landscape.

Of course being highly sought after means that these hotels have prices to reflect their desirability. Both hotels usually offer a few rooms to the general public for direct booking, but at prices over $500 or $600 per night. Even in the Travel Planners hotel lottery you are likely to pay more than $300 per night for a room at these hotels. So is it worth it? The answer is maybe. Like everything else, it depends upon your personal preferences, and how much you’re willing to pay for a little convenience.

The Hilton Bayfront sits just south of the Convention Center, opposite the infamous patch of lawn where the lines for Hall H snake back and forth. Half of the hotel looks right out upon this lawn. Imagine waking up in the morning and looking out your window to check up on the status of the Hall H line! It’s the perfect view for a con-goer. Be warned though, I mentioned that half of the rooms have this view. The other half (on the back side of the hotel) look out onto the Dole factory. Unofficially, employees at the hotel have suggested to me that they ‘reserve’ these rooms for the ‘cheaper’ rates offered through the Travel Planners hotel lottery. If you have a hotel lottery room at this hotel and want the Hall H view, try to check in as early as possible on Wednesday/Preview Night and request your desired view. Obviously with its proximity, the Hilton is the place to stay if you plan on getting up at six am to join the Hall H line.

Another advantage to the Hilton Bayfront is that the Indigo Ballroom on the main floor of the hotel hosts many of SDCC’s larger panels. After Hall H and Ballroom 20, this is one of the biggest panel rooms. Last year (2012) the Indigo Ballroom played host to the Adult Swim panels, Geek & Sundry, the Nerdist Channel, Glee, Archer and Power Rangers, to name a few. Imagine sleeping in the same building as the panel you want to see! Convenience at its finest.

Naturally another convenience to staying at the Hilton is the short walk across the Hall H lawn to the Convention Center. Unfortunately, sometimes this walk can take longer than intended. If Hall H is being filled and the lines are moving, SDCC security will often block the walkway, not allowing pedestrian traffic to get through. This happens without warning, and I’ve waited up to fifteen minutes to be allowed to cross, if I’m unlucky enough to get there at the wrong time. But most of the time it’s a very easy walk back and forth from the Convention Center to the hotel.

Food at the Hilton Bayfront is acceptable. The Fox Sport Grill on the ground floor is usually not too crowded, and has a reasonably priced and highly varied menu. Vela is a higher end restaurant with prices to match, but is a great place for celebrity spotting. There is also a Starbucks for that early morning coffee fix, and a small snack bar next to the pool that serves awesome pizzas!

The hotel has good amenities, in the form of a waterside pool (being renovated for summer 2013), a UPS Store/business center, and a well-stocked convenience store carrying everything from snacks and drinks to medicines and bandaids.

If you’re into celebrity spotting, many of the television personalities stay at this hotel or visit its bars and restaurants. In the past few years congoers have run into Johnny Galecki, members of the Barenaked Ladies, Joss Whedon and John Noble at the Hilton Bayfront.

One of the disadvantages to staying at the Hilton Bayfront is that you’re relatively far away from the Gaslamp ‘party’ area. If you like to go bar-hopping and hang out at nightclubs, then it’s definitely a bit of a hike back. In 2011 a pedestrian bridge opened up, linking the Hilton Bayfront with Petco Park, but it’s still a ten to fifteen minute walk to get into the heart of the Gaslamp.

As far as the rooms at the Hilton Bayfront go, they are luxurious, but small. If you’re in a two doubles room, you won’t have a lot of space for suitcases, swag and cosplay items. There are no fridges, so bring a cooler if you want to keep things cold. There are connecting rooms, but only if you have one double room and one king room. I wouldn’t recommend squeezing any more than 4 people into one of these rooms, and it’ll be tight doing that. But if you’re all good friends, it can work.

Parking at the Hilton Bayfront is in the multi-storey garage next door, and it’s expensive. But then, every hotel in the Gaslamp has expensive parking. There is a charge for internet unless you are gold or higher in the hHonors frequent guest program.

If you’re looking to the future, the planned expansion to the San Diego Convention Center is supposed to include an expansion to the Hilton Bayfront, and apparently the hotel will be directly connected to the convention center via this new wing.

The Marriott Marquis and Marina sits on the northern side of the Convention Center, literally next door, but not connected to the center itself. Yet for a place that is next door to the Con, it’s amazing how long it can take to get into the Exhibit Hall! Unfortunately security makes you walk down half the length of the convention center before entering the Hall, so it will still take you about 10 minutes to get from your room into the Convention Center itself.

The Marriott Marquis has two towers. The South Tower has slightly smaller rooms with windows, while the North Tower has slightly bigger rooms with balconies. Generally the South Tower houses all of the Travel Planners hotel block, while the North Tower houses people who have booked directly, as well as the ‘industry’ people who attend Comic Con. Celebrities who stay at the Marriott Marquis are all in the North Tower. Both towers have half of their rooms looking out at the pool/water, while the other half look out upon Harbor Blvd.

The Marriott houses a couple of expensive (but mediocre) restaurants, but for food I highly recommend walking out the back door and taking the five minute journey to Seaport Village, where you will find a wide variety of restaurants and shops. Seaport Village is very convenient and not as ‘packed to the gills’ as the places in the Gaslamp, so it’s always easier to find a bite to eat. If you don’t want to walk that far, the Marriott Marquis sets up a small ‘deli’ during the Con just off of the main lobby where it’s easy to pick up a slightly overpriced sandwich or pizza. There is also a Starbucks in the same area.

Speaking of the Gaslamp, the Marriott Marquis is a little closer to the Gaslamp than the Hilton Bayfront, but still, being across the street means it’s not directly in the ‘party zone’.

In the hotel you will find a Hertz rental car office, a UPS Store/business center and a gift shop that carries convenience items.

Although the Marriott Marquis doesn’t host any panels, there are other convention facilities within the hotel. The Fulfillment Room is at the bottom of the North Tower, and for the past two years Nintendo has hosted their offsite gaming room underneath the North Tower as well. You can also find SDCC’s hospitality suite (Can anyone say ‘free snacks’?) underneath the South Tower. Many of the film showings are also hosted at the Marriott Marquis.

At night the Marriott Marquis’ pool is the place to be. It’s always easy to meet fellow congoers at the pool and hot tubs. The area is beautiful and easily accessible.

Rooms at the Marriott Marquis are large enough to easily accommodate four people. In 2012 I stayed in a double room in the North Tower. We got a rollaway bed and stuck it in the corner and it didn’t impact the available ‘walking space’ at all. Compared to the Hilton Bayfront, it felt like tons of room!

Parking at the Marriott Marquis is pricey, and if you’re self-parking you’ll probably be in the large, open air lot behind the hotel. There is also a charge for internet service.

So back to the original question: is it worth it to stay at one of these hotels, given the high price tags? In my opinion it is worth it (these are my preferred hotels) because location is important to me. However if you’re interested in the nighttime Gaslamp party scene, or willing to walk a bit more to save some money, then they probably aren’t for you. If you want to go bar-hopping or nightclubbing, you’d likely be better off at the Marriott Gaslamp or the Hilton Gaslamp, which are closer to the ‘middle of the action’. Be sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of these hotels against the high price when choosing a place to stay. Remember, it’s your Con, and you want a hotel that helps you enjoy every minute of it!

4 comments

  • Just wanted to say two things regarding the Hilton Bayfront: 1- if attending panels in the Indigo Ballroom, you still have to line up early, especially for popular panels like Nerdist and Geek&Sundry
    2- you can request a refrigerator and I think they charge $20/night for fridge rental.

    • You’re right on both counts, although IME the fridges are few and hard to come by. Checking in early is your best bet for that. Personally I prefer to bring a cooler and fill it every morning with gallon ziploc bags of ice. I got a really nice soft-sided Coleman ice chest that folds flat and stayed cold for 36 hours on 2 full gallon bags of Hilton Bayfront ice. 😉 It was cheaper than 2 nights of fridge rental.

      And yes, obviously you do have to line up for panels, no matter where they are, but staying at the Hilton Bayfront you’re still up to an hour closer to the Indigo Ballroom than people coming from Mission Valley, and 10-20 minutes closer than people in the Gaslamp. Being closer means that you get in line earlier, and/or have a little more time to sleep in. Either is a plus in my book!

  • Love the bayfront (you do get a bit tired of schlepping across the bridge to find better food after three days in a row of Fox Sports Grill, but hey). But a few other notes:
    1. They charge a price (I can’t remember exactly, it’s somewhere between $10-$20) per DEVICE per day, as opposed to just charging per day. So if you’ve got four people in a room, make sure you’re paying whoever has the amenities charge card for your wifi or they’ll get hit with a $200 bill (and god forbid you start connecting your phone AND your laptop).
    2. Also has a breakfast bar on the ground floor with great cheap, quick burritos and coffee, located just outside Indigo Ballroom.

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