24 Hours in San Diego: Festival, Hotel, Nightclub and Dining Review

 

When it comes to traveling, you don’t always need to take a long or expensive vacation to experience good hospitality or something new. It can be short, sweet and spontaneous. Sometimes, that’s the best way to travel – especially when you’re on a budget or have other priorities such as school, work and life in general. Going to San Diego with my girlfriends was a last minute plan and I didn’t know what to expect but it turned out to be one of the best decisions yet. The hospitality I experienced in San Diego within 24 hours was truly amazing – from the hotel to the festival to the nightclub and dining. Not only did the hospitality make this weekend memorable but the whole trip was very affordable, which made it that much better.

 

Omni Hotel & Resort

For our overnight stay, we booked a room at the Omni Hotel & Resort in San Diego. The Omni Hotel is a upscale, full-service hotel located in downtown across Petco Park (which is where Groundwater was held at.) This property is one of the many luxurious resorts that Omni Hotel & Resorts owns around the world. The hotel’s location was super convenient because we could walk to the festival and back within a couple of minutes, which helped us save money instead of having to take an Uber. The service at Omni was spectacular from the moment we checked in until we retrieved our car from valet. (PS: you can tell a lot about a hotel’s service by how they treat younger travelers so pay attention that!). As I entered the hotel lobby, the impression of the hotel was that it was very chic, clean and quiet. We were greeted warmly at the front desk by Sarah and the check-in process was quick and easy. There’s been multiple times where check-in has been an issue, especially when I have booked through a third-party site like Booking.com or Trip Advisor.

Travel tip: Before booking a hotel, it’s always a smart idea to compare prices through the hotel’s direct website as well as third-party sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Expedia. These sites are called OTAS (aka online travel agents) and they’re are a great way to save money on hotels and finding more flexible deals or cancellation policies but it’s important to be very careful with them. Did you know that if you book a hotel through a third-party site, there’s a huge chance the hotel won’t be able to change your booking or upgrade your room if something happens last minute? Many hotels don’t have control over bookings that not were not directly booked through their system.

The interior of the hotel’s lobby was very open, clean, and modern. Our bellman was very welcoming and genuine and even gave us directions to Spin Nightclub so that we didn’t have to figure it out later. The room we stayed in was perfectly clean and had a great view of downtown and the bay. I honestly wish we could have stayed another night because I didn’t get to try the food or many of the complimentary amenities the Omni Hotel offered. I would definitely come back to Omni Hotel because of how clean the room was and how nice every employee was. (I’m very picky with how clean hotel rooms are and I couldn’t find a single thing that was off.) I would definitely recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a full-service hotel that is both upscale yet affordable.

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Groundwater Festival

Just when I thought festival season was over for the year…nope. The main reason we spontaneously took a trip to San Diego was for Groundwater, which is a intimate one-day house and techno music festival presented by FNGRS CRSSD. I originally heard about Groundwater after attending CRSSD two months ago, which is Groundwater’s big sister festival also hosted twice a year in downtown San Diego. I didn’t know how Groundwater would be like and if it would be worth taking a trip right before going into finals, but wow was it beyond what I expected.

Tickets: How affordable tickets for Groundwater is what initially caught attention for this event. Tickets started at $30 and but came out to about $50, including service fees and taxes, which was a great a value for the experience I had. Anyone who attends music festivals knows that most event tickets can range from $80 – $150 for one day tickets. Aside from the festival itself, FNGERS CRSSD offered various ticket options for the pre-party and after parties. We chose to go to Spin Nightclub as our after party because of how good the lineup was. Tickets for the afterparties started at $15 and were limited, which meant we had to be on top of getting them. The process of purchasing afterparty tickets was a bit annoying because it required attendees to have purchased their festival tickets before they could access afterparty tickets as soon as possible. This wasn’t a big deal because I’m usually on top of these types of things but for someone who wants to go and isn’t keeping up with all the event’s announcements, it’s really easy to miss out on the afterparties. What I like about this festival is there were no wristbands so it wasn’t as hyped up on social media with everyone posting their wristbands coming in the mail. For Groundwater, tickets could be printed at home or downloaded onto to your phone easily.

Getting in & The Venue: Wow, I have never gotten into a festival so quickly and easily. Honestly my friends and I were a bit concerned about this because the festival’s website did not give any details of what items were allowed and what items were prohibited. Many festivals can be annoyingly strict so we assumed that bringing in our makeup and chapstick would be an issue at Groundwater like it was at CRSSD. (Thank you Groundwater for not throwing away $50 worth of my makeup!) Although we went through metal detectors, none of our items were an issue to bring in. Once inside the venue, we were welcomed by funky house music bumping through the lush, grassy hills and trees that faced Petco Park’s baseball stadium and Groundwater’s main stage. The vibe of this event was both energetic and laid-back the whole time.  The venue itself was the perfect size and everything was well organized. One of my favorite things about this festival was there how much room there was to dance freely or to sit on the grass without being in someone’s personal space. This made moving through the crowd a breeze for us – it almost felt like I was floating because of how easy it was. Being only 5’1 usually makes being in crowds awful for me personally because I can’t see over the people in front of me and usually people can’t see me either so they step on my feet or spill drinks on me. At Groundwater, I had a view of the DJ at all times no matter where we were in the crowd and didn’t have a single person run into me. This is very rare so I was happy my height wasn’t an issue at this festival. The grassy hills allowed us to have a great view of the stage when we didn’t want to be as close in the crowd. Another great thing about this event is that the venue had real bathrooms and not disgusting porta potties like most festivals. I hate public restrooms but this one was well kept. It was nice to have clean bathrooms with real sinks and mirrors. At most festivals I have to cram into a dark porta potty that makes me disgustingly wander what my life has to come to while I simultaneously have to avoid falling or touching anything around me while I pee. Real bathrooms for the win hah! I think the best part of this venue was the baseball park itself. Having the huge, empty baseball park in the background made the event feel a lot more exclusive. Hopefully Groundwater is held at Petco Park next year because the venue creates the perfect intimate setting.

Music: Ok now what we came for, to dance. The lineup for Groundwater only consisted of 5 DJs but it was perfectly curated. Although we missed the first DJ, the others did not disappoint. Initially, I came for Claude Vonstroke and Maya Jane Coles but I’m glad I was there for the others. Of course Claude and Maya had the best sets (they always kill it) but honestly Claptone’s set blew my mind. Although I have seen him live before, his set at Groundwater was truly one of the most elegant and in-sync sets I have ever seen (and I’ve gone to a lot of festivals and shows). The transition between songs and even between DJs were so smooth. Each DJ built off the energy from the previous one and it was amazing. Claude Vonstroke’s closing set was going off and driving the crowd wild. You could tell he was loving it too because he had the biggest smile on the whole time. It was also the perfect little sneak peak to how the afterparty would be. The crowd’s vibe was on the same page the whole time. Unlike a lot of music festivals, I would say the majority of this crowd was dancing and getting down the whole night. This was a smaller festival so there was only one stage, which meant we didn’t have to have a game plan on who to see and what stage to go to. This was a nice change because it made the evening less stressful and meant everyone would be experiencing the same music. Something I pay attention to at festivals is the stage design and lights (You can tell a lot about festival through what they present on stage.) My favorite thing about Groundwater’s stage was that it was covered with green plants and palm trees and didn’t focus too much on crazy light shows. I really appreciate when stages don’t have screens just flash hypnotizing lights and random things like skulls. In my opinion, the better the DJ is the less background visuals are needed to keep the crowd’s attention. Overall, Groundwater’s musical talent was amazing and that was easily reflected in the crowd’s energy. Can’t wait to see next year’s lineup has in store for me to dance to.

Food & Drinks: I know music festivals are about the music and having fun but eating is still important! It’s so easy to forget to eat when you’re having the best time but I love food too much to forget, even at a music festival. Since Groundwater was at Petco Park, the venue offered food through the baseball field’s concession stands. They had a good amount of food options but nothing really stood out to me. They offered the usual food that would be found at a baseball game – hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, etc. I only had churros and potato wedges while I was at the festival. Both were good but nothing was memorable food wise. I personally felt like the food quality could have been better but it was enough to get me through the night and at least the food wasn’t as overpriced like other events. Now the drinks at bar on the other hand were impressive.  My two favorite cocktails of the evening for the Fiji Mule and the blackberry mojito. Signature cocktails were $14, which is pretty average for festivals. Not only were the drinks delicious but they were also consistently strong so we got our money’s worth. The best part about these signature cocktails is that they came in reusable mason jars. They were so cute I wanted to take one home in my backpack. My one complaint would be the lack of free water. I feel that festivals should provide free water for safety reasons. It’s very easy to become dehydrated at festivals and it’s annoying to have to keep buying water bottles for $3-5 each but I do understand that’s how business works. Overall, the food and drinks were good enough for the night but I would have rather waited to eat after the event.

Overall, Groundwater Festival was an amazing time for my girlfriends and I. Since there wasn’t many details about it, I went in not knowing what to expect but it certainly went beyond my imagination. Although it didn’t really feel like a festival because of how small and short it was, I really enjoyed how intimate it felt. I never thought I would be dancing to house and techno at a baseball park but the venue was perfect for this event. Although there were only a couple of DJs, their groovy sets were a great reminder that you don’t need a lot of them to have the perfect dance workout. The crowd was one of the nicest and coolest crowds I’ve ever been in, which reflects the ambiance Groundwater created for us for the night. For how affordable this festival was, I honestly was expecting a lot less yet it was one of the smoothest and unique festival experiences yet, which made it that much better. Would I recommend Groundwater? If you love good house music, having room to dance, downtown city vibes and and intimate experiences then yes, definitely. 

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Spin Nightclub

What’s a party without the after party right? Groundwater offered two after parties at different nightclubs. We chose to go to Spin Nightclub because Claude Vonstroke, Fritz Carlton and Dena Amy were playing. I’ve been to other nightclubs in San Diego and I have to say Spin is now one of my favorite ones. Although the nightclub was located a few minutes outside of downtown, it still had all the right city vibes. The line to get in was surprisingly short so we were in quickly. The thing that is unique about this Spin is that it is a  mini workout because there are 4 different floors to choose from. There was a different DJ in each room and each room had a unique vibe to it. There were smaller rooms with couches and darker dance floors but there was also a main stage that could be enjoyed from two different floors. The main floor had the biggest dance floor it while the floor above had the perfect view of most of the club. The 4th floor was lit up with string lights, with a rooftop bar and room to get fresh air. I personally like that Spin is designed like this because it allowed us to explore and switch up the vibe throughout the night. The music was amazing and once again Claude killed his set. Dena Amy was also great and even though I’ve seen her 3 times this year, her sets keep me coming back for more. We had so much fun that we ended up staying later than I thought we would. I honestly wish there was a nightclub like Spin in LA because the ambiance was really cool. I’m glad we ended our night here because it was the cherry on top to our spontaneous night of dancing.

 

Napizza

After we checked out of our hotel, getting food was first on our to-do list. We were originally going to get brunch but none of us wanted to eat at an actual restaurant. Instead we decided to stop at Little Italy and get pizza. There were tons of pizza spots to choose from within the same block but Napizza caught our eye right away. We walked in just to see the pizza but ended up wanting to eat there because of how bomb the food looked. Various fresh pizzas were displayed behind the glass and they all looked so good. They had variety to choose from such as pesto chicken, a breakfast pizza, and even gluten free pizza. For $11, I got a slice of BBQ chicken and white truffle mushroom with a drink. The pizza slices were bigger than I thought they would be so it was worth the price. The white truffle mushroom pizza was honestly amazing. I would recommend it to anyone who loves truffle cheese. The pizza was very fresh and wasn’t greasy at all. One cool thing about Napizza is that they are a sustainable business and are even certified by the Green Restaurant Association. Some of Napizza’s sustainable practices include using higher quality ingredients from local farmers and donating leftover pizza each night to local food banks. It’s important to support sustainable businesses that actually care about the well-being of their customers, their products and the planet. The quality of their ingredients can easily be tasted in their delicious pizzas. If you’re ever in Little Italy for pizza, stop by Napizza and I promise you won’t regret it.

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The hospitality in San Diego was amazing and has me wanting go back for more. For being spontaneous when traveling, the hospitality turned out great everywhere we went during our stay. All the employees at Omni, Groundwater, Spin and Napizza were welcoming, friendly and professional. This was surprising to me because every location had consistent and authentic hospitality, which can be difficult to find sometimes, especially as a younger traveler. San Diego has the perfect vibe for millennial travelers because it provides variety, convenience and unique experiences. I’m so happy my friends and I went on this little trip because it was honestly so fun and smooth. It was something new and definitely memorable. Thank you Groundwater and Omni for your hospitality and making this girl’s trip a really fun and easy trip. I’m bummed it went by too fast, but oh well I guess that just means I’ll have to come back for more hospitality 😉

 

Until next time,

Emely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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