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If there’s one thing I can say about Homewood Suites Liberty Station in San Diego, it’s that they like to feed people. A lot. And for free. But happy bellies aside, there are several other reasons you might choose this hotel for your family's vacation in San Diego. Not the least of which are its recent TripAdvisor 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards which include the #3 Best Hotel for Families in the U.S., and get this: the #8 Best Hotel for Families in the World. So when we were invited to come and see what makes this place so ideal for travelers with babies and young children--in one of our favorite family vacation cities--you can bet we jumped at the chance. Here's what we found.
A big part of what makes the Homewood Suites Liberty Station so special is it's location right on the waterfront next to the esplanade. It's a lovely setting that's off the track for general tourist traffic, but a popular spot for joggers, walkers, and local moms powering along with jogging strollers on a sunny Saturday morning. And there is a great playground that's just a 10-minute walk along the water from the hotel. A double B.O.B. jogging stroller provided by Toddler's Travels rentals was perfect for exploring the paths with our entourage.
The outdoor areas of the hotel--with outdoor seating areas, two outdoor fireplaces, and a 3rd-floor terrace with balcony-height tables and chairs--were clearly designed to help guests enjoy the location and warm San Diego weather. (Be sure to tour the hotel and a suite in our video tour.)
Liberty Station is also a convenient location for outings to the main San Diego tourist draws during your stay:
The hotel offers studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom suites, some with balconies. The 1-bedroom suites sleep 4 people plus a crib, while the 2-bedroom suites sleep up to 6 people plus a crib (Pack ‘n Play style portacribs are provided free by the hotel on request). Rooms may have king or queen beds, with pull-out sofa beds in the living rooms.
Our 2-bedroom suite (see video tour below) included two bathrooms, each with a shower/tub, full kitchen and dining area, and a total of 3 Flat screen TVs, so we could watch cable channels or pay-per-view movies from any bed or the sofa(bed). Games are also available for a fee.
The kitchens include a full-size dishwasher and full-size refrigerator, microwave, 2-burner stove, and complete pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. What more could you ask for? Popcorn to go with the evening movie was thoughtfully provided as well.
Rooms have free WiFi as well as hard-wired data ports. And if you're flying home, don't forget you can securely print your boarding passes (or other documents you might need) to the 24-hour executive business center and retrieve them with a password.
Some other detail families will appreciate:
The waterfront swimming pool and Jacuzzi area are a definite attraction for families, and with plenty of cushioned chaise lounges lining the pool and shaded tables and chairs, you will want to build time into your sightseeing schedule to just enjoy this great feature of the hotel.
We also found that, with the first 1/3 of the pool being only 3 feet deep, it was very helpful for letting us enjoy the water with our two young "swimmers in training." We appreciated the towels available poolside, as well, and with a family-friendly checkout time of 12 noon, the hotel also makes it easy to help the kids burn off some energy (see waffles below) with extra time at the pool before heading to the airport or setting out on the next leg of your road trip.
You also won't want to miss your chance to stroll along the esplanade, or just sip your morning coffee on a cushy chair looking out at the joggers (and don't forget the playground 10 minutes' walk away along the water). There is also a game room with a full-size pool table just off the main lodge room, and two fitness rooms for those who are interested. But the top activity no guest should miss when staying at Homewood Suites: eating the complimentary meals.
Breakfast: Complimentary hot breakfasts are served seven days a week in the lodge, Monday through Friday 6:30 – 9:30 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays 7 – 10 a.m. We especially enjoyed the make-your-own waffle station, with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, though it's so popular you may have to wait your turn to make the waffles. There are also scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausages or bacon, yogurt, peaches, English muffins, bagels, cinnamon rolls, and cereals.
Yes, high chairs are available.
Dinner: And after a busy day of sightseeing with babies, toddlers, and young children (or any combination thereof), parents will be thrilled to return to the Homewood Suites Liberty Station and be able to just stay put--especially Monday through Thursday evenings when the hotel provides a "Welcome Home reception" from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the lodge.
I understood there was some sort of complimentary wine and light fare provided those evenings, so we arrived expecting appetizers of the cheese and cracker sort. But when we walked into the lodge and stumbled onto a bustling buffet line-up including full potato bar, salad bar, a pot of chili, multiple types of bread, apple cobbler, and then some, I had to ask to be sure we were in the right place. Indeed, all the food, unlimited lemonade, iced tea, milk, wine, and beer were also included. Compared with what we'd paid to feed the family at a restaurant the night before, it was clear what a fantastic value the complimentary Monday - Thursday evening meals are for families staying at the hotel--not to mention a convenience.
I'd say it's a definite incentive to book your stay over at least one of these nights just to take advantage of it if your schedule allows (FYI, other Homewood Suites offer this, too). A calendar in our room showed upcoming "Welcome Home" dinners including Fish ‘n Chips night, Orange Chicken night, Chicken Fajitas night, Taco Bar night, and a Hot Dog night, all with related side dishes.
Walkable restaurants & cafes: In addition to Homewood Suite's complimentary meals, there are several restaurants within a few minutes’ walk from the hotel – pizza, a Subway sandwich shop, Thai food, Starbuck's Coffee, TCBY yogurt, and a Mexican restaurant among others.
One of the other great perks of staying at the Homewood Suites is that they will do your grocery shopping for you--for free! Just use the shopping list on your kitchen counter and bring it to the front desk by noon. Your groceries will be delivered to your room by 4 p.m. and just the cost of groceries will be added to your room bill.
If you want a break from driving, a trolley shuttle leaves from the hotel daily at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. for $5. The shuttle takes you to Seaport Village where you can purchase the actual trolley tickets. You can also take advantage of complimentary shuttles to and from the airport, ATM right in front of hotel.
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