Fodor's Expert Review
Set on the edge of beautiful Balboa Park, the Inn at the Park offers spacious apartment-like suites with a full kitchen. Built in 1926 and formerly known as the Park Manor Suites, the historic seven-story hotel with a red brick-edifice features period-appropriate architectural details and a glam contemporary look with subtle nods to ‘20s style. Ideal for longer stays in the city, Inn at the Park is conveniently located for visitors with cars. It’s a short drive or leisurely 30-minute stroll to the San Diego Zoo and the museums at the scenic heart of Balboa Park, and nearby Hillcrest -- a hip, urban ‘hood that’s the heart of the city’s LGBT community -- has lots of dining and nightlife options. There’s also a rooftop sundeck.
You Should Know Technically, Inn at the Park is now a Wyndham timeshare, but it still operates as a hotel. The property’s longtime ground-floor restaurant and rooftop lounge that catered to a largely LGBT crowd are no more, sadly.
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Apartment-like guest quarters include a studio bedroom with a spacious seating area or a one-bedroom suite with a separate living area; both have fully stocked kitchens. Suites feature high ceilings and substantial moldings, as well as unique touches like an alcove for the TV. The decor varies by room, but the overall vibe is glam contemporary with vintage flourishes. Think chic gray sofas with violet lame throws and silk fuschia pillows, oval, mixed-metal nested coffee tables, and oversized black-and-white prints of 1920s cars. Bedrooms really go for it with statement-making headboards, bold accent walls, and throw pillows in eye-popping hues. Some suites include much-coveted balconies.
You Should Know Daily housekeeping is not included in your stay but can be added for an additional fee.
Bathrooms vary by suite but feature separate vanities and a shower-tub combo.
Inn at the Park was built by Frank P. Allen, Jr., a famous local architect who designed San Diego’s iconic Cabrillo Bridge and who’d been involved in the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 (some of the fair’s historic structures still exist at Balboa Park). The fabulous lobby retains the glamor of that era with marble checkerboard floors set on the diagonal, molding-framed panels of ornately patterned black-and-white wallpaper, shimmery gray seating, arched alcoves, and the building's original wood-coffered ceiling with a crystal chandelier at the center. It’s extra in the very best way.
Tip Want to see a hidden San Diego gem? Walk west on Spruce Street about five minutes and you’ll come upon the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Built in 1912, the historic suspension footbridge -- a five-minute walk from end to end -- offers views of the tranquil valley below.
The hotel’s fitness center features city views, a few cardio machines, strength-training machines, and free weights.
Tip Can’t miss your daily pump or Pilates sesh? Take your pick of gyms and upscale studios in Hillcrest. Many offer day passes.
There’s no on-site dining but suites feature a kitchen. The metal dining table and rolling office chairs are a bit odd though.
From Inn at the Park, you can take surface streets to Downtown and hip uptown residential neighborhoods like Hillcrest and North Park, which have happening dining and nightlife scenes. If you want to explore sprawling, car-centric San Diego, it’s also a short drive to the I-5 freeway, or “The 5” as locals call it, as well as scenic Highway 163, which runs through the park and turns into I-15. Valet parking at the hotel is $15 per day, but you can often find street parking in the neighborhood if you don’t mind searching.
First things first: Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Cafe (30-second walk) right across from Inn at the Park isn’t owned by that Jimmy Carter. Still, the quirky eatery, known for its bright yellow-and-blue exterior and vibrant multi-color interior with Mexican accents, serves a few traditional American dishes alongside tasty San Diego-style Mexican fare like chilaquiles and machaca egg scrambles for breakfast and tacos, enchiladas, and burritos for dinner. The cafe’s cantina serves Mexican beer, top-shelf tequila, and margaritas, among other offerings (happy hour runs from 4 to 8 pm). Evolution (5-minute walk) serves vegan “fast food” that appeals even to devoted carnivores. Think burgers, buffalo chicken, steak burritos, and milkshakes -- none of which feature any animal products whatsoever.
Sweets lovers, prepare to be dazzled by Extraordinary Desserts (6-minute walk), which serves exquisite, upscale desserts that taste as wonderful as they look, along with a selection of wine, bubbles, and beer. It’s a divine way to end an evening. If you’re up for a walk, the Prado (25-minute walk), tucked away in the heart of Balboa Park. The picturesque hacienda has a large outdoor patio that’s reserved for diners, but you can hang out in the lounge and sip on specialty cocktails as a reward for your scenic strolling.