What the Hampton Inn Downtown San Diego and Johnny Cash have in common – Hotel Review

From time to time I wake up with a song running through my head. More often than not I have no idea why that particular string of lyrics is what I’m humming to myself. When I woke up last week in my room at the Hampton Inn San Diego – Downtown I knew exactly why I was humming Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.

It is the opening lines of the song that were running through my brain over and over again:

I hear the train a comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend,
And I ain’t seen the sunshine,
Since, I don’t know when

Why? Because all I could hear was the train, rolling up and down the line directly behind the hotel.


The location of the property is actually pretty good. Not right in the heart of the Gas Lamp district but close enough that you can walk it in 20 minutes or take a $6 cab over there. And far enough away that the room rates are pretty cheap and you’re not in the midst of the crazy at night which, theoretically, helps keep things calm and quiet. In theory.


The County Administration Building is right across the street and it lights up quite pretty at night. And just past that you have Harbor Drive and the waterfront, with the Maritime Museum, cruise ship terminal and USS Midway Museum literally steps away. On the other side of the hotel is a trolley station, able to carry you into Old Town or to San Ysidro in about 20 minutes. I was truly excited about the location and the connectivity it afforded me.


Instead of enjoying that location, however, I found it to be absolutely miserable. Single pane windows that didn’t seal particularly well meant that I was up bright and early listening to the "train a comin’" as the Amtrak Coaster and the Trolley took turns rolling past, with the crossing barricades going up and down with their bells clanging as well. Sleeping in was simply not an option.


The room was a typical Hampton Inn room. The bed was comfortable and the internet was free, though in the room was wired only, not wireless. Breakfast in the morning had a half dozen cereal choices plus the waffle machines that are so much fun. But with pretty much every room in the property looking out over the railroad tracks and the crossing gates it would take quite a bit to convince me to stay there again.

And I’d let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. But you saw the Star of India!! (She was in dry-dock, which they do EVERY TEN YEARS, when we were there!)

    San Diego!! I love it so!! (But without the train next to my hotel window, thank you.)

  2. No earplugs that I noticed, but I wasn’t looking too hard. I know that the Crowne Plaza at LAX provides those for guests because of the aircraft noise. Similarly a hotel I won’t be going back to. I know that earplugs are WAY cheaper than proper windows, but c’mon.

    And, yes, Stephanie, the Star was out on the waterfront. I didn’t go on board but she sure is a pretty ship.

  3. The plugs were the first thing I noticed when I stayed there last year. I took them to be a bad sign. Bright orange and right on the bedside table – I imagine if they were there you would have noticed.

  4. The next tme you go to San Diego, give the Hilton San Diego Bayfront or the Hilton Gaslamp a try, if you can find a good rate. I have stayed at the Bayfront several times, and I really like this hotel. I hope you are Hilton Gold; otherwise, sign up for the Gold challenge of 4 stays in 90 days = Gold. http://www.hiltonfamilymvp.com. You can also book through this engine to save 20 percent on US Hilton branded hotel bookings.

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